Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

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

  1. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    I'm confused by this question. The Menk were never in danger and, funny enough, no one even thought to ask them what they would think of the Valakians dying off...
     
  2. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'm baffled by this argument. "Dear Doctor" doesn't present moral ambiguity, unless you think "letting millions die vs. giving them a cure that you already have" is a morally ambiguous situation. The episode creates a false dilemma(the Menk aren't in danger, and nothing indicates that societal progress wouldn't lead to both groups co-existing peacefully eventually) and then it actually PATS ITSELF ON THE BACK for so "cleverly" presenting a fake dilemma.


    It's like the dumb kid in class who says something stupid, but says it smugly because he's so convinced it was smart. You can tell that the writers were very pleased with themselves in creating this fake, nonsense dilemma from the way the episode plays out.
     
  3. Mach5

    Mach5 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Do you think the writers were too lazy to do some basic research on the subject matter (evolution), or were they actually aware that what they were writing was utter nonsense, but didn't give a shit?
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^I don't get this reaction. If you reject any concept that isn't consistent with plausible evolution, then you'd have to reject the very existence of humanoid aliens and of interspecies hybrids like Spock. There are a wealth of things about Trek biology and other sciences that require the willing suspension of disbelief. Why is this so different?
     
  5. Mach5

    Mach5 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Because of the moral of the story. This was not just some random, shitty, easily ignored hour of "nonsense-Trek", like Threshold or Spock's Brain... This episode was clearly ambitious, and preachy as hell. But what it preached was pure idiocy.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^See, I don't think it preached anything. Preaching implies asserting a single, unambiguous, undeniable right answer. "Dear Doctor," to me, plays as just the opposite -- it shows two moral people from different cultures and value systems trying to come to terms with a deeply ambiguous question and sincerely disagreeing with one another on the right path to take. Archer's ultimate choice is made reluctantly, and it's left deliberately ambiguous whether it was the right choice.

    Personally, I would've preferred it if the show had dared to tell a story where Archer and his crew did recklessly intervene and things went horribly wrong as a result. I wanted to see these novice explorers making mistakes that had real consequences. So I was always a little disappointed to see Archer trying so hard to obey the dictates of what would eventually be the Prime Directive, since that felt like a missed opportunity to explore the serious screw-ups that would've realistically been part of humanity's learning curve. (Although I think "The Communicator" did a fairly good job of showing how badly Prime-Directive thinking itself can screw things up, though that wasn't the intended moral.) So in that regard, I wasn't entirely happy with the outcome of "Dear Doctor." But the outcome is not the only thing in the episode. Like I said, I think it still has plenty of merits to its writing, characterization, and production, even though it has its flaws as well.
     
  7. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    What is the moral of the story, anyway?

    It's certainly not an argument in favor of total non-interference, since a) Archer elected to ease the suffering of the Valakians, while at the same time b) dropping a huge hint that there is a cure to be found.

    To rip something not completely dissimilar from the headlines in the real world: by barging in militarily, the United States could quickly end fighting in Syria; does that mean that the US should do that?

    Presenting the solution of offering only extremely limited aid is an effort to speak to what kinds of solutions people have to live with in the real world, and the degree to which the premises are contrived in-universe is typical of the Star Trek way in fantasy of setting up dilemmas. "Dear Doctor" is certainly a less contrived episode than, say, "Tuvix".
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Like I said, I don't think it's meant to have a clear-cut moral. I think it's meant to present a situation where two of the lead characters, who come from different worlds and belief systems, find their values in conflict and wrestle with the consequences. The idea was not to take one character's side over the other, but to explore the conflict itself. A lot of good stories are about the questions, not the answers. They're about making us think, not telling us what to think.
     
  9. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    ^ Yep. And the idea that it's more about questions than answers is especially supported by the fact that the final outcome for the Valakians is left unresolved.
     
  10. TiberiusMaximus

    TiberiusMaximus Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    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."

    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.

    I really don't understand his decision. 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.

    That's the feeling I remember getting from the episode.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But that's not what he actually said. Here's the dialogue:

    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.


    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.


    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.
     
  12. Mach5

    Mach5 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    So he didn't just imply. He outright stated that Valakians need to be out of the picture for Menk to evolve. Which is quite frankly ludicrous.

    Yeah, but Archer is human, and yet he conformed to Denobulan ethics and their ridiculous misinterpretation of evolutionary theories.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, he presented the other side of the argument in order to point out that there were issues that needed to be considered on both sides. Acknowledging that a side of an argument exists is not the same thing as favoring that side. Any intelligent, honest person should be willing to consider every side of an issue fairly and openly before making a decision. Phlox was telling Archer that there was a side of the argument that Archer hadn't considered, a side that needed to be weighed against the other.

    And is it really ludicrous? Two species competing for the same ecological niche in the same environment are rarely able to share it. Usually one does outcompete the other to extinction. As Phlox pointed out, humans used to share the planet with a number of closely related hominins, but all of them died out except for us.

    And one more time: whether it's ludicrous compared to reality is totally beside the point in evaluating a work of fiction. Humanoid aliens are ludicrous. Mind melds are ludicrous. Warp drive and tractor beams are ludicrous. In other franchises, superpowers and wizarding schools and lightsabers are ludicrous. But we willingly suspend disbelief about them for the sake of the story. All that matters should be whether it's the way things work within the fictional universe, and whether the characters' choices and actions make sense within the context of that universe's ground rules.
     
  14. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    Actually, the bottom line, as Phlox put it was:
    "All I'm saying is that we let nature make the choice."​
     
  15. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Condemning the Menk to what exactly? That's the second time you've asserted that the Menk are in some kind of trouble, yet that isn't in the episode at all.

    As far as 'natural evolution', the Valakians evolved to a state where they had the ability to ask for help.
     
  16. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Which is non-sense. Nature isn't an intelligent being...
     
  17. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    It's as much of a figure of speech as "natural selection".
     
  18. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I would guess from the way that the episode plays out, and the way evolution has been portrayed in the past in Trek(like in "threshold," which I think had one of the same writers as "DD?"), that there seems to be a basic lack of knowledge about evolution and how it works.

    This episode's writers seemed to seriously think that evolution has some design in mind, and actually "decides" to favor certain species over others in bringing that design to pass.

    I could be wrong. Just a hunch from the way the "science" is portrayed in this episode as compared to the way the usual b.s. technobabble pseudoscience is portrayed.


    And like a few others, I really disagree that this episode's conclusion is meant to be "ambiguous." Phlox is supposed to be seen as in the right, and Archer is supposed to have shown that he "matured" by making the more intellectually sound, less emotional decision.

    Why do I think this? Look at Phlox's log entry where he says that he may have "underestimated" Archer and how impressed he was by him. He's speaking for the writers there.


    And as usual in "dear doctor" threads, I want to recommend SFDebris' review of this episode.
     
  19. Mach5

    Mach5 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    So you're arguing that fiction does not need to be grounded in reality, not even a bit?

    Are they? They're unlikely, but ludicrous? Those grey sons of bitches that crashed in New Mexico seemed pretty humanoid to me. :lol:

    Telepathy is ludicrous? How so?

    We'll see. NASA doesn't seem to think so. I'm a bit skeptical though, but what the hell do I know? I'm a different kind of engineer. :)

    I can suspend my disbelief. But I can't suspend my ethical and moral standards.

    Nature does not make choices. Nature is not a sentient entity. Cause and effect, infinite diversity in infinite combinations. That's all there is to it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2013
  20. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    yes, but you were using it to justify an ethical stance, so admitting that nature DOESN'T choose invalidates your argument.