I'm currently rewatching Enterprise on blu ray. It's the first time I have seen any episodes since the original broadcast. I was never a great fan of the series but so far it has been a real joy with many episodes being a lot better then I remembered.
One of the few episodes I originally really did like was Dear Doctor and I was truly looking forward to watching it again. But what a surprise I got. It is 24 hours since I watched it and I am now convinced it is the most amoral episode ever conceived on Star Trek.
The episode is quite sneaky about it as it is clad in a very gentle and low key presentation. Everything that is problematic is also saved until the last few minutes. It all comes down to Phlox suddenly throwing an utterly misconceived view of evolution into the debate. He does this out of the blue when the entire episode hasn't had anything to do with evolution in any specific way.
He believes that the Valakians are suffering from a genetic disorder that is inherent to the whole species and will cause their extinction in 200 years. Based on that information everyone is motivated to help in any way possible. Then they encounter the Menk, a distinct humanoid species with less developed intelligence that peacefully co-exists with the Valakians. However, they are unaffected by the disease and according to Phlox's observations are showing signs of emerging intelligence.
So far so good.
Then Phlox suddenly conjures up the notion that the Menk will only get a real chance to "evolve" if the Valakians go extinct. His unwavering conclusion is that the Valakians should be left to their own fate because "evolution" should not be interfered with. No other options are discussed or considered. Thus hundreds of millions of innocent people are left to die.
Now there is one fallacy here that makes Phlox's argument illogical from the outset. Evolution does not have a predetermined outcome. Even with the best possible simulation it remains an inherently random process as mutations occur by chance and natural selection of these mutations is then dependent on random occurrences in the environment (e.g. meteor impact, climate change etc.).
What is disturbing about Dear Doctor is that the writers of the episode have no scientific understanding of evolution but have picked up certain slogans and attitudes about it (e.g. "evolution isn't just a theory") and then used those out of context to create a dramatic turning point in their story.
When Archer challenges Phlox's hypothesis about the Menk Phlox doesn't even respond to that direct challenge. He merely obfuscates by haughtily retorting "evolution isn't just a theory". That's the end of the debate. Case closed. Evolution knows what its doing appears to be their answer.
It's like a horrible caricature of the science vs creationism debate but this time round it's the scientists spouting unfounded dogma.
What really gets to me is how coldly they condemn the Valakians to their fate just because of a belief.
But what get's to me even more is that I didn't realise this when I first watched the episode. I must have bought into their mumbo jumbo. Now 12 years later I'm a practicing physician myself and also hold degrees in biology and other sciences and it is as clear as day what they did was utterly inhumane as well as morally and intellectually bankrupt.
I agree on all points.
Indeed, 'Dear doctor' was discussed on this forum several times; I made my position clear on those occasions, as well.
Of course, several posters were quite vehement on defending Phlox's course of action in the episode; as they are in this thread, I see. Make of this what you will.
Mutai Sho-Rin wrote:
For me, it is an absolutely great episode, specifically because of that moral quandary. When it first aired, I was the ENT Mod and the place went crazy with extreme views both pro and con. I thought the portrayals of Phlox, Archer, hoshi and Cutler were outstanding in capturing the subtlety of the story and I still consider it in my top 5 of ENT.
This view has a rather large problem:
There's nothing subtle about the 'moral quandary'.
Anyone who knows even a little about evolution, anyone who realises that what may or may not happen 1000 years into the future has no bearing on the morality of a choice now can see the episode supported the utterly immoral side and tried to window-dress it as 'moral'.