Voyager tackles the health care system in the episode that original aired on November 1, 2000. This is Critical Care.
Captain’s Log Stardate Undetermined: Critical Care
The Doctor finds himself kidnapped and forced to work at a hospital where care is afforded only to those who can afford it.
The story is a basic one. The Doctor is kidnapped and finds himself working at a hospital where patients are treated based on their social standing, while Voyager tries to track down the Doctor’s thief and reclaim him. Throughout the episode the Doctor is challenged to work within the confines of this new system while also not wanting to betray his oath as a Doctor. The Doctor breaks the rules, poisons the administrator in order to teach him a lesson about the corrupt system. Voyager tracks down the thief and, after Neelix poisons him, the Thief provides the Doctor’s location and Voyager rescues their friend. Before he leaves, The Doctor’s efforts pay off when the Administrator sees how they can improve their rigid system for the better. Returning to the ship, the Doctor is concerned that he has been corrupted and that his ethical subroutines were damaged. Seven assures him that he did what he needed to in order to survive as the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
Sometimes a simple story is the best and this is one that, while it is a very simple story, it is a very solid one through and through. I have said it before, some of the best Trek takes on sociopolitical issues and presents them in a way that are easily digestible for viewers. Sometimes the issues are treated in a subtle way, other times the episodes hit you over the head. This is one that straddles in between those while giving us a really great story.
Critical Care tackles the rather broken healthcare system in the US head on with a parable about how only certain ‘classes’ of people are afforded health care coverage. In this episode it is based on Social Status, i.e. if you are a deemed a contributor to society you get better health care than someone who is deemed lower on the arbitrary scale developed by an administrator. While this seems barbaric it is pretty much how our current healthcare system in the United States works. If you don’t have insurance, you cant get treated, if you have insurance but not the right kind, you might not get treated, your insurance can determine if something is covered or not resulting in some significant financial issues which…ultimately could result in loss of job, insurance and more due to the fact that you cant pay for the treatment. So, in effect, this episode from literally 20 years ago…is sadly still very relevant today…in fact…even more so than it once was. In fact, unless you either happen to be lucky and have a job with tremendous health care, or you have tons of money, you are pretty much screwed when it comes to getting proper treatment. There is no doubt the system is broken and desperately need to be repaired…too bad someone like The Doctor isn’t there to help change the system from within…
Production wise, Picardo once again owns this episode from start to finish. While we do get a few moments with the Voyager Crew and their search for the Thief, this is entirely a Doctor-centric episode showcasing not only this characters dedication to medical science and ethics but also showing us just how much he has evolved as a character in seven years. In the episode, he deliberately infects someone to help others, going back to the needs of the many theme, and afterwards actually questions his own actions. This subtle but poignant moment really shows just how far the Doctor has come as a character. The Doctor we met in Season One would have never even considered such an action as it would be contrary to his base programing, this evolved Doctor has no issues getting results for the greater good. I really wish we got a chance to see what became of The Doctor post Voyager as I am sure his story was a fascinating one.
Overall, Critical Care is a great example of what Star Trek does best, it makes you think and question the world around you. Even for a moment, because sometimes that moment is all it takes to invite change.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- 0 photon torpedoes fired, -20 remaining.
- 0 shuttlecraft lost or destroyed, -6 remaining
- Both Gregory Itzin and Larry Drake guest star in this one, you might recognize them from other series such as DS9 and even LA Law. Drake is best known as the villain Durant in the film Darkman!
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Late To The Game 3/12/2021
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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