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Old July 3 2013, 08:24 PM   #88
Charles Phipps
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

This was written before I consulted the script and am retracting my earlier statements.

Which you provided in another thread. Thank you, Christopher.

Well, that's not a very good analogy, because those were both cases where contact between different populations introduced a disease that one of the populations had little or no immunity to. Also, it was a disease, an external pathogen, not a natural part of the species' life cycle. What Phlox was saying was that the Valakian species itself had an expiration date built into its own genetics -- that they weren't suffering from a disease at all, just from reaching the end of their species' life cycle.

While that's a fanciful concept in real-world terms, as I've said, if it were the case within this fictional universe, I can see how Denobulan medical ethics could argue that it could be harmful to interfere with that natural life cycle -- just as many real-world doctors believe that easing the end of an individual's natural lifespan is a more desirable goal than trying to extend individual lifespans indefinitely. The same doctor who might go to all possible lengths to save a 30- or 50-year-old from a viral infection or cancer might not endorse similar extreme measures to prolong the life of a 98-year-old who's dying of old age, but instead would encourage the patient to accept the natural end of their life cycle.

And again, the episode was not saying that Phlox's view was unambiguously the right one. On the contrary, the whole point was to set up a situation that had no clear right answer, because that's far more dramatically interesting. And it was to show that Phlox was an alien, that his definitions of right and wrong wouldn't automatically conform to ours. It's the moral ambiguity in the episode that makes it so intriguing. Its goal wasn't to tell us what to think, but to give us something to think about.

I'm not saying I agree with Phlox's position either. But most of the critiques I hear are based on misunderstandings of what his position actually was, or what the problem actually was. We need to understand that clearly before we can validly assess the moral questions of the episode.
This is a much more ambiguous point and basically implies some sort of guiding impulse behind biology. Which is not that fanciful, actually, since we know the Preservers (or a race similar to them) has genetic "guiding principles" built into the DNA of the Alpha Quadrant's various races. That everything was designed to come up humanoid bumpy-forehead races.

The Preservers, or Intelligent Design as a concept, basically has decreed that this race isn't going to survive and that the next race is going to take up the mantle instead.

It's not that Phlox and Archer are making the choice, it's the choice have been made for them many millions of years in the past. Their choice is whether or not to interfere with Intelligent Design as a conceptTM and attempt to impose their own transformative concepts on them. The consequences, thereof, being unknown like massive die-off or mutation. It's an interesting case of biological Prime Directive--which makes sense given the kind of amazingly advanced DNA control you'd need to "guide" evolution.

In this respect, my argument is quite different. Specifically, I think that Phlox and Archer's decision to "stand by" and simply provide drugs to provide the people involved a cure for the pain and horror of their condition is more defensible. At the very least, they're not practicing eugenics. It seems, instead, the Preservers/Intelligent Design Force were on a fairly grand scale.

However, on a moral level, I believe the action was still wrong. That resisting Godlike intelligences is as often what Star Trek is about and so-is a Pro-Technology plan. It's a dying species that has no real hope for survival on its own but I think our heroes would be more "heroic" (if that makes sense) if they chose to try and help the Valakian overcome their condition to try and continue their survival into the future.

Had the show ended with a "Up the Long Ladder" solution of the Valakians and Menks interbreeding, I'd have far less problems with it (and would find it cute, actually).

There's actually an X-men plot related to this that the Celestials implanted humans with an expiration gene to occur that would result in them being replaced by mutants (and had resulted in neanderthals being destroyed for humans). That this was the motivation for a character named Cassandra Nova to order the destruction of mutants because she believed herself to be the next stage after mutants and wanted to hustle it along. No such activity is being brought here.

In any case, you've changed my perspective of the work even if I think the fact that they choose to let "nature take its course" with the ticking time bomb is the wrong moral choice and not very Star Trekky (even if the PD is a precedent). It's less offensive to me, now. Thank you.
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