[ENT] Dear Doctor

[ENT] Season 1, Episode 13 (Netflix: S1 E12): Dear Doctor

Rating: 1

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

Notes:

This episode has a lot of Phlox. I like Phlox

Phlox: “I’ve noticed how the captain seems to anthropomorphizes his pet. He even talks to the creature.” Phlox goes on to say he, himself has been known to talk to his bat. Yeah, I wonder if there has every been a scene involving Phlox and his bat where he doesn’t talk to it. Hypocrite!

Cutler: “They don’t have movies where you come from do they”           Phlox: “We had something similar a few hundred years ago but they lost their appeal when people discovered their real lives were more interesting”                                                                                                              Are you mocking me now, jerk? For watching your dumb show?

Enterprise picks up an alien who requests help for his people who are dying. Archer asks T’Pol for her thoughts and she says “They did come looking for us…and considering they already met two warp-capable species, the risk of contamination seems acceptable.”

Hoshi and Phlox seem like good pals

A lot of Phlox’s commentary on humans has to do with our bewildering sense of compassion. I thought for sure this was going to be yet another Star Trek episode to feature humans teaching aliens a lesson in having heart. Nah, instead it’s about how humans shouldn’t let compassion, or any sense of morality, impair our judgment in some situations

Cutler is in this one

File under: Kellie Waymire (Crewman Cutler)

There is a not-so-subtle reference to the Prime Directive. It’s pretty lame

File under: Prime Directive

Further Analysis:

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!

Phlox: “Even if I could find [a cure] I’m not sure it would be ethical.”

“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.

Phlox: “We would be interfering with an evolutionary process that has been going on for thousands of years.”

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.

Archer: “Every time you treat an illness you’re interfering. Thats what doctors do.”

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: “Your forgetting about the Menk”

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.

Archer: “What about the Menk?”                                                          Phlox: “I’ve been studying their genome as well, and i’ve seen evidence of increasing intelligence, motor skills, linguistical abilities…Unlike Valakians, they appear to be in the process of an evolutionary awakening. It may take millennia, but the Menk have the potential to become the dominant species on this planet.”

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?

Archer: “And that wont happen as long as the Valakians are around?” Phlox: “If the Menk are to flourish they need opportunity to survive on their own.”

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: “What are you suggesting? We choose one species over the other?”                                                                                                        Phlox: “All i’m saying is that we let nature make the choice.”

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.

Archer: “The hell with nature. You’re a doctor. You have a moral obligation to help people who are suffering.”

Yeah! To hell with nature!

Phlox: “I’m also a scientist and I’m obligated to consider the larger issues. 35,000 years ago your species co-existed with other humanoids isn’t that correct?”                                                            Archer: “Go ahead”                                                                                    Phlox: “What if an alien race had interfered and given the neanderthals an evolutionary advantage? Fortunately for you they didn’t.”

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.

Archer: “I appreciate your perspective on all of this, but we’re talking about something that might happen, might happen, thousands of years from now. They’ve asked for our help. I am not prepared to walk away based on a theory.”

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.

Phlox: “Evolution is more than a theory. It is a fundamental scientific principle. Forgive me for saying so, but I believe your compassion for these people is affecting your judgment.”

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: “My compassion guides my judgment”

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:

Archer: “We didn’t come out here to play God”

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).

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  • http://twitter.com/johntodd55 John Christensen

    Ok, first of all, this was a bad episode. Im not even sure its a 1, cause in my book, a 1 should at least have really bad costuming or set design. This was like reading a medical journal.

    No character even jogged through the halls in this episode. Even when he tries to explain his job as doctor to his pen pall, he only encounters a first degree burn, and it looks like he prescribes some sort of Vaseline. Don’t you think in an episode steeped in dialogue, they could have at least tried to throw in a B plot with some action. Hell, i don’t think there was a B plot. It was A plot with Phlox and the disease, and B plot with Phlox and sex (I will visit this B-plot later in my comment, as it was severely overlooked in the bloggers breakdown, and needs to be discussed).

    The writers got together and said, “Hey, this is a Phlox episode, so lets put him in every shot. He doesn’t like to run? No problem. Lets make this the most uneventful episode ever.” There is no need to give this person an entire episode ever. And if you are, why not try and copy the many successful TV drams that have run for so many years. Like any episode where a doctor has to think fast on his feet, deal with gallons of blood, make sure people don’t die. This disease resembles boredom in how quickly it becomes lethal. The ‘Enterprise’ writers try and take the B-plot from hospital dramas by trying to heat things up in this episode, but then they inserted Phlox into the “McDreamy” role, and Cutler into the “Hot Girl” role (I don’t watch those other shows, hence the vague reference). Phlox really is the most un-athletic character in ‘Enterprise’, and was probably written as a change of pace character to go balance the high octane Texas guy, and a tough, super fit Archer.

    Speaking of Archer, in this episode he is super slow, weak, and dumb. I was frustrated by this, because it is not always the case. Yes he has a softer side, but since this is a Phlox episode, they decide every character needs to showcase their most annoying qualities all in one episode. They find an abandoned ship, and Archer says, “Sidebar people, we need to discuss this. Not sure what to do.” They find out their sick, and need help, and once again Archer is to the rescue, “Uh, Vulcan friend…, what do I do?”. Now no surprise when they find a cure, Archer is there to have a 20 minute conversation with Phlox to discuss what they should do.

    This is the climax of the episode. I honestly was walking in and out of the room for the last 15 minutes of this episode as to not to get too bored; and I missed nothing. The audio version of this episode would be just as compelling. Heck, it might even be better. You probably would have imagined a disease that looked worse than waking up groggy. If you had only heard this episode and you didn’t know what Phlox and Cutler looked like, it might have been more believable and less gross.

    I was so mad that they tried to tackle the issue of interspecies dating in this episode. And to do it with Phlox. “Hi, I’m Phlox, I have a calm demeanor, overly professional, have no sense of humor, and my face is weird.” “Hi, Im Cutler. Im very attractive and on a ship full of the best and brightest people from my planet. I think its funny that you don’t like movies.”
    There is absolutely no chemistry between these characters in the Star Trek universe or in the theatrical universe. Its like watching cold toast meet cold toast, then they discuss the science of the weather. At no point did I care for this plot, and I hoped the whole episode I would not have to watch a kiss. I cringed at the kiss on the cheek at the top of the episode, but chalk that one up to my issues. I think it is a more widely held agreement that everyone sighed in relief when they decided to just be friends.

    Same topic here, but just the way this plot was introduced was so creepy. He is talking to a science friend of his (as one of the dumbest writing techniques ever), and we find out it is mating season on Phlox’s home planet. So this makes me assume, Phlox is now in heat or something, which is weird. It is then described how complicated and jarring witnessing anything this mating is, and Phlox chuckles like its no big. I got the sense Phlox was thinking “You think watching is frightening? Talk to my three wives. (creepy laugh)”. Than only a scene or two later, we are introduced to the Phlox/ Cutler movie scene where she is all over him, during and after with innocent flirts. This has me thinking “Get away Cutler, you wont survive his mating practices. A human scientist just said it would not be safe! Abort Abort!” But the writers decide to ignore the details they just introduced and continue with this sloppy B plot. Gross.

    Now for a few side notes. What was up with that translator. That technology was unbelievable and inconsistent. Kinda like most of the dialogue between Phlox and Hoshi in general.

    What movie were they watching. And I just remembered this episode made Trip suck too. He is usually a mans mans of sorts, but not in this episode. Just crying at old movies. But why do they even pick an old movie. They could be watching Transformers 10 right now, and it would still be a classic to them. Opportunity missed by the writers.

    And a question, How do you know the writers had to add a line. How much was added by the network and so forth?

    • http://twitter.com/LetsWatchST Lets Watch Star Trek

      Lol, good points. In regard to the part about adding the line at the end, I was just reading on Memory Alpha (basically a star trek wiki) that the network changed the end and originally Archer didn’t change his mind, and Phlox went behind his back.

      • yogonaf

        yonagonaf believes that the human named John Christensen that posted a comment on the review of “Dear Doctor” must know about “Memory Alpha”.

        This is because the poster posted on this webpage and this webpage deals with everything Star Trek and “Memory Alpha” is the Wikipedia for everything Star Trek.