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Dear Doctor (episode)

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"Dear Doctor"
ENT, Episode 1x13
Production number: 013
First aired: 23 January 2002
12th of 97 produced in ENT
12th of 97 released in ENT
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 97 released in ENT Remastered  
640th of 728 released in all
Dear doctor Phlox Alien
Written By
Maria Jacquemetton & André Jacquemetton

Directed By
James A. Contner
Unknown (2151)
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The Enterprise assists a culture that has been stricken by a planet-wide plague.

Summary

Doctor Phlox is taking care of the various creatures he keeps in the med lab. Hoshi Sato enters bearing a letter from Phlox's exchange doctor, Jeremy Lucas, who is serving a term on his home planet. The rigors of the mating season are making things very difficult for the exchange doctor.

Phlox begins to compose a letter describing his experiences with the crew, commenting on the many differences between his own society and point of view, and the ways in which Humans are different. Phlox shares that he thinks a crew member, Elizabeth Cutler, has a romantic interest in him.

On the bridge, the crew are discussing a pre-warp vessel they have encountered. It is not responding to hails, and has two weak biosigns on board. They dock the vessel in Bay 2 and take the aliens to their medical bay. The alien they speak with begs them to assist with a medical emergency their species is facing. They are a pre-warp culture known as the Valakians. They have met two warp-capable species, one of which is the Ferengi. T'Pol reveals that the Vulcans are unaware of either species. She states that as the Valakian culture has already been exposed to a couple of warp-capable races, the risk of cultural contamination is acceptable, and she agrees with Archer to help them.

Phlox continues his letter describing the situation, stating it as the greatest challenge he has faced – with over fifty million lives at stake.

Sato and Phlox discuss the issue of crewman Cutler having a romantic interest over dinner (in English and Denobulan). Sato says she thinks they'd make a good couple.

Valakis

A city on Valakis in 2151

The Enterprise arrives at the Valakian homeworld. T'Pol, Phlox, Archer, and Sato make a tour of the medical facility. Sato discovers that there is a second race, the Menk, which live alongside the Valakians. The Menk are apparently not affected by the disease.

Phlox continues his letter, describing the challenges of treating the disease, and his discussions with T'Pol about the possibilities of inter-species relationships.

Phlox makes the startling discovery that the Valakians are dying not from an easily curable medical condition, but because of a genetic disease which is experiencing an accelerated rate of mutation. He reveals this to Captain Archer, and states that he does not have confidence in curing it. He predicts that the Valakians will be extinct within two centuries.

Cutler and Phlox

Crewman Elizabeth Cutler and Dr. Phlox examine blood tests from the Menk

Phlox describes how studying two humanoid cultures simultaneously is exciting. He continues that while he looks forward to the medical data, he finds the way that the two cultures live in harmony to be amazing. The Menk must live where the soil is not good for planting, despite the fact that the Menk culture is fairly agrarian. The Menk continue to state that the Valakians treat them well. The Valakians say that they can farm the land more efficiently with better technology, and just give the Menk whatever they need. Sato is upset and thinks that the Valakians are oppressing the Menk and treating them like "pets", but Phlox says that she is making assumptions based on human history: from Phlox's perspective, the Valakians and Menk have found a way to live in harmony, when on most planets with more than one sentient race, they fight each other until only one survives. Phlox, Sato, and Cutler discover (while studying at one of the Menk settlements) that the Menk are actually quite advanced – they demonstrate that they are able to learn some English, and organize tissue samples correctly.

After a long day of work, the group takes some time to pack up. Sato excuses herself to let Phlox and Cutler have some private time. Phlox reveals to Cutler that he has three wives, and each of those wives has two additional husbands in addition to himself. He asks Cutler if she is interested in him romantically, or if he has been misinterpreting the signals. Cutler confirms that she was giving off romantic signals. She replies that she's interested in Phlox as a friend, but that she's open to exploring the relationship.

Archer visits, in the hospital, the first alien he rescued. The alien asks Archer for warp drive technology so that that if Enterprise cannot find a cure, the Valakians can search for other races who might be willing to help them. Archer returns to the ship to learn that Enterprise has received 29 hails and requests for help from other clinics, and has been approached by a couple of vessels, all of whom thought they had a cure. Archer and T'Pol discuss the situation in the ready room. Archer tells T'Pol that he is reluctant about trying to teach the Valakians about warp drive: they do not possess much rudimentary knowledge about warp technology, and have almost no experience working with anti-matter, an essential part of the process. It would take years if not decades to teach the Valakians how to develop their own warp capable ships. As T'Pol points out, the Vulcans stayed on Earth to help them along, but generations later they are still there. Archer tells T'Pol that he understands now how the Vulcans felt when they chose to contact Earth ninety years before.

Later that evening, Archer is mulling over the situation in the crew mess. Phlox enters and makes small talk (revealing that Denobulans hibernate for six days each year). Archer asks about the progress of Phlox's medical research. Phlox says that he thinks it is incorrect to be helping the Valakians – that the Menk are supposed to survive, and will only be allowed to properly evolve and prosper if they are not tied to the Valakians. Phlox explains that the "disease" is actually an inherent flaw in Valakian DNA; they've reached an evolutionary dead end. Archer demands a cure for the Valakians, saying he doesn't agree with Phlox's point of view. Phlox reveals that he already has a cure.

The next day, Archer enters the medical facilities. Phlox tries to again state that he does not believe that they should interfere with the natural pace of events on the planet. Archer cuts him off, and makes the statement that he has reconsidered the matter, and that he agrees that the Enterprise and the human race did not go to the stars to play god for other species. They go down to the planet and give the Valakian doctors a medicine which will ease the symptoms and help them. They state they won't give them a warp drive, that their race must help itself.

Finishing off his letter to Doctor Lucas, Phlox expresses relief that he could trust Captain Archer with the results of his research, and that he wished the Vulcan diplomats had acted in a similar manner in letting the Humans make their own decisions over the past ninety years.

Sato enters to take the letter away, and suggests that he should take a break. Phlox contacts Cutler and asks her on a meal date in the mess hall.

Memorable quotes

"It's mating season, so you know how that goes. I thought Human reproduction was complicated – you Denobulans make us look like single-celled organisms!"

- Dr. Jeremy Lucas, in a message to Phlox


"They don't have movies where you come from, do they?"
"We had something similar a few hundred years ago, but they lost their appeal when people discovered their real lives were more interesting."

- Crewman Elizabeth Cutler and Phlox


"Tik Tik."

- Hoshi Sato, expressing thanks in Menk


"We could stay and help them."
"The Vulcans stayed to help Earth 90 years ago. We're still there."
"I never thought I'd say this, but... I'm beginning to understand how the Vulcans must have felt."

- Archer and T'Pol


"What do you suggest? We choose? One species over the other?"
"All I'm saying is we let nature make the choice."
"To hell with nature. You're a doctor, you have a moral obligation to help people who are suffering."

- Archer and Phlox


"Evolution is more than a theory. It is a fundamental scientific principle."

- Phlox, to Archer


"Someday my people are going to come up with some sort of a doctrine: something that tells us what we can and can't do out here – should and shouldn't do. But until somebody tells me that they've drafted that directive, I'm going to have to remind myself every day that we didn't come out here to play God."

- Captain Archer


"I'd like to think, Dr. Lucas, that if I'd had the chance to talk to you face to face you'd have never let me even consider withholding my findings from the captain, but I'm ashamed to say that I almost did just that. If I hadn't trusted him to make the right choice, I'd have been no better than the Vulcan diplomats who held your species back because they felt you couldn't make proper decisions on your own. I came very close to misjudging Jonathan Archer, but this incident has helped me gain a new respect for him."

- Phlox, as he finishes his reply to Dr. Lucas

Background information

  • The ending of this episode was changed by UPN, who wanted Phlox and Archer in total agreement rather than retaining the original ending, which left Archer and Phlox in conflict. John Billingsley, who played Phlox, touched on this in an interview. "The ending that had initially been created (for the episode) I was fairly comfortable with," he recalled. "But the head of the studio suggested some revisions on the ending. What do you do? I wasn't as happy with the revisions, but it's not my show, you have to sort of adjust, even if sometimes it does seem a bit of a contradiction in terms for what your character is supposed to be about. In the original ending in this crisis of conscience, the Doctor essentially does something that violates the standard issue hierarchical obligations of a crewmember to his captain. In effect, he makes a decision that's rooted in 'I've got bigger fish to fry', rather than honoring his captain's wishes. The network essentially felt that no, it was important to essentially make sure that everyone was here to support the captain's decisions. Personally, I thought, 'Well, I think you've kind of lost something interesting in this potential tension.' But, that's not my call." [1]
  • Looking back on the series in 2006, John Billingsley nominated this episode as one of his favorites, and a turning point in the development of Phlox. "I would say that I still have the fondest feelings for the episode 'Dear Doctor' in the first season because that was the first opportunity I had to actually begin to figure out how to three dimensionalize that character. It was the first episode I really had a lot to do and we began to see there was more to this guy than 'Hey fellow well met' which was the concern I'd had up to that point, that Phlox was going to essentially be the cheery fellow who has always got a little alien quirk to make us laugh." [2]
  • In an interview conducted shortly before the filming of first season finale "Shockwave", Mayweather actor Anthony Montgomery cited this as one of his personal highlights from Season 1, remarking, "I absolutely loved 'Dear Doctor'; I thought that was fantastic." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 3, p. 14)
  • Christopher Rydell, who played the unnamed alien astronaut, is the son of Joanne Linville, who played the Romulan commander in TOS: "The Enterprise Incident".
  • This episode foreshadows more directly the concept of the "Prime Directive", expanding upon brief mentions from "Civilization" and other episodes.
  • Doctor Jeremy Lucas is later seen in the flesh in the season 4 episode "Cold Station 12", played by Richard Riehle.
  • This is the second mention and first appearance of movie night. The movie being shown is the 1943 version of For Whom the Bell Tolls.
  • In a 2011 interview, Brannon Braga characterized this episode as an early ENT installment "that I really loved, that I thought was a classic." He went on to say, "It was just a great episode of Star Trek. That's one I look at fondly." [3]
  • Among the items from this episode which were auctioned off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay was a solar lantern. [4]

Video and DVD releases

Links and references

Starring

Guest Stars

Co-Stars

Uncredited Co-Stars

References

antimatter; astronauts; Australia; Bergman, Ingrid; Brisbane; cardiopulmonary system; cavity; cheese; Cooper, Gary; Denobula; Denobulan; Denobulan language; dentistry; dermaline gel; Earth; eggplant; evolution; exobiology; Ferengi; film; For Whom the Bell Tolls; genetic; heart; Interspecies Medical Exchange; Jordan, Robert; Kaybin District; logic; Lucas, Jeremy; Maria; Matalas; Menk; Menk language; Minshara class; M'klexa; movie night; mutant; Neanderthal; niaxilin; nitrogen; pheromone; popcorn; priaxate; Prime Directive; Pyrithian bat; San Francisco; solar lantern; Sunset Boulevard; tricuspid; trifluorinate compound; universal translator; Valakis; Valakian; Valakian language; Valakian shuttle


Previous episode:
"Silent Enemy"
Star Trek: Enterprise
Season 1
Next episode:
"Sleeping Dogs"

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