Conflict and Consequences, Redux

Written by Dan

Published March 23, 2004

Because there wasn’t much better on reruns this past Wednesday night, aside from TNG episodes I’ve already seen a million times, I decided to watch the repeat of Enterprise’s “Similitude”. And although I expect that most of what I’m going to say has already been expressed, I’m going to say it anyway. (After all, who else is this site for besides me? :-P)

I’ll get right to the point: Was there ever any doubt that Sim, the clone of Trip, would be killed off just according to plan? Despite the moralistic hand-wringing and worrying, despite the striking humanizing of Sim, despite all the extenuating circumstances— or more specifically, because of them— “Similitude” felt like nothing more than a show that was just going through the motions to pretend that there was a dilemma.

The entire situation was simply too forced, too contrived, and therefore too flawed to be believable over the long run. Forget the medical hoohah about the “mimetic symbiot” adopting the DNA of its donor; ignore the technobabble concerning genetic memory. Was there ever any doubt that Archer would choose anything other than to kill Sim to let Trip live?

This, I think, is Enterprise’s key problem— the fact that, when it comes down to the wire, the writers are not willing to take a chance and create some real conflict. Why not toss out the idea of the symbiot living only fifteen days, and instead actually replace Trip with Sim? With all of Trip’s memories, he would basically be Trip-cum-Sim. (Sorry; that’s a philosophy term applying to individuals who have the same properties but are not directly causally linked.) Sim would essentially become Trip.

I’m not saying that this idea would necessarily be the best or only option, but let’s follow this through for a minute. Would increasing the drama in “Similitude” by killing Trip and forcing the crew to accept Sim as a crew member pan out over the long term? I think it would, especially considering the theme of arc storytelling that has been introduced into Enterprise this season. Philosophers today wrestle with problems about whether it matters that an individual with identical properties is not truly identical. If the writers had chosen to kill Trip and keep Sim, we could address that problem in detail, rather than simply glossing over it as the actual episode did.

For instance, following Trip’s death, would it be appropriate to call Sim Trip, instead? After all, Sim has all of Trip’s memories, not to mention his appearance and mannerisms. The actual episode’s sequence showing Sim’s childhood seemed to imply that it was closely matching Trip’s in terms of thought processes and appearance. So, how would Trip’s friends react when Sim asked that everyone start calling him Trip, instead? Would the pain and sense of loss dull over time as Sim seemed to become a “replacement” for Trip? Would Starfleet grant Sim a commission equal to Trip’s, or would Sim even get back Trip’s place as Chief Engineer?

It seems to me that this would be an opportunity for some real changes and conflict to develop among the crew. Despite all of the grand conflict and enormous, nearly incomprehensible threats to Earth and Humanity, is there truly any sense of conflict? I don’t think so. And I think that the only way to actually achieve that sense of conflict and truly make Enterprise a great show is to shake up the main cast somehow. (Note that that doesn’t mean eliminate a crew member or bring someone else in.) Replacing Trip with Sim might— might— have been a way to do that.