When Trip is critically injured during a warp core test, Phlox has to come up with a drastic solution to save him. The doctor creates a fast-growing clone who will mature and die within just two weeks – enough time for Phlox to harvest crucial neural tissue needed to save Trip. But does the clone deserve to die just so that Trip can live?
Similitude sounds like it should be exactly the kind of episode where Star Trek shines. The franchise likes nothing better than difficult moral dilemmas, especially ones where lives are at stake. So why does this episode fall so flat?
The first problem is of course that this kind of idea has been explored before, and done better. I’m thinking of course of Tuvix, where Janeway is forced to kill a sentient being in order to restore the lives of two important crew members (well, one important crew member and Neelix). In comparison, Similitude feels like a very heavy-handed attempt to retread the same ground.
Like Tuvix, Sim ultimately ends up with the memories of his ‘original’, and is of course a sentient being in his own right – so what are the moral implications of killing him to save a main character? His very creation is dubious moral territory, but Archer insists upon it, citing Enterprise’s mission in the Expanse as reason enough to break the rules. This is just the kind of moral slippage that makes me feel so uneasy about season three and Enterprise’s war on terror – I know in real life that sometimes this kind of line has to be crossed, but Star Trek is largely about naive idealism. DS9’s In the Pale Moonlight was amazing because Sisko’s moral compromises were so remarkable for a Starfleet officer, but in Enterprise season three, the shock value of such acts is utterly lost.
From its shady moral beginnings, Similitude simply fails to land its emotional punches. It sounds like a great episode on paper, but something is sorely lacking in the delivery. The background music pretty much hits us over the head with what we should be feeling, but the script and the acting simply don’t back it up. There’s a sweet scene where Sim hugs Porthos as he contemplates the end of his life, but the equanimity with which he ultimately goes to his death is a far cry from the emotion impact of Tuvix being forced off the bridge to report to sickbay. Yes, we all know you’re not as important as a main character, but you should at least think you are!
Points of Note
- Sim says Phlox was a good parent to him when he was just a larva. Since Phlox just had him in a jar on the shelf for years, I wouldn’t exactly count that as good parenting.
- How exactly did Sim get Trip’s memories? Clones are simply genetically identical to their originals – there’s no element of memory transfer. Also, given his rate of growth, the sheer flood of memories into Sim’s mind, alongside the actual memories he was forming on Enterprise, would probably have caused significant mental difficulties.
- Similarly, given how quickly Sim grows up, he should have been eating almost constantly in order to take in enough nutrients to increase his mass so quickly.
- Sim kisses T’Pol in this episode, and she readily responds – a clear indication of where her relationship with the real Trip is headed.
- The Enterprise shuttlepods donot have bathroom facilities, which raises many questions about the various shuttlepod missions the crew have been on. In particular, what were Trip and Malcolm doing for toilets during Shuttlepod One?
Summary – Similitude: This episode isn’t nearly as good as it thinks it is.