Plot Synopsis: The Enterprise discovers two threatened colonies which must cooperate to survive.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here is alright, starting with a fairly bland exchange between Picard and Riker in his ready room, discussing an old SOS beacon that began sending inexplicably. When they emerge back onto the bridge, Worf has passed out cold. Plot A concerns the two interrelated colonies, the stunted plot B revolves around Worf. Plot B starts off right away with Worf finding out he has the Klingon equivalent of the Chicken Pox, and Pulaski protects him from this becoming general knowledge. Worf invites her to participate in a Klingon tea ceremony, and plot B ends about 11 minutes in. It’s fairly brief but at least we get to see the human side of Dr. Pulaski. The Enterprise finds a colony descended from transcendentalists straight out of Walden, that are pretty much Irish stereotypes. They are in danger due to their sun becoming unstable and need to leave. They bring their homespun style onto the ship and it’s all supposed to be very amusing–it’s typically not. A twist comes a bit later when we discover another colony, this one technologically advanced and made up entirely of clones with problems of their own. The plot limps across the finish line here in a pretty convenient fashion and we’re done.
Favorite Scenes: One of the moments I like occurs right after Riker correctly guesses that the signal is an SOS in the teaser. Patrick gives a little smile that shows just how proud he is of his first officer. Subtle moments like that are things that I really enjoy. There really aren’t any good scenes in this episode, just some mildly amusing lines. In one Worf objects, “I did not faint. Klingons do not faint!” A little later on Picard and the leader of one of the colonies, Danilo, have an exchange:
Danilo: Ah, Captain Picard, is it? Oh, the man who makes decisions for me and mine, without so much as a “by your leave.” *He spots Worf and pales a little*
Picard: This is my security chief, Lieutenant Worf.
Danilo gulps, intimidated: I don’t suppose security is much of a problem for ya.
Use of Cast/Characters: Wil Wheaton had this episode off. Picard comes across well, I suppose a typical episode for him. He does a good job of handling the leaders of both colonies, certainly with more tolerance than I would have. Riker gets significant face time with both colonies, first romancing Danilo’s daughter then getting assaulted and cloned by the Mariposans. He comes across as a little hot-blooded, but I suppose understandably so. Data has some lines, but not much to do here. Worf of course is wrapped up in plot B and does his usual good job with what little he’s given. Troi does very little, which has been the case for her for most of season two, and will be from here on out. Pulaski is at perhaps her most likable here, covering for Worf and treating his culture with respect. Kind of ironic that she’s arguably at her best during one of the worst episodes of the season. Geordi is barely even in the episode, he has about six lines and does nothing. Barrie Ingham, who plays Danilo O’Dell, is one of the only bright spots. Well, not exactly bright, but less dim than the rest. I liked him, he’s actually enjoyable to watch and he does a decent Red Skelton impression. Rosalyn Landor does a decent job at having a personality–even though it’s a stereotyped one–this time doing an impression of the great Maureen O’Hara.
Blu Ray Version: The planets here are pretty, as is the distant star in this episode. There are a few deleted scenes the folks at CBS dug up. The first one is really pointless, it’s just Worf walking off the bridge as Riker enters and sits in the captain’s chair with an update on the Enterprise’s course. The second one is an alternate take of the scene in which Granger, the leader of the Mariposans is in the observation lounge explaining their predicament to Picard, Riker and Pulaski. The one they used in the episode is better. The third one is the nicest, with Danilo doing a bit of storytelling to members of his colony about their origins, and incidentally explaining that the Mariposans left a satellite in orbit before they left, so if the colony were in danger it would go off. This explains a plot hole, why didn’t they leave it in? The final scene takes place at the end of the episode as a denouement. The crew discusses the likely fate of the newly united colony and Data rambles on, but the best part is Worf starting to recite love poetry. It sounds silly, yet it’s hilarious due to Michael Dorn’s delivery. At 2:34 the LCARS display has been altered to remove many of the obvious in-jokes: a diplomatic mission to Alderaan is now a ‘diplomatic mission to Aldebaran.’ The Velikan isn’t captained by Gene Roddenberry anymore, now it’s by Mike Volland, etc. There’s still a lot left in such as Yugi Gagarin, Buckaroo Banzai, Lord Nelson, and Urusei Yatsura. At around 4:50 the planet now has a nicely animated planetary storm as well. Pause at 33:06, and you’ll see an ‘unconscious’ Riker looking right into the camera in a little blooper.
Nitpicks: I’m not sure why these actors mispronounce “hegemony,” but they do. The distress signal is never explained, except in a deleted scene. When Wilson Granger from the second colony is meeting in the observation lounge, why isn’t Troi there? She’d have been able to determine some of what he was scheming, and it’s appropriate for her to be there anyway. It’s so obviously a plot device how Geordi just shows up for no reason about 3/4 of the way through the episode, then promptly disappears. He serves almost no purpose, so I guess the writers didn’t know what to do with him. Lastly plot B could have been developed a bit more, or at least spread out a bit in the episode, heaven knows this plot could use something interesting happening. Maybe the scene with the tea ceremony could have taken place toward the end? Bad editing in any case.
Overall Impression: This is not a good episode at all. If I was Irish I would probably be offended at how they were portrayed in this episode, which is practically as leprechauns. They are a bunch of drunken, loutish, backward people. Even so they have more life in them than the other colonists, who are antiseptic and outright boring. Almost nothing in this episode is any good. The plot is supposed to be charming I suppose; if so it utterly fails. If there is supposed to be tension when Riker and Pulaski are kidnapped and cloned against their will, it’s virtually nonexistent. I remember back when I was 14 I kept thinking “why do I care about any of these people?” Of course as a teenager I had no problem with the almost indiscriminate sex that would be happening in the new colony after the episode, but now it just seems silly. I rate this episode 1.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: The writer of this episode, Melinda Snodgrass, intended the subtext here to be commentary about the U.S. policy on immigration, if you can believe that. She at least admitted that the rewrites and budget limitations blunted that message quite a bit. The episode title, “Up The Long Ladder,” is derived from “Up the long ladder and down the short rope,” a reference to the gallows in an Irish rhyme. How in the heck does it apply to the plot of the episode though? At 2:34 in the episode if you pause it, you can see that one of the missions listed on the view-screen is a “diplomatic mission to Alderaan,” a rare Star Wars reference. One of the ships on the same screen is the Buckaroo Banzai and one of the commanders is Gene Roddenberry. In an interview Ron Moore, one of the staff writers for TNG that joined the show in season 3 would call it the worst episode. “Terrible beyond terrible.”
Missable/Unmissable? You’d be doing yourself a service by missing this episode. You’d be doing yourself an even bigger service by missing the next one, which is just as bad.