Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Episode Review - Up the Long Ladder (Next Generation, Season 2)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.

Overview – The Enterprise receives an ancient distress call from an unknown colony of humans and is sent to rescue them. They also discover a second colony from the same ancestral group as the first, who have taken a very different course of development and are now a colony of clones who hope that the crew of the Enterprise could help them restock their gene pool.

Score: 3/10 – What starts as an interesting concept gets mired down in a haphazard jumble of a story. While there are some humorous moments, the story is not very well constructed. For example, in the pre-credit scene, we see Worf acting in a distressed manner, and cut to the open title sequence with him having fainted and Doctor Pulaski being called to the bridge. We learn in the next act that Worf had a case of Klingon measles, which he is embarrassed by, and Pulaski covers for him. Worf performs a Klingon tea ritual (which includes Pulaski drinking a poisonous tea for some reason) as a way of thanking her. This subplot is done before the second act starts and is largely forgotten, which leads me to wonder why it was included in the first place as it has zero impact on anything else in the episode. Yes, it builds a bit of a bond between Pulaski and Worf, but that is it. It served no real purpose other than to fill time, which makes me suspect that this is what was the original purpose of it. Then we look at the Irish-stereotype Bringloidi, whose ancestors turned away from technology and went for a simpler way of life. This is where we see the humorous parts as Picard and his crew try to deal with a particularly challenging groups of humans. Picard has a great moment where he bursts into laughter at the situation of his cargo bay being used to transport farm animals and tells Riker that sometimes one has to “bow to the absurd”. While the Bringloidi do provide some comic relief, they are little more than a classic examination on utilizing cultural stereotypes for humor. This did not age well and seemed a bit outdated when the show first aired in the late 1980s. You have everything from the drunken inept patriarch to the fiercely sharp-tongued hot head of a daughter Brenna (who seems fine to be yelling at every man one moment and then swooning for a late-night tryst with Commander Riker). Even some of the jokes fall flat, such as when Worf is insulted by Brenna. Then we throw in the clone colony, which was the opposite of the Bringloidi, who turn to technology to solve every problem. There seemed to be an attempt to make a statement about having people have a right to chose how their body is used when Riker and Pulaski discover that they have had some of their tissue taken to make clones, but it is done in a way that is quick and not very impactful. Thankfully, the problems to both groups’ dilemmas is in each other, and everything is happily completed. For an episode with a handful of fun moments, the rest alters between dull and cringe-worthy. 

Relevance – 0 points. Other than Riker’s dalliance with Brenna being one of his memories in the infamous “Shades of Grey” episode, I couldn’t find any tie-in to anything else in Star Trek. Even the Worf-Pulaski B-storyline (which felt more like a C or D storyline) is not developed further. In other words, if you don’t catch this episode you are not missing any important details.

Continuity – 2 points. Character continuity is largely in tact here. Picard bowing to the absurd is oddly fitting for our distinguished captain. Of course, Riker is going to go for the girl. His and Pulaski’s objections towards being cloned make perfect sense, as does Worf’s embarrassment over having the measles and Pulaski being excited to participate in a Klingon tea ritual. One thing that did not make much sense was the fact that Worf came to Pulaski with the tea ceremony as a way of thanking her, knowing full well that the tea was toxic to humans. Sort of an odd way to show gratitude. Still, one can assume that he may not have intended to have her drink the tea in the first place, but since she gave herself an antidote ahead of time it worked. Universe continuity is good as well. Where I will deduct a point is story continuity. The whole Worf with the measles story was completely out of place in the context of this episode, and really was unnecessary.

Character Development – 1 point. Riker gets some make-out time with an attractive woman. Check. Worf is embarrassed for comic relief. Check. Pulaski makes a lot of grand speeches about ethics in science. Check. Picard has to make the best of an awkward situation. Check. Nothing really impactful in the development of any of these characters, so I can’t score more than a single point here.

Social Commentary – 1 point. Changing your perspectives to solve your problems. That seems to be the main take-home message of this episode. It was how the two groups of humans had to put aside their differences to save themselves. In reality, there was very little emphasis made on that. Oh, and cloning someone against their will is bad. Some wasted potential there. It was almost as if they were trying to make so many comments at once, that there was no real energy behind any of them. Making a comment on any aspect of life is commendable, but the way they were presented almost does as much of a disservice to them as anything else.

Cool Stuff – 0 points. Try as I might, I just cannot find anything that was cool about this episode. Some nice humorous moments, but nothing cool.

Rank – Ensign (7 points). I am sure that there are many who like this episode. I myself do find it a particularly bad episode, just an example of how the second season of TNG had some definite growing pains. If you are watching this on Netflix you can easily skip the show or let it play through. Enjoy the levity, even though there are some painful stereotypes thrown in. Don’t worry about what could have been and take it at face value.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

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