Star Trek: Enterprise (2002): S01E13 – Dear Doctor


Introduction

“Dear Doctor” is the thirteenth episode of the first season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: Enterprise.

In “Dear Doctor”, Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley) faces a serious dilemma as a dying race begs for help from the crew of the Enterprise.

The culture consists of two related races, but only the more genetically advanced race has been stricken by a planet-wide plague.

The episode is significant for introducing the concepts and motivations of the Prime Directive just prior to the founding of the United Federation of Planets. UPN requested that the ending of the episode be changed, something that Billingsley did not like. However, he and other members of the cast and crew approved of the final episode.

Due to the subject matter and the ending, it is seen as a controversial episode critically and by audience response. Although “Dear Doctor” received the same audience share as the previous episode, there was a 6.6% drop in viewers to 5.7 million viewers for its first broadcast.

The point of contention is that Archer decides to commit genocide at the end of the episode.

Outline

Doctor Phlox receives a letter from his Interspecies Medical Exchange counterpart, Doctor Jeremy Lucas, who is serving a term on Denobula. He begins to compose a letter back, describing his experiences with the crew, and the ways in which humans are different. Meanwhile, on the Bridge, the crew are discussing a pre-warp vessel they have encountered. The alien they speak with, a Valakian, begs them to assist with a medical emergency their species is facing. Sub-Commander T’Pol reveals that the Vulcans are unaware of the species, but she agrees with Captain Archer to help them. Phlox continues his letter, describing the challenges of treating the disease – with over fifty million lives at stake.

Enterprise arrives at the Valakian homeworld, where they are met by Esaak, the Valakian director of a clinic, and Larr, a Menk orderly. T’Pol, Phlox, Archer, and Ensign Sato make a tour of the medical facility. Sato discovers that there is a second lesser-evolved yet unaffected race, the Menk, who live alongside the Valakians. Phlox makes the startling discovery that the Valakians are slowly dying out, not from an easily curable medical condition, but because of a genetic disease which is experiencing an accelerated rate of mutation. He also believes that the answer to a cure may lie in the Menk.

Archer, meanwhile, is debating whether to provide the Valakians with Warp drive, ultimately deciding against it. Upon further investigation, Phlox learns that the Valakians suffer from the illness because their gene pool has reached a “dead end” and that the Menk are undergoing an “awakening process.” He also finds that the Valakians have been stifling and underestimating the Menk. He has found a cure, but does not believe it would be ethical to administer. Archer considers how a “primary directive” would be helpful, and provides the Valakians with medicine that will diminish the symptoms for a decade, anticipating the Menks’ natural evolution and new levels of understanding between them.

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): James A. Contner.
  • Writer(s): Maria Jacquemetton and Andre Jacquemetton.
  • Release Date: 23 January 2002.
  • Running Time: 45 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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