Get to know the ships Doctor in the episode that originally aired on January 23, 2002. This is Dear Doctor.
Ships medical Log Date: drat I really dont know…
Doctor Phlox goes about his day tending to some of his medical critters. Soon he receives a letter from a fellow doctor who is on Phlox’s home planet dealing with Denobulan mating rituals. Phlox pens a letter to his friend describing the events he himself is facing.
Enterprise encounters a planet where over 50 million Valakians are dying from a genetic disease. Phlox is concerned that he wont be able to help them and they will die out in approx. 200 years. He soon discovers that the Valakians have been mistreating another race of people known as the Menk, using them as slave labor. When the Doctor discovers that while the Valakians are dying out, the Menk are showing evolutionary traits that indicate them as the new dominate species on the planet. Realizing that he can not interfere with this planets evolutionary process, Phlox and Archer decide that the Valakians must find a way to help themselves despite not yet having warp capabilities.
While all of this is going on, Phlox has a potentially romantic encounter with a fellow crewmember, however, when she realizes that Phlox has multiple wives back home (and those wives have multiple husbands), she decides to become his friend for the time and see where things go from there.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This is where Enterprise really shines. Taking the time to focus on a single character and how they interact with the crew members is a breath of fresh air and honestly there is no one better to focus on that Dr Phlox.
Although this series is probably my least favorite of the franchise, Phlox is easily my favorite Doctor of any crew. His kind nature and genuine affection for the crew is a delight and it is such fun watching him learn about the crew and other species allowing us to learn through him. Actor John Billingsley brings such gravitas to his performance as Phlox that, honestly, I really wish we had a chance to see more of this character in the future. I mean, we really don’t know how long Denobulans live…maybe he could show up on Strange New Worlds and serve with Pike at some point…
Story wise, this episode finally brings a cool and unique look on a interesting concept, evolution and eventual extinction. In this episode we are faced with two separate species living together on a planet where one is highly evolved and advanced and the other is lesser so. The thing is, the more advanced species is dying out while the lesser advanced is beginning to thrive. Initially Enterprise is driven to save the Valakians until it is realized that this may be something that needs to be allowed to play through. It is a moral conundrum to be sure, do you allow 50 million people to die allowing the evolutionary process to take place, or do you find a way to save them before the other species, the Menk, are allowed to evolve themselves. Before you answer, think of it this way. What if aliens visited our planet at the moment where the Neanderthal and Homo sapiens shared the planet? Seeing that the Neanderthal were dying out, the aliens decide to save them dooming humanity to a premature death. Sure, seeing how we have treated this planet and ourselves it might not have been a bad thing in the long run but, from an evolutionary perspective, Neandertal was meant to die off allowing Homo sapiens to thrive. What makes this episode so interesting is that it begins to form the basis for the Prime Directive and the policy of non-interference.
While we have grown very used to the idea of non-interference in Star Trek, Enterprise takes place in a time that and begins the journey toward that fundamental ideal. I have to say, I am thankful for Captain Archer and his moral stance that humans are not in space to ‘Play God’. In fact, this episode also marks a turning point for the character of Archer as well, showing that maybe he is learning that sometimes, things in the galaxy aren’t always black and white.
Overall, this is a tremendous episode showing the true potential of this series. Instead of playing it safe, this series has a chance to really establish the founding of the Federation and the hardships, both moral and physical, that this entails. Dear Doctor tackles the moral implications head on. Plus, it was also a delight to see Phlox make a friend, although there might not be any romance in his near future.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- We learn that Denobulan mating season involves…combatants.
- We also learn that Demobulan’s don’t like to be touched, but the doctor is working on this.
- The Ferengi are mentioned in this episode, however, it seems unlikely as the Ferengi would have likely taken advantage of a dying race who needed a cure. I mean, what a perfect opportunity for profit amarite?
- I also love that we she Hoshi learning Denobulan from Phlox. This really furthers her character and the eventual establishment of a true universal translator.
- We also get to see Porthos get an exam and T’Pol get her a cavity repaired, establishing Phlox as not only the ships physician but also the vet and the dentist.
- We meet the recipient of Phlox’s letter, Jeremy Lucas, later in the series.
- We never find out what happens to the Valakians or the Menk. I assume that they eventually died out with the Menk taking over, then again, maybe some other species stepped in and subjugated them both? Who knows…
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Sleeping Dogs
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Late To The Game 5/21/2021
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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