[ENT] Season 1, Episode 13 (Netflix: S1 E12): Dear Doctor
Every Star Trek review site and message board has plenty to say about this episode. You know what’s more fun than reading through all this stuff? Skipping the episode, and just not worrying about all of this.
There are some positives for this episode which are worth mentioning before getting into why it gets a 1. We’re introduced to a lot of Denobulan qualities (which I find interesting) that are presented to us through Phlox, who can’t help but be enjoyable. But unfortunately this episode has much bigger themes where it gets itself into trouble. At best we can say it’s a lousy example of what the prime directive should be about, let alone the episode Enterprise chooses to reference the prime directive. At worst it’s very morally problematic.
An Enterprise episode introducing the prime directive should primarily demonstrate why they need a prime directive. This would most effectively have been shown if we see the negative effects of interfering with pre-warp societies. There are parts of this episode that could’ve been stretched to meet this goal. The part where everyone on the planet overwhelms Enterprise with requests for help could have been elaborated on. Imagine if interference from Enterprise created even more chaos, maybe even a war. This episode also places Archer in a situation where people are asking for warp technology when they aren’t ready for it. It was kind of an interesting moment when Archer says he is beginning to know what it feels like to be in the Vulcan’s shoes. A disaster from giving people warp technology could have also sold the need for the prime directive, although it still wouldn’t be the most impressive way to sell the theme. Instead we’re left with accepting the need for the prime directive based on a decision which may end the existence of an entire species for the theoretical benefit to another species in a million years. Are they trying to convince people that the prime directive sucks? Cockroaches could be the dominant species in a million years. What kind of reasoning is that?
Read more at Memory Alpha
To hear a defense of this episode check out Jammer’s Reviews which gave it 4/4 stars
File under: Kellie Waymire (Crewman Cutler)
File under: Prime Directive
There is a serious decision made in this episode about whether to give a dying species a cure to their genetic disease. The debate about this issue essentially happened in one scene between Phlox and Archer. Let’s take an in-depth, beating-a-dead-horse style, look at this debate!
“Even if I could find [a cure] I’m not sure it would be ethical.” That’s not something you will likely hear someone ever say outside of this episode.
So? Why should that be a basis for a decision? Pandas are trying their hardest to die off, but no one would suggest we just not interfere with the evolutionary process.
That’s a good point. Even more broadly than the evolutionary process, what’s “natural” isn’t whats good, and typically shouldn’t be a basis for determining whats good.
Phlox dances between two contradictory arguments: 1. Essentially that we shouldn’t play God by interfering and choosing who wins, and 2. That we should not interfere for the benefit of the Menk.
You’ve witnessed evidence of evolution in their intelligence, motor skills, and linguistical abilities? This is apparently happening while the Menk are not the dominant species right?
He wouldn’t know this would be the case. Why wouldn’t they be able to flourish even with the Valakians around as he has apparently begun to witness? Couldn’t it also be the case that when the Valakians die off the Menk may also die off because of their dependence on them?
Archer understands that Phlox is giving a contradictory argument by saying that we have to do this for the Menk, so Phlox just switches back to his other argument: that we shouldn’t play God.
Yeah! To hell with nature!
There may have been enormously evil things that had horrible effects, but also had the effect of supporting my existence. That in no way justifies the horrible act.
When Archer says “I appreciate your perspective” he’s making the “I don’t appreciate your perspective” face. Also a good point, and really the most important point, that Phlox doesn’t know what is going to happen with the Menk.
Get off your non-sequitur-soap-box for a minute and return to this conversation, Phlox. The theory Archer was referring to was the theory that the Menk will rise to take their rightful place as the dominant species. This theory has very little basis, and even if true, would still require justifying allowing a species go extinct. Phlox says Archer’s compassion is affecting his judgment, which is I guess supposed to be bad. It seems clear that Phlox too is being affected by compassion for the future (and theoretical) dominant Menk at the expense of millions of Valakians which will die in the coming years, and the Valakian species as a whole which almost certainly will go extinct. It’s not choosing science over compassion, it’s choosing reasonable compassion for real people over Phlox’s stupid compassion for theoretical people.
Archer makes a strong case for his position, and Phlox does a horrible job justifying his opinion. I really couldn’t believe that the writers, who come down on Phlox’s side, provide such devastating arguments against themselves. After Archer reconsiders his position, he gives this as an explanation for changing his mind:
This seems really out of character for Archer. It almost seems like this was a scene the network forced the writers to add (it was).