Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

Discussion in 'Enterprise' started by WesleysDisciple, Feb 13, 2013.

  1. WesleysDisciple

    WesleysDisciple Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    its one of my favorite episodes... I really like the scene where archer Transcends conventional morality, and sees the galaxy in a grander perspective, saying "someday my people are going to create sme kind of doctrine that tells us what we can and cant do, should and shouldnt do while were out here, but until one of my people tells me they've drafted that directive I have to remind myself every day, we didnt come out here to play god"

    Curing the Valakians, whle it wouldnt neccessarily have signifcantly affected the menks immediate biological evolution (If the Menk were allready evolving in this direction)

    Would have kept the menk from ever realizing their own true potential.

    I think Phloxes decision was a valid one.
     
  2. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Letting billions die on what may happen one day a thousand years down the road is wrong.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The science in the episode is very weak -- evolution doesn't have any predetermined outcome -- but then, that's par for the course with Trek's approach to biology. Setting that aside, though, whether a story is good or not shouldn't depend on whether or not you agree with its characters' choices. On the contrary, often in good stories, we're supposed to question or doubt the characters' choices. I don't think Sisko made the right choices in "In the Pale Moonlight," but it's still a very powerful episode. I didn't like Kirk's decision to arm the natives in "A Private Little War," but I admire the show for daring to do an episode that wasn't about perfect heroes making black-and-white choices.

    And the same is true here. I don't really agree with the decisions Phlox and Archer made, but that's beside the point. What matters is that "Dear Doctor" is a challenging, powerful, character-driven episode, and it deserves recognition as one of Star Trek's finest hours. It's something very rare in the franchise's history -- a pure drama, a story where all the conflict and tension come from character interaction and moral dilemmas, without any tacked-on violence or danger to meet some arbitrary quota for action. One thing I admire about the first season of Enterprise is how its producers tried to go for a more intimate, character-driven, dramatic approach than previous series, and "Dear Doctor" is perhaps the pinnacle of that. I have my quibbles with its science and the ethical choices the characters make, but those quibbles don't cancel out everything I love about the episode. It's well-written overall, it's well-acted, it's got a very good musical score, and it raises some interesting, if conceptually flawed, moral and philosophical questions.
     
  4. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    While I made an off-the-cuff comment, there is more wrong with Dear Doctor than the outcome. The biggest problem is that Phlox description of what is happening with the Menk doesn't match with what we visually see of them. It was very clear that the Valakians weren't hindering Menk evolution. They had their own structured language, were able to use logic to sort, worked in hospitals and used tablet computers.

    Then you add in that there was no real tension until the last ten or twelve minutes and Archer's terrible proto-Prime Directive speech and I think it's one of the worst Trek episodes out there. YMMV. :techman:
     
  5. Mach5

    Mach5 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This.

    The thing is, the entire so called "dilemma" is based on a misconception. Also, and I pointed this out in the last Dear Doctor thread we had not long ago, the fact is, Archer made a choice that was not his to make. I know Trek captains playing god is hardly something new, but still, this was a matter for Earth's government to decide on.
     
  6. WesleysDisciple

    WesleysDisciple Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Lets be honest, the Valakians kept a stranglehold on any arable land, and wouldnt let the Menk own any.

    Thus forcing them into perpetual dependency.

    But one possible solution?

    BUY a continent, with the cure, as a refuge for the Menk, so they can "Grow according to their own strenghs" or what have you.

    just an idea that I noticed, first time I saw the episode.

    Anything wrong with that?
     
  7. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Well, yeah.

    You dump them on a continent with no medical treatment, no food and no infrastructure when they're use to living a certain lifestyle. It'd be like throwing modern man into the stone age and telling him to sink or swim.

    Disease, hunger and infighting would quickly follow.

    Plus, is Starfleet going to babysit to make sure no one breaks the agreement?
     
  8. TiberiusMaximus

    TiberiusMaximus Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Well, questioning and doubting is one thing. But when the character's choices do nothing but baffle me and piss me off, I find it hard to enjoy the story because I'm so busy wondering how I'm supposed to identify with these morons.

    If you ask me, "Cogenitor" does a much better job of showing how meddling with another culture can be bad for everyone involved. Trip wants to help the cogenitor, so he leaps into action without considering the consequences and the cogenitor dies partly because of his actions.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Whereas I don't much care for "Cogenitor," because it stacks the deck in favor of its heavyhanded moralizing by having the cogenitor arbitrarily kill herself, which doesn't feel like a natural outgrowth of the story at all. It's the same cheap trick TNG's "Homeward" used. "Your approach is wrong because this person killed themselves" doesn't strike me as a very substantive argument, since a different person in the same situation might've chosen to live. I also didn't think Archer and Trip really seemed to be in character in that final confrontation. Trip in particular seemed too naive. It made me wonder if the story was originally written to be about, maybe, Mayweather, but they made it about Trip instead because he was more popular.
     
  10. TiberiusMaximus

    TiberiusMaximus Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    An interesting point. It's been a while since I watched either episode. I don't remember particularly enjoying "Cogenitor" when I watched it, but it bothered me a whole lot less than "Dear Doctor" did. I've never thought of it that way, though, I guess it was a rather cheap trick.
     
  11. billcosby

    billcosby Commodore Commodore

    "Cogenitor" would have had more traction as a sci-fi masterpiece were it released under it's original name, "Cogenitals."
     
  12. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    "dear doctor" uses nonsense pseudoscience to justify an ethically horrifying decision, and THEN it pats itself on the back for being "thoughtful."

    It's a low point for televised Trek. I considered not watching ENT after that episode. I haven't watched it since, nor do I intend to watch it again.
     
  13. WesleysDisciple

    WesleysDisciple Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    LOL the entirety of star Trek is BUILT on nonsense pseudo science?
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    As for the ethics of the doctor's decision, let's keep in mind that fictional universes often do follow different rules from the real one. But we accept those different rules as part of the way the fictional world works -- like the Force in Star Wars or the emotional spectrum in Green Lantern or magic in Harry Potter. We have to judge the characters' actions and decisions in those universes based on their own rules rather than ours, or else we'd have to conclude that Harry Potter was a delusional schizophrenic, or that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a mass murderer.

    So, if the laws of evolution in the Trek universe really do work the way Phlox said, shouldn't we assess the ethics of his decision on those grounds, rather than on the way it works in our universe? If he was right that the natural course of evolution was for the Valakians to die out so the Menk could flourish, then there's no telling what harm could've resulted from artificial intervention to subvert that process.

    True, it is a bit hard to reconcile his reluctance to interfere with natural evolution with what was later established about the Denobulans' acceptance of genetic engineering. But we did see, in the Augments arc and "Affliction"/"Divergence," that Phlox had a serious ethical objection to reckless or ill-considered interference with genetics. In "Dear Doctor," he wasn't really saying he thought the Valakians should die, just that he didn't think it would be responsible to tamper with the planet's evolutionary process when they had so little understanding of how it might unfold. After all, with something as slow as evolution, it could take centuries of study and observation to get a really good handle on all the issues involved, so making a decision after just two days of study would've been too reckless. Basically Phlox was saying that they didn't know enough to know what the right decision was, and that they should therefore defer interfering. Which is pretty much the exact mentality behind the Prime Directive.

    So given the parameters of the problem as defined within the episode and within the laws of its fictional reality, I don't see how Phlox's or Archer's decision is so horrible. Basically they're just accepting that sometimes the responsible choice is to admit you don't know enough to take action, rather than acting on incomplete information and potentially doing more harm than good.
     
  15. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    yes, but I don't mind it when it's not being used to justify doing horrible things in the NAME of pseudoscience.

    Using transporters to make things in the story move better= okay.

    Using pseudoscience to justify letting millions die because "evolution intended it that way"= not okay.
     
  16. teacake

    teacake Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Like they wouldn't have cured the human race if our cells just mutated into a death sentence one day and they realized that was coded into our DNA since we were living in caves.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But then it would've been humans curing ourselves, not some outsiders imposing a solution after studying us for a mere 48 hours. The episode did hold out the prospect that the Valakians could discover a cure on their own.
     
  18. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Similar to what Christopher is saying:

    Phlox isn't human. He isn't a Western Human living in the 21st century. He admits he didn't take The Hippocratic Oath. Just look at it from that point of view: a Denobulan convinced a Human Captain to make a horrible decision.

    My problem with the ep is meta: This could have been our big 'source of the PD ep'...but it wasn't. They could have said the 'inferior race' were slaves (wern't they kind of? I don't remember the ep even touching on that) and made that the source of the drama. They could have said "Whoa whoa whoa...2 days is wayyyyy too short a time for us to come rushing in here and deciding the fate of billions"

    Instead they...did what they did..and alienated (obviously) a great deal of the fanbase re the ep.
     
  19. Dream

    Dream Admiral Admiral

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    Kirk would have saved those people.

    The hell with the PD.
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But what made the Valakians more worth saving than the Menk? I agree the outcome was not perfectly satisfying, but it's missing the point to talk as though there was an obvious or simple correct choice. If a viewer isn't comfortable with stories that have morally ambiguous situations, like "Dear Doctor" or "Tuvix" or "In the Pale Moonlight," that's their outlook, but that doesn't make it wrong for the writers to present something other than a simplistic black-and-white situation.