3 Stars - Thought Provoking
The struggle to find significance in life would be more difficult for a cloned person. Adults strive to distinguish themselves from their parents and siblings often rival with one another, yet this dynamic would only be exacerbated if a cloned person were to compare himself or herself with the life of the original person. Such a life would nurture a competitive desire to replace the original individual in order to find his or her own true and free self. In what is being touted as the last of the Star Trek series of films, the exploration of this struggle is appropriately called “Nemesis.”
The individual whose life is to be replicated is the venerated captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). Having served with honor and skill as the captain of the E-class Enterprise, Picard is chosen by the Romulans to be replaced by a clone of their own making named Shinzon (Tom Hardy). Having placed an accelerator within his genetic code so Shinzon would grow to maturity more quickly in order to replace Picard, a change in government relegates Shinzon to the prison colony of the oppressed Reman people. It is there that he comes into contact with the exceptionally gifted telepathic Reman whom he makes his Viceroy (Ron Perlman).
Demonstrating a genius in technology and a treacherous hideousness in leadership, Shinzon rises to supreme power in Romulus just as his genetic accelerator is destroying his life. If he does not have a transfusion of DNA from Picard he will die. Luring Picard to him, Shinzon feigns the desire for peace with the Federation while concealing a weapon that is the ultimate in mass destruction: it immediately steals the biological lives of people leaving everything else to the victor’s spoil.
The deeper messages of the film occur during the conversations between Shinzon and Picard. Claiming to be a mirror to Picard of what his life would have been had he been reared in the slave camps of Romulus, Picard muses to himself whether he is seeing through a “dark glass” in such a reflection. Later, when Shinzon captures Picard and prepares to destroy countless human lives, he claims that “the echo has now replaced the voice.”
This desire to be free from Picard’s definition of their mutual genetic life raises interesting questions that are not fully answered in the film. How would a clone feel toward the original owner of their mutual DNA? Would they continuously feel as though they are an echo of the original and need to supplant their donor, or would they have a separate soul and life though shared genetic code?
This question is reversed in a parallel journey between the android Data (Brent Spiner) and B-4 (also Spiner). Finding an earlier version of himself, Data must decide how to treat this prequel. Deciding to load his own memories and experiences into their technologically shared “positronic brain,” Data attempts to give this inferior version of himself the benefits of his longer life. Though this proves to be impossible due to some lack in the B-4 brain, it posits one solution to cloning – giving the life experiences from the donor to the clone. At present this is an impossible feat, just as it was for Data, but it raises the question again of identity. If a clone could receive the life experiences of the donor, would he or she become the donor – or would they be some one else?
Though siblings share genetic similarities, the sharing of a genetic code by a human will soon be accomplished. The impact such a life will have on the cloned individual is not yet known, but “Nemesis” gives one description of such an experience.
- As scientists are on the verge of cloning a human being, our Star Trek writers explores some of the possible dynamics of such a reality. How will the clone relate to the original person of whom they were cloned? Do you believe there will be competition or cooperation. If the reason for the clone, as some are saying now, is to provide “eternal life” for the original person, what will that do to the spiritual life of both clone and original donor?
- If the desire of biological life is not to create offspring but rather to create continuity of an exact genetic code, what will that do to the future of humanity? Who will be cloned and by what decision process? Will the cloned person be superior or inferior to the new person created by the biological union of a father and mother?
- If a cloned person should choose to kill the person who gave them life would that be murder? Would it be murder if the original person killed the clone in order to harvest needed organs for his or her own biological continuation?
- Do you believe a cloned person will have a separate soul from that of the original person? Why or why not?