The Great Star Trek Enterprise Rewatch: Similitude

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.

One thought on “The Great Star Trek Enterprise Rewatch: Similitude

  1. • I can’t believe the shuttlepod doesn’t have at least one very small fold-down toilet. Some of those shuttle missions go on for days. It’s ridiculous.

    • I think Phlox was a good parent, and that the larva probably only started developing memories once it gained the human DNA so it wouldn’t have had any larva memories.

    • There was some really cringeworthy hand waving that went on about how Sim gained Trip’s memories as he got older. Phlox mentioned something to the effect of genetic memory. Which is hilariously dumb because if genetic memory does exist it’s not going to hold every event in your entire life and then pass it down for the generations. The DNA strands would have to be humongous. That’s why we have brains.

    • I had the same thought about the food intake that SIm would require as soon as they showed that scene of Phlox feeding the baby a bottle. I made an off-the-wall assumption that the larva could process energy more efficiently. But that makes no sense either since the being was a human clone.

    All in all I still enjoyed the episode from a story point of view. I liked the clone so I felt his pain.

    P.S. “well, one important crew member and Neelix” Ouch. But true.

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