Saturday, July 6, 2013

Star Trek Next Gen: Up The Long Ladder

So I'm slowly working my way through Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I'm almost done the second season.  I just finished the eighteenth episode, "Up The Long Ladder,"  Just wow.


So the episode starts off with some dinky little subplot where Worf gets Klingon measles and has tea with the doctor.  If that counts as a subplot, because that's pretty much all that happens.  It's also the most tolerable part of the episode, so...yeah.

The rest of the episode is about the forgotten human colony they find and rescue from a bad case of splody planet or soemthing, a colony of the most cliche stereotypes of Irish people you can imagine.  Complete with Irish accents, despite being isolated from Earth and other humans for three hundred years.  They're a bunch of redheaded farmers who don't know anything about computers or science and the men are all portrayed as lazy drunks and the women are sharp-tongued and complain about how they have to do all the work and they've got sheep and pigs and goats and assorted barnyard animals and use equipment like looms and wear homemade peasant-type clothing, and it's basically just a really offensive Irish stereotype and what the hell Star Trek, I thought you were supposed to be progressive.  The sharp-tongued redhead daughter who's dad keeps trying to marry her off to random dudes wears a petticoat.  A petticoat, for crying out loud.

Then it turns out there's ANOTHER forgotten colony!  So they go check that out and it's from the same group who went up, but they're not Irish because they're scientifically advanced!  So they speak with normal American accents and have basically the same lifestyle as the crew on the Enterprise.  Except they reproduce by cloning!  You see, all but five of the original settlers died in a crash or something and the survivors were scientific peoples, so they just started cloning and at first they stopped people from inbreeding through drugs and punitive laws, and "now, after three hundred years the entire concept of sexual reproduction is a little repugnant."  Because that's how people work, right? Just put up a bunch of laws and stuff and eventually nobody ever wants sex ever.  But blah blah reproductive fading copy of a copy blah blah, and they need new blood!  So they're all "Hey you, want to give some dna?" and Riker is all "Oh fuck no, I'm too special!" and Picard is all "Yeah probably everyone's gonna feel like that so I won't ask around or anything."  So they steal some DNA from Dr. Crusher and Riker in a really ridiculous, needlessly dramatic scene.  And when Crusher and Riker find out they go kill their clones and the clone dude is all "What choice did we have, you wouldn't help!  We have a right to survive!" and the show is all "huh maybe they have a weird point here" and I'm like THE FUCK THEY DO.  They have a right to exist, they have a right to reproduce themselves, but they do not in any way have a right to impose on other people.  Some random dude who wants to make sure his bloodline survives doesn't have the right to force a woman to carry his baby against her will, that's just a more extreme version of what the clone people are trying to pull here.

So the crew goes back to the ship or something and have a meeting and go "What these dudes need is breeding stock....oh!  We've got those homeless Irish assholes in the hold!  Let's shotgun wedding this shit."  Not "Let's present the option to both cultures while informing the rest of the Federation that there's a Class M planet that could use some settlers."  Just straight up "bully these homeless people who've just had everything torn away from them into living with these assholes who have no sense of respect for other people and who clearly look down on them, but need them because their society is collapsing due to a lack of a genetically diverse population."  Then they go into a private meeting, just the two male leaders and Picard's group, and after a bit of disagreeing they finally settle on WHAT THE FUCK STAR TREK THIS BULLSHIT IS CREEPY AS HELL.

Ahem.  Sorry.  They settle on a plan where the Irish group settle the clone planet and monogamy is illegal now because we need lots of babies, so every woman, both the poor Irish women who have just had their entire lives ripped up and are thrown into chaos and the clone women who have a culture of finding sexual reproduction absolutely repugnant, have to have at least three kids by three different men.  None of these women, who's reproductive future is being decided on by a group of men and one doctor, are present for this meeting or have any say about what's going on.  We don't see the reaction of the clone women (who are probably gonna end up rape victims, because none of them actually want sex but they will be pressured into becoming broodmares by the (male) leader of their society), but we see one Irish woman's reaction.  She's the one who's had her father try to marry her off to every man he sees.  She's understandably furious that her father and Picard went around making all these grand plans without ever asking if the women would be willing to play along, and Picard is all "wtf you said you wanted a new home, here it is!"  She goes "Yeah, but I never said I wanted to be Eve!"  Because seriously who would willingly sign up for that bullshit.  Picard is all "Fine, I'll just take you to the nearest star base so you'll have lost not only your home, but your family and friends and entire culture as well."  Because that's not coercive at all.  Suddenly she has a complete 180 on her opinion and goes "Wait, that dude looks important.  He's rich, isn't he?  And I can have three husbands?  Ok, that makes up for everything," and wanders off to hit on people.

What the ever-loving fuck is going on here?!  Granted, a lot of Star Trek episodes are pretty doofy, but this is the first time I've been literally repulsed by the events of an episode.  It's like they tried to think of every possible way to make this episode as creepy as they could, or something.  And they put a cheerful comic-relief/happy-ending gloss over it just so you could tell that they gave zero shits about what a bullshit society they just created.  I thought Star Trek was supposed to represent some futuristic utopia, but here they throw this super-dark, seriously fucked up situation in our face and pretend it's all sunshine and rainbows.  Fuck, show.  Don't do that.


  1. Never actually thought about it that way before ... star trek is pretty good at making things look noble when they actually are a bit fucked.

    PS: Don't know if you'll see this or not, but I've enjoyed a few of your posts here. I run a blog called NL Geek ( We're looking for local authors to contribute. If you're interested, you can find contact info in the about section on the site.

    1. Yep. Picard has some sort of superpower, I think. He can make any crazy bullshit sound noble and enlightened haha.

      I'm glad I entertained! I'm afraid I've been really busy lately (hence the low frequency of my blog posts recently) but I'd be happy to get in contact with you as soon as I can sit down long enough to write an email haha.