Up the Long Ladder
I have a soft spot for this late-second season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. It was the first time I really started to take notice of Ron Jones’ music.
Initially, the TNG scores had left me cold. The TOS music was more to my taste, plus the feature scores by Goldsmith and Horner. The TNG scores seemed small and synthy in comparison—to my 14-year-old ears, at least (forgive me, composers).
But “Q Who” (an all-time classic episode) had featured a unique, long-lined melody by Jones in its denouement—it sort of reminded me of Horner’s sweep.
And Ron’s next episode, “Up the Long Ladder”—a strange, Melinda Snodgrass-written show involving a couple of long-lost Earth colonies—had surprisingly debuted a tuneful, cheery Irish jig for the arrival of eccentric, retrograde settlers...complete with livestock.
In the second half of the episode, the Enterprise visits the other Earth colony, who have had to propagate solely by using clones. The score becomes synthy and eerie:
The colonists ask the Enterprise crew to provide DNA to create more clones (because reasons); the crew refuse; so the colonists kidnap Riker and Pulaski to draw DNA samples while unconscious, and there’s a totally awesome piece for percussive synthesizers. Roll this ahead to 1:03, from our CD set:
That was the moment that hooked me on Ron’s music—so much so that I made it a 20-year mission to release all of his Star Trek music (plus the 1988 Superman cartoon, plus the 1988 Mission: Impossible revival series—Ron was busy in 1988!).
Riker and Pulaski destroy their growing clones, and the episode becomes explicitly pro-choice with Riker vehemently arguing a (usually) feminist perspective that he has a right to control his own body. I’m not sure how savvy I was at 14 to recognize this, but it still seems gutsy for mainstream television (good job, Melinda).
Alas, this episode has its detractors—like this writer from Gizmodo. And future TNG writer (and Battlestar Galactica, Outlander and For All Mankind showrunner) Ronald D. Moore, who called it “terrible beyond terrible.” Can’t please everybody!
As good as Ron’s score is in the episode—it was almost even better. One of his loveliest melodies in all of TNG was completely dropped from the final mix because it was “too emotional” for the producers (meaning, ultimately, Rick Berman). Or maybe they had a cow about an implied flirtation between a young, black Klingon and an older white lady?
The unused cue accompanies a seemingly throwaway character scene between Worf and Pulaski. Pulaski had helped Worf cover up that he fainted on the bridge due to an embarrassing Klingon childhood ailment—so Worf thanks her by bringing the “Klingon Tea Ceremony” to sickbay.
Diana Muldaur does not recall her time on TNG fondly—having not meshed with the cast, or enjoyed the technical elements—but she did state her appreciation for Michael Dorn, and it probably comes from this lovely scene. Worf and Pulaski have a terrific chemistry, and it’s a shame it was not to able to continue (with Muldaur soon to leave).
Because everything now apparently exists on the Internet, here is the scene with a fan having restored Ron’s gorgeous cue—it works great!
The writing staff was in such disarray in the early years of TNG that many of the scripts archived are not the drafts that were shot. (I’ve talked about this before.) Some are radically different (click earlier column for examples).
Many other scripts feature bits of scenes and lines of dialogue that were deleted, probably due to time constraints, which appears to be the case for “Up the Long Ladder.”
Check out this entire epilogue on the bridge, in which Worf recites some of the “Klingon love poetry” only alluded to in the broadcast episode:
Presumably this was shot, and the footage somewhere in the Paramount archives?
Anyway, farewell to TNG season two: you were weird, but for some of us young lads, not entirely unmemorable.
UPDATE: If my 14-year-old self in 1989 could only know who just replied to this on Twitter...!