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Old September 22 2013, 11:28 AM   #1
Jefferies
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Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

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.
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Old September 22 2013, 11:47 AM   #2
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Re: Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

I know two people who quit watching Enterprise because of Dear Doctor and still rant about it to this day, how horrible and immoral it was and how they tried to shove it down our throats as the prime fucking directive.

It's awful. Perfectly fine Trek episode until the conclusion. I wonder if the actors etc.. had any qualms about where this went.
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Old September 22 2013, 02:09 PM   #3
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Re: Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

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.
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Old September 22 2013, 03:46 PM   #4
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Re: Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

I’ve formed an opinion of this episode over the years from watching the episode quite a few times and chatting Star Trek on the various message boards. The whole premise the episode boasts as a “prime directive” episode is just crap I think. Why does Archer have to commit to a decision right now? Why not take Phlox's findings back to the Inter-Species Medical Exchange and allow them to deliberate/validate? Come back later? Archer did give the Valikisians medicine that would give them an additional 10 years to find a cure, so the out of control rage in most comments are uncalled for I believe. No genocide was committed or allowed here. Loved Crewman Cutler and was looking forward to seeing more of her as the series progressed. So sad that was not allowed to happen. I also loved Phlox’s conversation/narration throughout this episode.

Archer agreed with Phlox for all the wrong reasons. Whether it was genetic or not is really irrelevant. I'm not a doctor or anything like that, but what difference does it make? Archer should have not made a planetary decision like this on one doctor’s findings. He should have withheld an untested and invalidated cure because of the catastrophic damage an error could cause. Not because "it's genetic".

If you really wanted a "Prime Directive episode" that lays the grounds for the necessity of guidance for a non-interference policy, Archer should have made the mistake and the results should have been catastrophic and devastating. His human compassion should have won the day! He should have disregarded Phlox’s recommendation and ordered him to administer the "cure". What does Archer’s decision teach us with regard to the need for "some directive"? Nothing.
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Old September 22 2013, 05:49 PM   #5
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Re: Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

I love the heroic music that plays as Archer says they need to have a directive to cover his moral cowardice out here.
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Old September 23 2013, 01:02 AM   #6
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Re: Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

It's a ridiculous episode built entirely around a complete misunderstanding of evolution. There's no "ultimate destiny" for evolution, which is a mistake many sci-fi shows have made. The Valakians weren't destined to die to make room for the Menk; it was pure chance that they happened to develop a disease they couldn't cure. It's ridiculous that Phlox, a medical professional with decades of experience, would actually be the one to suggest and strongly support this moronic idea.

The episode was both poorly conceptualized and poorly executed (from a writing standpoint; I thought the acting was fine). It's just as absurdly overrated as "A Night in Sickbay" is underrated (not that I think ANiS is all that great, but I don't think it's quite as awful as its reputation suggests, either).
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Old September 23 2013, 11:20 AM   #7
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Re: Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

R. Star wrote: View Post
I love the heroic music that plays as Archer says they need to have a directive to cover his moral cowardice out here.
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Old September 23 2013, 08:42 PM   #8
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Re: Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

As I said in one of the countless previous threads, the decision to, or not to help the Valakians should have been made by Earth's government, not Archer.

That's pretty much it.
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Old September 23 2013, 08:57 PM   #9
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Re: Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

I imagine this isn't going to be a very popular opinion, but...

I almost think people get too hung up on the use of the word "evolution" and essentially end up overlooking the forest for the trees.

My understanding of the Prime Directive...which granted doesn't exist here...is that the Federation shouldn't be interfering in the development of civilizations.

By that standard then, all that really matters is that the Valakians are confronted with a disease they're unable to cure, and that if Our Heroes were to cure them it would (possibly) alter the development of the civilizations on the planet. It's obviously hard to say for sure...for all we know the Valakians could develop a cure the day after Our Heroes leave.

If the Federation really believes in a policy of non-interference, then it doesn't ultimately matter whether the Menk are there or not. Non-interfering in this case means not allowing the Valakians to persevere through means that they couldn't develop without Our Heroes' assistance.

Hell, it could just as easily be argued that the virus has a right to exist and would ultimately "evolve" to be the dominant life form on the planet...curing the Valakians means committing genocide at that point, if you really want to look at it that way.

In any case, it's a mistake to approach the Prime Directive as a moral issue, because adhering to the PD ultimately means you have to leave your morality at the door. Heck, the beginning of Into Darkness makes this abundantly clear.
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Old September 23 2013, 11:35 PM   #10
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Re: Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

Even later when they did have a "Prime Directive" or "General Order #1" I don't believe it limited providing medical aid.
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Old September 23 2013, 11:51 PM   #11
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Re: Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

We don't really know, do we? (I'm perfectly willing to accept examples that establish it one way or another)
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Old September 24 2013, 12:13 AM   #12
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Re: Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

Yanks wrote: View Post
Even later when they did have a "Prime Directive" or "General Order #1" I don't believe it limited providing medical aid.
The Prime Directive is rather ambiguous but what it comes down to is, do screw around with pre-warp civilizations and don't interfere in anyone's internal affairs.

So if they're warp capable, you get all the help you need in case of medical crisis or natural disaster... if not, you're screwed.
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Old September 24 2013, 01:15 AM   #13
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Re: Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

R. Star wrote: View Post
Yanks wrote: View Post
Even later when they did have a "Prime Directive" or "General Order #1" I don't believe it limited providing medical aid.
The Prime Directive is rather ambiguous but what it comes down to is, do screw around with pre-warp civilizations and don't interfere in anyone's internal affairs.

So if they're warp capable, you get all the help you need in case of medical crisis or natural disaster... if not, you're screwed.
Well, I know Beverly gave Picard and earful on a couple occasions about this. Don't have the episodes at my fingertips.
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Old September 24 2013, 01:32 AM   #14
R. Star
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Re: Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

Yanks wrote: View Post
R. Star wrote: View Post
Yanks wrote: View Post
Even later when they did have a "Prime Directive" or "General Order #1" I don't believe it limited providing medical aid.
The Prime Directive is rather ambiguous but what it comes down to is, do screw around with pre-warp civilizations and don't interfere in anyone's internal affairs.

So if they're warp capable, you get all the help you need in case of medical crisis or natural disaster... if not, you're screwed.
Well, I know Beverly gave Picard and earful on a couple occasions about this. Don't have the episodes at my fingertips.
So did Pulaski in season 2's Pen Pals when they were discussing the ramifications of the PD and diseases came up. I'd have to agree with them.

There are situations which you shouldn't involve yourself, but to say just because there are some, you shouldn't get involved in any, is kinda absurd.
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Old September 24 2013, 01:50 AM   #15
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Re: Dear Doctor... How could you do this?

DonIago wrote: View Post
I imagine this isn't going to be a very popular opinion, but...

I almost think people get too hung up on the use of the word "evolution" and essentially end up overlooking the forest for the trees.

My understanding of the Prime Directive...which granted doesn't exist here...is that the Federation shouldn't be interfering in the development of civilizations.

By that standard then, all that really matters is that the Valakians are confronted with a disease they're unable to cure, and that if Our Heroes were to cure them it would (possibly) alter the development of the civilizations on the planet. It's obviously hard to say for sure...for all we know the Valakians could develop a cure the day after Our Heroes leave.

If the Federation really believes in a policy of non-interference, then it doesn't ultimately matter whether the Menk are there or not. Non-interfering in this case means not allowing the Valakians to persevere through means that they couldn't develop without Our Heroes' assistance.

Hell, it could just as easily be argued that the virus has a right to exist and would ultimately "evolve" to be the dominant life form on the planet...curing the Valakians means committing genocide at that point, if you really want to look at it that way.

In any case, it's a mistake to approach the Prime Directive as a moral issue, because adhering to the PD ultimately means you have to leave your morality at the door. Heck, the beginning of Into Darkness makes this abundantly clear.
So... you're saying that the good guys should be complicit in genocide of sapient species that haven't reached a certain level of technology for no reason? Especially when, in this case, noninterference would likely result in the end of coexistence between two species and the genocide of one by the more advanced species that just got told "we think the other guys are going to advance once you're all dead and gone, so we're not going to help you"?

Also, the lesson I got from the beginning of into Darkness is that the Prime Directive is a morally reprehensible regulation that compels captains to let species die from easily solvable natural disasters. It honestly made me wonder why they kept going on about the Admiral being evil for militarizing the fleet when Starfleet was letting people die horrible deaths for no reason.
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