Type Episode
Date 1989-05-22
Tags questionable morality, cloning

Up the Long Ladder

Star Trek: The Next Generation 2x18

The Enterprise must aid two colonies struggling for survival, each with its own peculiarities. One colony was made up of people returning to a simpler way of living (as they say), and the other included scientists who ended up cloning themselves after an accident killed most of the colonists (there are only five of them).


The episode wasn't great, but the most startling thing is the way the crew of the Enterprise feel about clones. Granger, the leader of the Mariposa colony, requests some genetic material from the Enterprise, so that his colony won't die out:

Picard: How can we help you?

Granger: We need an infusion of fresh DNA. I was hoping that you would be willing to share some tissue samples.

Riker: You want to clone us?

G: Yes.

R: No way, not me.

G: How can you possibly be harmed?

R: It's not a question of harm. One William Riker is unique, perhaps even special. But a hundred of him, a thousand of him diminishes me in ways I can't even imagine.

G: You would be preserving yourself.

R: Human beings have other ways of doing that. We have children.

P: I think you will find that attitude prevalent among all the Enterprise people.

Since the Enterprise won't help them, the Mariposans steal some genetic material instead. Riker's reaction to this... I said startling, above, but shocking or appalling might be more appropriate.

Riker calmly murders a man for the crime of being a clone of William T. Riker.

Granger: Stop!

G: Murderers!

Riker: Like hell! You're a damn thief!

Pulaski: Gentlemen, please.

G: What else could we do? We asked for your help and you refused us. We're desperate. Desperate!

R: And that gave you the right to assault us, to rob us.

G: We have the right to survive!

Perhaps this shouldn't be so surprising, given Picard's treatment of his future duplicate in Time Squared, but it's still disturbing. And Riker scarcely defends himself. To the charge of murder he replies not 'this was not murder' but 'you are a thief'. Whether Granger was a 'thief' or not, the clone was certainly innocent, and Riker is still a murderer. And how must Granger have felt about this? He, too, is a clone: will Riker murder him for some little provocation?

Moreover, this isn't the treatment given to Riker's transporter-malfunction-created clone, nor do I recall any other clones getting this treatment during Trek. Just for this one episode, murder is fine as long as it's consanguineous.

Melinda M. Snodgrass, the episode's writer, commented on the issue:

"It is ironic, because I got enormous flack from the right to life coalition because they destroyed the clones," elaborates Snodgrass. "They thought I was condoning abortion. In fact, I did put a line in Riker's mouth that was very pro-choice and the right to life coalition went crazy. He says I told you that you can't clone me and you did it against my will, and I have the right to have control over my own body. That's my feeling and it was my soapbox, and it was one I got to get on. I was supported by Maurice all the way."

Maybe the pro-life side had a problem with the pro-choice message, but I think this misses the point, a bit. No one on the pro-choice side thinks that a person should be able to sneak into a hospital and kill a baby in an incubator. No one but Riker, anyway.

Character TypeName
Danilo Odell NoneBarrie Ingham
William T. Riker MainJonathan Frakes
Wilson Granger MainJon De Vries
Brenna Odell SubRosalyn Landor
Katherine Pulaski SubDiana Muldaur
Miles O'Brien AppearanceColm Meaney
Name RoleCharacter
Barrie Ingham Actor
Colm Meaney Actor
Diana Muldaur Actor
Jon De Vries Actor
Jonathan Frakes Actor
Melinda M. Snodgrass Author
    Rosalyn Landor Actor
    Winrich Kolbe Director