Up the Long Ladder (ST:TNG Rewatch, Season Two, Episode 18) — The Enterprise Visits the Planet of Irish Stereotypes

(Rewatching Star Trek: TNG after a 20-year break.)

A distress beacon leads the Enterprise to a colony of red-headed bumpkins who bring their farm animals, spinning wheels, and a still aboard. A few plot twists later, the smooth-talking, flask-swigging colony leader named O’Dell has occasion to say, “Send in the clones.” (I am not kidding.)

At one point Picard steps aside and laughs at the “absurdity,” while Riker is charmed enough to get physical with one of the colonists in his quarters.

As Picard researches a centuries-old Earth distress code, we get some nice glimpses of computer displays (including a schematic of a sleeper ship from the Khan-era Eugenics Wars, which earlier canon had placed in the late 20th century). Some good character scenes between Worf and Pulaski fill out the opening act, but otherwise go nowhere.

Shortly after the colonists make their big entrance, the leader asks whether Picard wants to marry his fiery daughter, who a few scenes later is dropping her outer skirt to the floor in Riker’s quarters. The stereotyping is bad enough, but we’re also supposed to accept that when the colonists beamed aboard, they not only brought their animals, but also wooden planks to build pens, and even rocks for a fire pit.

The story seems set up to argue for the reunification of a society artificially split into factions of romanticized rustics and stuffy prudes, noting that each side will have to make significant changes. But the script also requires us to believe that there’s no way the dying Mariposa Colony would ever find enough humans willing to donate cells to replenish its gene pool.

In other contexts, Star Trek has leaned heavily towards supporting the rights of artificial machine life and sentient holographic entities, so I found this apparent affirmation of a civilization bias against cloned life inconsistent and preachy.