In the tenth episode of the third season of Enterprise, Archer makes a controversial and ethically complicated decision to save someone’s life. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Well, that was fucked up.
I’m noticing a pattern now that Enterprise has made it into the Expanse: Archer is more dedicated than ever toward completing his mission. That’s understandable, of course, because we’ve already seen what the Xindi are capable of just in terms of a test. If that was a test, then the “real” thing is going to be horrifically destructive. Thus, we know why Archer is willing to bend the rules more often than he was earlier in this show.
But “bending the rules” sounds so benign, so inconsequential, that it doesn’t quite touch how disturbing this entire episode is. Is this meant to be a turning point for Archer? Is he going to continue making decisions like this in the future? I don’t know. It’s possible. But I also didn’t think it possible prior to this episode that Archer would be capable of threatening to kill someone in order to save a member of his crew, YET HERE WE ARE. After Tucker is horribly injured while saving the ship from a possible breach of the warp core, Dr. Phlox presents Archer with an option he’d never needed to consider before: they could grow a fast-aging clone of Tucker. Well, technically, the larvae would produce a mimetic symbiote, but the end result was the same. They’d have a “copy” of Tucker who would experience a full lifespan in about 15 days. That way, Dr. Phlox could perform a transplant of the neural tissue that Tucker needed, and the Tucker symbiont would perish in two weeks.
I can see how Archer would view this as an uncomfortable but relatively easy transaction. If the surgery was painless, and if the symbiote was going to die anyway, would there be any actual harm caused? Wouldn’t they all be secure in knowing the ethical ramifications of this act? The problem, of course, is that within a day or so of making this decision and setting things in motion, it became painfully apparent that none of these people could have anticipated just how much this would affect them. From the viewpoint of the audience, this is nearly as surreal. We watch Phlox raise an actual child. We watch him bond with a young boy. We watch Hoshi and Phlox teach a younger version of Tucker to read.
And all the while, we are never allowed to forget who this Tucker is: Sim. NEVER. It is perhaps the most effective and chilling aspect of the script. At all times, I was aware of what was unfolding, how uncomfortable it was, how damning it felt. Sim constantly questioned his place within this world and his purpose. He vocalized his questions about his origins. And we watch as the crew orbits around Tucker, doing their best to try to make him feel at home, but always conscious of the fact that he’s not the real Tucker. It’s one of the central questions of “Similitude”: is this Tucker? He has Tucker’s body, all his memories, and behaves identical to the “real” Tucker. So does he count as a new person now, and does that even matter if his lifespan is only 15 days long?
I was reminded of “Tuvix” and “Dear Doctor” on Voyager, as well as that city of clones and Riker’s copy on The Next Generation, and all four of those episodes addressed identity much like this one did. It’s not repetitive, though, and out of them all, this might be the most patently surreal examination of identity and personhood. From one minute to the next, Tucker ages, and it makes this so much more uncomfortable. Plus, this is the same episode where the T’Pol/Tucker relationship, which has been teased pretty heavily this season, makes its first major step forward. Tucker’s symbiote’s reduced lifespan adds an urgency to everything, so it made sense to me that Sim would bring his concerns and feelings to T’Pol. If he only had a week or so left to live, why wait? Why avoid what he felt? I suspect that’s why T’Pol was willing to escalate things to a kiss. She knew that Sim would die shortly, and thus, she could explore this aspect of herself in a safe manner.
So I guess that is happening. It’s a significant development, but it’s also a small part of an emotionally overwhelming episode that consistently explores the ramifications of a single decision. And I respect that! It’s not an easy thing to to sit through, but that makes it all the more rewarding. Seriously, though, Archer’s getting kinda fucked up, isn’t he?
The video for “Similtude” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– Please visit my new site for all announcements. If you’d rather not have to rely on checking a website regularly, sign up for my newsletter instead! This will cover all news for Mark Reads, Mark Watches, and my fiction releases.