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Old February 14 2013, 09:36 PM   #31
Christopher
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

TiberiusMaximus wrote: View Post
That would be fine. But that's not the message I got from Phlox. To me, he seemed pretty sure that the Menk were going to become the dominant species as long as the Valakians died out. That's hardly a neutral, objective stance. He didn't say, "I can't meddle because I might screw things up." He said, "I can't meddle because the Menk have more of a right to live than all the people who just asked me to cure them."
But that's not what he actually said. Here's the dialogue:

PHLOX: I've been studying their genome as well, and I've seen evidence of increasing intelligence. Motor skills, linguistic abilities. Unlike the 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.
ARCHER: And that won't happen as long as the Valakians are around.
PHLOX: If the Menk are to flourish, they need an opportunity to survive on their own.
ARCHER: Well, what are you suggesting? We choose one species over the other?
PHLOX: All I'm saying is that we let nature make the choice.
He wasn't definitively saying he favored the Menk. He was saying that there were factors worth considering on both sides of the argument and he wasn't prepared to favor the Valakians at the risk of condemning the Menk. His decision was not to act in favor of either side, but to let natural evolution take its course.


I really don't get it. The Menk, who weren't sick and dying, who didn't ask for anything, were more important to Phlox than the patients who were sick and dying and asked him for help. They asked for a cure, he found one, and then he got all high and mighty on them and kept it away from them.
But the sticking point there is the word "cure." It assumes that what was happening to the Valakians was a disease, an aberration. As Phlox perceived it, it was just the natural life cycle of the species. Think of it in terms of an individual. There's no "cure" for death of old age; it's just the end of the individual's natural life cycle, and a lot of medicine is about accepting that inevitability and helping people reach the end of their lives with comfort and dignity. Evidently Denobulan medical training takes that same view of species as a whole -- no species is immortal, and if this was the natural end of the Valakians' life cycle as a species, then maybe it was better to help them accept and manage the transition than trying to artificially postpone the inevitable and incur unknown risks and damage in the process. Again, that's an argument that doesn't make sense in the context of real-world evolution, but we're talking about a fictional reality where the rules are different. If it is true within the Trek universe that some species, at least, have fixed endpoints to their lifespans, then the Denobulan viewpoint on the issue is no worse than the perspective of the people who run a hospice. And even if it's not true, Phlox at least sincerely believed it was true in this case, and the beliefs and ethics of his species shaped his decision. He is an alien, after all. It makes no sense to demand that every decision he make be compatible with 21st-century Western human values and attitudes.


And it really didn't seem to me like the episode was meant to be ambiguous, Phlox seemed to be presented as absolutely in the right.
I'm surprised that you think that's the case. True, Archer did end up agreeing with Phlox, but it wasn't an easy decision, and as I said, the closing scenes did offer some hope that the Valakians could still find a cure after all. And Archer does say that his decision goes against his principles. Certainly you don't think the writers intended to suggest that Archer's principles were dead wrong. He was the hero of the show, after all. The situation was meant to be ambivalent, but the point was that the characters came to terms with each other and resolved their conflict, however uneasily.

Actually the original intent was for Phlox to defy Archer and withhold the cure, leaving the tension between them unresolved, but UPN wanted them to reach an understanding. John Billingsley wasn't happy with that outcome, but I can see their reasoning; that outcome could've seriously undermined the trust between Archer and Phlox, which would've put Phlox in a very tenuous position, given that he was a civilian and a foreign national aboard an Earth Starfleet ship. It would've been hard to believe that Archer would've let Phlox remain as CMO if the trust between them had been damaged to that extent. So the outcome of the episode was more about the characters and the status of their roles and relationships within the show than it was about taking a clear position on the moral dilemma.
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