Star Trek: Enterprise: Similitude   Rewatch 
September 30, 2019 11:47 AM - Season 3, Episode 10 - Subscribe

Trip has an accident.

Memory Alpha has details:

Background information:
> This episode marks the first written contribution of then-new Co-Executive Producer Manny Coto.
> The final draft script of this episode was archived on 12 November 2003.
> In the final draft script of this installment, Archer replied to Sim hoping that his sister's fate doesn't happen to anyone else by commenting, "That's why we're out here." In the final version of the episode, though, Archer instead says, "That's why I gave the order to create you."
Adam Taylor Gordon, who played a younger version of Tucker in "The Xindi", played the version of Sim at age 8 in this episode.
> John Billingsley named "Similitude" as one of the strongest episodes of the third season.
> The model Archer played with as a boy in "Broken Bow" reappears in this episode.
> This is the first occurrence in the Star Trek universe, chronologically, of a funeral on board a starship.
> This is also the first chronological mention of a tricorder (in reference to Phlox' medical tricorder) and the only occurrence of that word in the series.
> Pondering his final moments in a shuttlepod, Sim mentions sharing his agonies with Malcolm Reed which is a reference to Trip's memories from ENT: "Shuttlepod One", where he was trapped with Reed in a pod.
> This episode establishes that NX type shuttlepods do not have any bathroom facilities.
> Chronologically, this is the first time we witness a photonic torpedo casing being used as a coffin for the deceased in Starfleet funeral proceedings. The practice is essentially repeated, though with a photon torpedo instead, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
> In a rare break with continuity, when the shuttlepods are attempting to tow Enterprise out of the particle field, Lieutenant Reed uses kilodynes to measure the amount of force that is being applied. Dynes are part of the legacy centimetre-gram-second system of units (CGS). Except for The Original Series, where old imperial units such as miles are sometimes used, Star Trek episodes and motion pictures normally apply the International System of Units where force is measured in newtons. It is worth noting that dynes were named by Joseph David Everett, an Englishman, as is Reed.
> Brannon Braga was delighted with this episode. "Manny just knocked it out of the park," Braga remarked. "He wrote a great script. Connor Trinneer gave a terrific performance. And you know the arc is working because 'Similitude' just wouldn't have worked last year. You needed the context of the Xindi arc to give it its power, to give Archer those tough decisions. Additionally, T'Pol learns that Trip's in love with her, but the real Trip doesn't know that she knows! That set up great dynamics for upcoming episodes." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 151, p. 30)
> This episode won an Emmy Award for Velton Ray Bunch's music composition.
> This outing was popular with fans due to its moral complexity. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 151, p. 30) The episode was chosen as the #3 fan favorite in an online poll conducted by UPN. It was re-broadcast on 25 March 2005 in that context. Note: The poll was conducted before the final six episodes of the series had aired.
> The book Star Trek 101, by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode as one of the "Ten Essential Episodes" from Star Trek: Enterprise.
> Interestingly, the shuttlepods would have had no difficulty pulling or pushing Enterprise out of the nebula, as there is no gravity in space when the ship is far enough from any stellar bodies, as seems to be the case here. Inertia would cause Enterprise to retain any momentum imparted by the pods, even incrementally.

Memorable quotes Edit
"The most difficult test facing any captain, any crew, is the loss of a shipmate. We've come here to honor one of our own. In the time we knew him, he showed us just how much one life can truly matter. We will never forget what he did for us, and for the ship he loved so much. We will go forward with renewed determination to complete this mission, so that his sacrifice won't just have been for the people on this ship, but for all the citizens of Earth."
- Captain Archer's eulogy for a lost crewman, apparently Trip Tucker

"Regarding the Lyssarian procedure Doctor Phlox proposed, may I ask if you've reached a decision?"
"I approved it."
"Are you aware that the Lyssarian Prime Conclave has banned the creation of simbiots?"
"We don't answer to the Lyssarian Prime Conclave."
"Simbiots are living, conscious entities. We'll be growing a sentient being for the sole purpose of harvesting tissue."
"I'm aware of the ethical implications. If we weren't in the Expanse, maybe my decision would be different. But… we've got to complete this mission. Earth needs Enterprise. Enterprise needs Trip. It's as simple as that."
- T'Pol and Captain Archer, discussing the controversial procedure Phlox has proposed in order to revive Tucker

"Can he do any tricks?"
"I haven't taught him any. Mostly what he does is eat, sleep, and, uh, not fetch."
- Young Sim and Archer, discussing Porthos

"I'm not talking about an adolescent crush. That was… well, that was two days ago."
- Sim, to T'Pol

"I have his memories. I have his feelings. I have his body. How am I not Trip?"
- Sim, to Archer

"I must complete this mission! And to do that I need Trip! Trip! I'll take whatever steps necessary to save him."
"Even if it means killing me?"
"Even if it means killing you."
- Archer and Sim, arguing over his right to survive

"I was all ready to do it."
"What stopped you?"
"Where the hell was I going to go? We're nowhere near any habitable planet. Didn't really want to spend the rest of my life floating around in a shuttlepod, which doesn't even have any toilet facilities. Can you imagine a lousier way to spend your old age – cooped up in that thing, peeing in a bottle? Actually, I can imagine a worse fate."
"What would that be?"
"Being stuck in there with Malcolm!"
- Sim and Archer, with an obvious reference to Tucker's experience as documented in the season one episode, "Shuttlepod One"

"It's not that I'm scared of dying. It's just that… I can't imagine not being here tomorrow."
- Sim, to Archer

"Do me a favor when this is over. If Commander Tucker decides to do any more modifications to the engines… tell him to watch his ass!"
- Sim, to Archer

"I'm sorry I doubted you, Doc."
"No need to apologize."
"Yes, there is. You see, I don't just remember Trip's childhood. I remember mine. You made a damned good father."
"You were a damned good son."
- Sim and Phlox

"You said to me once that commanding a starship was what you were meant to do. I guess this is what I was meant to do. Good luck, Captain."
- Sim's last words to Archer

"You owe me one!"
- Sim's last words, to the still comatose Tucker

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: It's possible for players or their bridge crew to sustain lasting injuries in the MMO, but there are devices to heal them with.
* Vulcans Are Superior: T'Pol is the only crew member to call out the specific legal issues surrounding this procedure.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: Trip's initial accident is probably too catastrophic to count.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Lyssarian desert larvae are basically magic.

Poster's Log:
This reminded me a little of Tuvix, which - despite being a VOY reference - is actually a good thing in this case. It's also one of those times I'm going to say that VOY did this better.

Up side: I liked that they showed Sim grappling with the problem, down to almost stealing a shuttlepod. That all felt plausible enough within the parameters of the episode. Trineer and his younger stand-ins did good work to support the plotline. Capturing any kind of emotional reality is a good thing on ENT, so that was nice to see.

Down side: this episode really could only end one way. They teased Trip's 'actual' death with the opening funeral, but Sim was always going to die, (the 15 day lifespan telegraphs that maybe harder than it needed to). That deflated the dramatic tension for me. This is a spot where Tuvix was a better story dramatically: he could make a pretty good argument for his indefinite existence. It's harder to call Archer out for murder when Sim had less than a week to live anyway. I wish they'd left a little more ambiguity in the plot - some chance the enzyme would work, some chance Sim would survive, maybe a longer lifespan than 15 days to add some heavier tragedy. It mostly felt too cut and dried to me?

At any rate: I liked this one okay, but just okay. Be curious what you all noticed and thought.
posted by mordax (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Anchor Steam California Lager. Which is a tweak on a popular beer. Because it's a redux of a previous script but unlike a lot of Trek retreads it's not a bad one, and it tweaks it enough that it's interesting (like the lager) and It makes you think a bit, but it's also not the most memorable episode and like the beer, ultimately forgettable in the larger context of this show (or life).

Well that went weird places. Like the episode.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:22 PM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]


I looked at it as a really oddly specific and weighted version of the Trolley Problem:

- Trip is injured, but Phlox has some space magic stuff that can crank out a clone in nothing flat. Cloning sentient organisms for spare parts and/or effective immortality is a pretty old trope in science fiction, with the attendant moral/ethical discussions, and even though this specific method of doing so is kind of odd (why would any organism develop the adaptation to become another organism entirely?), fine, OK. We need for Trip to get better so that Earth won't be destroyed by the Xindi.

- But then we find out that not only is the clone awake (maybe it's too difficult to keep it in a coma or the neural tissue won't develop properly if it is), but it retains all of Trip's memories, even "creating" them at the corresponding developmental "age." Even for space magic, that's a little wonky. (The Vorta in DS9 get the memories of their predecessors, but it's implied that they back up their memories regularly for that to work.) Now the Trolley Problem is weighted in another direction by the clone being an actual person... except that they'll die in a few days. Except...

- More space magic, in the form of the secret experiments by the "Velandran Circle" to prolong the life of mimetic simbiots, meaning that you'd have a perfect and intact version of Trip instead of the injured version in a coma. And you're back to the prospect of killing someone who would be perfectly viable to save the life of one other person. Except...

- Turns out that the possibility of saving Sim is actually pretty slim, and by the time you found out whether or not he'd stop aging rapidly, his tissue would be worthless for transplant. So, the final form of the Trolley Problem is:

- Do you kill a sentient being in order to not only save the life of another sentient being, but probably billions of Terrans, or do you gamble all those lives on a Hail Mary pass that might work?

So, there's a whole lotta space magic being bandied about in service of a plot that's really just about the edgiest of edge cases; it seems like the Needs of the Many, Many, Seriously Many kind of outweigh those of the One (Who Won't Be Around Very Long, Anyway). That having been said, the pathos really flows pretty heavily here, and it even provides a logical opening for the Trip/T'Pol thing to advance. Although Sim isn't really given a choice here, I'm glad that they had him decide not to try to make a run for it after looking at pictures of Trip's sister Beth.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:41 PM on September 30, 2019 [4 favorites]


It's true that it only could have ended one way, and more precisely, we can tell that Sim will nobly sacrifice *himself* as soon as we start to get to know him. But I viewed this episode as not totally cut-and-dried:

We need for Trip to get better so that Earth won't be destroyed by the Xindi.

This is where the setup here kind of sticks in my craw. It's not as though Future Guy popped in to say "Oh, by the way, Trip is instrumental in you saving humanity, so don't let him die." Had that happened, this setup would've been even tidier than it already is, and there'd still be some quality drama and tension (and, as usual, acting).

Does Trip not have proteges in his department who can replace him? Did his parents genetically-engineer him to be some kind of super-(non-genetic)-engineer? Is Trip truly SO incontrovertibly indispensible that we have to take away Sim's right at a chance, however slim, to continue to exist? Or is the decision motivated mainly by the meta-rules surrounding main cast members in an episodic drama?

Or is it motivated mainly by Archer not wanting to lose his friend, which Archer makes pretty obvious here, in what struck me as one of the character's more morally dubious moments so far? I mean, Sim basically IS Trip—you'd think Archer wouldn't treat him practically like a villain. OTOH, perhaps this is just how humans in the Trekverse automatically react to clones; MA says the following on the Clone page:
By the 24th century the aspect of cloning seemed repulsive to some Humans, considered to eliminate the aspect of one's uniqueness and specialty. When offered the chance to be cloned, William T. Riker claimed that a hundred or a thousand of Rikers would diminish that status. (TNG: "Up The Long Ladder")

In the case of "Similitude," I'll admit also to a slight personal bias because, like Tuvix, Sim is more likeable than his origin lead character, and what's more, I never liked Trip as much as either Tuvok or Neelix! (Turns out I had a kind of similar reaction to "Tuvix", in fact.) In short, they COULD have had Phlox work a miracle and enable Sim to live out a normal lifespan, and then we wouldn't have reason to seriously question (again) Archer and Phlox's morality, and it wouldn't actually have changed all that much w/r/t TripSim in the long run. Perhaps that struck the writers room as too tidy for 2003.

it even provides a logical opening for the Trip/T'Pol thing to advance

Yeah, I'll concede that it's logical, though the foreknowledge that it becomes a Thing still makes me grimace.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:33 AM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


Does Trip not have proteges in his department who can replace him? Did his parents genetically-engineer him to be some kind of super-(non-genetic)-engineer? Is Trip truly SO incontrovertibly indispensible that we have to take away Sim's right at a chance, however slim, to continue to exist? Or is the decision motivated mainly by the meta-rules surrounding main cast members in an episodic drama?

Well... a crew of eighty-odd people seems to be Earth's only hope at this point. And I'm not sure if they've established Trip as being as indispensable as Archer (which they did in "Twilight"), but probably losing a key officer at this point would be pretty bad.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:11 AM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


When offered the chance to be cloned, William T. Riker claimed that a hundred or a thousand of Rikers would diminish that status. (TNG: "Up The Long Ladder")

Branching off this for a moment, remember how Will reacted to his double that was created due to the transporter reflection. Seasoned Riker vs. unseasoned, still in love with Troi Riker, sure, but there definitely was a lot of hostility just for hostility's sake towards "Thomas" in that episode. Trek characters don't like seeing themselves.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:04 AM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen that episode of TNG, but I can kind of understand Will's hostility toward Thomas--although Thomas isn't really younger, going by the Memory Alpha description, his personality was basically frozen during his time alone on the planet, so it's like he's interacting with a younger version of himself. I know that if I met a younger version of me, I'd be caught between wanting him to not make the same mistakes that I made, and sheer envy, maybe even a bit of jealousy. In other cases of duplication, they've been made for nefarious purposes (Kirk's android duplicate in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", Picard's clone in Nemesis), twisted or downright evil versions of themselves (the Mirror Universe, Lore, the de-ethicized EMH in "Equinox"), past or future versions in less-than-great circumstances (numerous), etc.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:15 PM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


In this light, it's fortunate that Trip-Prime never had an opportunity to interact with Sim, because I can imagine him being venomous enough toward Sim as to make me like him even less.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:18 PM on October 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


Does Trip not have proteges in his department who can replace him?

Actually, it seems like the answer in S3 is 'no, he doesn't.' I figure this is the case because Archer has T'Pol replace him in Engineering, instead of temporarily replacing Trip with one of his actual subordinates. The implication is absolutely that nobody but Trip can repair the ship if circumstances are dire.

This makes no sense from a logistics standpoint - absolutely every crew member should have at least one potential replacement on such a crucial mission - but it does track with ENT's record. If regular Trek is competence porn, ENT seems to be incompetence porn most of the time.

Trek characters don't like seeing themselves.

This is very true.

My personal belief is that it comes from Star Trek's view about struggle being a measure of merit, (which goes with Trek's downright worship of a misguided teleological view of evolution).

That is: characters that obtain abilities without 'deserving' them are always bad, and characters that 'earn' their abilities or position are regarded as virtuous.

- Genetic engineering for superior capabilities is always inherently corrupting, ranging from Khan and the Augments to the Suliban.
- Races that obtain superior tech are generally villainous rather than virtuous. (Vulcans insist on humans and Andorians obtaining technological advances with minimal help, which is supposed to be for their own good. Most races that get enhanced tech do so via piracy rather than licensing, including the Pakleds and the Borg.)
- Power has to be 'deserved.' Riker absolutely cannot keep Q powers while Amanda Rogers can because she's descended from them, never mind that she was raised just as human as Riker. See also societies that don't have conflict - all of them turn out rotten at some point.

I think Trek's general bias against AI stems from this - synthetic characters like Data didn't do anything to 'deserve' their abilities or existence. I think clones do too - clones basically have everything a natural human does, but they didn't do anything to earn it. Sim has Trip's memories via 'unnatural' means and is therefore simply less deserving than the original the Trek 'verse.

Anyway, that's just my take. It could also be the 'who wants to see a younger version of themselves' thing too, at least in some cases. (I think Thomas Riker saw some of that.) But overall, I really think this is a thing, and I'm having a hard time un-seeing it since this came up in VOY discussion.
posted by mordax at 2:38 PM on October 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


My personal belief is that it comes from Star Trek's view about struggle being a measure of merit

That's very much in Trek's DNA (so to speak), with Pike willing to die rather than get what would basically be a psychic holodeck existence in the first pilot, and Gary Mitchell and Elizabeth Dehner's galaxy-barrier-induced psychic powers--which threatened to reach Q levels--eventually being their downfall in the second.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:55 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


That is: characters that obtain abilities without 'deserving' them are always bad, and characters that 'earn' their abilities or position are regarded as virtuous.

I can't agree with this. For starters, Data is one of the most beloved characters in all of Trek. Pulaski was one of the only people who treated him like a weird "other," and she was presented as a real throwback that way. The DS9 Prophets were generally respected, because they didn't abuse their power the way the Q did. The Q were dangerous, and doesn't Picard have some speech to Q about how he rejects absolute power without accountability, or something like that? The problem isn't with powerful characters, it's when they abuse it. Data was even stronger and smarter than Khan, but he wasn't a brutal dictator. If people from Starfleet meet some weird god, super robot or energy-based alien with awesome powers, they're perfectly fine with it so long as the lifeform isn't using their powers in a harmful way. They routinely meet races with bigger and better tech, and that's fine so long as they're not hostile.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:37 PM on October 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


If people from Starfleet meet some weird god, super robot or energy-based alien with awesome powers, they're perfectly fine with it so long as the lifeform isn't using their powers in a harmful way. They routinely meet races with bigger and better tech, and that's fine so long as they're not hostile.

You're missing the entire point of my argument: people who got abilities the hard way deserved them. Nobody questioned the Voth being stronger than everybody - they were tens of millions of years old.

Star Trek has a screwed up notion of evolution, whereby gaining powers the 'natural' way allows you to wield them responsibly, but getting them 'early' makes you bad. The Q got their powers the hard way, so they're fine. Gary Mitchell just got zapped by a space thingy, so he was bad. It occurs time after time in the franchise.

Also, this is completely wrong:
For starters, Data is one of the most beloved characters in all of Trek. Pulaski was one of the only people who treated him like a weird "other,"

Data had to defend his right to:
- Exist, against a legal challenge to avoid being disassembled to create a servitor race.
RIKER: You just want me to prove that Data is a mere machine. I can't do that because I don't believe it. I happen to know better. So I'm neither qualified nor willing. You're going to have to find someone else.
PHILLIPA: Then I will rule summarily based upon my findings. Data is a toaster. Have him report to Commander Maddox immediately for experimental refit.
- Have offspring, something to which Picard objected using prejudiced language.
PICARD: Data, I would like to have been consulted.
DATA: I have not observed anyone else on board consulting you about their procreation, Captain.
And:
PICARD: I insist we do whatever we can to discourage the perception of this new android as a child. It is not a child. It is an invention, albeit an extraordinary one.
TROI: Why should biology rather than technology determine whether it is a child? Data has created an offspring. A new life out of his own being. To me, that suggests a child. If he wishes to call Lal his child, then who are we to argue?
PICARD: Well, if he must, but I fail to understand how a five foot android with heuristic learning systems and the strength of a ten men can be called a child.
- Be a captain.
HOBSON: No, no, no, that's not what I mean. I don't think that I would be a good first officer for you.
DATA: Why?
HOBSON: Frankly, sir, I don't believe in your ability to command this ship. You're a fellow officer and I respect that, but no one would suggest that a Klingon would make a good ship's counsellor or that a Berellian could be an engineer. They're just not suited for those positions. By the same token, I don't think an android is a good choice to be captain.
DATA: I understand your concerns. Request denied.
AI prejudice isn't subtext in Trek, it's just the actual text. (Much like anti-Vulcan racism isn't subtext, even though Spock was also a fan favorite.)
posted by mordax at 12:23 AM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


I glommed onto this this theory after someone pointed out to me that this is the justification for the Prime Directive itself: it's not an argument against imperialism or colonialism (the way I tended to justify it in my head before coming here), but just a straight up argument that other races couldn't be trusted with tools they had not developed themselves.
posted by mordax at 12:27 AM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


After an episode that started with a "twist" cold open that had very little nothing to do with the season's arc, another episode with a "twist" cold open having little to do with the season arc was a little tiresome. At least it felt like a real Trek outing, although I'll disagree with the producers that it needed to be in thisseason, because it absolutely didn't. Trip dying wouldn't have gravity without the Xindi? He's basically the captain's best friend!

Mostly it just felt like a waste of time.

Also, the whole existence of the heretofore unheard-of Lyssarian Desert Larvae is hella cheap and of course nobody ever heard of it again because it's basically a kind of superpower that can ruin any plot.

Additionally, T'Pol learns that Trip's in love with her, but the real Trip doesn't know that she knows! That set up great dynamics for upcoming episodes.

UUUUUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH
posted by General Malaise at 8:32 AM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


Mordax, with respect, I feel like you were kind of cherry-picking from Measure of a Man. For example, you neglected to quote Picard speaking eloquently about Data's rights as a sentient being:

"(This verdict) will reveal the kind of people we are; what (Data) is destined to be. It will reach far beyond this courtroom and this one android. It could significantly redefine the boundaries of personal liberty and freedom: expanding them for some, savagely curtailing them for others. Are you prepared to condemn him – and all who will come after him – to servitude and slavery? Your honor, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life: well, there it sits! Waiting."

With the Laal episode Picard is being prejudiced against artificial life, and you could say that's inconsistent characterization for the sake of drama or you could say it reveals some hypocrisy on his part. But IIRC, at the end he's clearly accepted that Data has lost a daughter, not an invention. Over the course of the series, it becomes very clear that Picard thinks of Data as a friend. (It looks like that will be a significant factor in the upcoming Picard series. Picard is still grieving Data's loss.) While we do admittedly see some people in Starfleet who are prejudiced against Data, the people who serve with him definitely regard him as an equal. (Riker, also from Measure of a Man: "Data's my comrade. We have served together. I not only respect him, I consider him my friend!")

Data's situation obviously doesn't track perfectly with the prejudice that humans have faced, because he isn't human. Nobody can make a fair argument that humans are property, but because Data is literally a machine it took time for Starfleet to firmly establish his personhood. It's a similar deal with the Doctor on Voyager. You could find examples of human characters dismissing his personhood and treating him like a talking tricorder, but over time everybody on that ship came to see him as a sentient, complex individual made of light. The characters in Trek really want to make friends with new life forms. That's their whole deal. You can find examples of them botching it and saying shitty stuff, but those tend to be mistakes on their way to understanding.

The Q got their powers the hard way, so they're fine.

But... they're not fine? Starfleet considers them a threat, and rightly so. Picard gives Q endless guff, because Q uses his powers irresponsibly. As I said, Starfleet is generally fine with super-powerful entities, as long as those entities aren't tyrannical or mischievous trickster types.

Gary Mitchell just got zapped by a space thingy, so he was bad.

Well, yeah, he did become bad. In Star Trek, when humans are suddenly given godlike power, they tend to go power mad. (Even Riker became arrogant and made costly mistakes when he was granted the power of the Q.) Would it be better somehow if the franchise showed people suddenly being granted totally unearnered, godlike power and using it wisely? I don't think that's realistic, or a great message to send, or even great drama. I'm sorry, but I'm not really understanding what you're advocating for. What is the "evolution" that Trek is getting wrong? In natural evolution, nobody suddenly wakes up with the powers of a god. Isn't it better to earn power, than to have it fall in your lap?

it's not an argument against imperialism or colonialism (the way I tended to justify it in my head before coming here), but just a straight up argument that other races couldn't be trusted with tools they had not developed themselves.

Humanity learned from its own bloody history that interfering with the development of other cultures is a bad idea. The Federation's goal is to never repeat the mistakes of imperialism and colonialism, and they're not shy about saying so. They're not flawless and sometimes they fail to live up to their ideals, but they're not just being mean and refusing to let the other kids play with all the toys.

I'm not entirely pleased with what I've written here, but I've blown a good chunk of my Friday night on it so I'm just going to click post and then go do something else.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:52 PM on October 4, 2019


characters that 'earn' their abilities or position are regarded as virtuous.

Data could be viewed as an example of both sides of that coin (especially alongside Lore): Data is, as best as I can tell, suggested to have earned his position, but not his abilities, which may account for him being portrayed in TNG as both virtuous but also scary—capable of bad bad shit. Lore was the (arguably unnecessary) illustration of how far in the other direction Data could have gone; IIRC, one of his most compelling schemes was stealing (and thus, not earning) the emotion chip intended for Data.

mordax: this is the justification for the Prime Directive itself: it's not an argument against imperialism or colonialism (the way I tended to justify it in my head before coming here), but just a straight up argument that other races couldn't be trusted with tools they had not developed themselves.

Ursula: Humanity learned from its own bloody history that interfering with the development of other cultures is a bad idea. The Federation's goal is to never repeat the mistakes of imperialism and colonialism, and they're not shy about saying so.

It's said that the reason we need judges in the justice system is because no law made by humans can be infallible nor capable of being interpreted in one way all the time. I look at the Directive as being like that, but even moreso, since it's never actually been clearly spelled out, but rather gestured-at by various different writing staffs across literal generations. (Indeed, how directly have Trek characters actually challenged imperialism and colonialism? Is it more common for Starfleeters to back away from those situations and hide behind the PD? And if so, is this more of a problem within Starfleet than among humanity/UFP at large?)

Viewed that way—which, Doylist though it may be, strikes me as a fair view of it—the Sherlockian conclusion/retcon we can reach is that the PD had those noble antimperialist/anticolonial foundations when it originated, but began to descend into technological- and cultural-patriarchy. Kind of like how the Vulcan species "learned from its own bloody history" that logic should be a top consideration in one's life, but they swung that pendulum too far (or so the franchise often suggests) and made it the ONLY consideration. (I cite Spock reminding Valeris that "Logic is the BEGINNING of wisdom, not the end," in a tone that strikes me as nonconformist.)

Ursula: What is the "evolution" that Trek is getting wrong? In natural evolution, nobody suddenly wakes up with the powers of a god. Isn't it better to earn power, than to have it fall in your lap?

I mean, yes, but (and now I'm getting into full-on what-iffery, and maybe going off-topic) it sure would be nice if Trek challenged the very idea of "power" being a good thing. DISCO hasn't yet shown signs of going in that direction AFAICT. I suppose it could. But as long as the suits equate "space show" with "space war action"…eh, maybe it takes some entirely other franchise to do it. BSG re-reboot?

From that POV, maybe the "evolution that Trek is getting wrong" is the fact that it often pays lip service (via super-advanced, probably-even-post-Q energy beings) to the notion that shedding violence, dominance, and other sub-sapient instincts is the path to real progress, but that humanity in Trek seems incapable of getting the message. Which is along the same lines of Ursula's comment that "they're not flawless and sometimes they fail to live up to their ideals," though I might go a step further and say something like "baby steps aren't enough to outrun the weight of the history of one's species."

Now! on the other hand,

mordax: HOBSON: Frankly, sir, I don't believe in your ability to command this ship. You're a fellow officer and I respect that, but no one would suggest that a Klingon would make a good ship's counsellor or that a Berellian could be an engineer. They're just not suited for those positions. By the same token, I don't think an android is a good choice to be captain.
DATA: I understand your concerns. Request denied.
AI prejudice isn't subtext in Trek, it's just the actual text.


That doesn't mean it's being endorsed. Hobson, and for that matter the oppressors of the Holo-Doctor miners, are very evidently presented as being in the wrong on those topics. So even if it's true that—
Trek's general bias against AI stems from this [misguided teleological view of evolution] - synthetic characters like Data didn't do anything to 'deserve' their abilities or existence.
—maybe the real message that the franchise generally puts out is that humanity, in the Trek-verse and in the writers-of-Trek-verse, has come a long way, but still has some damaging baked-in prejudices that they've got to overcome.

(By the way, Data's responses to Hobson are so great in that episode.)

The Prophets are an interesting case in this regard. Sisko is practically Anakin Skywalker, and is never shown to have "earned" his half-Prophet parentage or his status as Emissary. Yet he also is never* depicted as having been corrupted, or even at risk of corruption, by whatever it is the Prophets gave him, nor does anybody especially resent him for it apart from the patently-villainous Winn—and arguably, some Starfleet admirals. The show certainly considers him a hero. Is this another of those DS9 reversals of the Trek norm? (That's me actually asking, not being rhetorical. I truly am not sure!)

* = Unless you count the planetary bombardment from "For the Uniform," or the skullduggery of "Pale Moonlight," but I for one don't; they didn't seem to have anything to do with his Emissary status.

I feel like I may have just muddied the waters of this discussion. Sorry :p
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:59 AM on October 5, 2019


Re: Hobson
I think in a way, his reluctance to accept Data as CO of the ship is understandable. He hasn't been aboard the Enterprise and seen firsthand Data's abilities to create. As far as he knows, Data is simply another computer with AI, but without any real ability to do what humans do. And it's not like he's alone. Even the show's writers were not at all consistent when it came to Data's own abilities and how he used them.

As an example, there is the episode when Data was romantically involved with Jenna. He read up on the subject and created a "subroutine" for the purposes of being a mate. At the end when they broke up, he deleted it and that was that. Did he actually engage with Jenna or was it just an exercise in referencing data (no pun intended)? Contrast this with other significant relationships including Tasha Yar where Tasha's death and absence affected Data in ways that weren't emotional, but still very real. Sometimes Data could be very intelligent when conducting relationships and other times he could be clueless like with Jenna and telling her she was just another subroutine. It was whatever the writers needed in a given episode.

Re: Lal
Did Data really need to inform Picard? No. Would it have been a nice thing to do given all the strife they'd had to deal with over time with Starfleet cyberneticists trying to gain control for experimentation so that Picard could be ready to head off the likes the admiral in that episode? Yes, absolutely!
posted by Fukiyama at 5:01 PM on October 5, 2019


Ironically, the very day I posted my supposition that the Federation gradually decays from its noble intentions, the new Picard trailer drops in which that exact phenomenon seems to be in evidence during Picard's conversation with our first Future Evil Admiral…

and the DISCO Season 3 trailer drops, which (reading between some lines and taking into consideration the V'draysh from "Calypso") might suggest that S3's arc is Let's Get the Federation Back Together.

I think in a way, his reluctance to accept Data as CO of the ship is understandable. He hasn't been aboard the Enterprise and seen firsthand Data's abilities to create. As far as he knows, Data is simply another computer with AI, but without any real ability to do what humans do.

Yeah, except he's also brazenly insubordinate and racist against Klingons and Berellians (whoever they are). The character may have been an opportunity to really delve into that Starfleet AI suspicion/prejudice with more complexity if Hobson had been a larger part of the episode, but IIRC (it's been a while since I saw that one) there was too much other stuff going on in that one.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:53 AM on October 6, 2019 [1 favorite]


You can find examples of them botching it and saying shitty stuff, but those tend to be mistakes on their way to understanding.

So first of all, I apologize for being so harsh in my response to you. You are speaking in good faith regardless of your position. My fault for wasting your Friday evening.

That said... Trek tried pretty hard, but that doesn't mean it succeeded. Prejudice pertaining to class and race are treated as completely normal things in Trek while we're told 'this is what enlightened humanity looks like.' It happened in that Western story we just saw: Archer and Co are shilled as 'beyond prejudice' while behaving with it towards T'Pol almost every week. If I had a nickel for every time someone on the show talked about how far everyone had come, I could afford the whole set on Blu-Ray.

Just for an easy example: casual stereotyping is the norm, because within the context of the show it's literally true: Klingons do walk like this, and Vulcans walk like that. It's a fundamental law of reality in Trek. Two of you didn't even notice that Hobson was shit about stuff beyond Data, and I think Trek doing this *all the time* normalizes it. (I appreciate you catching that, Cheeses.)

And sure, Hobson is supposed to be a bad guy, but ENT spent two full seasons flogging 'foreigners smell funny.' It wasn't an accident, it wasn't an outlier, it happened on VOY at least once too without being called out as racist on any occasion, and it's only the most obvious thing I can think of at this hour. I could talk about this for days, especially having just reviewed all of VOY and a significant fraction of ENT. It's all over the place.

This is a show that was written with some fundamentally bad ideas about who deserves what, and why.

I'm sorry, but I'm not really understanding what you're advocating for.

This is very complicated, but the short version is: Trek holds the view that evolution is a directed process, working toward making everyone more powerful and enlightened. (This is something called the teleological view of evolution. Here's a quick and dirty Wikipedia overview.)

In Trek's defense, this is a common failing of action SF. A lot of other shows are total shit about it too. That said, it comes with some huge and unpleasant baggage. One logical extension of this line of thought occurred during the episode of ENT that literally advocates genocide in the name of the principle of 'evolution,' which Phlox gives religious weight. Trek is no longer allowed to use the word evolution without me hounding everyone involved into an escape pod. :P

So. I want people not to push, defend or otherwise engage in any of this shit. Seriously, this is how you get ants ethnic cleansing: the idea that blood determines who's worth what is the literal, historical foundation of eugenics.

Mordax, with respect, I feel like you were kind of cherry-picking from Measure of a Man.

Prejudice isn't about people burning crosses, not most of the time. It's mostly thoughtless, ignorant and passive. Trek not usually getting that is one of the reasons it doesn't do a good job with some of these details - I think most of the people writing it believe that if there are no slurs, no lynchings, the fight is over. But it's not. (DS9 had a good one about this.)

In this case, it doesn't matter that Picard gave a spirited defense, or that Data won. It matters that he was on trial at all.

Would you feel like a full citizen of a country where you right to exist has to be argued in a court of law? Would you be safe in a place like that? Would you be safe in a place where it's perfectly normal to question if you're 'real?'

I suppose opinions might differ, but I'm not interested in entertaining a 'yes' on any of those. Ever. Data was person enough to become a commissioned officer in Starfleet - he had credentials, he had rank, he had responsibilities, and none of that gave him a legal right to exist. The time to put him on trial was after his immediate recovery, not after he graduated from Starfleet Academy.

In Data's shoes, I would've gotten out of there ASAP.

maybe the real message that the franchise generally puts out is that humanity, in the Trek-verse and in the writers-of-Trek-verse, has come a long way, but still has some damaging baked-in prejudices that they've got to overcome.

Eh. Sometimes, about some stuff. I do maintain this is what the people behind it think we should be striving for: a place where nobody is shooting each other over race, but people judge about it openly.

Is this another of those DS9 reversals of the Trek norm? (That's me actually asking, not being rhetorical. I truly am not sure!)

Completely fair question. IMO, him being half-Prophet is the show justifying his Emissary status by giving him a blood connection to the beings behind it. The subversive choice would've been to just make him a regular guy.

Anyway, final thought:

I'm out. The next episode of ENT has a sketchy guy drugging and kidnapping a prostitute so aliens can perform medical experiments on her. I feel like someone's going to try and feed me a line about how that's actually progressive or cool or not so bad, and I will go ballistic. Given that, I'm no longer the right person to participate in these threads in any capacity.

I apologize for dropping these in the middle. I honestly didn't remember ENT was this much of a radioactive garbage fire. It's been unpleasant enough that I'm not even hyped about DSC anymore.

Thanks for a lot of discussions, good, frustrating and everything in between. I wish you all fun with the rest of these.
posted by mordax at 3:37 AM on October 7, 2019 [3 favorites]


IMO, him being half-Prophet is the show justifying his Emissary status by giving him a blood connection to the beings behind it. The subversive choice would've been to just make him a regular guy.

You're probably right, on both counts. If the show could've more clearly established him as having been the Emissary prior to his assignment at DS9, conveniently next to Bajor, and yet he's just a human (admittedly one who has already experienced a lot)…that might have been just as mystical, but better in a few ways.

I apologize for dropping these in the middle. I honestly didn't remember ENT was this much of a radioactive garbage fire. It's been unpleasant enough that I'm not even hyped about DSC anymore.

I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping that you return for season 4 at least! Well, maybe after the season premiere. I'm not lookin' forward to more Space Nazis, that's for sure
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:43 AM on October 7, 2019


mordax:
Two of you didn't even notice that Hobson was shit about stuff beyond Data, and I think Trek doing this *all the time* normalizes it.

I noticed it, I just forgot about it. I haven't seen the episode in years and the quote here didn't register when i was formulating a reply in the shower. Oops. It does undermine my point about Hobson doubting Data's abilities.
posted by Fukiyama at 11:22 AM on October 7, 2019


I'm out.

Can't tell you how bummed I am to hear that. Short Treks have started up again, so I'll write those up unless you change your mind, please let me know if you do. And thanks for making it this far; I know it's been rough sledding.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:23 PM on October 7, 2019


Would you feel like a full citizen of a country where you right to exist has to be argued in a court of law?

Well, I did say that Data's situation doesn't track perfectly with the oppression that humans have faced, since he's an actual machine. Nobody can put forward a rational argument that humans should be property, but the tension of the episode comes from the fact that while WE know Data deserves the full rights of a person the other side can mount a worryingly strong case that he's really just a piece of highly sophisticated Starfleet equipment, not so different from a ship's computer. You're quite right that the time for these arguments was years before the trial. In hindsight, it is kind of crazy Starfleet would let Data serve for years and then take up the issue of whether he deserved human rights. But in a sad way, that does track with how humans sometimes fail to address vital issues. I suppose that Starfleet was willing to let Data exist in a kind of limbo status as a machine/person for years, enjoying everything he brought to their organization without worrying too much about what he was, until Maddox came along insisting that Data was worth more as an object of study than as an individual.

When I grumbled about the time I'd spent on my comment, that was just me being kind of frustrated with myself. It can take me so long to get my point out, and it only gets worse as I get older. I'd put in the time to write this comment I wasn't super thrilled about, and I could either post it or trash it and accept I'd wasted 45 minutes (or however long it took). So, if I sounded snippy, that's why.

Mordax, I do hope you contine with these threads... or at least I hope that somebody else will pick them up! I feel like in some ways it's more natural for you to be critiquing these shows rather than leading a discussion. If you dislike a show, and obviously you've grown to dislike this one, leading a discussion every week could feel like a real slog. Unfortunately I don't know if anybody here DOES like Enterprise enough to keep these going. I'm an old school Trekkie die-hard, and even I'm just kind of lukewarm on Enterprise. I enjoy these threads because they get everybody talking and mixing it up, more than I enjoy my memories of the actual show. I've enjoyed reading debates about episodes I barely remember. It makes me sad to think it could be winding down so suddenly.

On a happier note: New Picard trailer! The people involved clearly know their Trekkie fan service. (Apparently Hugh the former Borg is in there, among other familiar faces.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:05 PM on October 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


I have only participated occasionally in this rewatch but I do like Enterprise and would be willing to lead a continuation till the end of the series in the same rhythm, if people were willing.
posted by zadcat at 8:14 AM on October 8, 2019


I posted the next one yesterday, and memailed with Halloween Jack about us doing alternating weeks.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:55 AM on October 8, 2019


Yay! And I hope that Mordax would continue to participate, as a commenter.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:34 PM on October 8, 2019


Just ignoring the horrible genetic memory magic. I like clones/identity questions.

I thought this was a pretty decent exploration of the ethical dilemma going on, and an effective way to deliver a romantic turning point. Maybe I'm not super keen on it being these particular characters, but ok, and the actors did fine. This could be an episode of Buffy or Angel and I bet it would be well remembered.

There's a point where the joy leaves Sim's face, and I like to think that's when his memories reach Cogenitor.
posted by fleacircus at 9:32 AM on November 7, 2019


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