“Up the Long Ladder” is the 18th episode of the second season of the syndicated American science fiction television show Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 44th episode overall, first broadcast on 22 May 1989.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, the Enterprise becomes involved in two previously unknown Earth colonies’ struggle for survival.
The Federation starship Enterprise, under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, receives an automated distress call from satellites orbiting a human colony on the planet Bringloid V, which is in danger from solar flares from its star. The colony turns out to have been founded by the crew of the SS Mariposa, a freighter launched from Earth several hundred years earlier.
As the Enterprise approaches the planet, Worf appears to faint on the bridge and is transported to sick bay. When he regained consciousness he is embarrassed to admit suffering a Klingon equivalent of measles. Dr Pulaski agrees to protect his privacy. In gratitude, Worf later approaches her to offer a Klingon tea ceremony. He warns that the tea is deadly to humans and explains it is just a gesture which would be important in his culture. Pulaski suggests he is a romantic, and takes an antidote to allow herself to drink the tea with him safely.
The “Bringloidi” colony (after brionglóidí, the Irish word for “dreams”), now led by an Irishman named Danilo O’Dell, are followers of an early 22nd century philosopher who advocated returning to a pre-industrial agrarian lifestyle, and when taken aboard the Enterprise, must quickly adapt to the 24th century technology. When the transfer of the colonists is complete, O’Dell informs Picard of another colony, also planted by the Mariposa. The Enterprise proceeds to the second colony – which has named itself “Mariposa” after their ship – half a light year away. The colony’s Prime Minister, Walter Granger, is happy to see the Enterprise and welcomes them to visit, so Commander Riker beams down with Lieutenant Worf and Chief Medical Officer Doctor Pulaski.
The Mariposa colony is strikingly different from the Bringloidi colony, as the Mariposa colonists have kept their advanced technology, and appear refined and cultured in contrast to the Bringloidi’s relatively primitive existence. Pulaski quickly ascertains, however, that all of the inhabitants are clones. Granger reveals that their ship crashed while landing, and only five survivors were left to start the colony. As this was insufficient to establish a stable gene pool, and the survivors were all scientists, they turned exclusively to cloning instead, and consequently no longer have any desire for biological reproduction. For almost three centuries, every Mariposan has been a clone derived from one of the five original colonists, and now the colony is in danger of dying out because of replicative fading: each subsequent generation introduces additional minor flaws in the genetic code, which within only a few more generations will make further clones nonviable.
The Mariposans ask the Enterprise crew for samples of their DNA to create new clones. Riker refuses, as he values his uniqueness, and Picard advises the Mariposans that the rest of the crew is likely to feel the same, so the Mariposans decide to kidnap Riker and Pulaski to steal their DNA instead. Upon discovering this, the away team beams directly to the colony’s cloning labs, where they are repulsed to find copies of themselves being grown, which Riker destroys. Granger is furious, and appeals to Picard, but Pulaski argues that a new batch of clones will only delay the inevitable. Instead, she advises that they consider partnering with the Bringloidi to create a viable gene pool. Initially, each colony’s leader treats the other society with disdain, but they eventually agree to merge their colonies and disparate cultures.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Winrich Kolbe.
- Writer(s): Melinda M. Snodgrass.
- Release Date: 22 May 1989.
- Running Time: 50 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.