Star Trek 690: Similitude

690. Similitude

FORMULA: Tuvix + The Child + Second Chances + Up the Long Ladder

WHY WE LIKE IT: Has a lot of heart.

WHY WE DON'T: Magical science.

REVIEW: Let's get it out of the way first, because it's a major issue when dealing with this episode - the science that enables it makes no sense. In fact, it's really on par with some of Voyager's science fantasy humdingers. Similitude presents a jellyfish-like creature that, injected with any DNA, turns into a fast-growing, short-lived clone that - and this is the really stupid part - has the memories of its donor at whatever age it currently appears to have! And Phlox had that dubious creature right there on a shelf all along! It is a ridiculous conceit that undercuts the emotional drama because in a sense, you're continually distracted by the clone's improbability. And yet, without the duplicated memories, you have no emotional drama at all because the clone would not be able to even generate a personality in 7 days. (Give the symbiote a telepathic link or something at least!)

Now, that all said, the episode still has a heart. We get to know "Sim" and young Trip simultaneously, though the scenes where he is younger don't really stand out. The 8-year-old Sim is engaging enough (with a scene that harks back to Archer's childhood in the pilot), but teen Sim has the wrong accent and attitude. When Sim reaches adulthood, we get into the real meat of the subject. By then, he's a thinking, even existential, being and we feel for him (despite his improbability). Through him, we explore the human condition: What would you do if you had only a few days to live? (Blow every secret apparently, as this plants the real seed for a relationship between Trip and T'Pol.) Would the brevity of that life make it more or less precious?

Archer's attitude may seem controversial, though I think it hits just the right (albeit very dark) note. In a very real sense, this is Tuvix done right. Archer threatens to "murder" Sim, but we understand why (Sim is grasping as straws and endangering Trip's survival, on which indeed hinges the Xindi mission). And Sim, in the end, comes to his own senses, and acts very bravely despite almost making a run for it. Instead of unwarranted murder (as in the Janeway/Tuvix story), we have a story of noble sacrifice.

The B-story about Enterprise being trapped in a particulate cloud and Sim coming up with a way for shuttlepods to tow a very crusty starship into safer space is a fun bit with nice effects. It's only really noteworthy because of Sim's contribution and his struggle to take Trip's place. That, along with T'Pol's farewell, Porthos' role, and Sim and Phlox's last exchange, makes the funeral and the beginning and end poignant and relevant. The episode is structured so that either version of Trip could be in that casket, but a switch would have been a little more drastic than similar "replacement doubles" in Deadlock or Visionary. Still, if Trip had had to go, that would have been an impressive accident/stunt to have him go out on. Whoa Nelly.

LESSON: Don't drink the milk passed its expiration date.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Affecting and thought-provoking, with fine, sensitive performances from the regulars (a hallmark of Levar Burton's direction), but the premise leaves something to be desired.

2 comments:

De said...

When this episode aired, I was livid that such a controversial topic was so casually being trotted out with downright wrong "facts" (the memories thing in particular). The cloning debate is already heated enough without injecting falsehoods.

If Phlox had simply created a liver from stem cells, there would have been no "I want to live!" drama.

"And yet, without the duplicated memories, you have no emotional drama at all"

If a fully-grown clone with the mental capacity of a six-day old child were grown simply to be killed for body parts, wouldn't that stir up a bit of drama? Not from the clone of course, but surely from T'Pol and Phlox.

Siskoid said...

I suppose it depends on what story you wanted to tell.

According to the commentary track, the writer here wasn't out to make a stem cell story, but rather the story of a short-lived individual. Of course, the stem cell parallel can't be helped, which is one of the flaws of the script. It muddles things.

 

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