The bodies on the gears of the culture industry

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. K. Jones
    January 7, 2015 @ 9:01 am

    It is my intent to write a short, contrary, redemptive reading of Up The Long Ladder, which stands as one of my favorite episodes of the season for a few reasons, not the least being that anachronistic in the future or now, the Bringloidi more resemble my family than not. I put a lot of stock into Picard's line about "simply bowing the the absurd." Specifically, we're meant to feel as advanced as the Enterprise Generation when we meet these silly throwbacks … the one-to-one contrast with "Modern Irishman" O'Brien even evidences it within the text … but in a story that's ostensibly about the differences between Generations and generational thinking, it's incredible overt and almost "about time" they did an episode like this where a preposterous older generation (The Bringloidi) is contrasted side-by-side with a new, neo-culture generation (The Mariposans) and we realize that anachronism in itself is neither purposeless nor naive or unworldly.

    Nor does being cold and modern and civilized mean righteousness or being advanced – the semblance of being advanced, like an iPhone, is just being used to convenience for convenience's sake. Indeed the world of 2015 sees a marked return, evidenced by hipster locovorism spreading like wildfire, to a life more Bringloidi than Mariposan (though we'll keep the Mariposan iPhones, thank you much). The home brewing, the local butchering, and a little bit of dirt on the hands is as essential a part of being human as anything. Riker, the soul of the ship quickly realizes this even as his best friend Worf bonds with these less "mannerly" people. Pulaski describes them in glowing terms as healthy and vital and alive, where she decries the Mariposans as practically being dead already.

    Ancient magic trumps new world order science. So long as we have a strain of Bringloidi in us we will never, ever become The Borg. And never write off the anachronistic, the outdated as being stupider than you … Danilo Odell is sharp as a tack and learns the future fast … but Granger lives in the future and can't pick up on anything new, he's stuck.


  2. Daru
    January 8, 2015 @ 9:26 pm

    I agree that there are real problems in these two episodes, but one thing I like about each story is that they have elements in their secondary characters that seek to distort the narrative experience onboard the Enterprise. Agreed though that they way this was carried out in each story could have been way improved.

    I do like K.Jones above really love what the Bringloidi represent, even if the Irish stereotypes went too far perhaps – but their hands-on skills represent a lot that the Federation perhaps are in danger of losing. perhaps now this is why the Federation and Starfleet are threatened by the Borg, the agents of the corporations, as there is a "gap in the market"?

    And there is a lot I absolutely adore about the character of Lwaxana Troi, but sadly yes she was not treated well by this story at all. Despite this my love for her is undimmed as I do have a particular affection across the board for the unconventional characters on this show.


  3. liminal fruitbat
    September 24, 2018 @ 9:58 pm

    By contrast, I loathe the Bringloidi/Mariposan contrast, and basically everything about that whole plot. I hate with a burning passion that idealisation of non-technological lifestyles because it’s more natural or emotionally warmer or some bullshit (and to hell with everyone who needs or even just wants the advantages that advanced tech brings) so the attempt at that heavy-handed metaphor falls utterly flat for me. The Federation’s bizarre taboo against cloning (are twins and triplets not a thing?) means our heroes tell a group of sex-repulsed people “fuck or die out” and coerce the women of both colonies to act as breeding stock, which kind of ruins any pro-choice points they might have got for the discussion of Riker and Pulaski’s clones (which itself kind of misses the point, at least to my eyes, given that their bodies aren’t actually being imposed on). It’s parochial and patronising and just godawful.


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