RSS iconTwitter iconFacebook icon

TrekToday title image

The Trek Nation - Similitude

Similitude

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at November 20, 2003 - 4:47 AM GMT

See Also: 'Similitude' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: After describing an experimental plan for greater engine efficiency to T'Pol during a neuropressure session, Tucker implements his experiment, but entry into a polaric field overloads the engines and causes an accident that leaves Trip in a coma. Phlox tells Archer that he may never recover on his own, but the doctor can create a mimetic symbiont from a non-sentient alien he keeps for its virus-suppressing secretions. The symbiont will be a physical clone of Tucker, but will live out an entire life span in 15 days, and Phlox will be able to transplant its tissue to Tucker.

T'Pol has ethical concerns about creating a sentient being to harvest tissue, but Archer insists that Earth needs Tucker so Enterprise can complete its mission, which is being endangered at the moment by unidentified magnetic particles adhering to the hull. As the embryonic clone develops into a baby and then a child, the particle density increases. Phlox is surprised to learn that Sim, as he dubs the mimetic symbiont, acquires Trip's recollections as he grows; other species store memories in their genes and that appears to be the case with humans as well. First the doctor, then the captain bonds with the boy.

As Sim becomes an adult, T'Pol discovers that the particles on the ship will completely incapacitate Enterprise if they haven't escaped from the field in two days. Sim has many helpful suggestions, including a plan to tow the ship out using shuttlepods, but he is also finding that he's in love with T'Pol and Phlox has discovered that he will not survive the tissue transplant necessary to save Tucker. Sim, meanwhile, has found research on an experimental enzyme that stopped the rapid aging of other symbionts and might enable him to live out what would have been Tucker's natural lifetime. He does not want to die.

Archer insists that he must have his engineer back, even if it means robbing Sim of his life. He asks T'Pol to spend his last few hours in engineering, near the things he cares about, but then takes over the computer and reroutes the launch bay controls so that he can steal a shuttle. When Archer arrives, however, Sim is still there, saying he has nowhere to go and he owes it to his sister, whom he considers as much his own as Trip's, to help stop the Xindi by allowing Tucker to live. Archer says that's why he gave the order to create Sim in the first place. T'Pol kisses Sim goodbye before he goes to sickbay for the operation that will save Tucker and destroy him. At the funeral, Archer says that they must go forward so that his sacrifice won't only be for the ship but for all of Earth.


Analysis: I really wanted this episode to remind me of Voyager's "Drone" and all the great DS9 Jem'Hadar medical ethics episodes, but sadly, my reaction at the end of "Similitude" was nearly identical to my reaction at the end of "Tuvix", which was that captains who believe they are gods make the most loathsome characters on television and that the being murdered was far more than the sum of his parts. And I didn't have to feel this way, because it's not only a question of ethics but a question of plot holes. The science of "Similitude" is beyond preposterous -- personal memories embedded in human DNA? At least when Voyager tried this in "Demon", they had that sentient mimetic liquid stuff to explain it.

The pathetic scientific gimmicks didn't ruin Sim for me; far from it. He seemed truly exceptional, an utterly unique being. So when the possibility arose that they might be able to save him, through an admittedly risky procedure but there was no guarantee that Sim's mental tissue would completely heal Tucker anyway (why wouldn't the mimetic tissue age just as quickly as Sim himself?)...well, I was rooting for Sim to take Tucker's place. Passionately. Know how on DS9 we ended up with an O'Brien from the future taking the place of an O'Brien from the past, but after awhile we forgot that there ever had been another O'Brien? I thought maybe this could be like that. That we'd get Trip who was also more-than-Trip, and maybe find out how the Federation developed that pill McCoy gave the woman in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home that enabled her to grow a new kidney.

Instead we got what seems to me the copout ending, after a superficially engaging drama about cloning that has next to nothing to do with the real-world cloning debate yet points to an extremely conservative position as a result (a.k.a. that cloning for tissue replacement creates and destroys incipient sentient beings who would be just like the beings from whom their cells were taken, were they not brutally cut down before their time). As character drama, it's fine, but as science fiction, it's a big letdown. And actually I lied, because even the character drama seems manipulated from the moment Sim makes the noble decision to die, for all the expected reasons...though wouldn't it have been awesome if he said he learned to think differently about expected social roles during his encounter with the Cogenitor, instead of blah blah Xindi blah blah blah Earth? Not to mention that kiss; does T'Pol automatically fall for the nearest man with a devastating medical condition?

How I feel is manipulated, though not as manipulated as Sim feels, for damn good reasons. I'm merely suffering from Trek Syndrome. First, a beloved character appears to be dead. But wait! We flash back to when he was alive, because no one stays dead on Trek unless he's wearing a red shirt (I'd say unless there was a contract dispute, but Tasha Yar came back as her own daughter and Dax got her soul put into another actress' body). Then we get the Instant Aging Formula, in which we see an adorable kid grow preternaturally fast (think Deanna Troi's magically conceived son, or the Jem'Hadar Odo tried to raise). And finally we get the inevitable I Want To Live scenario, in which the crew must manfully convince a perfectly reasonable, intelligent being who is relishing life that actually, no, he wants to die, because it's the honorable thing to do. That doesn't make me all sniffly and impressed; it makes me angry and disgusted.

At least Archer didn't have to murder Sim, the way Janeway did with Tuvix. And the procedure worked, which I guess one could argue is a suggestion that the episode is at core pro-cloning. Hey, a good man had to die, but he was probably doomed from the start because Wonder Doctor Phlox, who can do things in the 22nd century that McCoy, Crusher, the genetically-enhanced Bashir and the holographic expert Doctor never came up with, didn't set out at the start to find a way to keep Sim alive and save Trip with his tissue. Plus the logic seems to be that the only way Sim could prove that he was really a perfect copy of Trip was to give up his life for Trip and thus Earth, which we're supposed to assume Trip would do too. So it's okay to make clones, though painful for the people who love them, because a true clone will do the right thing for its original. Or something.

Archer...you know, if he'd insisted that he wanted his actual, original friend back, not a copy whom he'd watched grow from an embryo, I'd have liked him a hell of a lot better. That would have seemed real and visceral. Instead we get the Ranting Captain of Doom who threatens to suck people out of airlocks in the name of saving Earth. You know what? I'm more worried about a president, excuse me, starship captains, who play god than I am about terrorists, excuse me, Xindi, who might be planning to attack my home. There isn't nearly enough attention in this episode on human replication about what makes and keeps us human, particularly from the man who cavalierly signs the go-ahead order for the experiment.

As for T'Pol and that kiss...you know, I'm not even sure I want to go here. But I guess I have to. First reaction: she's playing out a script, the Farewell Kiss, and Sim seems to take it good-naturedly as just that, not a statement of eternal and undying passion for him or Tucker. Second reaction: the way to get emotion out of this woman is to die, or nearly die, or offer up one's life for her and the people she cares about. No wait, she's a Vulcan...not the people she cares about but the people it is logical for her to work with...oh, forget it, she's not a Vulcan by any standard of Vulcan of which I am familiar. Bottom line: when she's in love with Archer one week and Tucker two weeks later, I can't take either nascent relationship seriously. All I see are bad TV producers trying to have their sexual tension both ways.

Good stuff: that polaric field was nifty, and those magnetized particles clouding up the windows made an unusual threat, though I want to know why they simply floated off when the ship left the field. As always, John Billingsley gave a superb performance, and so did Connor Trinneer and the young actors playing Sim at various stages of his life (Southern accents are mimetic for clones, too, apparently! Whee!) The other good news is that with Trip out of commission, Mayweather actually got something to do. Maybe he should think about killing Trip off; he'll probably be dead along with the rest of the crew in six hours since apparently they have no backup engineering staff whatsoever, but at least he'll get out of his seat.

On a previous Trek, the episode would have ended with Trip discovering that he has all of Sim's memories, returned to him with the brain tissue that saved his own life. Didn't that happen with Data and Lal, and Seven of Nine and One? Here, however, Sim is simply gone. If anyone learned anything, it was that In War, Tough Sacrifices Must Be Made. And you know what? I could have gotten that from that Saving Jessica Lynch movie, if I had the stomach for such cliches.


Discuss this reviews at Trek BBS!
XML Add TrekToday RSS feed to your news reader or My Yahoo!
Also a Desperate Housewives fan? Then visit GetDesperate.com!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.