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On TV Today's Date:

original airdate: 11-19-03

Star Trek loves to push the heavy issues. In the past, Trek series have tackled such controversial topics as the environment, homosexuality, and drug abuse. This week's Enterprise explores the conversation no parent wants to have with his or her son…

That's right. Cloning.

With the dangers of cloning becoming more and more real it's important that prime time television bring the issues to our attention, and make us realize the horrible reality that clones face every day.

The episode begins with the familiar Federation funeral. Everyone stands at attention in the torpedo bay as the captain delivers a eulogy to bag pipes. Just where the bag pipes are coming from without Scotty around, no one knows. Maybe they have it on MP3. They look down at the dead face of Chief Engineer Charles "Trip" Tucker III.

After the commercial break we go back "two weeks earlier." Trip is alive and doing rather well, playing Vulcan masseuse with T'Pol. The two of them lay on the floor, rubbing each other's feet, talking about intake manifolds or something. No one's really paying attention, not even Trip, cause T'Pol then puts his head in her lap and doubles over, putting him in orbit around her chest.

If you did catch their conversation, Trip devised a way to get maximum efficiency from the warp nacelles. The next day during the experiment they're launched into a strange nebula, and Trip heroically risks his life to save the crew. In process he's shot into a coma.

Trip needs some of his own tissue grafted onto his brain in order to survive. Since duplicate organic tissue doesn't grow on trees, Phlox reveals a super sci-fi creature from an alien desert that can clone a person and live their life cycle in fifteen days. Okay, so duplicate organic tissue actually grows on scrub brush.

Instantly, any Trekker knows that body sitting in the torpedo during the opening is the maggot clone's full grown body.

Or is it the real Trip and we live with the clone for the rest of the season? Much like Nemesis where Data dies and we're left with his retarded brother.

So that's the only real question left in the episode. Early on they explore the moral dilemma of creating a clone. Is it right to create a person who will only live for fifteen days. Is it right to grow him with the sole intention of harvesting his tissue? Is it right to allow five people to play the same character in the same episode without flashbacks?

Of course Archer grants the morally challenging request. This information is relayed to the audience using an old school convention often forgotten in the newer Treks… The good ole Captain's Log. Kirk used to make log entries at gunpoint after commercial breaks to remind the audience what was happening. Archer rarely busts open his log… maybe the Enterprise's operating system has some loading errors. Yes, there's still a Microsoft in the future.

Oddly enough, Phlox uses his Medical Log to explain away the first three days of baby Trip's life. Through a quick montage we watch the fetus grow into an eight-year-old boy.

This is where things get sticky. While young Trip, now named Sim, grows, the real Trip's memories are activated in his mind. He's living a dual life. It gets a little confusing, and hard to imagine what that would be like… but then again, this is science fiction…

However, that excuse only goes so far. When Archer explains to Sim why they created him, and uses the visual aid of Trip's comatose body, Sim instantly understands. Maybe as a clone he's born with the understanding, but it just seems a little too convenient that he'd learn that he was born to die and then want to go play.

The older Sim, well six-day-old Sim, lets it bother him a lot more. Acting as a junior engineer, and looking about eighteen, Sim strolls around the ship assisting and hitting on T'Pol. She's not interested… or is she…? More on that later.

The nebula that caused Trip's accident traps the ship like an ant in maple syrup and it's Sim that figures a way to escape. After his success, Sim has a really hard time believing he should die.

Here's that heavy issue. The moral battle ground, if you will. The fate of Earth rests in Enterprise. But Enterprise can't work without Trip. But Sim - an exact copy - can save the day. And there may be a treatment that could extend his fifteen day life span into a normal human's. But the treatment is untested.

So, does Archer lose his engineer and friend for Sim's life? Or does he kill an innocent person, who never asked to be born… And what if Sim grows up to be the next Hitler or Genghis Khan… has he really done the right thing? And what is the right thing, really? It's a question of perspective… And if a tree falls in the forest…

To make a Zen story short; Archer decides Sim will die to save Trip. His main reason hasn't changed since he ordered the creation of Sim. The Xindi threat is too great - and therefore worth Sim's life. With the great level of continuity flowing through Enterprise it's very important that the Xindi are mentioned every episode this season. But it's been nice that this week and last the plot didn't revolve around the new arch villains. Not every episode needs a Klingon.

After a forfeited escape plan Sim gives in and volunteers for the procedure. But not before the KISS!

T'Pol comes to say goodbye to Sim and plants a juicy one on him. T'Pol will have a hard time explaining that to Trip when he wakes up. Especially since in episode six, he'll be revealed to be her long-lost brother. Did she kiss Trip or some warped version of him? And why oh why does she act on impulse? She really does need to get off the human ship. Her grip on her emotions is about as tight as a buttered monkey's paw.

Phlox and Archer have their touching goodbyes with Sim. And honestly, you may just find a lump in your throat. If you set aside the IMPOSSIBLE situation, the acting is still supreme. Connor Trinneer, now playing both Sim and Trip, does a fantastic job of making his own character's clone believable. And it's worth noting this very complicated episode is directed by Star Trek veteran LeVar Burton. A less experienced person may have let this delicate piece completely crash.

So it's back to the opening. Sim is now wearing Trip's uniform… why? Not sure. But it does justify the opening. And Trip watches what looks like his own funeral, as his body double is launched into space… Only to land on the Genesis planet, and be reborn! Then they'll all go back in time on a Klingon Bird of Prey to save some whales…….

Wait a second here. NEXT WEEK ON ENTERPRISE:

The crew goes back in time to Earth to save humanity…

No really. So, in two weeks William Shatner will direct the biggest flop of the entire series. And God will need a star ship.

Before history repeats itself too badly, let's check in with the Alien Species Scale. This week's scores a…

Talaxian/Vulcan: Voyager did this same plot. Neelix and Tuvok were joined in a transporter accident and formed Tuvix. The crew fell in love with him, but in the end he was ordered to be destroyed to restore the much more boring original main cast members. So sad.


Kevin Miller

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