Star Trek: Enterprise
Air date: 1/23/2002
Written by Marie Jacquemetton & Andre Jacquemetton
Directed by James A. Contner
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"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." — Archer
In brief: By miles the best episode so far. An excellent outing in its quiet, pleasant, and startlingly observant way.
John Billingsley's performance of Dr. Phlox makes for a supporting character of the highest order, and it's only because of trying to stay focused on the main points (or perhaps simply because of an oversight on my part) that I have yet to single him out for praise — or any sort of analysis, for that matter — in my 11 Enterprise reviews preceding this one.
Billingsley's Phlox has been a supporting role that's incredibly pleasant to watch; it's just been hard to mention as much without it coming across as an aside. But in "Dear Doctor" he finally has the spotlight and I can turn my attention in his direction, giving the character and the actor their due.
I think the key word for this episode is "perspective." This is a story that's all about insights gained through perspective. Also through listening, careful observation, patience, conscience, and understanding. This is a remarkably quiet episode in its presentation. It's almost entirely devoid of histrionics and completely lacking in action. The story simply takes us in a direction and follows it through to its destination, while Phlox carefully observes what goes on around him and serves as our running commentary.
The results are extremely effective. The narrative framing device comes in the form of a letter Phlox is composing to his human counterpart in the interspecies exchange program. Phlox, a Denobulan, is the only one of his species serving with a Starfleet crew. His counterpart, Dr. Lucas, is the only human serving among Denobulans. Of course, we never actually meet Dr. Lucas, because he isn't really a person so much as the story's avenue for Phlox's monologue. And in hearing what Phlox has to say we gain a very unique perspective on what's happening on board the Enterprise — ranging from his take on how humans invest an emotional stake in fictional movie characters to the major scientific ethics issue involving the natural evolution of an entire world and whether we should interfere in such matters.
The monologue voice-over approach is not an uncommon device in film, but it has only occasionally been used on Trek to such an extent. Most memorably and recently would be DS9's "In the Pale Moonlight," but TNG followers may recognize elements of "Dear Doctor's" narration device being most similar to "Data's Day" (1991) from TNG's fourth season. In that episode, Data chronicled a day in his life aboard the USS Enterprise, also in the form of a letter to a colleague. And in that story, as in this one, the overall theme was witnessing human behavior from a unique outsider's perspective. Here it's even more effective because through Phlox we see more compelling events — an outsider's view of humanity's early steps into a larger universe, and the responsibilities that come with those steps.
Captain Archer finds himself in a situation where he might be able to help an entire world when representatives from a people called the Valakians ask for help in curing a deadly disease. Treating the disease is beyond their society's medical abilities, so they've turned to off-worlders with better medical technology for help. Unfortunately, it's taken them years just to find anybody, because they don't have warp drive and basically have to wait until other travelers find them. Archer announces his intention to help, and the challenge of curing the disease falls on our good doctor, Phlox.
The alien world medical crisis storyline is hardly new to Trek, but here it serves as the backdrop for (1) a great deal of wonderful observation and insight, and (2) a dilemma that sets a wonderfully appropriate stage for a Prime Directive dilemma, in an era where the Prime Directive does not yet exist.
It starts off routinely enough, as Phlox begins his research by running tests, analyzing DNA, etc. We meet the Valakians and some of their representatives, and we also meet another humanoid species indigenous to their planet, the Menk. It's of a certain peculiar interest that the Valakians and the Menk, two separate and genetically incompatible groups, have both survived as sentient humanoid species. As Phlox points out, in a typical case of the evolutionary process with two distinct species, one group would've likely wiped the other out long ago.
On this planet, both species have evolved alongside each other. The Menk, however, are not as advanced in their intellectual capacities. They are much more primitive, whereas the Valakians have technology and space travel and have made contact with people from other worlds. Phlox believes the cure to the Valakian epidemic may lie in the genetic code of the Menk, who are not suffering from the disease.
Phlox's challenging medical research provides the foreground. In the background are the constantly compelling perspectives as we get a chance to get into Phlox's head and take a look at human behavior, at ourselves, through this perspective. Marie and Andre Jacquemetton deserve high praise for their ability to write a story that manages to truly and insightfully step just a little bit outside and provide a look at human behavior in a way that feels absolutely genuine and unique. All the while it maintains a sort of meta-humanistic attitude; we can relate to Phlox's point of view and understand how we're observed from within it, while at the same time noticing that it's not really all that different. It's just different enough to serve as the story's avenue for examination. Very nice.
Consider this voice-over narration by Phlox: "Despite the Menk's insistence that they're treated well, my human crewmates seem to see things differently. They think the Menk are being exploited by the Valakians, so their first instinct is to rise to their defense despite the fact that the Menk don't appear to need or want a defender." This is great stuff, and so very true. Indeed, the first thought that went through my mind as I watched the Menk (who largely operate as primitive laborers), was that they were capable of something more but that the Valakians were exploiting them and keeping them in their place. I figured this would play into the storyline in some way. But instead, Phlox's narration reveals the human attitude that lurks beneath the situation and exposes an alternate viewpoint — one that says perhaps this is simply their way of coexisting. And indeed, he's more or less right. The Menk are happy and well treated. It's our gut humanistic values that believe they should be independent and capable of achieving more.
The cultural examination is further demonstrated through the very pleasantly depicted subplot of Crewman Cutler's (Kellie Waymire, reprising her role from "Strange New World") developing romantic interest in Phlox. Throughout the episode Cutler gives Phlox signs of interest, which he's not entirely comfortable in deciphering. He recognizes the cultural and behavioral differences. Later, he explains to her how he has three wives (each of which has two other husbands), which is quite normal in Denobulan culture. This provides a nice point showing how not all cultures operate like human culture, which ties back into the observations of the Menk.
I also very much liked the scene between Phlox and Hoshi where they're talking with each other in Denobulan. (At last, a TV episode of Trek that has subtitles, something long avoided, intentionally, I believe.) I appreciate the supporting use of Hoshi, who continues to have an easy friendship with Phlox, and I like her interest in his culture from the viewpoint of a linguist.
We also see Phlox's take on T'Pol (who apparently doesn't like dental work very much). T'Pol warns him about how humans are curious of new things, and that could explain why Cutler is expressing interest in him. I like how this provides us with T'Pol's own perspective, and I like even more how Phlox explains that he is unsettled by T'Pol's pure logic, which seems to be missing something that an emotional catalyst might add.
By the time the story's key issue comes around, the episode has already accomplished more than most. The key issue, however, is perfectly suited to what Enterprise as a series is about — confronting new issues. Phlox discovers a cure, along with the fact that the disease is genetic and not caused by any sort of viral or bacterial infection. In short, the epidemic is a natural genetic process of their evolution as people, and the Valakians are likely to be extinct within two centuries. Furthermore, he has evidence that the Menk, living independently, could realize an evolutionary awakening and eventually dominate the planet.
The question no longer is whether Phlox can cure them (he can), but whether he should, and as a scientist, Phlox realizes that he shouldn't interfere with the natural development of an isolated society. When he explains his reasoning to Archer, there's a new tension where Archer finds that his human belief to help the Valakians must be weighed against the moral questions of interfering in a natural process. Subsequently, Archer uses T'Pol as a sounding board in a way that is quite admirable, and explains to her how for the first time he understands why the Vulcans were so reluctant to let humans venture out without a safety net. Archer gets his own new perspective through these events, and decides, even though it goes against his beliefs as a human, that he can't dictate the natural evolution of another world.
Through a series of considered opinions from different perspectives, everyone learns a little bit of something. Phlox realizes that he might have underestimated his captain — that humans are capable of reacting independent of their feelings and initial instincts.
The episode's closing scene featuring Archer's prophetic statements about the Prime Directive is abundantly clear to the core Trek audience, but by this point the episode has earned every word of Archer's speech. It's earned by putting Phlox and Archer in tough positions with no easy answers and no convenient solutions.
From an execution standpoint, all of this benefits from a careful, consistently even-handed touch by director James A. Contner, who never, ever, pushes for an unnecessary effect and instead maintains the position of staying as invisible as possible. Also helpful is the understated score by David Bell, which provides us with the pleasant emotional cues but without ever coming close to getting in the way. The restraint is admirable and the episode is all the better because of it; I must say that after sitting through scenes of brain-dead action in just about every episode of Andromeda, "Dear Doctor" is evidence that television absolutely does not have to pander to the lowest common denominator or hit us over the head with obvious dialog to get our attention. This episode earns our attention by simply telling a good story.
"Dear Doctor" is, I fear, a rarer treasure than we might at first give it credit for. This episode stops and listens. It hears. It observes. It has a true understanding of human nature. It has perspectives of a kind that I want to see more of. And it believes in an audience that is interested in the true spirit of Star Trek and exploration rather than selling out in the name of being the hip flavor of the week.
This is a real story.
Next week: Return of the Klingons ... and also that decontamination chamber. (Return to reality, I suppose.)
Previous episode: Silent Enemy
Next episode: Sleeping Dogs
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396 comments on this post
Fri, Sep 26, 2008, 11:58am (UTC -5)
I wonder why the creators, especially of Voyager and Enterprise never seemed to realize that the best episodes of Star Trek are those that have an interesting story to tell and not those with the most fighting scenes.
When I think of episodes of that kind, I think about episodes like "The city on the edge of forever", "The Inner Light", "Darmok", "Tapestry", "Duet", "The Visitor", "Jetrel", "Tuvix". Granted, some battle scenes were real eye-candy, but episodes like those mentioned above are the reason I watch Star Trek.
Dear Doctor is so far the first outing of Enterprise really competing for a place on this list!
Tue, Dec 30, 2008, 3:05am (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 4, 2009, 12:54am (UTC -5)
Even if we accept Phlox's ridiculous interpretation of Evolution, which is really hard to do, it's still bullshit. The Menk clearly rely on the Valakians for food and shelter. If their protectors die, most of the Menk-if not all-are going to die to.
This is Trek at its worse, touting noninterference as an excuse to allow atrocities.
Sat, Mar 7, 2009, 5:26am (UTC -5)
This episode is evil.
There is no question about this: Captain Jonathan Archer and Doctor Phlox, by their inaction, are complicit in the genocide of an entire species. This is not a statement of opinion, this is a fact.
Not only that, but their justification for murdering the Valakians is not a single iota different from ANY philosophy that has been used to justify the termination of a large group of people in history. We're talking about killing millions of people solely because it will benefit a different group of people. This is unequivocally evil.
Phlox: I'm saying we let nature decide.
This is supposed to be the voice of scientific reason? Nature is not an entity capable of making choices. For that matter, evolution is not a higher power that has a plan for all creatures. It is not Allah, Jehovah, Zeus, or the one true Cylon God. Nature simply is. It is simply a process, and to elevate that process into almost a divine plan that must not be interfered with is to descend wholly into insanity.
Tue, Mar 31, 2009, 5:46pm (UTC -5)
Look back to the days when it was fine for TV to be racist or sexist. "Dear Doctor" stands out for sheer offensiveness even amongst that lot.
Sun, Apr 19, 2009, 4:40am (UTC -5)
Don't want to start an argument here, but I'm not sure why some of the earlier comments equate holding back alien technology from a society that would have massive implications, some good some bad, for both these species, with the worst moments of our own history. I feel Archer and Phlox faced an honest moral dilemma here.
Btw, I see on the interweb that the actress who played Crewman Cutler died a few years ago. What a cutie she was. Sorry to hear the news.
Tue, Jun 16, 2009, 5:52pm (UTC -5)
Because it's immoral.
Of all the systems of ethics ever devised, religion and secular, the only one that I can think of that would justify the crew's actions here is Social Darwinism in its most crude, perverted form. The strong survive, the weak perish.
Come to think of it, that puts Starfleet at about the same level of Species 8472.
Sun, Jun 21, 2009, 9:26pm (UTC -5)
Though I believe that Jammer is far too harsh on Trek in all of his reviews (not every episode has to break new ground for me - it just has to tell a good story and tell it well). I'm glad there's still a forum for discussing all the incarnations of one of television's finest achievements. Thanks, Jammer!
Tue, Jun 23, 2009, 5:11pm (UTC -5)
As David Key said, it seems that the writers have attributed divine properties to the process of evolution. Evolution does not strive towards a specific goal. Natural selection simply means that individual organisms who succeed are more likely to pass their traits to the next generation.
Phlox says the disease is genetic, implying that evolution has marked the Valakians for extinction, providing more moral justification for his actions. But again, this is not how evolution works. There's no reason that a genetic condition which kills the organism will allow him to survive better then it's counter parts who lack it, making it so common the whole race carries it. We might assume that perhaps this suicidal trait has piggy backed on a successful trait. An organism might carry a trait that facilitate a better survival rate while at the same time carrying a "bad" trait that is transmitted along with the "good" one. But it's hard to imagine how such a trait survived if it kills the carrier. The chances that a non-carrier will survive are always greater.
But even if the race is doomed to extinction, why not help them? There's a second reason of course, the Menk. Should the Valakians die, the Menk might evolve to take their place as a sentient civilization. It's almost comical how the logical progression of events is depicted as a preordained destiny. When a meteor facilitate the extinction of dinosaurs other organisms quickly evolved and filled the niches left. There's nothing magical about it, its just how things work. If you fill a tub with water and then remove a volume of it out in a bucket, water quickly rush to fill the hole. You wont say that the rushing water were 'meant' to fill that hole, it's just how liquid behaves.
So the Valakians are not meant to die, the Menk are not meant to survive. What other reasons are there? Cultural contamination is moot since the Valakians had contact with two warp civilization prior to the enterprise. Giving them a technology is moot because what is given to them is a cure, not the technology to synthesize it.
The only valid reason is a religious one. And make no mistake, this is a religious decision. Archer doesn't want to play God. he doesn't want to interfere in god's plan. They refuse to save countless lives because god might have meant them to die. But this argument is ultimately just as flawed as the others. Lets assume the religious stance for a moment: There's a divine will that has the power to orchestrate any and all events in the universe. We can infare his will from the state of the world around us. He obviously wanted the Valakians to die, why else would they have this genetic flaw. If he wanted them to survive, he might have orchestrated events that would cure them. Like bringing a well meaning race with a advanced enough technology to cure them into the vicinity...
But even this is a stretch. We are supposed to believe that both Archer and Phlox are secular and educated moral people who are faced with a difficult moral decision. No doubt that was the script's intention. But through ignorance, misunderstanding scientific principles and a certain blindness to the moral reprecussions this story raised - an episode was created which supported an immoral decision through inconsequential arguments.
Mon, Aug 10, 2009, 12:17pm (UTC -5)
Oren Ashkenazi, David Key, SimonC, Bertie and Hecktar have already brought up many of the points I was about to make.
You'd hope that Science Fiction writers have at least a basic grip of the natural sciences, but Star Trek writers seem to lack even that. We the audience accept the basic premise of faster than light travel and transporter technology as part of the background setting. No problem with that. But Star Trek writers seem to have a special problem grasping even the fundamentals of genetics and the Theory of evolution through genetic variation and natural selection (for thr sake of brevity, I won't get into the topics of epigenetics, proteomics and lateral gene-transfer here). Over the years Trek writers have produced a number of groanworthy "fun with DNA" episodes that had more in common with creationism than sound science. But this episode takes the cake.
"If nothing else, that's a sign that the cast and writers did their job."
No, if the writers had "done their job", these points of discussion would've been brought up by the characters within the episode! Instead, Archer and Phlox are in total agreement. Worse, why are Cpt. Archer and general physician Phlox the ones to make a decision on which hinges the survival of a whole sentient species? Why not call a number of Earth and Vulcan geneticists for help?
It's another false ethical dilemma, dreamt up for the sake of cheap drama.
Worse, Phlox starts from a number of wonky premises. First of all, he simply proclaims that two sentient species cannot coexist on the same planet, or as Jammer put it: "in a typical case of the evolutionary process with two distinct species, one group would've likely wiped the other out long ago". What?? The writers have obviously never heard about co-evolution.
After observing a handful of Menk individuums working in a Valakian household for a few minutes, Phlox comes to the questionable conclusion that the Menk as a species are getting smarter. (Raising the question of how Dear Doctor Phlox measures "intelligence".)
He then proclaims that for some unexplained reason he's 100% certain that Mother Nature is just waiting to make the Menk a fully intelligent species, but the Valakians are in the way of the Menk "realizing their full potential". Again, this is nonsense. (Please note that the writers never try to claim that the Valakians enslaved the Menk.)
We're supposed to feel warm charitable feelings towards the poor semi-intelligent Menk. But the Menk will not die out if the Valakians survive, not will the existance of the Valakians stop the Menk for getting more intelligent... because it hasn't done so up to now!
Furthermore, none of the characters in the episode ever voices the hypothesis that maybe the reason why some Menk are getting smarter (if indeed they do) is because co-evolution and interaction with the more intelligent Valakians is accelerating the development of their brains. On a genetic level, maybe the Valakians select those Menk as household pets that already show a high degree of intelligence, and these Menk become sought-after partners among the other Menk, plus a Menk child born in a Valakian household will have a greater chance not to die in infancy from some disease or malnutrician than those born "in the wild".
More importantly, brains are not static but highly adaptive. Menk living and working in a Valakian household come in contact with completely different stimuli than Menk living among their own. They hear the Valakian language, and have to learn to understand what the Valakians want of them, and in turn learn to make themselves understood. They are trained to work with technology. Adaptive pressure influences brain development. On the other hand, a brain that is not subjected to stimuli becomes retarded, as has been demonstrated both on animals and human case studies.
Furthermore, modern medicine is a product of intelligence. Denying te Valakians medical help is like denying surgery to someone with a burst appendix by claiming that his appendicitis proves that he is "genetically inferior" and should die already.
Mon, Aug 10, 2009, 12:22pm (UTC -5)
I thought I had caught all the typos, but obviously I didn't.]
Mon, Aug 10, 2009, 1:46pm (UTC -5)
If the script writers really wanted an episode that explored the need for developing the Prime Directive, they could easily have taken the premise (two sentient species sharing the same planet and civilisation, the technologically dominant species is threatened with extinction by a disease) and twisted it in a variety of more interesting ways:
1) Give the quasi-religious conviction voiced by Phlox and Archer to the Valakians. They are faced with extinction and most of them believe this is their Destiny or the will of their God(s) and that their souls will be reborn in the "primitive but strong" Menk species. A minority of "heretics" disagrees and sends pleas for help into Space in the hopes of attracting an advances alien race.
Phlox comes up with a cure, and Archer has to decide if he wants to intervene, if he has the moral authority to intervene, or even the diplomatic ability to convince these people.
2) The Menk and Valakians are equally intelligent, but for some reason the Menk are still stuck in a bronze age or stone age society... either because the Valakians didn't want to intervene in their social development, or because the Valakians have only recently discovered the region of a far-away continent where the Menk live, or because the Menk tribal elders shun all technology as foreign and fear the danger of assimilation. Contact with the Valakians on the other hand has brought advantages to a few less xenophobic Menk tribes, such as trade, medicine, artificial wells, better nutrition and the idea of peaceful coexistence. But the more xenophobic of the Menk see the Valakian's disease as a divine sign that the Valakians are supposed by divine providence to die out and the Menk are supposed to inherit all their nifty techno toys.
Sat, Aug 22, 2009, 4:27am (UTC -5)
I do not agree with some of the comments here. This episode is certainly not "evil". Archer and Phloxs decision is understandable. They simply can't bear the weight of determining the fate of millions of people.
Archer is right. He is not there to interfere. It's not his place to jugde on who lives and who dies.
Sun, Sep 6, 2009, 7:53am (UTC -5)
Sorry, Jack, but that is nonsense. It's a cowardly excuse. By refusing to help despite being ASKED for help, Archer and Phlox have already made a judgement on who will die. They could have easily refered the decision to their higher-ups or to the Vulcan Science Council, but they didn't. They had a cure, but they decided to hold it back for reasons that are wholly religious and based on ridiculous bogus biology. Legally, that is failure to render assistance, despite there being no risk to themselves!
If you are asked for help by a diabetic woman who desperately needs a shot of insulin, and you have insulin but refuse to give it to her because you think God decided for her to die, or that her underage child is more worthy and would upon her death inherit all her money, and she subsequently dies as a result of your decision, I'm pretty sure that would be considered manslaughter or even murder. And causing a whole race and civilisation to die is genocide.
The Prime Directive, which didn't even exist at this point in time yet, only states that Star Fleet is not supposed to interfere in non-warp cultures which, and this is important, are not aware of the existence of other space-faring cultures Out There. This especially refers to things like intra-cultural wars, that is wars the race is waging among themselves between different nations for example, or to things like natural catastrophes.
Once a race is aware that there are "aliens" out there who can help them, however, Star Fleet is allowed to swoop in and save them with their advanced technology, because it is assumed that cultural contact has already been made.
Archer and Phlox were not asked to interfere in a territorial or cultural dispute or war between the Valakians and the Menk. Phlox was asked to give medical assistance and refused for reasons that do not hold up either scientifically nor ethically, and Archer went along with it.
Archer could have told others about the disease and extinction the Valakians face. As far as I remember, he didn't. Some hero.
Sun, Sep 6, 2009, 9:22am (UTC -5)
After I hit Send on my above comment I realized I had allowed the Archer-apologizers to frame the discussion in a way that narrows it down to a single topic: interference vs non-interference.
Now, while the script writers do their best to pretend that this episode is about the origin of the Prime Directive, it really isn't.
The whole idea of the Prime Directive is about not interfering in the CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT of a LESS technologically advanced species. But as Hecktar stated above: "Cultural contamination is moot since the Valakians had contact with two warp civilization prior to the enterprise."
What Archer and Phlox refused to "interfere" with here is their idea of the BIOLOGICAL "destiny" of the Valakians.
Furthermore, if Archer and Phlox were so determined to *not* interfere with alien cultures, they should have said "Sorry, won't." and warped-speeded away right after their contact with the Valakian representatives asking for their help. But they didn't.
Instead, Archer and Phlox initially promised the Valakians to try and help them. They went down to the planet. They interacted with the natives. Phlox started medical testing. He started working on a cure.
The whole bogus ethical dilemma started only when
1) Phlox announced that the disease is a species-wide genetical plot device.
2) Phlox encounters the Menk (or rather, a few individuums) and immediately makes three dubious claims:
a) That two sentient species cannot peacefully coexist on the same planet without the more technologically advanced wiping out the other one (despite the fact this hasn't obviously happened there), and
b) That the Menk *as a species* are getting more intelligent (compared to what?) because some trained individuums can function on the level of parrots.
c) That the Valakians are meant to die out so that the Menk can fulfill their preordained destiny.
At which point Archer and Phlox declare the Valakians obsolete and interfere on the side of the Menk.
When the episode was over, I remember viciously hoping the reason we had never seen Denobulans in Kirk's time was that the whole species had died out from incest and arrogance.
Thu, Dec 3, 2009, 9:50pm (UTC -5)
"This episode stops and listens. It hears. It observes. It has a true understanding of human nature. It has perspectives of a kind that I want to see more of. And it believes in an audience that is interested in the true spirit of Star Trek and exploration rather than selling out in the name of being the hip flavor of the week."
Tue, Feb 16, 2010, 1:03pm (UTC -5)
(To those last two posts there will be people who would undoubtedly claim that the Federation wasn't truly aware of any of it happening, but once they found out there as hell wasn't any consequences. They refused to give the cure to the Founders and Worf got off scot-free; not even a reprimand on his record like when he killed Duras. Why? Because they conveniently "needed" the Klingons to help defend themselves. How very interesting...)
NOW I know how they came up with the Prime Directive: Archer and Phlox's genocide covered up by "the moral high road". Thank God they fine-tuned it over the centuries. The Valakians were PEOPLE: They were allowing men, women, even CHILDREN to die as a race. Innocent beings who had done them no harm and were only guilty of conscripting a "genetic disease," whatever the hell THAT is. I'm more than convinced that the main reason Archer came to this ambiguous decision is in part because he wanted the Menk to be free. But Kirk himself said it: "Freedom isn't a gift, it has to be earned."
It's like this: If you saw someone holding a gun to somebody in a back alley and you had a gun to shoot THEM (unlikely, but just hear me out) would you in all good faith (if you were moral like Archer and Phlox claim to be?) not shoot that individual to save the other? Even if you just limited yourself to wounding and not killing? Chrstina highlighted a lot of points I think are pertinent but alas, some will like this, some will hate it. Different views, different opinions.....
Mon, Apr 5, 2010, 6:07am (UTC -5)
So let's view the message given to us by this episode. Essentially this isn't an episode about cultural non interference or giving weapons to some primitive society. It is about giving humanitarian aid to a people who are dying out. Now let's forget the prime directive(which doesn't really excist at this point anyway), let's forget about Phlox-s strange ethical code for just a second. Let's see how this would reflect a decision in the real world.
According this principle we shouldn't give any humanitarian aid to Africa because that would be intervention. So basically we'll let people die of diseases because well their civilization is inferior to ours. By all right they should be fine by themselves and if they're not then it's just evolution running its natural path. Furthermore if let's say in Palestine the Israelites would have a disease which only affected them and the palestinians would be free of it because of some genetic anomaly then we shouldn't give medicine to anybody because well we should just let them die out.
Let's take it even further, the prime directive meant that the federation could not attempt to free Bajor from the cardassian occupation because well their borders were drawn in that way
In the real world - In WWII it would've been "highly immoral" to liberate countries from the nazi regime because well the nazis said their border now runs from here. Basically nazi occupied Europe would've been an internal matter.
Also a derivative of this philosophy would be that the nazis would have had the right to murder millions and declare themselves superior because well they survived and they had guns and they conquered so essentially they would gain the evolutionary right to exist.
Now I truly hope that virtually all star trek fans have problems with such decisions and frame of "morality". Episodes such as "Dear Doctor" and "Homeward" were both written after Gene Roddenberrys death. I do believe that his prime directive was never intended to be something as despicable and vile as the writers have described it to be.
This episode disgusted me completely. The worst thing was that both Archer and Phlox ended in complete agreement of their actions - therefore there was only one conclusion to the viewer this was the absolutely right thing to do and it should be done again at all times. This is the essence of this episode and therefore it can only be concluded that morally speaking it has about as much value as a Hitler's speech
Mon, Apr 5, 2010, 6:28am (UTC -5)
Actually I believe something of the sort happened:
In the early 23rd century a huge asteroid was detected heading towards the denobulan homeworld. Originally the federation planned to just tow it
outout of the way, but then it was discovered that a rather peculiar type of fungi lived on the asteroid. While the denobulans would perish in the fiery cataclysm this fungi would probably thrive in the post apocalyptic denobulan homeworld. Also in 2.5 billion years the fungi could evolve into a sentient being. Therefore the federation just sat there and watched how the asteroid impacted the planet. Ofcourse that was not the end since there were a couple of hundred survivors hiding in bunkers sending out constant distress calls to the federation. Ofcourse the federation let EVOLUTION run its course in accordance with the prime directive and therefore slowly and painfully the denobulans succumbed to the incest and poisonous atmosphere. (The fungus actually evolved into a warrior race of lizardmen 2.5 billion years later therefore giving perfect justification for the obliteration of 20 billion denobulans.)
Wed, Apr 14, 2010, 2:29am (UTC -5)
"I have but just one question to contribute to this debate: What would Archer do were the situations REVERSED? i.e. Humankind has contracted a deadly disease, asked for help from an outside source, and was subsequently turned down for the same reasons?"
Ironically, it WAS reversed in "Observer Effect". Even worse, the Organians actually had some justification for wanting to not intefere, and Archer had no problem begging THEM to help, and accusing THEM of lacking compassion, and that was after just TWO deaths.
Thu, May 13, 2010, 6:24am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jul 16, 2010, 5:18am (UTC -5)
I agree with most of the criticism of the ethics but I'll just place my own analogy as I understand it.
So Phlox doesn't want to help the Valakians because that might prevent the Menk from achieving their potential as the dominant species? Is that about right?
He also claims that normaly there is only one dominant species on the planet and that they normaly wipe out all competitors.
So if the Valakians had done that; wiped out the Menk instead, you know, co-existing peacefully with them, then they would have Phlox's cure right about now?
Is that the moral? Is that the message? Idiots should done made sure they were the dominant species first? Is it too late to wipe out the Menk?
Ugh, so angry with this 'moral' episode. What happened, Star Trek?
Thu, Jul 22, 2010, 6:42pm (UTC -5)
Apparently it needs to be shouted from the rooftops: Evolution is NOT predestined! It's just what replicating molecules tend do over long periods of time. Genes don't think - they don't decide on some course and then move in that direction. The idea that a species could be "on the verge of an evolutionary breakthrough" is nonsense.
Wed, Aug 18, 2010, 10:53am (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 18, 2010, 1:08pm (UTC -5)
I think Archer and Phlox were wrong, but I still think it was a great episode. I also think Sisko sometimes did the wrong thing in DS9, as did Bartlet in the West Wing, but that didn't make me like and admire these series any the less.
So I'm willing to be more generous to the writers than most of the commenters here. Don't forget there was no prime directive at this time. Maybe the framers of the prime directive reviewed Archer and Phlox's actions in this episode and found them as wrong as the majority of us have. So they drafted the prime directive in such a way that it allowed assistance to be given to cultures who were in this position. Who knows, maybe they went back to the Valakians and gave them the cure at the same time.
Fri, Sep 10, 2010, 5:26am (UTC -5)
I have to admit that immediately after viewing, I felt for the first time I had seen something interesting on Star Trek Enterprise and and was satisfied with the experience. Better yet, despite I recognized Archer's final decision was questionable, it rang somewhat "right" for me. After all, I saw it no different (or at least, very similar) to the would-be Prime Directive adopted by StarFleet years later in the Trek chronology.
After reading some of the comments above (and the episode review on sfdebris.com), I was forced to re-evaluate.
Let me first say that the question of moral validity of the Prime Directive isn't an easy one. More often than not the Directive is presented to us through a "Nation 1 vs. Nation 2" war-conflict on a foreign planet. The question then becomes "what right does humanity (or at large, the United Federation of Planets) have to interfere and aid one nation over the other, particularly by giving them advanced technology that would turn the tide of war?". Non-action in this case can justifiably be the logical, easy choice, at any rate far easier than the situation presented to us in this Enterprise episode. "Dear Doctor" is a perfect example of just how controversial the Prime Directive can be.
I feel sufficient evidence has been presented before me to argue the case one way or the other (particularly the *against* side). So I will state my opinion briefly: the minute Archer & Phlox had a cure in their possession, it was a moral OBLIGATION for them to provide help to the Valakians. Not only because they had requested it, but because as a doctor Phlox was required by the Hippocratic Oath to do so. I will also add that after making contact with a technologically-inferior species, it seems to me the humans (i.e. StarFleet) from that point on, had the *responsibility* to be involved in their progress. Similarly I suppose, the way the Vulcans had stayed on Earth to monitor (many characters in this series would say "spy") the progress of humanity. But I digress.
All in all, I can see what the writers were trying to do here. In many ways, the attempt can be lauded: this episode was designed to explore the future-Prime Directive on one end, but also to parallel the degree of involvement between Humans-Valakians to that of Vulcans-Humans back on Earth. The regret, is that the way it was carried out was less than graceful. Previous Trek shows have dealt with Prime Directive issues far more successfully, at the very least keeping the moral ambiguity high enough to prevent viewer outrage reaching the levels of *this* episode. A commendable venture, but an awkward result in retrospect.
Fri, Sep 10, 2010, 5:45am (UTC -5)
To Archer & Phlox's (and by extension, the writers') defense, I will add two key factors some readers might be forgetting.
1) The choice to withold the cure from the Valakians isn't an *immediate* act of genocide. Dr. Phlox said it would take the mutation / disease 200 years to wipe out the species.
2) Archer & Phlox are hoping that during this time, the Valakians will find a cure to the disease on their own.
In this light comparing Phlox to Hitler, as some readers suggested, is a bit exaggerated. Not throwing someone a life preserver (in the hope they will reach shore on their own) and actively pushing them off the boat with cement shoes, well that's not exactly the same thing.
It'd have perhaps been better (certainly I think, generated less controversy), if Archer had left a probe or some kind of monitoring device on the planet, with the intent to come back and help the Valakians in the future should they still not have reached a cure when close to extinction. But I guess that would not have fit the philosophy Archer & Phlox had chosen to adopt for this episode, as flawed as it might be.
Thu, Sep 23, 2010, 2:46pm (UTC -5)
One story I wish Enterprise had done was one where they DO interfere. They go to a pre-warp planet and introduce themselves and offer to share all their technology. And then you could see all the horrible consequences these actions would have on the planet... which years later would incite the Federation to adopt the Prime Directive. That story arc would have been far more original than another "aliens want to destroy Earth" scenario.
Thu, Sep 23, 2010, 3:05pm (UTC -5)
In this episode, Archer & Phlox have no personal gain at stake: they act out of principle. The fact that this very principle is flawed is what makes this episode so controversial.
An another note, I have now almost finished viewing season 1. The positive side one can take from "Dear Doctor" is that it is by far, the most thought-provoking of the season, which has otherwise been very mediocre. I'd even be willing to bet, alas, the rest of the series will be more of the same.
Mon, Nov 8, 2010, 5:07am (UTC -5)
But the theme misrepresents 'evolution' and its moral implications. Evolution describes how changes take place over time. It is not a thing to be 'helped' or 'let alone.' It contains no moral guidance for us. It is merely a decscription.
Letting the people die of a disease is as much an interference in fate as helping them live. The doctor and Archer misunderstand the nature of fate. They were already involved. They had a cure. The prime directive does not allow humans to behave cruelly.
Besides, Archer seems to have little problem 'interfering' with cultures in other episodes. Every planetary visit, every contact with a ship, every subspace transmission inadvertently picked up - it's all interference to some degree.
It's not even an issue with room for opinion. Humans are moral creatures. Our morality, whatever that is, guides our behavior. Either it is right to help people or it is right to let them die. One or the other. Hiding behind a 'prime directive' doesn't avoid the choice. it just clouds your mind.
Besides, if the Prime Directive were so prime it wouldn't even allow for space exploration at all. In fact, it would demand that we blow up Earth for fear that some distant world world look at us through a telescope and have their culture affected.
Were it real, this is the kind of thing that would come to haunt the doctor and Archer later in life.
Mon, Nov 8, 2010, 6:12am (UTC -5)
This episode is not 'contraversial.' It is offensive. This issue is not debatable. There are not two sides. You either understand it or need to see it.
You are human. Yes, you can go through life thinking all morality is relative, but since it isn't you will never act that way. You will just be unware of your motives. And corrupted over and over again, like Archer was here.
You don't even need to believe in some 'God' to see this.
Mon, Dec 27, 2010, 8:23am (UTC -5)
In all three cases I highly agree with the actions that the episodes ultimately took, even though those outcomes were in some ways opposite. Bringing back Tuvok and Neelix was a restoration to the natural state...and both were entitled to that restoration. So too was the Valakian "extinction". I'm curious...all the people calling Phlox's act evil - would he still be evil if he had been unable to create a "cure"? Just because you can do a thing does not mean that you should do a thing.
Wed, Jan 5, 2011, 1:24pm (UTC -5)
"Shadows of P'Jem"? Not so much.
BTW, the decision made by Archer was the right one.
Mon, Jan 10, 2011, 7:40am (UTC -5)
And speaking of complaining, this episode killed all interest I had in this show. Others before me have already given reasons for this - the idiotic misinterpretation of the theory of evolution and the morally appalling decision based on it.
Phlonx just KNOWS that the Menks are evolving to replace the Valakian civilisation. The Valakians are simply in the way of this grand natural plan (that Phlonx just made up) and should just stop resisting and die. So our "heroes" are withholding the cure that would save millions for the sake of the possibility that another civilisation might replace them after they are all dead. WTF?!
When I was watching this nightmare I kept hoping that T'Pol or maybe somebody else with a shred of intelligence in their brains would put a stop to this insanity by delivering a verbal (and maybe physical as well) smack-down on the "dear doctor" for his ignorance and the captain for even considering his opinion and not firing him on the spot. No such luck.
Ah, the good old ad hominem. That will show everyone just how wrong their arguments are.
Mon, Jan 17, 2011, 11:25pm (UTC -5)
How is "not curing a disease" of a pre-warp civilisation any more immoral than any other example of Prime Directive non-interference that has been portrayed over the course of all the other series?
Surely, according to the Prime Directive, Archer shouldn't have been agreeing to help with this disease at all in the first place - but only did in this case because there is no prime directive yet, and the humans are still so all-fired annoyed at the Vulcans for holding US back "for no good reason" for the last 90 years.
Archer goes into this with a "no WAY we're going to behave like those stuffy Vulcans" attitude. He ends it with an appreciation of why some of those rules exist, even if it is difficult to understand the reasons for them.
I think Archer made the right decision here, too - and don't start telling ME that's because *I* don't understand how evolution works either.
Fri, Feb 4, 2011, 4:39pm (UTC -5)
If Phlox had no business presenting his philosophical and scientific assessment of the situation, then surely he had no business curing the affliction in the first place.
Fri, Feb 11, 2011, 3:47pm (UTC -5)
How does Phlox know that Menk are ever going to evolve to replace the Valakians? What, did he see it in his crystal ball? Because theory of evolution sure as hell doesn't say that. For all he knows, Menk are also going to die out when Valakians are no longer around - certainly many of them will once there is nobody to take care of them. But Phlonx just handwaves it all as inevitable and is so sure he is fine with letting Valakians die. Christina's analogy with a diabetic is right on the money here - this is genocide. For the sake of an imagined future civilisation that exists only in his head he is letting millions of very real people die now. And this guy is supposed to be a doctor?!
Sun, Apr 10, 2011, 8:09am (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 23, 2011, 9:52am (UTC -5)
I've never liked this aspect of the PD in the first place (ISTR the "this culture is dying but we should let them" has been done in at least TNG) but it was always just a stated fact that we were to accept, that at one stage in the past they learned A Great Lesson that scarred Starfleet for centuries to come and made sure they never want to interfere with the evolution of pre-warp cultures for as long as they remember whatever incident it was.
We were never shown this incident, but I always just kind of accepted that "Something Happened" and that the PD "Exists For A Reason."
So that's what I would've expected from Enterprise: show us exactly this incident. Show us WHY Starfleet decided that "interfering" in this way is an Extremely Bad Thing. Archer's initial response was spot-on, but for no apparent reason he does a 180 and agrees with this supposed scientific morality. If helping out a dying species will cause the universe to end, conjure up a plausible reason for it and show us - that way at least it becomes a genuine understandable tragedy of "we'd love to save these people but the universe will implode so we have to let them die".
Instead we just get Archer accepting what Phlox and T'Pol say and believing them unquestioningly. ("We're not out here to play God" he says to justify it to himself. Eh? Playing God would be creating, altering and destroying life via means other than reproduction like they do willy nilly in the 24th century with sentient holograms - saving lives isn't Playing God). I guess this shows a glimmer of maturity in his relationship with those with more experience than him (at last) but one of them needs to explain to him (and therefore the audience) why their equivalent of the PD came to be. Otherwise why should he just accept it?
It's a poorly executed attempt at trying to show us a pre-PD dilemma without explaining why such a callous directive came to be and doesn't do the Trek philosophy any favours at all. Instead of answering the question, it just makes the Prime Directive (at least this aspect of it; I understand the non-interference in conflict or culture) look even more pointless and callous than it did before!
(That said, I don't see it as "murder" or "genocide". They're not killing these people, they're just not saving them - it's still wrong, but it's different.)
Sat, Sep 24, 2011, 10:11am (UTC -5)
Sat, Oct 8, 2011, 1:33am (UTC -5)
When it comes to diversity and unity, Trek has always wanted to have its cake and eat it too; the similarities inevitably matter more than the differences. That’s fine – it’s a hopeful message, and since so much of televised science fiction essentially functions as comfort food, that approach makes sense. After all, it’s insanely difficult to try to understand and restate the thought processes of a non-human mind, whether it’s a fictional alien or a culture’s chosen divinity.
But I’d submit that Trek loses something when it does this, even though it positively influenced my attitudes towards the Other as a child. (I will always be grateful for that.) At its core, the people we see on the screen are supposed to be explorers. In the best cases, we’d learn something new from the screen, or at least be challenged by it. When the “human perspective” consistently wins the day – when it, in fact, never loses – Trek begins preaching to the choir.
We understand how humans are supposed to react to the Valakians’ plight. As Phlox states, baldly and repeatedly, we have an obsession with helping those in need – particularly if, in a neat twist, we can convince ourselves we’re superior to them.
This, along with one other thread, is the tie that binds the episode together. Archer “anthropomorphizes” Porthos, something that flummoxes Phlox. Tucker’s moved to tears by the plights of fictional characters, sympathizing with them despite his powerlessness (how could he change what’s been written?). Cutler criticizes the Valakian/Menk sociological structure not on the basis of whether it “works” (which is Phlox’s primary criterion), but whether it’s “right” (a moralistic viewpoint, with moralism equated with humanity repeatedly during the episode). And that moralism isn’t even consistent: she chooses to evaluate the Valakians’ behavior from an anthrocentric perspective, but barely raises an eyebrow over Phlox’s complicated marital situation because, well, he’s Denobulan, and they’re different.
That difference is that aforementioned other tie binding the episode together: Phlox’s sheer alienness. To us, he seems jovial, knowledgeable, and kind. But that’s our anthrocentric (ugh, I’ve used that word twice) bias creeping in. In actuality, Phlox sees the world in a fundamentally separate way from the rest of us. That’s why he’s writing to his Counterpart in No Man’s Land, the single human living amongst the Denobulans. Both men are in situations where most of what goes on around them is kind of recognizable while still being kind of baffling.
This is why we get the sequence where Phlox is confused by Porthos, confused by the movie, and confused by Cutler’s advances: he reacts differently from us to the same stimuli.
So Archer states that every principle he holds dear demands that he help the Valakians – indeed, that compassion guides his judgment, not blinds it. I imagine those who were most offended by Phlox’s “misunderstanding of evolution,” as I’ve seen it phrased elsewhere (because God forbid an alien see the same thing differently), stood and cheered. And for Phlox to be unmoved by compassion, to be “unmoved” by these people’s plight…well, that means he’s a monster.
But the episode very clearly shows that Phlox feels, if not exactly identically to Archer, something very close to his level of sympathy for the Valakians. The difference between the two men lies not in their feelings, but in the degree to which they allow those feelings to guide their judgment. Phlox ISN’T an unfeeling monster: he feels.
Instead, the doctor essentially argues that, by helping the Valakians, we’d be interfering in something that we perhaps shouldn’t be messing with. Think back to Tucker’s tears in that movie theatre. If we gave him editing control in mid-movie, let him change the script and re-shoot the scenes, it might have a happier ending. He’s also savaging the movie’s integrity and fundamentally changing “the way it was supposed to be.” (This would have been more interesting if Enterprise had ever figured out what to do with the Temporal Cold War and its focus on altering vs. restoring timelines, but I digress.)
Phlox’s argument is that nature has been writing and composing the Valakians’ extinction for thousands of years, repeating the same pattern that’s taken hold on thousands of other worlds that weren’t subjected to outside interference (even in the name of compassion). In those places – alluded to throughout the episode – coexistence doesn’t work for whatever reason, and the end result is that one humanoid race ultimately reigns supreme, not two.
Archer’s objection – OUR objection – is to say, “Well, if that’s what nature’s written, then it’s a damn good thing the universe gave us editing powers.” And indeed, we believe – many have passionately argued – that to voluntarily withhold one’s editing powers, one’s ability to assist, is tantamount to committing the atrocity itself.
That is how we see it. That’s how we’re SUPPOSED to see it. That’s how years of civilization have conditioned us to react.
But Phlox isn’t conditioned that way. His thoughts seem nonsensical or illogical to many, as they should – he’s not human. So he says that we shouldn’t interfere.
That’s the point of the episode, if I may speak for the authors: to see the universe filtered through a decidedly inhuman mindset, to have our willingness to invest emotion in others (at least to the degree that we allow that empathy and consideration for the needs of others to dictate our decisions) questioned.
The point is NOT to be the “first Prime Directive story.” Yes, Archer makes an allusion to the future creation of the Directive. But T’Pol points out that the Valakians have made first contact with warp-capable species. In fact, the story neatly decouples noninterference from the far more baggage-ridden Directive, and chooses to use that ideal – one we’d surely struggle with were we ever forced to abide by it – as a mirror to use for questioning the nature and justification for our ideologies and thought processes.
So yes, you can be offended by the episode’s conclusion. In fact, you’re supposed to be: the human rationale didn’t carry the day, and there’s really no way for us to cope with that.
But since the episode set out to be a show in which alien mindsets and opinions weren’t immediately dismissed (as poor T’Pol is throughout the first twelve episodes) or reshaped into something that reflects humanity’s versions of the same things, I can’t understand why people are giving it zeros, let alone saying it’s the worst episode of all time.
“It offends me!” Yeah. And? Was the acting bad? The score unimpressive? The characterization insincere? (That’s kind of a big deal, but “Dear Doctor” is relentlessly true to its characters even as it allows them, in Archer’s case, to change a bit.)
To the point that one can make objective statements about art, I don’t believe one can objectively say any of those things. By television’s standards, the acting, score, and characterization are good, fine, or excellent – take your pick, but they’re not bad. The makeup design is perhaps a bit bland, and maybe the CGed city is showing its age, but we all know that’s not why people freaked out over the episode.
People reacted as they did because the writers went looking for ways to freak them out by allowing an inhuman mindset to carry the day. Even though that’s a difficult thing to convincingly write, they did it: the prevailing reaction was that Phlox’s conclusion was inhuman, was offensive.
Those people who share that reaction are the ones who should be giving this show high praise. I can’t think of another episode – not “A Matter of Honor,” “Darmok,” “The Inner Light,” or too many DS9 eps to count – where Trek more convincingly explored how an alien would approach existence, let alone existence’s grayer areas.
Thus I can say something I rarely say: the conclusion bothered me, and in doing so earned my respect.
Tue, Oct 11, 2011, 10:17am (UTC -5)
Phlox might have this crude, almost religious view on evolution, where you cannot interfere in nature even if someone begs you for help. But Archer would have to overrule Phlox on this one, and if the cost is losing Phlox as the ship's doctor, than this is a small price to pay.
If this is truly part of the morality Phlox lives by, he is not fit to serve in Starfleet anyway. By the same reasoning he could deny mankind a cure for a deadly disease in the future, because we hinder the evolution of chimpanzees. Hello Planet of the Apes.
Sun, Oct 30, 2011, 10:34am (UTC -5)
Maybe I'm being naive and simplistic, but my perspective on the situation is thus: Somebody is sick, I have a cure, I cure the sick. End of story.
What the "doctor" did and was supported by the "captain" in doing is unconscionable and, in some jurisdictions, actually illegal.
Archer himself said it, and I paraphrase: Every time you help somebody who is sick you are interfering with nature, i.e. evolution. I cannot see how that, entirely correct, view has been disannulled by the present circumstances. Should a bully not have his/her cancer treated? Should the Tutsi tribe of Rwanda be denied cure for AIDS?
Not giving them warp technology is one thing, and perfectly justifiable, but this is an outrage. And for the two to be cast as some sort of morally-superior benefactors causes a really uneasy feeling in me toward Star Trek.
Having said all that, this IS a good, intriguing show. It might not merit four stars but three, yes.
Wed, Nov 16, 2011, 7:03am (UTC -5)
By the way, according to Memory Alpha, we have UPN to blame for Archer agreeing with Phlox. The original script had Phlox disobeying Archer's orders to give them the cure.
Thu, Jan 19, 2012, 11:12pm (UTC -5)
If your conclusions lead to genocide, I'd say that's a crystal clear sign that you screwed up somewhere down the line.
Sat, Feb 25, 2012, 7:40pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 19, 2012, 11:31pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Mar 22, 2012, 12:06pm (UTC -5)
Except "Nature" isn't an intelligent planning entity with a grand scheme. Hell, that kind of reasoning is what lead people to believe the AIDs was God's judgement and doom on gay people.
If a doctor can cure someone of a deadly disease, is asked to do so, but doesn't, that's called malpractice. At minimum. Murder in most people's minds.
Was eradicating small pox horrible interference in our planet's "natural cycle?"
Fri, Mar 30, 2012, 4:12pm (UTC -5)
The opinions of the few winning out over millions, extinguishing their voices, their unique worldview, is a triumph of a writer's understanding of diversity?
That's so completely broken at a basic level, that I can't debate it. If you can't see the problem with it, please ask the person reading this post to you to strangle you with the nearest power cable.
You'll be doing evolution a favor.
Sat, Apr 7, 2012, 6:32pm (UTC -5)
Regarding the cure Phlox has found here, something sounds peculiar. He stated clearly that the disease is genetic and will ultimately lead to the extinction of all Valakians, which means that every Valakian is or will be affected. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in my understanding (being a scientist, but not in biology or medicine) there are only two ways to treat such a disease.
1. One could manipulate the Valakians' DNA (or whatever substance their genome is coded with). Each individual, or at least their reproductive cells, would have to be treated this way in order not to let the disease resurface again one generation later. This would leave to a completely and irreversibly new lifeform, at which point I fully understand and subscribe Archer's point of view.
2. If Phlox does not heal the source of the disease (i. e. the genetic anomalies), he must have found a substance which removes the symptoms of the sickness, or at least diminish them well enough to make a reasonable life possible. Obviously, creating such a medicine is beyond the Valakians' possibilities, because they lack either resources or technology. (I mean, they must have at least thousands of medics who have worked on this matter for many years, and there comes our doctor finding the cure in, what, two or three months at most?)
Keep in mind: One day, each Valakian individual will have to be treated this way, making them dependent on alien technology or meds they cannot produce themselves. The episode shows how much the ship's resources were strained just to help these people momentarily. Who could provide enough resources to guarantee permanent help? (Even with the Federation in place, this would be a huge challenge.)
Still not regarding the possibility that an error occurs in the whole calculation. Come on, all who question Phlox's morality: why do you think his science must be impeccable while his opinion is not? Any good scientist should be humble enough not to consider him-/herself this superior to the rest of the universe. (Granted, this necessary himility was not really stressed in the episode.)
I do understand why many of you don't like the implications of Phlox's decision. My point is that all other decisions lead to comparably difficult consequences, since this is not a one-time matter. We are talking about responsibilities far beyond anything Archer or Phlox could be prepared for.
Tue, Apr 10, 2012, 8:07am (UTC -5)
Your comments might have applicability if Star Trek ever let science get in the way of story, or if Doctor Phlox brought up your concerns in story. Given that he didn't, I am forced to assume that his cure would have no such complications.
Wed, Apr 11, 2012, 8:27pm (UTC -5)
The question of genocide is an interesting one, particular whether the failure to act (when one can reasonably act) can be substituted for a 'diliberate' intention to destroy in whole or part a particular culture. Honestly I'm not sure, but i want to see an argument for why it is or ist, not a statement that it is or isn't.
Sat, Apr 21, 2012, 6:50pm (UTC -5)
However, realizing what the purpose of this episode was; specifically to show the viewers that the Prime Directive might be a good idea, and that Archer & Co might be thinking along the lines of creating such a directive, I have to say this episode was an utter failure.
I've heard that the script originally had a completely different ending, but the Powers That Be Suits over at Paramount made the writers change the script to show total unity amongst Archer, Phlox and crew, and to tone down any "inter-crew" drama.
We can only speculate about what the original ending was, but all it would have taken to make the story MUCH more compelling, is that Archer & Phlox provided the antidote, and then have the antidote turn out to be lethal to the Menk. Or to have the antidote be so production-intesive that it requires all then land and resources of the Menk, and thus they are utterly wiped out.
This would have left us with a much more believable and compelling argument for why the Prime Directive is something that Starfleet needs to think about. It would've also provided us with a much more interesting drama, if let's say, Archer ordered Phlox to provide the antidote against Phlox's wishes. Then later when it turns out that giving the antidote leads to the destruction of the Menk, Archer would have to live with those consequences, which would add some character to his rather bland characterization, and it would also provide a great motivator for going ahead with the Prime Directive. But I guess that would go against Star Trek's almighty Reset Button.
Instead we are treated to a bit of Nazi propaganda which basically boils down to; if you're not genetically pure enough to survive without the benefit of medicine, you are genetically inferior and deserve to die!
What a waste.
Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 8:03am (UTC -5)
Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 2:06pm (UTC -5)
Secondly, although evolution means that the "fittest" (read: Fastest, smartest, etc.) tend to outlive and outbreed those less so, it has nothing to do with human health care. When sick or injured, we help ourselves, each other, and even animals. That does not contradict the empirical fact of evolution in any way. If anything, it is usually the religious ("anti-evolution" types) who have the attitude of "we will comply with whatever 'god' decrees."
* * * * *
@Cassander: If this matter came before a court, a judgment going on for tens if not hundreds of pages would be issue justifying the outcome one way or the other. You can't expect a comprehensive answer to your query, but I'll try.
There are basically two views: Either the stricken society is an insular system, with which humans must not interfere in any way or it is not. This issue is not so much about the right or wrong of helping those in need as it is about mere interference, of ANY kind.
If it was a relatively simple question of providing a cure, then the dilemma is: (1) We avert a lethal pandemic, which may subsequently enable the cured species to exterminate another, or (2) we do nothing, allow a genocide by non-interference to proceed, probably leading to the extinction of a species. To my mind, the answer here is rather easy: When a person is sick, we use our medical savvy to cure them, without having any guarantee that they will not one day turn into a serial killer. Even people who are incarcerated or disabled, or who are ex-convicts, are not denied medical care. Why, then, should a society, even if ALL of it (doubtful!) is depraved?
Now, do we INTERFERE or not? One could argue that the mere act of contacting even a single person of a society or even just visiting the societal environment constituted interference. After all, contact affects both/all the individuals concerned, mentally and physically. Who knows how the day of a person would have progressed if they had not stopped to say hello to us...
Let me throw a hypothetic scenario A your way: John Doe of Species X is walking along in a wood. He steps on a twig. The twig scares off a lethal predator. Mr. Doe becomes a successful scientist who develops warp drive five years down the line.
Now here's a scenario B: Say you beam down on John Doe's planet, poke around a bit and in the process step on that twig. You beam back up, having come in contact with nobody. Mr. Doe comes walking along but because the twig is gone, the predator mauls him to death. The society doesn't discover warp drive for another fifty years, if EVER.
See my point?
If we give or show an object, provide food, share ideas, etc. to/with a society, we affect it. It is, in a way, interference. Of course, describing the notion of, say, democracy is different from teaching how to build a fire. But who draws a line? Protesting "honor" killings: Is that interference or exchange?
What if the males of a species were engaged in systematic marital rape of the females, and they (the males only) were facing extinction? Would providing the cure constitute unacceptable interference, because we'd be assisting the perpetuation of a disagreeable practice? Would facilitating parthenogenesis (enabling the females to procreate WITHOUT the errant males) and letting the males die off without a cure be acceptable interference?
I don't think there's a fully right or wrong answer here. If we affect a society or a societal environment in ANY way -- even just by visiting it -- I would say we are interfering. Past that, the degree to which we allow ourselves to continue interfering is decided on a case-by-case basis. Do we say nothing about ourselves, do we only share our philosophies with them, do we give them food, do we arm them, do we give them advanced technology...? It's a slippery slope, and there is NO way of knowing how ANY of those actions (or inaction) might affect the spacetime of that society and wider.
Wed, Apr 25, 2012, 3:29am (UTC -5)
Second,there are numerous studies where scientists have deformed certain animals Physically to try and observe them evolve to cope with their circumstances (fruit flies haveing their wings cut off comes to mind) and promote change. Here you are saying evolution is not about physical traits but *fastest* *smartest*
Sooo.....am not saying your wrong here, but this whole moral issue, evolution, and the ethics regarding evolution seems unclear and complicated to me.
Last point, religious types do as you say sometimes and sometimes not,some say "Gods will" others say many hospitals had a lot of religious people working in them etc etc....
Hmm.... agree with a point made by someone above tho thatthis episode works in that it provokes a reaction, and gets people thinking, i think we can all agree on that at least... :)
Sat, Apr 28, 2012, 6:27am (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 28, 2012, 7:02am (UTC -5)
What does that even MEAN?? "Observe" as in "accept"? Or "observe" as in "see"? I accept evolution as fact for the simple reason that there is a preponderance of evidence in its support. To claim that evolution is a falsehood is tantamount to claiming that each and every species extant today is IDENTICAL to what that species was like 6000, 60000 or 600000 years ago, which is arrant nonsense. Evolution is not observable in real-time; a species doesn't evolve over the course of a few minutes, days or months? What was that fruitfly "experiment" you alluded to supposed to prove: That species find new ways of accomplishing something when old ways are cut off? They might, in the same way an Iraqi war vet who had his legs blown off learns to use prosthetic limbs. But that's not evolution!
Evolution is NOT just about physical traits, no. Who ever said it was? "Survival of the fittest" doesn't mean only literally "fittest." There's the smarts, the speed, the agility, as well as a whole lot of luck.
As Nathaniel suggested, you may want to read up on evolution before launching into a discussion on it.
I also never even implied that evolution was acceptable or unacceptable. In fact, I specifically said that there was no fully right or wrong answer to the quandary presented in this show.
However, I do maintain that if medical treatment is denied in the name of "letting nature take its course," then it's diabolical and supremely hypocritical to EVER provide ANY kind of help to ANYone. For a physician, of all people (or whatever), to hold such a view is outrageous.
I'll agree with you about the show's accomplishment in getting people worked up about it: One of the very, VERY few Star Trek episodes that managed this in either the Voyager or this series.
@Everyone else: Sorry about the grammatical mistakes littered throughout my previous message. I hadn't had time to proofread before hitting the Send button. This one's probably the same! :D
Sat, May 12, 2012, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
Sat, May 12, 2012, 4:11pm (UTC -5)
Sat, May 12, 2012, 4:35pm (UTC -5)
Fri, May 25, 2012, 12:00pm (UTC -5)
"Except "Nature" isn't an intelligent planning entity with a grand scheme. Hell, that kind of reasoning is what lead people to believe the AIDs was God's judgement and doom on gay people."
No, but it is a moving vector. Nature finds a way.
And inaction is not genocide. Failure to prevent something, even intentionally, doesn't move the blame. Logic like that is the basis of neoconservative interventions like Iraq.
Sat, May 26, 2012, 5:47am (UTC -5)
Sat, May 26, 2012, 9:35pm (UTC -5)
Here's what I'll say on the subject: This is not a question of simply providing aid or curing a disease...as has been rightly pointed out, to cite "evolution" as an excuse for inaction is equally ridiculous. Presumably, a relatively evolved species like humans are able to "cure" such diseases because they have evolved into scientists.
The question of the hour is about stakes--on the one hand, many seem to agree that when the extinction of a species is the inevitable outcome of inaction, any moral nuances are rightly cast out in favour of simple human compassion. It sounds alright in those terms, but only because the stakes are so high...the problem is our compassion sometimes blinds us to the larger picture. We see existing as an end unto itself, because, evolutionarily speaking, we want to exist for as long as possible. This isn't a question of correcting the injustice of an agressive alien culture against another or aiding the victims of some isolated natural disaster, we're talking about one crew, one man taking responsibility for the ultimate fate of an entire species, and by proxy an entire civilisation. Becoming extinct by way of your own genes is not "genocide."
What Archer realises, finally, in this episode is that holding up human values an example is one thing, but inflicting them, even upon request, on a scale beyond the comprehension or purview of what any individual can possibly apprehend is hubristic in the extreme.
To quote the ever-wise Picard, "[t]he Prime Directive has many different functions, not the least of which is to protect us. It keeps us from allowing our emotions to overrule our judgment."
Sun, May 27, 2012, 10:39am (UTC -5)
Sun, May 27, 2012, 11:44am (UTC -5)
Of course it wouldn't. That's the whole point--responding with compassion is something a person can do to another person, but when it gets to this scale, responding emotionally to the plight or fate of an entire civilisation, the nature of the situation has changed. Society's don't feel pain or comfort, people do. Archer demonstrates larger thinking here in not indulging his smaller, humanitarian impulses. It is a decision which requires emotional detachment. And that's why the arguments against his choice stem from emotional reactions like empathy with the doomed Valakians.
On the human level, it would have been better if the Valakians had not known about the cure; that would have been an act of human compassion to the isolated and small group of individuals whom Archer told about the cure.
Mon, May 28, 2012, 12:46am (UTC -5)
How many lives can a medicine save before it becomes inadmissible?
How many lives does it take before intentionally killing an entire species of sapient life becomes the right thing to do?
Tue, May 29, 2012, 5:39pm (UTC -5)
1) You've reduced the whole situation to "saving lives" or its inverse "Intentionally killing an entire species." The situation is a lot more complicated than that; a nuanced problem requires nuanced reasoning, not reactionism.
2) You've boiled it down to "bad" or (implicitly) "good." This is a useless simplification. "Good" and "bad" are blunt guide-posts used for children to keep them from harming themselves or others before they've learnt enough to make mature decisions.
Anyone in Archer's position would (and should) feel awful about having to make his decision (if there's a flaw in the episode, it's perhaps that this point isn't carried through enough), but it is the only sane answer--the consequences of his taking action are too huge to contend with; if he never existed or never made contact, their fate would be the same. It is, as I said, a profound and dangerous hubris to step in and decide, for whatever reasons, that one's own compassion is the great arbiter of right and wrong.
Wed, May 30, 2012, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
I have no way of knowing. The decision is just too big for me. I don't feel too bad. After all, if I never existed or made contact, that person's fate would be the same.
P.S: In response to your first point, I have yet to see a justification of the supposed "complication" of the situation that doesn't involve an abhorrent misunderstanding of evolution and biology.
Tue, Jun 5, 2012, 7:40pm (UTC -5)
"Just the fact that so many people have commented on the episode gives it its 4-star rating in my opinion."
In which case Plan 9 from Outer Space must be one of the greatest movies ever made. So many people have written reviews of it, after all.
"I'm curious...all the people calling Phlox's act evil - would he still be evil if he had been unable to create a 'cure'?"
What a ridiculous question. If I saw you lying unconscious on a railroad track with a train barrelling down, would I be considered evil if I couldn't save you because I couldn't reach you in time? Of course not. But what if I could save you, and chose not to? Don't you think that would make me liable for moral judgment?
"The people who seem to be arguing for the technological fix over the natural flow here (presumably they are the same people that would argue for Tuvix's continued artificial existence over the natural lives of Tuvok and Neelix..."
No, we wouldn't, and for precisely the same reasons we're arguing against you here. What happened to Tuvok and Neelix was reversible. What is happening to the Valakians is reversible.
"...if an alien race were at Earth approximately 65 million years ago, either as a race indigenous to that era, or having time travelled there deliberately, and prevented the impact, would that have also been moral?"
Well, that sort of depends, doesn't it? If they saved the dinosaurs hoping to extinguish humanity, then I'd say that's very definitely an immoral interference in the natural order. If they saved the dinosaurs not knowing what that would mean for the future of the planet, then I'd say it's an amoral action. Questions of right and wrong wouldn't enter into it.
"I suspect I'll hear the "dinosaurs weren't saentient" argument, but even if we knew that for certain (we don't), is that relevent?"
Umm...yes, we can figure out whether dinosaurs were sentient. Sentience is the ability to feel and perceive. Dinosaurs could obviously do both. They were sentient beings, as is (say) Porthos. They were not, however, intellectually advanced in any way, which is what I take you to mean by the term.
"They would have eventually become so..."
Umm, what? You say we can't know whether dinousaurs were "sentient" in your usage of the term, but you can claim with absolute certainty that they would have become so? Prove it.
Your defense of the episode is thoughtful and eloquent, but thoughtfulness in the defense of vice is still not virtue. I want to consider one remark you made in particular, which I consider to be the crux of where you've gone wrong:
"Phlox’s argument is that nature has been writing and composing the Valakians’ extinction for thousands of years, repeating the same pattern that’s taken hold on thousands of other worlds that weren’t subjected to outside interference..."
First, the Prime Directive, as origially envisioned, was clearly a call to avoid interfering in the CULTURAL development of another society. It was not a license to stand by while an avoidable natural calamity completely unrelated to the society's development wiped under hundreds of millions of innocent lives.
Second, if you truly believe that what nature "writes and composes" should not be manipulated, how do you justify any medicine you take, any inoculations you receive? You are arguing that the massive strides forward taken by our society in the areas of health and medicine (and in a hundred other areas where we have interfered with "natural" processes) are wrong. Yet I bet you take advantage of each and every one of them...eyeglasses, perhaps, to correct a natural vision process, or perhaps an inhaler to cope with a natural condition of asthma. What makes these interferences with nature right, and the ones proposed in Dear Doctor wrong? I don't think you can come up with a principled answer.
"If there were, 'superior' or 'higher' aliens would be entitled to hold humans in cages, as the doctor holds non-humanoid animal species in cages. He is wrong to do that..."
I do hope you don't own a pet bird. Or hamster. Or iguana. Or for that matter, a cat or a dog. On your own terms, it would be wrong of you to keep them cooped up in your place.
"Sentient, intelligent, emotional creatures, whether beagle or human or Vulcan or cow, all deserve basic moral consideration. That's why it is a contradiction for Archer to eat one and love the other, especially since eating the cow is not necessary for his health."
So it's wrong for us to eat animals. BS. I have two steaks tonight, just for you.
"2) You've boiled it down to 'bad' or (implicitly) 'good.' This is a useless simplification. 'Good' and 'bad' are blunt guide-posts used for children to keep them from harming themselves or others before they've learnt enough to make mature decisions."
Our greatest ethical philosophers -- among them Aristotle, Epicurus, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill -- have all had very different ideas of what "good" was. The vast majority of them would agree on at least one thing, though: your idea of "good" is atrocious.
If I came upon you dying in an alleyway, to note what your fate would have been had I not seen you is pointless, isn't it? Nathaniel absolutely hit the nail on the head in his response to you.
I dare you to tell me that if you had a severe, life-threatening illness, and you made an appeal to someone who had the means to help, and they said "Sorry, can't upset the natural order of things"...that you would look upon that person's reaction as "sane." I dare you.
Tue, Jun 5, 2012, 7:42pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jun 21, 2012, 11:12pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 1, 2012, 8:25pm (UTC -5)
"Well, if we completely abdicate any and all responsibility for each other, then every man truly is a proverbial island. If you don't intervene to prevent a genocide, then why would you intervene to help somebody in distress by the side of the road? Why would you help an old lady across the street? Doesn't that run contrary to the human nature and collective human experience? Is that even desirable?!"
Well that's fine, but doesn't really address what I'd said that you were replying to. Not stopping to help someone in distress on the roadside doesn't suddenly make you responsible for putting them in distress in the first place.
Fri, Jul 6, 2012, 9:14pm (UTC -5)
I'm stunned by how determined some people are to cling to their moral relativism. 95% of the people in this discussion have experienced a moral instinct, and all of a sudden it's primitive "emotionalism"? We could sit the 5% down in front of footage of Somalian war gangs, and they'd still sip tea and murmur "Hmmm, how enlightening, let's all sit down and have a discussion on whether this is good or not. After all, it's the discussion that matters."
I don't buy it. Modern ethics have rarely made a distinction between active intervention and inaction when they both lead to poor results. You see it in most major ethicist's works, you see it in Asimov's Three Laws, it's everywhere. The argument of "we can't possibly be responsible for deciding the fate of billions" works both ways, and both ways lead to a dead end because we can't possibly predict the outcome.
THAT'S where the hubris in this situation lies - in thinking we could predict what happens precisely enough to decide wisdom in the present. Starfleet made what amounts to a snap decision in terms of scientific observation. They should have spent decades studying this planet before coming to this call. They never even bothered to consider that the two species might have a symbiotic relationship and that destroying either one might destroy the other. (I just described Earth's biosphere, by the way. Interconnected and interdependent, all of it.) Nor have they considered galactic consequences. What if the Valakians' DNA one day provided the cure to the Tellurian plague? All kinds of scientific angst has been expended on the extinction of minor animal species here on Earth - why doesn't THAT apply in outer space, especially if there's some so-called "plan"? By Trek's own rules, it was an extinct species that held the key to Earth's survival in Star Trek IV.
To decide that a species' fate is determined and has no value to the rest of galactic society - THAT is where the playing God happened in this episode. Got a problem with the power to decide the fate of billions? Well, if technology has given us the right to save entire species, and if the definition of divinity includes the ability to save entire species, then I SUBMIT THAT WE ARE GODS. And does it not behoove God to be benevolent? The real arrogance in "playing God" lies in predicting outcomes, not taking action - Riker's argument in "Pen Pals". If we're not prepared to take tremendous risks for the sake of using our technology for benevolence, then we don't deserve to have it. With great power comes great responsibility.
I find it interesting that our heroic Starfleet captains have violated the Prime Directive repeatedly over the years without being keel-hauled. What was it, nine times by Picard by TNG's fourth season alone? That's either bad writing or a veiled admission by the Federation (and by proxy the writers) that the Prime Directive in its pure form is an incoherent and untenable document, with unacceptable implications, and that they don't really buy it at all. It works much better as a guideline than as General Order One.
The script for "Dear Doctor", for its part, was not born from the same root that most of Trek was. It's merely thinly-disguised white liberal guilt and a brutish overreaction to American colonialism. I get what the writers were trying to say, but it didn't work. I fail to see how we keep our humanity by abandoning our compassion.
Thu, Jul 12, 2012, 1:10am (UTC -5)
The menk, it should be noted, were NOT comparable to parrots, or bacteria, they were allready, just barely sentient.
it would be more comparable to say "If japan has a plague outbreak, do we refuse to help them because if we dont, the Ainu will be able to inherit japan again"
Fri, Jul 13, 2012, 1:48pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Jul 18, 2012, 3:08pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 22, 2012, 1:08pm (UTC -5)
Archer gives the cure to the Valakians possibly resulting in the suppression of Menk development and their continued enslavement, if not their extinction.
It seems to me that Archer was caught between a rock and a hard spot.
Sun, Jul 22, 2012, 1:22pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 24, 2012, 5:47am (UTC -5)
But, Trek in itself is immoral.
It is in fact the epitome of the Prime Directive dilemma. Starfleet/ Federation is not supposed to interfere with the development of species that aren't warp-capable. The Menk and Phlox's talk about evolution is just to point out that giving the Valakians a cure for their disease will have repercussions.
In fact, from a strictly Trek perspective, even if the Menk didn't exist, the Valakians still should not have been given the cure.
Thu, Sep 6, 2012, 11:39pm (UTC -5)
I'm sorry, however did you reach that conclusion? Or perhaps I misunderstood? The fact that so many Trek fans take offense at this episode proofs to me that really this (and possibly the entire Enterprise show) doesn't deserve the Trek label.
I personally gave up watching Enterprise after the first season and this was one of the episodes that convinced me that this wasn't the Trek I grew up with and loved. Yes, Voyager was flawed but it was still Trek. This simply isn't, at least to me.
First of all, as far as I remember the Prime Directive stated that the Federation should not interfere in the cultural development of (pre-Warp) civilizations or share technology that was beyond that species' capabilities. It certainly didn't prevent giving humanitarian help, if help was requested. They actually made a point of that numerous times on Voyager and I believe in TNG as well.
I will concede that the principle behind the Prime Directive may be inherently flawed, but Trek, as I understand it, was always about striving for the best in humanity, i.e. compassion, peaceful interaction etc. So I 'm sorry to say that I have a huge problem with an argument that wants to take this episode as proof that "from a Trek perspective" Phlox and Archer's actions were justified.
Nope, they weren't. Btw. in our society denial of assistance is still a criminal offense which is precisely what Archer and the Dear Doctor were doing when they denied the Valakians access to a cure that was already available.
At its best Star Trek can be taken allegorical, as political or social commentary presented in a Sci-Fi setting. But the "message" here seems to be that one should stand idly by while other people suffer because, hey, maybe they're meant to and as long as we aren't affected we shouldn't interfere.
So this episode does need to be judged for what it tries to say about society. The message it gives seems to be: "The weak will (and should) perish". Sound familiar?
Sorry for the rant and the numerous grammatical errors (I'm not a native speaker). Of course, everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but I did feel the need to express just why I dislike this episode so much. I'm sure some people will disagree with what I perceive as the philosophy behind Star Trek (at its best) and that's fine as well.
Sat, Sep 15, 2012, 1:59am (UTC -5)
This is not Trek. It's utterly immoral as most everyone has already pointed out. It has no understanding of evolution. It's almost like I'm listening to a creationist rehash their beliefs in an almighty force guiding the universe. Evolution is equated to God.
Archer makes the decision he makes only because the script says so. Even first season Archer would never make this decision. He breaks a bunch of Sulliban out of an internment camp in Detained. He didn't stop and not do it just because he would be "interfering with their natural evolution" or some idiocy. Phlox should know better. He's a respected physician. I can never look at him the same way again. To me he will always be a budding sociopath just waiting to spring out.
And even with this utterly immoral issue going on, the writers of this episode still have to be distracted by some idiocy about Phlox going out on a date and going to a movie and not understanding why humans would be crying at a movie. And framing it with a letter. Data's Day this is not. It's annoying that that subplot is there during this big philosophical issue. In GOOD Trek episodes of the past, there wasn't an annoying B-plot that served no purpose whatsoever.
Ultimately this isn't Trek. At least this episode isn't anyway. This episode is not in my canon. Not in no Star Trek world because it flies in the face of everything that Star Trek stands for.
And not in a good DS9 kind of way. Sure Sisko does similar things but he would never have done something like this. He's torn apart by sacrificing six lives in In the Pale Moonlight to save the Alpha Quandrant in a war with the Dominion. Do you even think he would begin to allow massive genocide like this for no good reason?
Most of Enterprise is dull and boring and pointless. It's rehashed action scene after action scene that prove that B & B clearly have no idea how to write a Trek episode. Looking forward to the third and fourth seasons when they barely write anything. But this is the one episode that made me angry that these writers were ever associated with Trek. They wrote a pointless episode, a dumb episode, and this highly immoral episode. They should never have gotten involved with Trek. They are no Michael Pillar, Ira Steven Behr, Ronald Moore, Hans Beimler, or Michael Taylor. There have been so many legendary writers on Star Trek, but we have to get this idiot team who's probably never seen a Star Trek episode and were probably coached by B & B on how to write. No amount of hand washing will rid the Trek fandom of this horrible blemish of a spot.
Thu, Sep 20, 2012, 1:16am (UTC -5)
Just because a disease is genetic doesn't mean that we just decide not to treat it and let it go about because we think that's the way it's supposed to go that's it's natural evolution. Archer makes a very good point that's never really addressed throughout the rest of the episode: As a doctor, you interfere with the natural evolution all the time. You're morally obligated to help. This is a very good point. Indeed, we work to end things like Autism and Anemia even though they are genetic. We don't just say "Nope, can't help you. The almighty process of evolution says this is the way it has to be." And it is especially pertinent to help these people because they are dying by the millions every day because of this genetic disorder. You can't treat evolution as this religious icon. They do. It reminds me of certain religious beliefs: You can't interfere with God's plan because God is perfect. They say the same here: You can't interfere with the natural evolution because that is the way nature intended it to be.
Thu, Sep 20, 2012, 10:33am (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 29, 2012, 8:57pm (UTC -5)
Except that's not how the game ends with an atheism that holds evolution as a moral imperative. This episode exemplifies Secular Humanism carried to its fullest extent - survival of the fittest with the fittest ensuring that the weak play their part by dying off.
All of you who are defending the ethics of this episode should be ashamed of yourselves. I pray that none of you will have any authority over any other human being ever, because your worldview is disgustingly ruthless and cruel.
Sat, Sep 29, 2012, 11:45pm (UTC -5)
This has nothing to do with anybody's religion or Weltanschauung. It could be sloppy writing or a stroke of genius on the authors' part: Not a single other episode of Enterprise generated such a heated discussion.
You are right though about the fuzzy kumbaya multiculturalism that pervades the (latter-day) Trek universe. It's as if every other episode ends or should end with a group hug. Barf.
Tue, Oct 2, 2012, 11:12pm (UTC -5)
You should well heed these words: Better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and confirm it.
Wed, Oct 3, 2012, 10:57pm (UTC -5)
There is no contradiction. Secular Humanism posits that humanity is responsible for engineering its own purpose, ethics, and meaning. But which man, or group of people, is responsible for defining those things? Is it a free-for-all - everyone for themselves? No society can function where everyone defines right and wrong and meaning individually. So how can order be brought to the chaos?
Enter the experts. The intellectuals. The Ph.D's and scientists. Or perhaps a doctor and a starship captain. They'll define it all for the rest of us. They'll tell me what's right and wrong. I can sit back and just trust the meaning of my life to their capable hands.
But what if I disagree? What if my experts are orbiting my planet in some spaceship and deciding my death without my input? What if they decide that it's better, according to their enlightened ideology, if I just die off? Now my trusted experts have become my enemy.
Those experts, the anointed ones who know what's best, who have progressed and modernized and redefined all that came before, have defined themselves as the fittest, and they are ensuring that I die off in order to serve their irrefutable grand plan for humanity.
There is no contradiction between Secular Humanism and Social Darwinism. In fact, they play together quite nicely. This episode shows the result.
Fri, Oct 5, 2012, 4:26pm (UTC -5)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but behind that lengthy disquisition of yours is a basic premise that humans are incapable of establishing absolute moral/ethical values without supernatural interference/guidance.
That is empirically false.
Humans established and refined legal codes far earlier than the advent of organized religion. Indeed, our ability to do so is what made it possible for societies to evolve.
In real life, Archer and Phlox would never have been able to do what they did: They would have had to refer the matter to Star Fleet, which would then have undertaken what I'd envision to be a protracted judicial process to arrive at a decision.
Secular Humanism in no way implies or presupposes what you call social Darwinism. Please, I beg of you, save yourself further embarrassment and read up on both. Bottom line: The proposition that a person needs "god" in order to be moral is total nonsense, as can be seen on millions of people all around the world every single day. Period.
And by the way, belief in "god" rarely stopped anyone doing something stupid such as committing murder or genocide. Yea, in many instances such a belief actually precipitated abominable acts of unfathomable cruelty. Referring to your example of "experts" orbiting your planet, I'd say you'd stand a helluva lot better chances of not being vaporized if those "experts" were atheists than if they were god-botherers.
Sat, Oct 6, 2012, 11:42am (UTC -5)
Here's another one: If you're in a hole, its really stupid to keep digging.
Wed, Oct 10, 2012, 11:50am (UTC -5)
Agreed. The first DS9 episode about the genetically enhanced wackos made the same mistake, at least at first. You can't predict the future of entire peoples that way, no matter how much DNA Magic you can command. I'm a fan of Asimov's Foundation series, and psychohistory makes sense up to a point -- masses of people do tend to have a kind of inertia that keeps them moving along somewhat predictable paths in ways that the individuals making up the groups do not. But Asimov's Seldon made it clear that he was talking probabilities, not certainties. The uncertainties increased as time passed (which is why there was a Second Foundation of psychohistorians to keep tweaking the equations) and there was always the chance that some unexpected variable -- even an individual like the Mule -- could throw the whole thing off.
There's simply no way they could predict the future of this society accurately enough to base this kind of a decision on it. To the objections others have made, here are more off the top of my head: what if the dying race got a bit peeved about the whole thing and decided to take the other race out with them? What if the genetic whatsit transfers to the primitive race 150 years from now, and both races end up extinct? There are just too many possibilities.
These writers, like many people today, have clearly adopted Darwinism as a religion that goes beyond the science of natural selection. As others have said more extensively, there's no "destiny" in evolution. There's certainly no predicting it. Mutations happen, and if they happen to be beneficial in their particular time and place, they may be passed on, and thus species tend to adapt to their environments over time. But most mutations are harmful or useless, and there have been plenty of evolutionary dead-ends in Earth's history, even before human interference. There's no way to know what sort of positive mutation may happen next, or whether it'll happen to be passed on.
The other mistake they make is in talking about Nature as if humans are outside it. Humans (and sentient aliens) are part of nature, even in starships. And considering the writers see evolution as a positive force for good, why not assume humanity evolved to this point for this reason: to bring cures to dying species?
Lastly, sins of omission aren't any less egregious than sins of commission. If you have the ability to cure someone and you don't, that's no better than if you give him the disease. At that point there's no choice between interfering or not; you're interfering either way, by giving it or withholding it. So they could give the cure and both species would live (with one perhaps subordinate to the other); or withhold the cure and let one species die (with the other perhaps taking its place). "Do nothing" was off the table. As such, the choice seems pretty obvious.
One last angle: turn the tables, so the primitive-with-potential culture is the one that's dying out, while the civilized-but-stagnant snobs are fine and don't particularly care. Now would our heroes be so willing to leave things be?
Thu, Oct 25, 2012, 12:25am (UTC -5)
I hate to break this to you, but I personally would consider you to be immoral bordering on evil if you left somebody to die when you had the means to save them and you didn't feel the slightest bit of guilt in knowing that you just allowed another human being to die through your inaction. Look at it this way:
-If you help that person, you have just saved someone's life. You have prevented almost certain death. Of course, as you said, this person may, (and I want to stress the fact that I am using the word MAY and not IS) be a murderer or spouse beater or whatever. So it is POSSIBLE that someone else will suffer. But on the other hand...
-If you do nothing, that person will almost certainly die. I repeat, not a person MAY suffer or a person MAY die, but a person WILL die with a high degree of certainty.
In other words, when given the options of POSSIBLY UNINTENTIONALLY and INDIRECTLY allowing someone else come to harm by saving this person, and the other option of ALMOST CERTAINLY having someone die, you choose the option where it is MORE LIKELY that pain, suffering and death will occur, and you call that a 'moral' decision.
What. The. Fuck.
Fri, Oct 26, 2012, 10:13am (UTC -5)
Mon, Nov 5, 2012, 9:51pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Nov 5, 2012, 11:21pm (UTC -5)
When humanity can travel through time - which according to Trek is a certainty - will all of humanity be by definition, monsters? I mean we're not going back in time to spare our ancestors all this misery and death! Or can we instead respect that the Mature decision is not to interfere with where the cards will fall? All that do-gooder emotion pouring through you and the switch for a time machine in your hands. The unbelieveable damage you could do with your irrationality.
Ignore the science on the show. It's merely a vehicle to get us from point A to B. Yes, yes, I know the writers and producers want us to be proud of all the science homework they've done. Oliver Stone wants us to think he did research too. Nonsense, all smoke and mirrors. True astonishment should be reserved for the real science that actually does seep through. Trying to make the science real is the only flaw in the episode since it opens a crack for criticism to sneak in.
Also, not once did I get a Valakians vs. Menks vibe that a lot of the commenters seem to have picked up. It never seemed to me that Phlox was affected by them beyond being just another fact on his chart.
Sun, Nov 18, 2012, 3:55pm (UTC -5)
Your time travel analogy doesn't work, by the way. A great argument can be made for not changing the past -- even if it weren't logically impossible, as I assume it would be. Indeed, you already made it.
The situation Archer and Phlox faced was one in the present, not the past. And it is not acceptable reasoning to refuse to act -- to let things take their course -- because you don't know if the outcome would be better or worse. Would you really refuse to help a dying man (or a dying race...just an extension of the same idea) in the present because you don't know what impact that might have on the future? If so, then your moral instincts are appalling.
Sun, Nov 18, 2012, 9:35pm (UTC -5)
The arguement for withholding the cure is not invalid just because you disagree with it. If anything, I suppose it being such a hard decision to make is why I refer to it as a "mature" decision. You see, I'm jaded from all these folks around me today that seem incapable of sitting down and thinking things through from every perspective, even absolutely vile ones and instead just act impetuously from an emotional based spark. I can't really articulate a justification of the decision in the episode but it feels like the right decision to me. Maybe it's my "gut" that's appalling or perhaps just a bit of half-digested cheese. I'll concede that Phlox's science is a bit shaky and perhaps there was some favortism for the Menk but I'll still stick by the core decision even if I can't really explain why.
Can we agree that they should have not gotten involved in the first place? If we can't, then perhaps that's the root since I'm judging from the viewpoint of non-involvement in the first place.
Or did you just want to call my moral instincts appalling? :)
Oh I agree with you by the way in an earlier post above, you did mention that the PD was not about letting a race be destroyed. I think on TOS there was even an episode where Kirk had to stop an asteroid from hitting a native type culture. Very pre-warp. Just sparing lives. My moral instincts have no qualms about redirecting asteroids away from pastoral worlds I am happy to report!
Wed, Nov 21, 2012, 1:16am (UTC -5)
Fri, Nov 23, 2012, 2:43pm (UTC -5)
"Can we agree that they should have not gotten involved in the first place?"
If you'll recall the episode, the Valakians made contact with the Enterprise. Archer didn't go looking to interfere in anything. Again, I question your instincts. If someone places a call to your house asking for help, and you know it's a potentially serious situation, do you just refuse to answer?
And you never did answer my question. If someone was dying and they asked for your help, would you refuse to aid them -- because you hadn't observed enough yet before you acted?
Mon, Dec 3, 2012, 1:33pm (UTC -5)
If Phlox had been unable to determine a way to fix the problem, the Valakians would still be facing extinction, but (hopefully) people wouldn't be calling them monsters for allowing it. So the issue becomes whether or not Phlox should have been tasked with the attempt in the first place.
This dilemma is somewhat similar to that in the DS9 episode "The Quickening". The main difference is that in that episode the disease was introduced by the Dominion, while here the affliction is apparently a natural evolution. I had no issue with Bashir curing a disease, particularly an artifically introduced one, but "curing" evolution is a much more nebulous endeavor.
Mon, Dec 3, 2012, 5:14pm (UTC -5)
That's ridiculous. Just because AIDs is a natural disease, does that mean we don't try to cure it? Just because autism is genetic does that mean that we don't try to cure it? If something is killing people, we try to stop it, it doesn't matter what it is.
Mon, Dec 10, 2012, 8:09am (UTC -5)
"while here the affliction is apparently a natural evolution. I had no issue with Bashir curing a disease, particularly an artifically introduced one, but "curing" evolution is a much more nebulous endeavor."
Oh my god, just... Read a book. Seriously.
Thu, Dec 13, 2012, 1:29pm (UTC -5)
I put this in the same camp as "Insurrection", easy on the eyes, but morally disgusting. The difference with this one, is that it is not even justified by the future prime directive, the species IS space-flight capable. That is my BIGGEST problem with anyone (JAMMER) that defends this episode. It doesn't even follow STAR TREK morals and rules. Archer had every right to help these people.
Let me put this another way, if we assume the evolution is directed (which it is not) than how do we know that evolution didn't direct this species to have enough intellegence to have spaceflight and meet another species that could cure this genetic disorder?
Tue, Jan 1, 2013, 8:40pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Feb 9, 2013, 12:42pm (UTC -5)
Whenever Nazis or the Holocaust are mentioned, a discussion has degenerated into hyperbole.
The Prime Directive doesn't allow for Starfleet to aid (or interfere with as the case may be) any culture that is capable of spaceflight--just the ones that are capable of warp spaceflight.
If Archer gave the Valakians the cure the Menk would have remained in serfdom. Archer's refusal to hand over the cure doesn't necessarily doom the Valakians; they could after all find their own cure. They still have a couple of centuries according to Phlox.
By not giving them the cure Archer left it up to nature, and the Valakians, to decide the fate of their own world. By giving them the cure, Archer would have been deciding the fate of their world for them. Phlox's comaparison to Earth's past when Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals coexisted sums up the situation nicely. If an alien culture had given the neanderthals a leg up, what then?
I found this episode to be nicely meaty in terms of examining the kind of issues a Trek prequel should, though I wouldn't rate it 4 stars, simply because whenever I see yet another Trek Forehead Alien part of me just mentally checks out.
Sun, Apr 7, 2013, 8:51pm (UTC -5)
A debate indeed is beyond hope when people start to call each other Nazis. But this is not the case here. Nazis are mentioned because of the alarmingly similar philosophy endorsed by this heinous abomination of an episode.
Letting a race die because another race is destined to be superior to it matches Nazi doctrine perfectly whether you like it or not. The fact that it's done passively is of small importance. There is no country in which standing by and letting someone die is not considered a crime. Let alone letting millions die.
Do you really believe that pressing a button that will start WW3 is much worse than knowingly not depressing it before it took effect?
The fact that Nazis are mentioned in this debate is not a testament to a degenerative debate but instead to a degenerative episode.
All the episodes lacked is for Flox to start doing diabolical experiments on the Valakians because they are destined to die anyway.
That, and for Archer to grow a small mustache.
Sat, Apr 13, 2013, 2:27pm (UTC -5)
oh yes as for the moral quandary, I find it difficult to overlook the shoddy science, as it forms the basis of the argument for witholding the cure. (incorrect science in sci-fi.... have never seen this before).
Strangly I wish i could agree with our disturbed captain and doctor, if for no other reason than i'd enjoy to be put ill at ease with their conclusion, however I cannot accapt their argument on either emotive grounds (obviously, nor can I accept that their position is internally consistant.
A few other point that were raised in earlier posts:
TNG Ep Symbiosis, Picard justified withholding help on basis on prime directive, even though the species was capable of space flight (just not warp space flight), why this particular invention marks such an absolute threshold I think needs further elaboration.
Ultimately i find that i can only accept The prime directive in any form as a misnomer, its best (?) use i would see as one particular set of guidelines of which action can be judgeded against (not the only guidelines, i want to make that point clear, even if you find an ethical theory appaling it can still be useful to see action through the lens of that principle, if only to gain another perspective)
Wed, May 8, 2013, 4:56pm (UTC -5)
Prime directive did not exist at this time.
"If Archer gave the Valakians the cure the Menk would have remained in serfdom."
How in the hell do you know that? Episode gives us no reason to believe that all, or even most of Valakians think the way Menk are treated is okay and that they will trat them like this forever. Hell, the treated way better than white people treated black people a hundred years ago. doe
"Archer's refusal to hand over the cure doesn't necessarily doom the Valakians; they could after all find their own cure. They still have a couple of centuries according to Phlox. "
Oh yeah, if I see a guy dying and he askes me for help, or get someone who can help and I tell him to fuck off, I am totaly not partly reponsbile for death. After all, someone else might come and help him.
"By not giving them the cure Archer left it up to nature, and the Valakians, to decide the fate of their own world. By giving them the cure, Archer would have been deciding the fate of their world for them."
BULLSHIT! The nature isn't a concious being, it didn't select Valakians to die. By your logic, doctors shouldn't cure anyone ever, because the nature will decide whether he lives or dies.
Decide? So what, you think they are not sure, whether they wannt to die or not? You are saying this, like if they have any power over the situation. They decided, they don't want to die, but they ar unable to help themselves. Deciding their fate for them is EXACTLY what Phlox and Archer did. Only way your insane logic of "deciding fate of their world" could work, is they gave them the cure and Valakians were left to choose whether to use it or not.
Phlox's comaparison to Earth's past when Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals coexisted sums up the situation nicely. If an alien culture had given the neanderthals a leg up, what then?
Nothing. It already happened in Star Trek and it did jackshit.
I'm sorry, but you are an idiot. This isn't a matter of opinion. this is justifing letting thousands of people die for no reason.
Wed, May 8, 2013, 5:22pm (UTC -5)
Thu, May 9, 2013, 7:55pm (UTC -5)
From this "how come" point of view it would have been far more interesting if the writers decided to show us how that Prime Directive came to be. (It might also have prevented this whole discussion...)
Let's say Archer acts as a human being and tries to help them, with terrible results, thus making the space faring Earthlings rethink and re-evaluate their evident and ethical imperative, leading to the restriction called the "Prime Directive".
This weird episode is about the foreshadow of the prime directive (Archer almost mentions the name literally) yet does not tell us why the Prime Directive came into being.
It basically tells us: Archer sits on his hands "because", and millions die. That's the Prime Directive. It could have been: Archer _does_ act and as a result millions die. The prime directive comes into being.
Thu, May 9, 2013, 8:40pm (UTC -5)
You basically claim that scale is an excuse to abandon principles and that analogies are unwise to use here. Yet you use an analogy yourself when you say "if the beings the Enterprise encountered weren't sentient, but some sort of higher primate below that level of evolution, I don't think there would be a moral outrage about allowing nature to take its course" to explain your own point of view.
Crucial in this story is that it's not humans interfering with others, but others interfering with humans. The aliens came to the rest of the universe in a bid for help, not the other way around.
It _has_ ethical implications for humans - on any scale, and certainly in the Star Trek future - to turn down a plea for help. That is the reason why some of the analogies here are perfectly valid. They're not about interference, but about responding to a plea for help.
If you want to explain why such a directive came into being, it's only logical to assume that an inexperienced captain of the human race makes an understandable decision that turns out awfully wrong.
The series developers came up with the idea of the prime directive to remind the viewers of what had happened in history shouldn't happen again. South-American native people encountering Europeans, Native Americans meeting the newcomers. And so on. Never again, so they taught the viewers
The devastating results of introducing _technology_ (and not medical assistance) to people who would be endangered in their existence because they wouldn't know how to handle it. It never applied to people who didn't ask for help.
That's the weak point of this story. Coming back to your analogy: animals don't ask for help. People who don't know that there are ready made solutions out there don't ask for it either.
From the human's point of view it's not about pull, it's about push.
This is a pull situation: the aliens actively ask for help, and help was refused based on "maybe, someday, and maybe this or that, and could well be that one time in the future...."
The prime directive is not about scale and speculation, it's about caution and learning from earlier mistakes. If someone defends the prime directive with the words that it might be bigoted and arbitrary - then there sure is something wrong with it. Bigotry certainly doesn't indicate "large thinking". On the contrary.
Sat, May 25, 2013, 9:18am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jun 17, 2013, 1:29am (UTC -5)
Hell once I even helped an arthritic old man who could hardly move his fingers, all disheveled with mickey mouse t-shirt and dirty stains all over him with wild hair and a crazier food dusted beard, shouting, "Help, Help me please!" while nicely dressed men and woman, looked down and scuttled past or told him to, "Get the fuck away from me!" Poor guy couldn't pull papers out of his front pocket that he needed for an appointment at a nearby store. No one would even ask WHAT'S THE PROBLEM! "Whoa now, what's the problem?" I said.
I get sad and a little angry at my fellow man remembering that poor old dude. He'd been through enough, help that guy out. I guess I'm an old softie at heart. So yeah, looking at it as a Cry for Help rather than a Non-Interference issue... yeah I'd help. Well said CeeBee. Got me thinking.
I DO disagree though with your comment on Elliot's analogy. The only thing wrong with Elliot's analogy is that he made it. I can only conclude he wasn't thinking since he had just taken a swipe at analogies. Cut out some of the snark around the edges a minor instance of personal bias and a few crudities that have no place in a debate and you get...
(para-phrasing) Elliot - "The point of the Prime Directive (and its prequel ruminations here) is that it is a policy which is meant to handle a moral situation which is larger than what a human being can cope with. In our own world and time, the implications of helping, curing or arming a foreign country is fuzzy territory and it should be. By the time we're dealing with entire planets and cultures on those planets, ordinary human compassion and empathy (and morality) are insufficient. The point of moral debate comes in when it becomes decided that a certain level of human progress must be achieved (Warp drive in the PD's case) to consider a species evolved enough to qualify for human-like sentience."
Presto, now it can be examined from an interference/non-interference standpoint - instead of the emotionalism of the "Cry for Help" scenario. (ie, "Who CAN we interfere with/help?" Now examine the arbitrary line drawn for helping (interfering) only with warp capable species. That's the crux, that arbitrary line.
I have always had a problem with rules and I don't mean that in the rebellious sort of way. I mean sorts of things like "Rules of Conduct for Captains." Why is Starfleet promoting people to Captain that do not conduct themselves properly? Starbuck from BSG is a perfect example of this. Great pilot great tactical instincts but she does not conduct herself as befitting an officer. She should never have been promoted to her positions. She is a great pilot, let her fly. She has great tactical instincts, ask her advice and listen when she offers it.
Why should a Starfleet Captain need a rule to tell him not to get involved in things when instead Starfleet should be training Captains who can decide for themselves if something is too big to get involved in or not and whose decisions (whatever they may be) can be trusted to reflect only the best ideals and principles of Starfleet?
Guess I'm saying they need to chuck the prime directive and instead re-examine their officer candidacy processes.
Mon, Jun 24, 2013, 3:27pm (UTC -5)
Larger Thinking, as I define it here indicates the understanding that morality is not absolute, that *reacting* is insufficient.
Yes, the aliens (forgive me, I'm on a phone and don't want to keep scrolling for the spelling) asked for help; but what does that help imply? If Archer gave them the cure, that would implicate Earth and this planet in a vital relationship. That relationship would inevitably force humans to interfere in all the ways we otherwise prohibit with the aliens' culture. The technology gap would mean that either A) the humans would have to being the alien culture up to its level [something the PD would eventually condone with warp-capable species] or B) humans would remain the superior partner in an unequal partnership, engendering its own problems.
Yes, it feels right to save lives and it's easy to claim that this imperative supersedes all other considerations, but it is ultimately irresponsible. Cultures must find their own way until they are capable of entering a larger community of cultures--of course then the process must start over. Ego evolves to family to tribe to nation to state to planet to (federation) to...who knows?
Mon, Jun 24, 2013, 6:47pm (UTC -5)
I read that as an analogy, ironically placed after a slap at analogies. If I'm incorrect perhaps you need to educate me on how that's not an analogy.
Besides that minor quibble - and the other minor quibble that ego can be maintained within the collective family/tribe/nation/state/planet etc - I DO agree with you from an interference/non-interference stance. On detecting a pre-warp space vessel with life-signs, I would have never stopped to begin with. Here's a sentient species beginning their own voyage into the unknown - who am I to interfere and rob them of the joys of discovery and the tragedy of failure that my own species had to endure?
I believe my morals were referred to as "abhorrent" when making a similar argument to yours :)
I might have to watch the first 10 minutes of this episode again to see if they ever even approached the Enterprise or if it was Archer that assisted them just thinking they looked like they needed help.
Tue, Jun 25, 2013, 11:29am (UTC -5)
Pardon me, but how and why would saving a species force Starfleet into a continuing relationship? If the species wanted more help, help that Starfleet felt was inappropriate, they could always just say no.
Furthermore, what's so magical about the dividing line between warp and pre warp? Why is it okay to help the Klingons after their mooon blew up but not okay to prevent an entire species from wiping out?
And how about Bajor? While it technically had warp capability, it also was a society that had been ravaged, and was only one planet, compared to an entire Federation of over 100 planets. By your standards, it was wrong for the Federation to engage in a rebuilding project. And it would be wrong to help the Cardassians after being decimated by the Dominion war. Seems to me in your world the only people its permissible to help are those who are powerful enough they don't need it.
Tue, Jun 25, 2013, 12:36pm (UTC -5)
"If the species wanted more help, help that Starfleet felt was inappropriate, they could always just say no."
So, if, for example, Phlox' cure caused a serious genetic defect in, say, one third of the population--not enough to wipe out the species, but enough to be a hardship--should Starfleet seek to correct the problem? Or should they simply care for the ailing population, set up hospitals and embassies? The idea that Starfleet can step in, no matter how well-intentioned, fix a single problem and then walk away is a silly fantasy. Actions have consequences, most of which cannot be easily predicted.
Warp drive is (currently) a fictional technology. It is arbitrary but it represents, in the context of this fiction, a leap forward in our evolution. It marks a fundamental shift in our ability to interact with the larger universe. What that marker will actually be (if we make it that far) in the future no one can say, but in this hypothetical future it's a sensible option. If a species is ready to enter the larger cosmological community (warp-capable), then the scenarios above (continued interference, embassies, etc) is a natural next step even if there weren't an epidemic to cure. The same goes for Bajor; one of the running plots of DS9 was about Bajor's admittance into the Federation, and helping the Bajorans recover from the Occupation wasn't a quick-fix.
I applaud helping others, but not blindly and not without being willing and able to take full responsibility for the relationship one engenders by doing so.
@Rosario : An analogy is like algebra combined with a simile :
A is a letter in the word Athena.
1 is a digit in the numeral 31.
A is like 1 in that it is a unit in a larger linguistic construction.
Thus an analogy is born. Now, one can make comparisons:
If without '1', '31' could not exist, then without 'A', 'Athena' could not exist.
The problem is, you lose something fundamental in making the analogy: 'Athena' is a word, yes, but in our lexicon automatically has a huge number of associations and deeper meanings. The same can be true of '31'--though the associations are bound to be more abstract (for example on this site "Section 31"). The point is, the analogy between the two constructs tells you nothing about those deeper meanings, and the meanings themselves cannot survive the comparison. How can I fit Athena being born of Zeus' head and the jealousy of Hera and the prayers of ancient Greek soldiers into an analogy with '31'?
The same thing occurs when you expand one human to an entire race--the analogy fails.
My comment which you quoted is not reducing or expanding anything--I was simply stating that the crux of the moral outrage had nothing to do with compassion or evolution but with egocentricity to the human condition (homo sapiens sapiens-centricity, I suppose). I could have said, plainly, "I believe the moral outrage about nature taking its course stems from a human-centric perspective, one that would never extend to lower animals, despite evolution affecting them every bit as much as us." Thus, my argument requires no analogy. It was simply wryer (or "snarkier" to borrow from you) to phrase it the way I did, using a construction that resembles an analogy.
Thu, Jun 27, 2013, 12:19pm (UTC -5)
So because of potential future complications, its better to let an entire race die? I will admit, dead people tend be less complicated and make less demands.
Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 9:54pm (UTC -5)
If I cure a sick man of a disease, I am not obligated to interfere with anything else in his life. If my cure causes problems, then yes -- I am obligated to help fix the problem...but you can't necessarily make the leap to total interference.
"So, if, for example, Phlox' cure caused a serious genetic defect in, say, one third of the population--not enough to wipe out the species, but enough to be a hardship--should Starfleet seek to correct the problem?...Actions have consequences, most of which cannot be easily predicted."
Even granting your example, what you're saying here is that only being able to cure a condition in two out of every three people in a society, and thus continue the existence of both those people and the society, should give Phlox serious pause about curing the disease at all. At its best, that would only be an excuse to refuse to administer the cure for a set period of time to see if a better option might be discovered.
"Cultures must find their own way until they are capable of entering a larger community of cultures..."
The Valakians had previous contact with warp-faring cultures, and were able to call for help. They're clearly already a part (albeit a fringe part) of a larger community of worlds, which -- on your own assumptions -- moots any argument against helping them just because they can't travel faster than light.
Also, I think your analogy about analogies is the analogy that failed...
Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 10:04pm (UTC -5)
Yes, I know that your point is -- what if Phlox administers the cure, and then tragedy strikes? It's a fair question. Here's another one: if you don't have a thorough medical workup on a dying man, why give him a medicine to which he might potentially be allergic? You have no way of knowing what the consequences would be if you administer the dose. The obvious answer, of course, and the one that scuttles your argument, is that you know perfectly well what will happen if you don't.
I am not saying that always and everywhere, one should disregard potential harms if there is an obvious harm to be avoided. In fact, as a general rule, it's better to avoid interfering without sufficient knowledge. But at a certain point, when the obvious harm is serious enough, risking the potential harm is clearly a better course of action. Where that line should be drawn is a subject for debate, but in this case, I'm fairly certain you're on the wrong side of it.
Tue, Sep 3, 2013, 11:40am (UTC -5)
Otherwise, it's a fine episode.
Sun, Sep 8, 2013, 10:53am (UTC -5)
As others have pointed out, it's not just a question of whether or not to interfere at all. Phlox was perfectly willing to help find a cure until he discovers it is genetic. Then, all of the sudden, it becomes off-limits because "Evolution" - which gets deified and basically presented as a being who has orchestrated a Divine Plan - must not be "interfered with" and the fact that the problem is genetic shows that Evolution, in His Infintite Wisdom, has decided they must die for reasons far beyond the understanding of mere mortals. We must obey the will of Evolution!
Ironically, many of those here arguing this viewpoint are completely oblivious to its religious nature and believe they are being scientific.
Others have already pointed out how ludicrous and destructive such a mentality would be if taken to its logical conclusion, but on a personal level, I know someone with Down Syndrome. I for one am glad that doctors on Earth don't stop trying to find cures for people like her because it would be "unethical" to interfere with Evolution's will.
Sat, Sep 21, 2013, 5:27pm (UTC -5)
I think they could have reached some accomadation, or negotiated a deal with the valakians to give the Menk more autotonamy.
Maybe The evolutionary leap Phlox predicts NEEDS The winnowing out of people who are likely to die after the valakinas are gone, in order to happen.
Having a Cure, DEFINITELY gives you a sizable bargaining chip.
Should be able to negotiate for anything up to a continent.
Thu, Oct 10, 2013, 3:25pm (UTC -5)
Regardless of the philosophical and moral implications, a good episode.
Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 1:06pm (UTC -5)
All disease is natural, a doctor is fighting nature every time they cure someone. It is absurd to say "This disease is natural, therefore I will not cure it." The cure was not withheld due to the Prime Directive. It was withheld because the Doctor decided to play God, decided that the Valakians ought to die so that the Merk can thrive. We'd be offended by a "WHITES ONLY" sign on a hospital, this is no different. If a doctor decided that only white people deserved to be treated, and that he was going to let those he deemed to be inferior die, he'd be condemned. This is no different. Just because the doctor thought that the Merk could only thrive if the Valakians died out doesn't make it true. Yes, this is an analogy, but it is an apt one. The only reason there is complaint against analogies is that it is inconvenient to have to go against such potent evidence.
It was only MUCH later that the Federation adopted a policy of no first contact unless a society had warp drive, and even then, it's more of a guideline - the Valakians contacted the Enterprise that's more than sufficient to merit first contact, even under the more stringent standards found by the TNG. The Federation doesn't involve itself with precontact civilizations, but one contact is made, they aren't precontact civilizations. Providing medical aid to a species that you have made contact with when they request it isn't a violation of the Prime Directive.
Sat, Nov 9, 2013, 1:35pm (UTC -5)
However, I am puzzled as to how many have commented on the Menk. The Menk have nothing to do with the fundamental question in this episode.
Let me give you an analogy of my own:
1. Mankind, as we speak, is dying. Regardless of what the future of the universe may be, in a few billion years, according to our present knowledge, as our sun expands into a red giant, life on Earth will die.
2. Imagine that one of these days mankind meets Q - good, old, quasi-omnipotent Q. And that we ask him to deliver us from that terrible, distant fate: "Please, Q, transport the Earth to a nice place where mankind can live happily - if not ever after, then at least for a few hundred billion years more!..."
3. Imagine that Q then answers: "I'm sorry, you sordid, puny civilization, but this is one trouble you'll have to sort out for yourselves".
Would anyone accuse Q of committing "genocide"? Of course not.
Perhaps mankind will have escaped our solar system long before the Sun expands to a red giant. Perhaps we will have become extinct long before that. Q's decision not to interfere merely places responsability where it should be: in our own hands.
This is fundamentally what we see in this episode - a civilization threatened by future extinction, with still some time left to try and find a solution to the problems it faces. As I said, the Menk have nothing to do with the real issue: Phlox & Archer don't choose the Menk over the Valakians. And how anyone can accuse Archer & Co. of "genocide" is beyond me - if the Valakians do eventually die out, it will be due to their inability to find a solution to their problems, not due to foreign intervention.
Think of the technological advances of the past decades on Earth. Several of these, some decades ago, allowed us for example to help people with difficulty in conceiving to have babies of their own. And now, several decades later, research suggests that on average, those who were conceived thanks to such technologies have somewhat greater difficulty themselves in conceiving than the average population. What will happen if/when those people also receive technological help to conceive? How many generations will it take before we have succeeding in "breeding" an otherwise barren "sub-species" that can only conceive by technological means?
This interesting example illustrates the questions that Phlox and Archer realize they're dealing with in this episode: altering the future of an entire species on an unknown but potentially massive scale. Actions do have consequences: this is not merely a question of being a Good Samaritan, even if many here seem to think so. And naturally Archer declines to take that responsability: it's not his - or indeed, Earth's - to take.
A great episode.
Sun, Nov 10, 2013, 6:16pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 10, 2013, 8:44pm (UTC -5)
A civilisation is not a person, a species is not an individual, any more than a corporation is a voter (no matter what current convoluted Supreme Court decisions may declare). Agreeing with Archer @ Co. here in no way suggests that "no one should ever help anyone". How ridiculous.
Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 10:55am (UTC -5)
"Would anyone accuse Q of committing "genocide"? Of course not."
1. Valakians weren't asking Archer to resolve all their problems, just to help them from dying out or give them technology to ge someone who could help them.
2. I didn't know happenning to have better technology and be more advanced in the field of science is like being all powerful omnipotent being.
3. If we would ask Q for help and he would say he'll give it a try and then change his mind at the last minute because he has some insane pseudoscientific theory, then yes, of course atleast some people would accuse him of it.
4. Sun will explode one day, Valakians are dying right now.
"As I said, the Menk have nothing to do with the real issue: Phlox & Archer don't choose the Menk over the Valakians."
Yes they do. That's Phlox's argument, his theory (and yes, it is just a theory) is the whole reason he did it. He thinks that Menk might evolve into something different but it won't happen because of Valakians so he thinks evolution maybe somehow choosed them to die.
"And how anyone can accuse Archer & Co. of "genocide" is beyond me - if the Valakians do eventually die out, it will be due to their inability to find a solution to their problems, not due to foreign intervention."
When a doctor is perfectly capable of curing his patient but refuses it's considered murder.
This interesting example illustrates the questions that Phlox and Archer realize they're dealing with in this episode: altering the future of an entire species on an unknown but potentially massive scale. Actions do have consequences: this is not merely a question of being a Good Samaritan, even if many here seem to think so. And naturally Archer declines to take that responsability: it's not his - or indeed, Earth's - to take."
Yes we don't know what is going to happen if they give them the cure. But there is no indication anything bad would happen. And we know a lot of bad will happen if they don't.
Tue, Dec 10, 2013, 8:43pm (UTC -5)
"Think of the technological advances of the past decades on Earth. Several of these, some decades ago, allowed us for example to help people with difficulty in conceiving to have babies of their own. And now, several decades later, research suggests that on average, those who were conceived thanks to such technologies have somewhat greater difficulty themselves in conceiving than the average population. What will happen if/when those people also receive technological help to conceive? How many generations will it take before we have succeeding in "breeding" an otherwise barren "sub-species" that can only conceive by technological means?"
What an interesting question. Not sure that it fits in this topic so I won't take it up but very interesting indeed.
Tue, Jan 21, 2014, 5:55am (UTC -5)
Looking back though, I can only reiterate my complaint that the show never properly demonstrated and explained **WHY** non-interference in the development of pre-warp civilisations is so important. It was drummed into us from the beginning of Trek as the Prime Directive and we were always just kind of expected to accept this rule of wisdom. I always expected Enterprise to explain it.
The nearest thing we got was this episode, which doesn't explain it at all, and instead just adds fuel to the "why the FISH do we have this silly non-interference rule?" fire.
Great episode, terrible series.
Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
Firstly, Star Trek is entertaining TV fantasy drama. But it's lousey Science fiction. Apart from warp drive (which may actually,maybe,just possibly work) the things ST does to true science is what normally happens in an extreme porn film. This is because ST is mostly written by normal TV scriptwriters with a bit of help from the odd real sci fi writer or real scientist, who they mostly ignore for the sake of a good story. Now the problem with Hollywood scriptwriters is they do like to act the great philosopher and sci fi gives them lots of opportunity to do so. So, these half wits get involved with huge moral questions like the ones in "Dear Doctor" and then display their ignorance.
Now the great thing about TOS was the concept of the Prine directive and Kirk's attitude towards it. For Kirk, the Prime Directive was basic guidence, BUT reality, pragmatism and compassion ment that very often, he rightly ignored it.
When TNG came along, the prime directive was absolutely binding and going around it was almost a capital offence, federation PC. Reality, pragmatism and compassion went out the window.
Mix this worship of the prime directive with some Eugenics and bad evolutionary theory and you get the utter moral mess that is "Dear Doctor".
Consider this. We are trying to save and conserve the Giant Panda, even though it is an evolutionary dead end. Why? Compassion. We try to save primative tribes in the Amazon basin. They are threatened by being in the way of loggers and cattle farmers, as well as genetic susceptabilities to the deseases of modern man. Why? Compassion.
The morals of Dear Doctor say all these things should be allowed to die, that compassion should never count and should be ignored. People with no compassion have scientific names. Sociopaths and Psychopaths.
Now as old Flox uses very bad concepts of evolution (there is no genetic "judge" making judgements on who should live or die, there is certainly no genetic imperative for one race to get out of the way of another.) and a complete lack of compassion, what is he? Psychopath quoting bad science? Joseph Goebbels?
I've been checking out the forums and youtube comments pages to see peoples views on "Dear Doctor". It's about 20/1 negative with most saying the considered this episode "offensive" and "fascist". I agree totally and I think those who comment that Flox & Archer make the right decision really need to look at their own moral compass. Or see a analyst to see if they are psychopaths as apparantly there are quite a lot of them about.
If you want some good sci fi that deals with a "post scarcity society" like the Federation, may I recommend the "Culture" novels by Iain M Banks. The Culture is a vastly powerful advanced (Federation plus several thousand years) utopia with citizens living idyllic lives due to the brilliance of the technology. But it certainly has no prime directive. The prime directive would make a Culture citizen puke. There is only right & wrong, good or evil and the Culture WILL get involved, you just might not notice as they are very subtle. And frankly, The Culture is a lot more believable than the Federation.
Thu, Jan 23, 2014, 4:42pm (UTC -5)
The prime directive is morally wrong.
Thu, Jan 23, 2014, 5:34pm (UTC -5)
I still think it's morally wrong.
Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 10:59am (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 2:45pm (UTC -5)
Well, it would be if the discussion weren't incredibly one-sided. I have not yet seen an argument from the side in favour of genoci- err, "non-interference" that wasn't poorly thought out and/or easily taken apart and shown to be ridiculous. Not to mention the science behind the dilemma is fundamentally flawed and the rest of the episode is rather plodding and boring as well.
Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 5:32pm (UTC -5)
I suppose you don't count Jammer's own review as a "thought out"/non-ridiculous argument in favour of this episode. While I don't agree that much discussion and/or controversy = quality episode, I don't think the fact that so many on this or other boards wag their morally superior fingers at the episode indicates a particular flaw in the episode either.
For what it's worth, on this board, most of the anti-Archer/Phlox posts are repetitions of the same argument; letting people die for "no reason" is wrong, and it is *wronger* when multiplied to the level of an entire species. There have been fewer but more diverse opinions which support this episode's position including my own that is : however emotionally repugnant the actions of non-interference may feel, the ability to reason at a level above emotionalism is a necessary part of venturing out into space filled with alien cultures.
Wed, May 14, 2014, 7:52pm (UTC -5)
I feel physically sick.
Phlox: "We didn't come out here to play God", what a ridiculous thing to say. One society helping another in a matter of compassion and suffering is not playing God. WITHHOLDING help because of your ultimate high-minded designs for the millennial descendants of the ant-like creatures on the surface below IS PLAYING GOD.
Phlox: "I'm saying we let nature decide." this from a Denobulan? The same Denobulans who gleefully indulge in all kinds of genetic engineering and who have prospered as a result? The same Denobulans who found the wisdom to say "to hell with nature" because they realized that nature doesn't give a damn about your welfare so long as you manage to have kids? What a complete subversion of Phlox's character. As well as a totally regressive attitude in general.
One race needs to die, to get out of the way of the stronger, smarter, more worthy race. Where have I heard that before?
Sat, May 31, 2014, 9:22am (UTC -5)
Sat, May 31, 2014, 1:35pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 18, 2014, 11:55am (UTC -5)
The Prime Directive exists as a means of preventing the Butterfly Effect from coming back and biting you in the ass later on. You don't do things which could potentially have massive consequences, when you have no way of reliably predicting what those consequences are.
That means, that yes, you let Nature take its' course. If Phlox is taking that stance here, it's not a case of him being a hypocrite as a Denobulan. It's a case of him actually making the *correct* decision for once, with the Denobulans having a history off usually making the wrong ones. Remember the Eugenics Wars?
That is exactly the kind of mess, as well as things like the slaughter of the Native Americans etc, that the Prime Directive is intended to prevent. That also means, however, that lack of involvement is occasionally going to *appear* to cause some attrocities of its' own, such as in the case here. It is worth remembering, however, that non-interference is *not* the same thing as active complicity.
Phlox and Archer refusing to get involved, simply resulted in the events which would have happened if the Enterprise had never showed up at all. Despite that resulting in the death of a race, it is still the best decision; and the reason why, is because it is the *only* decision which they can make, which has an entirely predictable outcome. The only way that you can take complete responsibility for both your actions and their consequences, is if you know precisely what said consequences are.
Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 1:00pm (UTC -5)
Also, the idea that the best decision is the one with the most "predictable outcome" is ridiculous. How about destroying the aliena' atmosphere and killing them all - you know EXACTLY what the result of that will be!
Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 6:54am (UTC -5)
I seem to remember Beverly getting in Picard's face and winning the argument on a couple of occasions.
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 6:20am (UTC -5)
The Prime Directive has good motivations, to be sure, but it's ended up being a rather horrific and unenlightened philosophy. It ends up operating on the Hitler argument. If there's a child in a burning building, should you not save that child because he could potentially become the next Hitler? No of course not. Because if you operate on fear of what is to come, you'd never leave your house.
Janeway's mindless (at least on the part of the writers, I interpret it as her being extremely depressed and hinting at her character in Endgame) quote in Pathfinder that exploration is not worth losing lives. Not even one. Which directly contradicts one of the greatest quotes in Star Trek:
Capt. Picard: I understand what you've done here, Q. But I think the lesson could have been learned without the loss of 18 members of my crew.
Q: If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid.
Q is absolutely right. We can't be afraid that this society may end up conquering the galaxy if we save it. Or that we might end up being colonial if we go help people in need. Remember DS9. Starfleet helped the Bajoran people because they were asked. Even though helping Bajor get back on their feet would have been a violation of the Prime Directive, they did it because it was the right thing to do.
Should the Federation ignore every distress call? Ignore every cry for help? Simply because we don't know what's going to happen? That seems to fly in the face of Roddenberrian ethics. What kind of society would we be when we are hardened to pleas for help and don't act upon them? Why would anyone want to join the Federation when they're dealing with such an amoral philosophy (presumably because you don't get help unless you're in the Federation already bloody fascist idiots).
The Hitler argument also takes on a rather religious tone to it. Not just in the dogmatic "Do it because I say so" tone, but also because of the belief in some cosmic plan. We don't know if helping these people will lead to them doing horrible things, therefore we shouldn't help them, implies that some god is out there planning all this. You notice this in Phlox and Archer's arguments in this episode and also in this video with Riker's arguments. Who'd have thought the Federation could be so religious huh?
Which is also pretty anti-Roddenberry. And people accuse DS9 of being pro-religion when they have the most blatant anti-faith message of them all. Perhaps it's because it was subtle in the fall of Weyoun and didn't beat you over the head with it like Who Watches the Watchers.
Ultimately the Prime Directive ends up being a dogmatic belief that seems to measure the main characters' morality on whether they're willing to break it to save people or not. The Prime Directive is not law handed down from on high. It is a rule made up by humans (and all the other aliens in the Federation). It's not scripture written on a stone tablet like the ten commandments (unless that's really what Star Trek is, just another form of dogmatism). It can and should be broken if it's the moral thing to do so.
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 6:31am (UTC -5)
I'm sorry, however did you reach that conclusion? Or perhaps I misunderstood? The fact that so many Trek fans take offense at this episode proofs to me that really this (and possibly the entire Enterprise show) doesn't deserve the Trek label."
Unfortunately, no. Enterprise is a symptom of a larger problem with Trek. At least with this Prime Directive bit. See my previous post. While the TOS/TNG crews would break it to prevent civilizations from being wiped out, TNG and VOY did just the opposite at times. Both Picard and Janeway would be content to watch whole groups of people die just because they don't know what might happen if they saved them. Again, the religious motivation of "there's some cosmic plan that we can't possibly perceive and it's terribly arrogant of us to think that we should have the right to come along and interfere in that plan."
Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 7:31am (UTC -5)
P.S. As, yes, it does fit the Prime Directive. And yes, it means that the Prime Directive is an evil thing, forbidding the strong to help the weak. It real-time origin is probably the "colonial guilt", so common amongst Western intellectuals.
Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 5:05pm (UTC -5)
The people who came up with the prime directive were probably very much afraid that, if not them, future generations would exploit and conquer other worlds. The problem, of course, is that it's far too restrictive. It makes out that we shouldn't even respond to a distress call for fear that we ourselves won't be able to control our behavior and take advantage of the situation, exploiting the resources of the people in distress.
Although, I think the beginning of it was fine. The idea that we shouldn't communicate with pre-warp civilizations or interfere with any other alien's cultural development. Ok. I can see why they'd want a directive like that. It makes sense that the Federation, as a tolerant society, would tolerate alien cultures and moralities even if anti-thetical to their own. And it also makes sense to not interfere with pre-warp civilizations, people who are very easily conquered if given the chance.
However it ends up going farther then that, as this episode and many a Voyager/TNG episode shows. It's taken to the conclusion that we should never interfere in the internal affairs of these alien cultures even if the aliens themselves are on the verge of extinction. And this is where the Prime Directive gets into truly immoral territory. It seems to imply that we should ignore any calls for help: as this episode seems to think. Which is utterly and completely immoral. By any standard. Even Vulcan standards with their also immoral: "Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" argument. Although the two are quite different: one being ignoring a cry for help and the other implying that it'd be ok to non-consensually harvest organs from homeless people to save doctors who will save more people.
Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 6:16pm (UTC -5)
The situation in this episode is analogous to preservationists who hunt and kill predators in order to maintain ecological equilibrium in delicate systems--killing in order to preserve the balance of life. Now, before someone gets obtuse and accuses me of condoning euthanasia or genocide, let me be clear that I acknowledge that possessing sentience changes the game. We don't kill human beings in overpopulated regions, nor should we, of course.
But...we *are* talking about entire species here, not members of our own species. A species is not sentient, a species does not have a soul. We are talking about 2 aliens who just happened across this situation about which they know only what their instruments and gut tell them deciding to radically alter the DNA of an entire species because they feel badly for them. We're not even talking about prolonging individual lives--most of the Valakians we encounter in this episode will live out normal life spans. We're talking about Archer and co. deciding that future, yet-to-be born generations of this race should have their DNA basically rewritten in order to not *become* extinct. We humans have evolved the ability to propagate our species beyond the limits of what "Nature" provided us (this is the paradox at the heart of morality). And we know how many problems have arisen as a result of that ability on Earth--overpopulation, global warming, health crises. So, we've opened this Pandora's Box, and we have do deal with it. In the Star Trek future, humans basically have dealt with it, and it took centuries.
Unless humanity is going to permanently adopt the Valakians and the Menk, they have no right to so fundamentally alter their civilisation. And I doubt anyone here would find it moral for humanity to take charge of this planet and direct its evolution by our own standards! THAT is arrogant presumption.
What's great about this episode's take on the Prime Directive is precisely the nuanced approach which can be missing from some stories (like, say, "Prototype"). Archer and Phlox aren't just obeying a protocol, they are using deductive reasoning and adopting a cosmological perspective, beautifully showcasing humanity itself taking another evolutionary step forward.
I'm reminded of the TNG episode "Transfigurations," where a species resented and persecuted those members who were crossing an evolutionary threshold. They were afraid of change because it was so unfamiliar as to seem threatening. Morality is not an absolute, handed down from the gods for all time; it must evolve with the rest of our consciousness. I'm so utterly dismayed that the comments on this episode in the, what, 40th year after Star Trek first aired display such enmity to this notion.
Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
What the hell are you talking about? How does this episode have anything to do with people killing predators? We're not talking about one species killing another here. We're talking about a species dying of a genetic disease. I think most of us who so despise this episode's (and other episodes like it) take on the Prime Directive would agree that the Federation should not get involved in two species waging war on each other as a general rule, although it's probably best to consider on a case by case basis.
"But...we *are* talking about entire species here, not members of our own species. A species is not sentient, a species does not have a soul. We are talking about 2 aliens who just happened across this situation about which they know only what their instruments and gut tell them deciding to radically alter the DNA of an entire species because they feel badly for them. We're not even talking about prolonging individual lives--most of the Valakians we encounter in this episode will live out normal life spans. We're talking about Archer and co. deciding that future, yet-to-be born generations of this race should have their DNA basically rewritten in order to not *become* extinct."
The fact that this is a genetic disease that's wiping out these people really doesn't change the fact that the disease is wiping out these people. Do we decide to not cure all genetic diseases? Things like Autism, Cancer, Parkinson's, and many others. The fact that it's genetic doesn't change the fact that we try to stop it. Imagine if Cancer were such an epidemic that a third of all humans now had cancer, basically what's going on in this episode. Would you still believe that it's somehow a good idea to not change the DNA to stop Cancer? What if literally everyone on the planet had Cancer like the planet in the DS9 episode The Quickening (Bashir curing it being a violation of this version of the Prime Directive, by the way and only curing it by giving an immunization for the babies)? Should we just let all of our species die because... what? Because we shouldn't tamper with our DNA? Why? Because we don't know what the consequences will be? See my above post then.
And going on your predator/prey analogy, does that mean that we should never try to cure even non-genetic diseases? Because you're infected with viruses or bacteria, the analogous predator. Does this mean that we should just get rid of doctors all together because we're so arrogant that we're interfering with the balance of nature?
"Unless humanity is going to permanently adopt the Valakians and the Menk, they have no right to so fundamentally alter their civilisation. And I doubt anyone here would find it moral for humanity to take charge of this planet and direct its evolution by our own standards! THAT is arrogant presumption."
We're not talking about these people radically changing a society. We're talking about curing a genetic disease that's killing a third of the population. I'm sure their culture is going to change since a third of their people won't be dying anymore. But how is that a bad thing? Wouldn't we all like to see an end to cancer and AIDS? If we were to end them our culture would change sure, but so what? It would be for the better.
"yet-to-be born generations of this race should have their DNA basically rewritten in order to not *become* extinct."
Yes. Exactly. Would you find it morally permissible to allow babies to be born with a genetic disease that will certainly kill them when you have the ability to keep them from being born with it? Again, see The Quickening which comes to the exact opposite conclusion. Presumably made before the Prime Directive was so perverted into thinking it was a bad thing to answer a distress call.
"They were afraid of change because it was so unfamiliar as to seem threatening. Morality is not an absolute, handed down from the gods for all time; it must evolve with the rest of our consciousness. I'm so utterly dismayed that the comments on this episode in the, what, 40th year after Star Trek first aired display such enmity to this notion."
You know what image would be appropriate here?
Yeah that's about it. You really think that people arguing against this immoral version of the Prime Directive are afraid of change? Are you serious? That's what we call, in the debating world, a strawman. I don't even know where you got this.
Look, if you're going to accept tolerance as a high moral, as the Federation does (theoretically), then you're going to have to accept that people disagree with you. Not because they're immoral. Not because they're bad people. Not because they're afraid of change. Not because they have some secret conspiracy to stay in power (although that has been known to happen of course). Or any other strawman you can come up with. But because they disagree with you.
Ultimately, though, if morality evolves towards the idea that we should just straight up ignore calls for help, I really don't want to be a part of this Federation. Which is why I chose to ignore the episodes that pretend like the Prime Directive is like that.
Elliot, there's a reason why so many people hate this episode. And why so many people consider it immoral. It comes down to something very very basic.
"adopting a cosmological perspective"
Refer to what I said above. In other words, they're assuming that there's some sort of grand cosmic plan and they'd be extremely arrogant to interfere with this plan. As I said before, who knew the Federation could be so dogmatically religious?
Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 9:29pm (UTC -5)
Didn't finish my statement sorry. The reason people consider it immoral is because it is. Think of a doctor's responsibility: to heal. And to heal anyone who asks for help. Not just his allies. And not just people in his alliance. Remember how outraged you were about the Federation not giving the Founders the cure in The Dogs of War. Why were you outraged at that? The Federation shouldn't give out help because of the Prime Directive right? Hell, the Founders didn't even ask the Federation for help. It wasn't a distress call, yet you were still mad about it. But why are you so quick to say that it's a bad thing to help people who ask for help but not a bad thing to help people who don't ask for help?
Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 9:35pm (UTC -5)
I'll just drop this video here for the moment:
Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 10:15pm (UTC -5)
Yes absolutely. However Phlox in this episode did not do this. He made evolution out to be some sort of god and then pretended like we shouldn't interfere with the cosmic plan of evolution. So not exactly reasoning at its best. Unless you think magical thinking is reasonable then by all means.
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 12:34am (UTC -5)
And there's the obtuseness; the analogy has to do with the fact that the episode implies that the evolutionary balance on this planet is shifting. Remember Voyager's “Distant Origin”? The Saurians developed from dinosaurs into a sentient race that managed to achieve spaceflight before the asteroid hit and destroyed most of the higher lifeforms on Earth. If not for that calamity, mammals would not have become the dominant kingdom and we would not be having this discussion. Death and extinction are absolutely a part of evolution.
“The fact that this is a genetic disease that's wiping out these people really doesn't change the fact that the disease is wiping out these people. Do we decide to not cure all genetic diseases? Things like Autism, Cancer, Parkinson's, and many others. The fact that it's genetic doesn't change the fact that we try to stop it.”
As I already pointed out, our ability to fight genetic diseases in ourselves is something we developed naturally. To impose such a fundamental change in the way the Ventakians relate to their environment and their own biology is drastic. You make it seem like the fact that these people are not warp-capable and humanity just encountered them for the first time is not important, but it is. Can you imagine if the Federation just went around to every planet fucking around with the gene pools in order to “fix them” because we thought we knew what was best? Talk about hubris.
“What if literally everyone on the planet had Cancer like the planet in the DS9 episode The Quickening (Bashir curing it being a violation of this version of the Prime Directive, by the way and only curing it by giving an immunization for the babies)?”
The Quickening was an artificial epidemic created by the Dominion. And, importantly, it in no way affected that race's (I forgot its name) relationship to its environment, it just made their lives miserable.
“And going on your predator/prey analogy, does that mean that we should never try to cure even non-genetic diseases? Because you're infected with viruses or bacteria, the analogous predator. Does this mean that we should just get rid of doctors all together because we're so arrogant that we're interfering with the balance of nature?”
Again, you are being way too broad. Try to cure non-genetic diseases in whom? The whom is important.
“I'm sure their culture is going to change since a third of their people won't be dying anymore. But how is that a bad thing? Wouldn't we all like to see an end to cancer and AIDS? If we were to end them our culture would change sure, but so what? It would be for the better.”
Who are you do make such a blanket declaration of “good”, “bad” and “better”? Assuming that living is preferable to dying is damned personal and not exactly scientific.
“Would you find it morally permissible to allow babies to be born with a genetic disease that will certainly kill them when you have the ability to keep them from being born with it?”
You need to provide context for these kinds of questions. It isn't a clear-cut yes or no. That kind of reasoning is childish.
“Look, if you're going to accept tolerance as a high moral, as the Federation does (theoretically), then you're going to have to accept that people disagree with you.”
Tolerance? Who said anything about tolerance? That might be the buzz word for 1990s liberals but it has little to do with Star Trek.
“Refer to what I said above. In other words, they're assuming that there's some sort of grand cosmic plan and they'd be extremely arrogant to interfere with this plan. As I said before, who knew the Federation could be so dogmatically religious?”
Understanding that the Universe operates interdependently is not the same as imbuing that interdependence with consciousness. I do not assume that there is an intelligence at work “designing” the plan of the cosmos, but I do understand that the Universe is a system and mucking around with one component of that system without knowing how it works is dangerous.
“Why were you outraged at that? The Federation shouldn't give out help because of the Prime Directive right?”
Oh, I don't know maybe because the Federation was RESPONSIBLE for the Founders' disease in the first place, ironically inflicting their own version of the Quickening on them.
“Also, how in the hell does a species evolve into extinction? That doesn't even make any sense. Evolution happens by avoiding extinction. That's the entire point. The individuals with traits that allow them to survive are the ones that pass on their genes. Not the other way around.”
Evolution isn't so narrow. True, pure Darwinian, biological evolution is about species-propagation and extinction-avoidance but societies evolve, ecosystems evolve, too.
I am quite familiar with SFDebris' feelings about Trek and this episode in particular. I have in fact called out people on this site for plagiarising his work in their comments—in fact, you posted on this page about the juxtaposition of Janeway's quote from “Friendship One” (you mistakenly reference it coming from “Pathfinder”) with Q's line from “Hide and Q”--without acknowledging that it was Chuck who made that comparison in the first place.
Allow me to direct you to my own source : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6AZyE_Fhgw
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 9:01am (UTC -5)
Of course so do the Star Trek writers.
This episode has some problems as specifically related to the Prime Directive, but since the Prime Directive does not yet exist, I have to assume the missteps are intentional.
The series that I think treated the Prime Directive the most properly is TNG.
Let's look at a few TNG edge cases.
1) Who Watches The Watchers - This is the quintessential episode for explaining the reasoning behind the Prime Directive. Beings showing up with magic powers would alter the course of history for a civilization. You could end up with beings that have borrowed/stolen technology (like the Pakleds) that don't even belong in space. Or you could end up being worshiped (here as in VOYs False Profits). I think most people consider this idea of the Prime Directive to be good. If you don't I'd have a hard time understanding why you like Star Trek.
2) Homeward - The best debate about these kinds of things. Crusher even points out that not interfering is a conscious decision to let them die if we have the power to save. I don't know if I agree, but it's good stuff. Either way, this episode pretty heavily paints that we leave non-warp societies alone, even if we have the power to save them.
3) Pen Pals - "Wait. Oh, Data. Your whisper from the dark has now become a plea. We cannot turn our backs." Same situation but now if the non warp society asks for help, it's ok to help them it seems? Interesting....
So where does that leave us in relation to this episode. I have to assume that the Menk ARE NOT an appropriate factor. As Elliott so eloquently explains, ecosystems evolve too. The fact that the Menk exist should be irrelevant. It was merely a way to demonstrate how our interference might change this planet. But if the Menk did not exist our interference STILL might change the planet. The fact that we can see the Menk shouldn't make a difference if Picard was here. The Prime Directive would either claim that we can help the Valakians (beings who actually set off on their own ships in search of warp capable beings) or that we can't. Seeing a possible future for this planet should not change the reading of the Prime Directive (since there are billions of possibilities we can't see as well).
Of course Archer does not have the Prime Directive. So when Phlox shows him the price interfering could have he chooses to not. Perhaps this one decision is the start of the entire Prime Directive. And perhaps Starfleet disagreed with the decision and added a clause where beings asking for help could be helped. Maybe they actually go back and cure the Valakians later on. But can Archer be faulted for having the ability to play god and back off? Can he be faulted for cringing away from such power?
I think that's whats interesting. That regardless of this ONE edge case.... we DO need to have rules about playing God. That's all the Prime Directive is about, not playing God.
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 3:09pm (UTC -5)
That's not evolution. An asteroid hitting the planet and wiping out massive amounts of life has nothing to do with evolution. That's a random element introduced into the ecosystem. Life forms don't evolve to protect themselves from a random element that had never entered into their ecosystem before.
"As I already pointed out, our ability to fight genetic diseases in ourselves is something we developed naturally. To impose such a fundamental change in the way the Ventakians relate to their environment and their own biology is drastic. You make it seem like the fact that these people are not warp-capable and humanity just encountered them for the first time is not important, but it is. Can you imagine if the Federation just went around to every planet fucking around with the gene pools in order to “fix them” because we thought we knew what was best? Talk about hubris."
No those aspects are not important. The important aspect here is that these people asked the Enterprise for help. It was a distress call. They're pre-warp, yes, but they clearly have the ability to ask for help. I would agree that the Federation shouldn't go around and mess with the DNA of various random civilizations. That isn't the point here.
This boils down to whether we should actually help people who ask for help. Which we definitely should. I wouldn't want to be a part of a Federation that believes that we should ignore distress calls.
"Who are you do make such a blanket declaration of “good”, “bad” and “better”? Assuming that living is preferable to dying is damned personal and not exactly scientific."
And this boils down to one's morality. Morality starts as a base of what you believe to be important and then going from there. I'm saying that living is the base of morality. Of course that's personal to myself. Science doesn't have the ability to comment on morality. It is finding out the way the world works, not making judgments on right and wrong. So in a society where the base of morality is preserving lives (which the Federation seems to be), then helping people who ask for help is a no brainer.
"You need to provide context for these kinds of questions. It isn't a clear-cut yes or no. That kind of reasoning is childish."
You're the one who was talking about altering future generations. This is a genetic disease. We have the ability to stop this genetic disease. Thus we'll be altering future generations. Thus babies.
"Tolerance? Who said anything about tolerance? That might be the buzz word for 1990s liberals but it has little to do with Star Trek."
You were straw-manning your opponents as afraid of change. Straw-manning is the anti-thesis of tolerance. And the Federation seems to subscribe to tolerance as a high moral value considering they honor the laws and moralities and customs of alien races they meet. Thus my talking about it.
"Oh, I don't know maybe because the Federation was RESPONSIBLE for the Founders' disease in the first place, ironically inflicting their own version of the Quickening on them."
Except the Federation wasn't responsible for it. Section 31 was a rogue agency that didn't answer to the Federation or Starfleet. It's just as if a non-Federation entity, say the Tal Shiar, were to do the same thing: infect the Founders. Would the Federation be morally obligated to help then?
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 3:15pm (UTC -5)
Yes it was created by the Dominion. But isn't that a violation of the Prime Directive to cure it? We're interfering in an internal affair are we not?
You also didn't answer my question about cancer. Should we through away all our medical research on it just because it's genetic? After all, the evolutionary balance on the planet is shifting (as if that excuses inaction), what if we're supposed to all die out from cancer as if evolution had some purpose behind it? Like you implied with the dinosaurs being wiped out. What if the next intelligent species on this planet is supposed to be birds and cancer is there to wipe us all out to make way for the birds?
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 3:18pm (UTC -5)
I like this interpretation. I like the idea that Archer goes to ask for his superior's opinion and they decide that helping people who ask for help is the moral thing to do. I can't say he could be faulted for it, but it's no different from what doctors do every day. Work to cure people of diseases. Doctors clearly play god in such a way, but that's their job. Now Archer isn't a Doctor, but Phlox should absolutely know better. Especially with how many medical degress he has.
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 3:45pm (UTC -5)
I wasn't talking about your belief here. I was talking about the episode's belief. Take Riker's argument from that clip I was talking about. He argues that there's some sort of cosmic plan. Which is echoed in this episode where Phlox holds evolution up as having some sort of higher plan that we shouldn't interfere with. The evolutionary balance is changing therefore we must not interfere. That's pretty much what his argument was.
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 4:05pm (UTC -5)
"And this boils down to one's morality. Morality starts as a base of what you believe to be important and then going from there. I'm saying that living is the base of morality. Of course that's personal to myself."
Well, exactly. Why is your personal "base" of morality the one by which Archer and Phlox should be judged? Because a smattering of other people agree with you?
"helping people who ask for help is a no brainer."
It's preciously the no-brainer part I object to. Leading with one's heart and not one's mind is unhealthy for advanced civilisations.
"Straw-manning is the anti-thesis of tolerance. "
Huh? A strawman is a device used in a fallacious argument to create the appearance of an opposing view which can be easily thwarted, thus making one's own argument artificially inflated. Tolerance is a state of emotional discipline in which one endures or accepts something to which one objects for some other end, perhaps peaceful coexistence. I'm honestly quite lost on how you can call these two concepts antithetical; it's like saying an orange is antithetical to basket-weaving.
"You also didn't answer my question about cancer. Should we through away all our medical research on it just because it's genetic? After all, the evolutionary balance on the planet is shifting (as if that excuses inaction), what if we're supposed to all die out from cancer as if evolution had some purpose behind it? Like you implied with the dinosaurs being wiped out. What if the next intelligent species on this planet is supposed to be birds and cancer is there to wipe us all out to make way for the birds?"
Again, there is no "supposed to" here. If a species (like ours has) is going to take ownership of its own genetic makeup, then it must be responsible for the unintended consequences. I am not saying that a species therefore should NOT take that step, but it is wrong (or at least dangerous) for a *different* species to step in and take that step for them.
As Robert pointed out, Archer realised he was not qualified to make such a choice, no matter what his moral feelings told him. Indeed, the Prime Directive (as it relates to pre-warp societies) is precisely the legal framework necessary to make such decisions. Perhaps, the Valakians could be saved à la Pen Pals, or perhaps not à la Prototype, but Archer, alone, cannot make this call.
"Yes [the Quickening] was created by the Dominion. But isn't that a violation of the Prime Directive to cure it? We're interfering in an internal affair are we not?"
Yes it was a violation of the 2nd part of the Prime Directive (internal affairs), not the 1st (pre-warp). And in so doing, Bashir made the Federation even more of a target for the Dominion, didn't he?
"Except the Federation wasn't responsible for it. Section 31 was a rogue agency that didn't answer to the Federation or Starfleet. It's just as if a non-Federation entity, say the Tal Shiar, were to do the same thing: infect the Founders. Would the Federation be morally obligated to help then?"
Eh, Section 31 is comprised of human beings and other members of the Federation. The Federation is absolutely responsible for their actions, every bit as much as the Maquis. The fact that they are rogue makes them harder to control obviously, but that negates none of the responsibility.
"I can't say he could be faulted for it, but it's no different from what doctors do every day."
Doctors do not decide the fate of an entire species every day. They work to treat and cure individuals. That's entirely different.
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 4:07pm (UTC -5)
Phlox's argument was weak, you are correct. He either should have been for helping from the start or against it from the start if his morals were consistent. In 10,000 years the Valakians could have died out and lizards or rats evolved into a sentient species. The fact that the Menk were shoved in his face should have been irrelevant. You either don't interfere because of the consequences (there will CLEARLY be consequences) or you interfere anyway. The fact that he saw the Menk and THEN decided interfering was bad was waaaaaaay too playing god for my taste.
Archer on the other hand had his first taste of what interfering could mean and it freaked him out and he backed off. That was a really human response, I liked it. And it really does show a precursor to the Prime Directive in a cool way. As a character study for Archer the episode is great. As humanities first stumbles with "great power comes great responsibility" it's great. It DEFINITELY loses a point for me not really getting where Phlox was coming from.
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 10:08pm (UTC -5)
But you are right. The episode is salvageable in terms of Archer's human response of freaking out when confronted with the consequences and interpreting it so that his superiors go back and help anyway. Although this is the same Archer who, as T'Pol put it, "put the air your quadruped breaths above the safety of your ship" so what do we know.
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 10:29pm (UTC -5)
Yes. Yes it does. This is what the Federation believes throughout Star Trek: TOS, TNG, DS9, and VOY. Why it's controversial is frankly beyond me. And quite disturbing.
"Well, exactly. Why is your personal "base" of morality the one by which Archer and Phlox should be judged? Because a smattering of other people agree with you?"
I'm arguing within the confines of what we know of the Star Trek universe and the Federation's principles. Much like how this episode and Riker in that clip end up with a weak religious motivation because they can't really justify their actions. The preservation of lives seems to be the basis for their own morality (except in some cases where Janeway was so far removed from the Federation that she seemed to ignore Federation morality). Which I think is a very good thing indeed.
Now obviously this was before the Federation was founded, but that doesn't excuse how it goes against everything we know of Star Trek. Isn't it standard procedure to answer distress calls and help people who need help? How many times have we seen, in every show before this one (and even this one), Starfleet ships and our main characters answering distress calls and curing diseases or helping people who need help even if it is interfering in internal affairs?
This is why people have a problem with this episode: precisely because it is antithetical to Star Trek's own morality. Although, as I said, it is slightly excusable by the fact that it's pre-Federation. But only slightly.
"Yes it was a violation of the 2nd part of the Prime Directive (internal affairs), not the 1st (pre-warp). And in so doing, Bashir made the Federation even more of a target for the Dominion, didn't he?"
As far as I know (and I've seen DS9 about 3 times), that episode was never brought up again except at the conference on Romulus in Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges. So we don't know that his actions made them more of a target for the Dominion.
But if this was a violation of the Prime Directive, why does nobody get on his ass for what he did? Why does Sisko and his other commanding officers allow him to treat this disease and even help him as Dax did? Because, as I said, the Federation has always had, at its core, the preservation of life in its morality. It's supposed to be a force for good in the universe, is it not (or at least that's what we've always thought)? So helping people who need help would be, to the Federation, a no brainer.
"Eh, Section 31 is comprised of human beings and other members of the Federation. The Federation is absolutely responsible for their actions, every bit as much as the Maquis. The fact that they are rogue makes them harder to control obviously, but that negates none of the responsibility."
And the Romulans are made up of former Vulcans. And, of course, Vulcans are one of the main members of the Federation after all. Is the Federation responsible for their actions too? At what point do they become not rogue and a separate entity? Is the Federation responsible for the rogue groups of all the species in it?
I'm not saying that they're responsible for the Romulans or that they're not responsible for the Maquis or Section 31. I'm just saying that it doesn't matter who did what. The Federation has a moral obligation to help, by its own morality.
I made an argument on one of the DS9 episodes that the show is one big anti-war story and that the Federation not giving up the cure is losing who they are to the point of their core principles: that of helping people who need help. And that is part of their core principles. And the Founders didn't even ask for the Federation's help.
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 10:35pm (UTC -5)
Actually, they do. An entire species is made up of individuals after all is it not? As someone else asked, at what number of individuals does it then become different to help? This episode has a disease that's killing a third of the population. Is that too many? Why? Who are you to make that judgement call?
Also, as I said before, people object to this episode on the basis of its extremely weak argument that is formed on religious grounds. People who watch Star Trek are often non-religious, so they don't really agree with the idea that evolution is some sort of guiding force and that an "evolutionary shift" is reason enough to not help people who ask for help. Or, of course, Riker's idiotic religious cosmic plan (makes me lose pretty much all respect for the man).
Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 8:11am (UTC -5)
"ARCHER: I have reconsidered. I spent the whole night reconsidering, and what I've decided goes against all my principles. 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. "
I could even see him PERSONALLY recommending that Starfleet look this over. He just doesn't feel he should be the one deciding these things. And as I've said, if you look at Pen Pals (where Picard and co REALLY stretch the Prime Directive), it seems that in the end Starfleet does fall on the side of helping a distress call.
The problem is that this is a primarily framed as a Phlox episode and Phlox is troubling here with his inconsistent viewpoint and the fact that he even considers not telling the Captain about the cure! Definite issues, but I come down on the side of mostly liking the episode.
I don't even begrudge Phlox his semi-religious approach to the universe (religious characters can exist in Star Trek and do very well... see DS9), but then he never should have wanted to help the Valakians to start with.
Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 10:10am (UTC -5)
The "Prime Directive" (General Order #1) is a Star Fleet regulation, not a Federation regulation.
I wish you guys would read and comment on my review.
Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 11:47am (UTC -5)
"Cancer is genetic?"
The genetic thing holds little water for me, as I've made clear you are either for or against interfering in pre-warp societies that ask for help or your not. The type of disease or the presence of the Menk make no difference for me. And I do believe the Federation eventually decides to help in these cases.
"The "Prime Directive" (General Order #1) is a Star Fleet regulation, not a Federation regulation."
Sort of... we have been told it doesn't apply to civilians. That merely means it's not a Federation LAW, that does not mean it's not Federation policy. I doubt very much that Starfleet has ever refused to interfere and the Federation said "Well we can, because we're not Starfleet" and sent a civilian ship to deal with it. The fact that it's not a Federation law merely means Federation citizens can't be arrested for breaking it... it means very little in regards to what is or is not Federation policy.
"I wish you guys would read and comment on my review. "
Your point about Archer screwing up and having drastic consequences may be interesting, but ENT does that in other places and I don't know if that necessarily would make this episode better. Either way, it's no "Who Watches The Watchers".
Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 4:11pm (UTC -5)
Sorry. Even setting aside the obviously dubious morality of the episode, that dialogue was really bad. It was incredibly hamfisted in an effort to say that we're actually going to be a prequel show (even if they didn't deliver on that promise until season 4). Scott Bakula played it as well as he could have, but it was pretty badly written. It made me cringe the first time I heard it.
"I could even see him PERSONALLY recommending that Starfleet look this over. He just doesn't feel he should be the one deciding these things. And as I've said, if you look at Pen Pals (where Picard and co REALLY stretch the Prime Directive), it seems that in the end Starfleet does fall on the side of helping a distress call."
And that's definitely a good thing. They should fall on the side of helping a distress call. As I've been saying.
"The problem is that this is a primarily framed as a Phlox episode and Phlox is troubling here with his inconsistent viewpoint and the fact that he even considers not telling the Captain about the cure! Definite issues, but I come down on the side of mostly liking the episode."
This is the episode that made me lose all respect for Phlox. Phlox is very troubling to say the least. Not just in his inconsistent viewpoint, but also in his seemingly jumping to the conclusion that he does for no reason other then the script says so and science=religion.
"I don't even begrudge Phlox his semi-religious approach to the universe (religious characters can exist in Star Trek and do very well... see DS9), but then he never should have wanted to help the Valakians to start with."
Phlox is framed as a non-religious character from the start of the show. We never see his religious motivations before this so it's odd that he ends up believing in evolution as some sort of guiding force in the universe. Sure it's fine if he is religious in this way, but it never showed up before and never showed up again (presumably, I blocked out most of Enterprise and Voyager). You're right, of course, that religious characters can work very well especially on DS9: Kira, Winn, even season 7 Dukat.
Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 4:35pm (UTC -5)
I don't know of any instance in trek where the Prime Directive is implied as a Federation policy.
Like I said, Archer not doing anything doesn't do anything to require a Prime Directive. Archer's mention of it means nothing really because they didn't interfere. Enterprise should be about screwing up and learning from those mistakes and this was a prime opportunity. Something I think would have hammered the point better. Certainly not "Who watches the Watchers" for sure, but that episode already had a Prime Directive. It's really an apple to oranges comparison. Picard and company got caught, Archer and company were directly asked for help.
Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 4:41pm (UTC -5)
"PHLOX: What if an alien race had interfered and given the Neanderthals an evolutionary advantage? Fortunately for you, they didn't.
ARCHER: I appreciate your perspective on all of this, but we're talking about something that might happen. Might happen thousands of years from now. They've asked for our help. I am not prepared to walk away based on a theory.
PHLOX: Evolution is more than a theory. It is a fundamental scientific principle. Forgive me for saying so, but I believe your compassion for these people is affecting your judgment."
How is this interpreted as a religious viewpoint?
Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 2:24am (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 5:19am (UTC -5)
Also, evolution is a theory. By the scientific definition, which Phlox should know given that he has many a degree in medicine and is essentially a scientist. And which Archer should know since he's (theoretically, though that's in quite a lot of question given his actions) qualified to be out here in the first place as commander. A theory is a unifying idea that explains a large body of data. The theory is not a conclusion from any one specific piece of data, but a whole lot of it. All the data points to one specific reason. Phlox is acting as if he thinks theory means the common vernacular use of theory in the 21st century.
And also, when Archer said "based on a theory," I'm pretty sure he was talking about Phlox's Hitler argument. That being that we shouldn't interfere because we don't know the consequences. The Hitler argument being that we shouldn't save someone from a burning building because he might become the next Hitler, you just don't know.
The Hitler argument, obviously, has a religious reasoning to it: that of fate, destiny, and Riker's cosmic plan. Even time travel stories (in Star Trek) don't believe in destiny. They make it a point that the time travel itself can potentially change events and create a new timeline. Like the 2009 movie. Events are not set in stone. It's our actions that shape them.
Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 7:55am (UTC -5)
Well, in Affliction/Divergence, there was no PD. And the PD as we know it later in trek does not prohibit providing medical assistance. I'm not sure the comparison is prudent to this discussion.
Archer's comment "based of a theory" is referring to evolution. Read the transcript, that's what Phlox is selling. Phlox's next line is "Evolution is more than a theory. It is a fundamental scientific principle". I don't see how the "Hitler" argument is brought up anywhere in this episode. Phlox's argument (whether you agree with it or not) is that the Menk will someday evolved to the dominant species on the planet and Archer should not interfere - not "if we allow these folks to dies we could be killing the next Einstein or allowing the next Hitler to live”.
Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 2:15pm (UTC -5)
So Phlox is saying that with absolute certainty (obviously not possible with science, much less with an "evolutionary projection," which also seems rather unlikely) that if this one species dies off then the other species will become the dominant species on the planet?
First off, how can he possibly know that?
Second off, if this were to happen, why are the Menk more desirable to be dominant then the other species that lives there? The two of them coexist peacefully as it is with no hint of subservience or a slave class going on. So does Phlox really prefer allowing an entire species to die over peaceful coexistence? Some "doctor."
Third off, that's something that could potentially happen in the future. We're here now. We have the ability to help now. If we don't help, what Phlox said may happen or it may not. If we do help, what Phlox said may happen or it may not. We have the ability to help prevent people from being killed now. Worrying about what could potentially happen in the future would prevent us from doing literally anything at all.
Also, from reading the transcript, I'm pretty sure Archer is referring to Phlox saying that the Menk will become the dominant species on the planet if they don't help, not evolution. Although Phlox is trying to conflate the two acting as if evolution is so important that we shouldn't interfere. You know, almost as if the universe has a divine plan that we mere mortals would be far to arrogant to interfere with.
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 8:21am (UTC -5)
I'm not saying Phlox's argument was correct by any means.
My whole thing throughout this is that it shouldn't have mattered. As it happened we learned nothing about the need for a Prime Directive.
Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 4:15pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 6:44pm (UTC -5)
I'm equally amused as frustrated by the frequent comments that when it comes to other subjects, Trek is is in the wrong for over-simplifying; Economics? Trek is too simple. Technology? Trek is too simple. Politics? Trek is too simple. Oh ho, but MORALITY? Waaay to complicated there, Star Trek. Don't you know that there is no moral ambiguity in making a decision to help people? It's very simple. Black and white. That's why we like DS9. The writers on that show knew that every problem has a clear-cut yes or no answer. Why can't you be more like that Star Trek?
Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 11:46pm (UTC -5)
And actually, it is about helping people. As I asked before, how many people does it take before curing a disease is somehow different? Because doctors treat people all the time. Indeed, many doctors look for cures for diseases. In Star Trek, doctors work with multiple different species and multiple different diseases from these species. At what number of people does it change from simply helping people to whatever it is you're talking about?
We like DS9 because it didn't have a clear cut answer to everything. That was the point. It was very different from most Trek in that regard. Moral ambiguity was everywhere in that show. However even Sisko would agree with Starfleet morality: that answering distress calls and helping people who ask for help was the right thing to do (and he even did so on numerous occasions). Again, why simply helping people is controversial is beyond me.
Again, another episode within this same show: Archer pleads with the Organians in Observer Effect to help him. When it's his people that are dying from a disease, the people that can but won't help are horrible monsters. But when it's someone else, we didn't come out here to play god and evolution demands that we don't help.
Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 7:26am (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 8:57am (UTC -5)
"Again, why simply helping people is controversial is beyond me."
Nobody is saying that. Simply helping PRE WARP people is controversial. I don't know that it should be, and if you've read my take on the issue I think Archer made the wrong call.... but somewhere between "Dear Doctor" and "Homeward" there probably is a line we should not cross. I believe the as yet un-existing Prime Directive should not apply because these people are literally launching ships into the heavens looking for saviors with warp technology.
Everything is a slippery slope, it's a grey morality thing. Helping with medicine is totally cool right, but would you give them phasers and shield technology if they lived next door to the Borg? I mean... that's just as likely to off them as a genetic disease...
The Prime Directive is about deciding where to draw lines, and what I liked about this episode is that it said that Archer wasn't sure where to draw them. That's a pretty standard reaction for the first human captain and it colors his character in an interesting way. He's not perfect, he's not god. Was this maybe the perfect episode to say that? No. But I thought it served alright.
"Again, another episode within this same show: Archer pleads with the Organians in Observer Effect to help him. When it's his people that are dying from a disease, the people that can but won't help are horrible monsters. But when it's someone else, we didn't come out here to play god and evolution demands that we don't help."
That episode is so different from this it's not even funny. EVERY TIME the Federation EVER came across a planet with a danger like this they tossed a beacon to warn new comers. Why did the Organians not do that? Because they wanted to keep the planet in it's lethal state for the sake of running experiments.
They WERE interfering in a way already. Science tells us that simply observing something can be interfering. Especially the WAY they were doing it....
It'd be like if you knew the playground you jogged by every day was unsafe and you didn't tell anybody the flaws you noticed because you wanted to see how the children dealt with getting hurt.
Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 9:45am (UTC -5)
Completely agree with your assessment of the 'Observer Effect' comparison here. Totally apples and oranges.
Little more "Prime Directive" info, I think Picard describes it best [Pen Pals]:
"You see, the Prime Directive has many different functions, not the least of which is to protect us. To prevent us from allowing our emotions to overwhelm our judgment."
Precisely why I think Archer should have helped here.
Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 12:02pm (UTC -5)
"Star Trek's morality is one in which it's a no brainer to answer distress calls and help people. This episode (and others like it from TNG and VOY) try to make the opposite case."
See, that is itself a conflict; if it's a "no-brainer" as you say, then why would so many episodes make the opposite case? Isn't it clearly NOT a simple question of help or don't help?
"[H]ow many people does it take before curing a disease is somehow different?"
As many as constitute an entire species. I think that's the point.
"[W]hy simply helping people is controversial is beyond me."
Please don't take this as arrogance, because it is not. But, the whole premise of Star Trek is that humanity will evolve 'beyond' where it is now, physically, technologically, socially, politically and ethically. The fact that it is "beyond you" is a testament to this idea.
@Robert & Yanks :
Thanks for beating me to this point. The Organians in "Observer Effect" were akin to Picard and co. in "Pen Pals." Also, we're talking about two people dying due to external factors versus and entire race going extinct due to internal factors. Apples and Oranges, as you said.
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 1:17am (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 1:24am (UTC -5)
There are some episodes that try to make the case that helping people is bad. But most of the time the reasons for not helping come down to either: "Because evolution demands that we not interfere" or "shut up, I'm the captain."
Most of the episodes that involve dying species or distress calls have the main characters helping those who ask for help. The ones that don't are the exception, not the rule. And tend to have really bad justifications, like the ones I said above.
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 6:11am (UTC -5)
This is nothing more that Enterprise/Archer hate dribble.
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 2:37pm (UTC -5)
It wasn't stupidity (for once), it was naïvety. You know there is a difference between dying and going extinct right?
You are of course free to have your own opinion about what is right and wrong, I was simply pointing out that Star Trek, the franchise, has never plainly laid out a morality as you depicted it. Those "contradictory" episodes (I don't find them contradictory, by the way, they are an elaboration on Trek morality) are not outliers; the Prime Directive is a major component of Trek lore and thus form an integral part of the universe's ethical model.
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 7:10pm (UTC -5)
Most of the time in Star Trek, the prime directive is not interpreted as "stand by and let people die after they ask for your help, even if you can save them." We've seen time and time again where Starfleet has helped save lives when asked.
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 7:11pm (UTC -5)
Actually, it was stupidity. You've got a ship that's designed for exploration and scanning planets. So they should have known, before going down to it, that there was a virus down there that was deadly to humans. Unless they just go down to every planet without scanning it first, in which case they should have been dead long before that episode.
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 7:24pm (UTC -5)
What am I supposed to be convinced by peer pressure, here?
The episode is NOT saying that an entire species ought to die, it's saying that one human captain and one Denobulan doctor don't have the right to make that determination for an entire species.
You're being completely myopic about the issue. To your point of view, the debate begins and ends at the loss of life. What a terribly narrow vision.
Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 1:28pm (UTC -5)
Actually, it is saying that. They could have - and should have - taken this issue to Starfleet or the Vulcan Council of Ethics or whatever, but no. The two of them decided, nope, we'll just let all the millions of you die.
If the Cardassians had withheld vital medicine and technology because of their parinoia and competitiveness, that would be a brutal, but understandable decision. It would at least be honestly selfish.
But the SMUGNESS of Phlox and Archer is what makes this so reprehensible, no, evil. They're ALLOWING these poor inferior life forms to die, for the GOOD of their world. And oh, Enterprise will just have to bear the PAIN that comes with adherance to such a noble, noble code. They're doing them a favor that they can't understand yet, but one day, they'll be wise enough to.
Dispicable. Pathetic. Evil.
Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 1:42pm (UTC -5)
"They're ALLOWING these poor inferior life forms to die, for the GOOD of their world."
There is no guarantee that those people will die, and they never claimed it was for the "good" of anyone, simply that the decision was not theirs to make.
I can write one-word sentences, too.
Self-righteous. Narrow. Simplistic.
Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 1:57pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 28, 2014, 9:56pm (UTC -5)
-lesigh- No. Of course not. Peer pressure is not a good basis for believing something. If you had finished reading what I wrote, I said that everyone hates this episode precisely because it is so radically different from normal Trek morality. Indeed, that was my main point in that post.
"The episode is NOT saying that an entire species ought to die, it's saying that one human captain and one Denobulan doctor don't have the right to make that determination for an entire species."
And that's not a bad thing to say. And it's completely fine. If the episode had ended with Phlox and Archer going back to Starfleet or to the Vulcans or to the Interspecies Medical Exchange or whatever other medical authority and asking them to decide, it would have been salvageable. But that is not what the episode is trying to say. The episode is trying to say that we shouldn't give these people the cure because... evolution and destiny and we can't alter the DNA. Any excuse to justify not curing a disease, the anti-thesis of what being a doctor is all about. It is very much so saying that an entire species should die because evolution.
"You're being completely myopic about the issue. To your point of view, the debate begins and ends at the loss of life. What a terribly narrow vision."
Yes, that's correct. And what else would a debate on morality begin and end with? What's the point of having morality or having laws in place if we aren't ultimately protecting people's lives? And what does it say about a society that doesn't think lives are where the debate should begin and end?
This particular episode has the rather important point that these people asked for help.
The Federation believes in the preservation of life as its highest moral. That is why they do answer distress calls and cure diseases when asked.
Fri, Aug 29, 2014, 8:58am (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 29, 2014, 11:25am (UTC -5)
You are trying to bolster your argument because of popular consensus ("everyone hates..."). Rights are not determined by majority opinion, but on judicial interpretation of principles.
"Any excuse to justify not curing a disease, the anti-thesis of what being a doctor is all about. "
I don't recall Archer or Phlox "looking" for a means to avoid altering these people's DNA. It was when confronted by a previously un-foreseen context that they felt compelled to re-evaluate their kneejerk moral response.
"And what else would a debate on morality begin and end with? What's the point of having morality or having laws in place if we aren't ultimately protecting people's lives?"
That's an interesting question. I don't have an answer for you, but the point is in fact that assuming the purpose of laws, etc. is ultimately the preservation of life is, well, an assumption. What do you base this assumption on?
"The Federation believes in the preservation of life as its highest moral. That is why they do answer distress calls and cure diseases when asked."
The Federation (and as Yanks pointed out, it does not yet exist in this timeline) believes in *seeking out* new life, not corrupting, destroying or tampering with it. The goal of Starfleet's exploration was to understand the Universe in which we live, not impose our sense of right and wrong upon it.
Sat, Aug 30, 2014, 1:35am (UTC -5)
No I'm really not. You're focusing on the one little part of the sentence, the "everyone hates" part and ignoring the actual point that I've been trying to make. The "everyone hates" part is an acknowledgement that most of the comments in this thread and about this episode in general around the internet that I've seen are against this particular episode. It's not an attempt to bolster the argument with peer pressure. As I just said, peer pressure is not a reason to adopt an argument.
"That's an interesting question. I don't have an answer for you, but the point is in fact that assuming the purpose of laws, etc. is ultimately the preservation of life is, well, an assumption. What do you base this assumption on?"
It is the purpose of law. At least our own law, now in the 21st century. And what little of the law we see in the Federation.
Basing morality on the preservation of life is the ultimate assumption you can make. That is, whatever you base your morality on, that is where the argument stops. Because there is nothing higher to appeal to, morality being something that we ourselves have made up for ourselves. And as we made it up for ourselves, we tend to value living as the base for morality.
"The Federation (and as Yanks pointed out, it does not yet exist in this timeline) believes in *seeking out* new life, not corrupting, destroying or tampering with it. The goal of Starfleet's exploration was to understand the Universe in which we live, not impose our sense of right and wrong upon it."
And that is a laudable goal. And yet they still, as I've said many times before, answer distress calls and cure diseases many times throughout Star Trek history. Because helping people who ask for help is not seen as tampering with life or imposing their own senes of right and wrong upon others. It is seen as the right thing to do.
I understand that the Federation doesn't exist yet in Enterprise, but we're talking about an episode that was supposed to be the forerunner to the Federation's prime directive. And yet the prime directive isn't used in the way this episode suggests.
Tue, Sep 2, 2014, 6:03pm (UTC -5)
That's a perfectly valid opinion, but it is not a fact. Many people, religious and otherwise, see physical life as being something less than the highest order of existence to which we can appeal. Your reasoning and philosophy is very...18th century. Not that this is a negative criticism, but it is rather confined.
" Because helping people who ask for help is not seen as tampering with life or imposing their own [sense] of right and wrong upon others. It is seen as the right thing to do."
Except when it isn't. It most certainly is not ALWAYS shown as being the right thing, otherwise debates over the Prime Directive would never occur.
Sun, Sep 7, 2014, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
You're right. It's not seen that way in Voyager and Enterprise. Because Voyager and Enterprise are quite bad. Although that's kind of a given. In other episodes of TOS or TNG when the Prime Directive demands that they not help people who need help after being asked, Picard and Kirk end up breaking it repeatedly anyway. It's almost as if the Prime Directive were introduced as a test of morality in the series, showing us how the characters are moral for breaking it. That's my guess anyway.
"Many people, religious and otherwise, see physical life as being something less than the highest order of existence to which we can appeal."
And what do people use as the base for their morality now? A "soul"? An "afterlife"? What else would you have me use?
Wed, Sep 17, 2014, 11:37pm (UTC -5)
Law of unforeseen consequences and all that.
Waayyyy too smart for this show and its pathological hatred of not just TOS but also the normal rules of storytelling in prequels.
Lucasian in its level of fail.
Fri, Sep 26, 2014, 12:02pm (UTC -5)
You really have to let go of this "asked them for help" trope. I don't recall an episode of TOS or TNG where the crew was asked to ALTER A SPECIES' EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS on a genetic level before.
"And what do people use as the base for their morality now?"
Morality is based on cultural consensus, not universally held absolutes.
@Flying Tiger Comics: I agree with your general opinion of this show (and love the new adjective you've invented), but really, this is one of the series' only great episodes. The hate on this page really makes me sorry for them--that one of their few successes should be so despised.
Fri, Sep 26, 2014, 8:21pm (UTC -5)
I think Nancy addressed this impulse well back on Sept. 8, 2013.
Thu, Oct 9, 2014, 12:47pm (UTC -5)
So you think that evolution has some sort of goal behind it? Because I thought that idea was discredited years ago. Decades ago even. There is no end goal for evolution. There is no magical process. It is not a sacred thing that needs to be protected.
Morality is based on cultural consensus, not universally held absolutes, obviously. But you said: "Many people, religious and otherwise, see physical life as being something less than the highest order of existence to which we can appeal."
Which implied that you think that there are moral absolutes. Hence my question, what is the highest order of existence to which we can appeal in your opinion? The soul? An afterlife? God? I thought we weren't religious here. Although dogmatic adherence to the PD is a Star Trek staple.
Thu, Oct 9, 2014, 12:52pm (UTC -5)
It is so despised because it is not a success. It's an attempt to make a PD story that ironically ended up showing everyone just how downright immoral the PD has always been.
@Flying Tiger Comics
SF Debris's interpretation is that the Valakians end up being the Breen after being cured by the Romoulans. They then join the war against the Federation as revenge against Archer and Phlox's refusal to give them the cure. Meanwhile the Menk became the Pakleds after becoming slaves to the Ferengi.
Thu, Oct 9, 2014, 1:59pm (UTC -5)
In one particular moment in time, making a choice different from Archer's and choosing to reverse the extinction process, would have indeed ensured that there was a greater number of living beings in the Universe for a time. What if Archer and co. had encountered this phenomenon a hundred or so years later down the line? What if the Valakians were not quite extinct but close to it and the Menk were still an underclass, but more developed. Hell, what if the Menk had taken it upon themselves to care for the ailing Valakians? The Menk would be far more numerous than the Valakians, learning and applying the architecture of civilisation, well on their way to being a space-fairing race. OR maybe they would be as undeveloped as shown here, but still a happy, kind people hospicing a dying race which once dominated them. Once the process became inevitable, would Archer still be wrong for withholding the cure? Should he say, "No, fuck it. I'm going to step in an totally upset this balance of life and death, artificially prolong this species' existence and destroy the relationship which has developed between these people, because 'life'"?
For the record, I do not think evolution has some sort of goal to it, but ecosystems always strive for balance. If a species is dying out, it's for a reason (no not a 'someone/thing wants them to die' reason, I mean a cause, and A which lead to the B of their extinction). Humans have artificially increased their lifespan and the result is a planet which is choking on human impact. We have driven dozens of species to extinction by extending our lives. Am I saying that we should not practise medicine or extend human life? No. Those are the two edges of the sword which result from our special genius. We reap the benefits of science, but we must also clean up the mess and take responsibility for the side-effects. As I said before, taking responsibility for another world and its entire ecological system, not to mention the socio-political webs of two sentient species which intertwine with that system, is not even possible for the Enterprise or even all of humanity to undertake.
"'Many people, religious and otherwise, see physical life as being something less than the highest order of existence to which we can appeal.'
Which implied that you think that there are moral absolutes."
What? I'm honestly totally lost on this calculation. How did you get from "there are strata to existence above physical life" to "there are moral absolutes"?
As to your question, "what is the highest order of existence to which we can appeal in your opinion?", for me the answer happens to be art, but I don't expect others to share in that opinion. All I ask is that we don't enter moral debates with preconceived assumptions like 'life > death, no matter what.' I ask for the cool calm of open minds and critical thinking, not sanctimonious tyranny of closed morality.
Mon, Oct 20, 2014, 11:28am (UTC -5)
So yeah, that's all. I just find it ironic.
Mon, Oct 20, 2014, 1:07pm (UTC -5)
However, I too am done with this debate. I have utterly failed to convince you to even frame the argument over this episode in objective terms, let alone compare those objects in a proper debate, so there seems to be little reason to go further.
Sun, Nov 2, 2014, 2:55pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 2, 2014, 5:50pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 2, 2014, 6:13pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 2, 2014, 6:25pm (UTC -5)
Nonetheless, in my above comments I only meant to sympathize with the perspective that is offered here (in this episode): that changing an entire planet's history is complicated. But, it could have been handled better.
I think moat of us would tend to lean towards helping them anyway. But, to focus on our own perspectives only would be to miss the perspective offered here - in this episode (a perspective that is not without insight).
Sun, Nov 2, 2014, 6:27pm (UTC -5)
really it would be great if we could edit our posts...
Wed, Dec 10, 2014, 11:50am (UTC -5)
One group (pro-Phlox decision) is saying that providing a cure is morally PROHIBITED.
The other group is saying that providing a cure is morally COMPULSORY.
Both groups deny the moral right of individual choice to dispose of one's resources as one sees fit. Some might decide to provide a cure, others might not. There could be any number of factors that enter into either decision. But the decision is entirely up to the PROVIDER of help. And either decision is morally valid. No one is obligated to help, nor should they be prohibited from helping.
I'm firmly in Black Hat's camp from this XKCD comic:
h t t p://xkcd.com/1455/
h t t p://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/1455
Thu, Jan 8, 2015, 6:27am (UTC -5)
If Panda's are going extinct, and humans had the ability to prevent this, you would oppose this because "that decision is not for humans to make?"
Or perhaps your objection is the "number of humans" needed to validly make a decision. Perhaps you think Archer alone should not be making a decision.
But of course the decisions/opinions of millions isnt necessary better than the decisions/opinions of one.
One man can decide to save pandas.
Thu, Jan 8, 2015, 7:42am (UTC -5)
Now you're not choosing Pandas over no Pandas, you're choosing Pandas over allowing the "natural order" to progress.
Now keep in mind that many things we're trying to save from extinction are things we CAUSED to be in trouble... so there's that.
But yes, I'm firmly of the camp that Archer alone should not be making this decision. I don't want to weigh in on what I think or don't think should happen, but I think this decision is bigger than him.
Wed, Jan 14, 2015, 7:11pm (UTC -5)
In the episode, the Koalas and the Pandas are living fine together. The Pandas are dying. If the Pandas die, the Koalas will undoubtedly increase in population size. But this hypothetical "thriving of the Koalas" has no bearing on the issue; the Pandas and the Koalas have always lived fine together. Helping the Pandas maintains the status quo - Koalas and Pandas together - affects nothing.
According to the rules of this episode, you can have:
a) help pandas so pandas and koalas live together
b) do nothing so pandas die and koalas live
So why not choose A? The cure doesnt help pandas at the expense of koalas.
Tue, Jan 20, 2015, 7:39pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jan 24, 2015, 8:00am (UTC -5)
First off, emotive value aside, what Archer and Phlox agreed to do (or not do) does not amount to genocide. The long-established definition from Raphael Lamkin of genocide is "a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves". Whatever else it amounts to, the decision in this episode cannot rationally be described as "a coordinated plan of different actions" or having "the aim of annihilating" the species. They left them medicine to try and help, after all, which contradicts that. What it does amount to is omitting to act, and that invokes a different parallel.
The closest parallel, and perhaps the root for some justified criticism, is that it is akin to the international community response to Rwanda or other such atrocities. Even so, this is not strictly comparable. There isn't a direct campaign of violence against the Valakians; the source of their illness (and eventual presumed demise) is faulty genetics. There is no third party involvement. As such, the question becomes whether Enterprise could (and should) intervene - and I suspect the key point of the episode, which has gotten lost in all the bandying about of claims of "genocide", is that this became a much more complicated question once the crew realised what was actually at play. It wasn't a case of giving a vaccine or stopping an epidemic - it was potentially a case of deciding the outcome of two species, of which they had limited knowledge yet for whom they were proposing to make a judgement call without any idea as to the consequences. In short, they were in over their heads.
The obvious answer, for a number commenting on here, is to provide the cure regardless - but there are a number of what ifs. What if the peaceful state of coexistence between the Valakians and the Menk was purely a reflection of how the Valakians were being subdued by the illness, and their reliance upon the Menk in certain situations (the orderlies working in the hospital, for example)? What if, once back to full strength, the Valakians decided that co-existence wasn't so fun after all (particularly if the Menk begin to develop as suggested by Phlox) and moved to subjugate - or even destroy - the Menk? Would Enterprise then bear moral responsibility for triggering a potential genocide? What if, on being provided with warp technology (which they also asked for), the Valakians became a threat to other species in the galaxy? How plausible or not these are is a matter for conjecture - the Valakians did not appear particularly antagonistic or belligerent, but at the same time they're subjugating an entire species already - but ultimately they're questions which the crew cannot answer. So what is seemingly the obvious answer isn't necessarily so much. Ultimately, there's a knowledge gap which makes any decision by the crew a punt in the dark - and that, I believe, is why Archer eventually decides not to intervene. The status quo is not a particularly palatable option for him, but at least it's reasonably forseeable.
Where I think this episode did fall down, however, is (i) cures for genetic defects don't tend to come in easy-to-use, portable vials and (ii) this was crying for a kind of follow-up. Like, "We'll send help in a decade" or something along those lines. As a standalone incident, it does jar very strongly against the principles the Federation is due to adopt in the future. Phlox's cure, meanwhile, came across as a bit of a deus ex machina - it would have been more compelling, for my part, if he had maitained the difficulty contention and suggested instead that he had found some promising leads from the Menk DNA, but couldn't justify carrying on his research for the reasons he gave. That would perhaps be more justifiable than deliberately withholding a cure. Not necessarily justifiable full stop, but a less-worse option perhaps. Overall though, I think it's a fair reflection of the fact that there are no easy answers to a lot of situations, and that's something Trek was very strong on. Look at "Space Seed" in TOS followed by The Wrath of Khan for a (probably far better) illustration of this. So as difficult an episode as it may be to stomach, calling it a betrayal of Trek is a bit too strong for me.
Sun, Feb 8, 2015, 11:03pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 10, 2015, 2:04pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Mar 12, 2015, 9:06am (UTC -5)
It makes me glad that there is still a discussion going on, albeit slowly.
Whilst ultimately I'm still a bit leery about the argument in the episode, I've found that it is one I've remembered.
Best course of action, sustained investigation off screen (Vulcan council of ethics, Starfleet, whatever) about the situation on the planet. Just a little line to suggest such an action would occur would make it more palatable.
I guess this does this a good case for the creation of the Prime directive, as it doesn't (necessarily) require immediate action so time is allowed to consider the matter in its entirety.
The Prime Directive of don't interfere strait away, but report back so the wider implications can be considered. Not as concise as the captain making the decision on the spot, but much more responsible.
Fri, Mar 20, 2015, 1:35am (UTC -5)
You are the captain of a Federation starship. You receive a distress hail from the dominant species on a nearby planet -- people are dying of a peculiar genetic disorder, and the species as a whole has perhaps a couple of centuries left. (Other species are not directly affected by the disorder, though of course the extinction of the dominant species may eventually lead to massive changes in the biosphere and food chain.) Your ship's doctor investigates, and finds that he can cure the disorder. You can, of course, not project all the possible consequences of intervention.
Consider the above scenario in relation to the following planets, and answer the question: Do you give the society the cure? (Remember to justify your answer.)
a) Vulcan, a planet that is a core member of the Federation.
b) Ventax II, a non-aligned world with a warp-capable society.
c) Valakis, a non-aligned world with a society that is not warp-capable, but has had contact with warp-capable societies.
Thought Experiment #2:
Consider the scenario from Thought Experiment #1, again in relation to the listed planets, with the following difference: instead of a genetic disorder that will eliminate the species within a couple of centuries, the planet is beset by a massive plague that will kill every member of the affected species within three months.
The conjunction of these thought experiments is designed to consider two variables: a) the type of society asking for help, and b) the relative immediacy of the need for help. Good answers will consider such questions as:
a) Is there a "bright line" of ethics that permits interfering with the natural development of Vulcan, but not Valakis, and if so, what is it?
b1) If your answer to a) involves drawing an ethical distinction between the cases based on the Prime Directive, on which side of that line do the Ventaxians fall, and why?
b2) If your answer to a) involves denying the applicability of the Prime Directive to these cases, in what circumstances is the Prime Directive applicable?
c1) If your answers to analogous cases Thought Experiment #1 and Thought Experiment #2 are different based on the time factor, why should a difference in the amount of time available to solve the problem affect a Starfleet officer's principles or actions?
c2) If your answers to analogous cases Thought Experiment #1 and Thought Experiment #2 are the same in spite of the time factor, why should a difference in the amount of time available to solve the problem NOT affect a Starfleet officer's principles or actions?
Those students who need or want extra credit, and who have the time, may also consider suitably adjusted thought experiments related to the non-aligned, non-warp-capable, and completely isolated society that existed on Vaal, pre-Kirk.
Fri, Mar 20, 2015, 2:03am (UTC -5)
"One group (pro-Phlox decision) is saying that providing a cure is morally PROHIBITED. The other group is saying that providing a cure is morally COMPULSORY. Both groups deny the moral right of individual choice to dispose of one's resources as one sees fit."
I think what you have said is a bit of a mischaracterization of the debate, though an understandable one.
Granted, there are many systems of morality. But having read, and at times taken part in, this discussion, it seems as if most of the discussion has taken place *within* a system of morality -- namely, the one that is extant on the various Star Trek series, and held by (most) members of Starfleet, in relation to contact with other worlds and other forms of life.
If your point is that there are a variety of moral codes, and an individual has the right to choose between them and so decide what ethical obligations s/he lives under, then you are clearly correct. But people who accept a moral code consequently accept ethical obligations. If your point is that regardless of the moral principles they hold, individuals always have a choice to do as they please, then again, you're right. Moral principles, unlike metaphysical principles, are violable. But choosing to violate them would be doing something you have accepted as wrong.
All of this was my long-winded way of saying that your comment is beside the point. Within the context of the ethical framework in which this discussion has taken place, the act of giving the cure to the Valakians cannot be both morally prohibited and morally compulsory. (It can be neither, but it cannot be both.) Hence, the debate -- which is about what is right in that system. Pointing out that people still have a right to choose, whether you were talking about choosing one's ethical system or about choosing one's actions, is tangential to the main issue -- which is, having accepted a frame of morality (in which some actions are right and some wrong), and having accepted that one has a choice to make (and the right to make it), what should we do?
Sun, Mar 22, 2015, 6:59am (UTC -5)
He should ask her again during her Pon Farr. I'm sure he would get a completely different response.
Mon, Mar 23, 2015, 12:08pm (UTC -5)
Ahh, having skimmed over most of the debate, I clearly didn't understand the "ground rules" as you pointed out. I thought posters in this thread were coming at the moral dilemma from their own real-life moral principles. But you're saying we're all supposed to pretend to accept the moral code which "is extant on the various Star Trek series." I didn't realize that.
If that's the case, then I guess I can't add anything at all, since it's pointless and distasteful to pretend to accept the absurd leftist utopian moral code of Gene's vision for the series.
Of course, not everyone "in universe" accepts that code do they? My favorite line of the entire DS9 series is when Nog asks Jake, "Well if you in the Federation don't need money, then why do you need MY MONEY?"
So as a representative of the Ferengi point of view, I still offer up my own solution. Rendering aid is neither morally compulsory, nor is it morally prohibited. It's a matter of individual choice. Not under Gene's code, but under the moral code of Quark, Nog, et. al. (notwithstanding the writers' slandering of that moral code as exemplified by the silly Rules of Acquisition, etc.).
Thu, Apr 2, 2015, 6:31pm (UTC -5)
I cannot tell whether you're just trolling (sure seems so), but what exactly do you consider absurd about Roddenberry's vision?
Also, you dd inded miss the point. You might have been misled by the ship's name, but this series is not about a private enterprise. The ship belongs to the Earth government and is on a mission of exploration and diplomacy. Archer and his crew can not simply dispose of their resources as they see fit, because these resources are not theirs to begin with. And I'm pretty sure that providing medicine for a deadly disease to people who have no means to produce this medicine themselves would fall under their mission. If they were not sure about how to proceed, they should have inquired with Starfleet Command, who would probably have passed such an important issue to the government.
Thu, Apr 30, 2015, 9:35am (UTC -5)
One of the best episodes of Enterprise, 4 stars all the way!
Sat, May 2, 2015, 11:05am (UTC -5)
I invite you to read some excerpts from Olaf Stapledon's ”Star Maker” (1937), one of the greatest, and most philosophical works of sience-fiction ever, which I strongly recommend to the more philosophical-minded of you.
In his hugely ambitious work, Stapledon contemplates creation, the cosmos, the nature of creatures and the created, and their various attitudes when facing the end of their world and their species, across a myriad of worlds and a myriad of universes.
And in the end, he connects the fates of other species in other worlds with ”the rising storm of this world's madness”, as he correctly perceived our own world in 1937.
All the following excerpts are directly related to the philosophical question of ”Dear Doctor”, save one, which I have included for reasons that should be obvious.
Allow me to finish this introduction with a quote from another hugely important work, which I and others have recommended elsewhere here: Stanisław Lem’s ”Solaris” (1961):
“The fate of a single man can be rich with significance, that of a few hundred less so, but the history of thousands and millions of men does not mean anything at all, in any adequate sense of the word.”
When do words―and worlds―lose their meaning? How should we contemplate other peoples’ fates? How shall we contemplate our own?
Sat, May 2, 2015, 11:06am (UTC -5)
From our lowlier plane this detachment, this seeming levity, at first appeared less angelic than inhuman. Here was a whole world of sensitive and intelligent beings in the full tide of eager life and communal activity. Here were lovers newly come together, scientists in the midst of profound research, artists intent on new delicacies of apprehension, workers in a thousand practical social undertakings of which man has no conception, here in fact was all the rich diversity of personal lives that go to make up a highly developed world in action. And each of these individual minds participated in the communal mind of all; each experienced not only as a private individual but as the very spirit of his race.
Yet these calm beings faced the destruction of their world with no more distress seemingly than one of us would feel at the prospect of resigning his part in some interesting game. And in the minds of the spectators of this impending tragedy we observed no agony of compassion, but only such commiseration, tinged with humor, as we might feel for some distinguished tennis-player who was knocked out in the first round of a tournament by some trivial accident such as a sprained ankle.
With difficulty we came to understand the source of this strange equanimity. Spectators and victims alike were so absorbed in cosmological research, so conscious of the richness and potentiality of the cosmos, and above all so possessed by spiritual contemplation, that the destruction was seen, even by the victims themselves, from the point of view which men would call divine. Their gay exaltation and their seeming frivolity were rooted in the fact that to them the personal life, and even the life and death of individual worlds, appeared chiefly as vital themes contributing to the life of the cosmos. From the cosmical point of view the disaster was after all a very small though poignant matter.”
― In Olaf Stapledon, ”Star Maker” (1937), Chapter IX ― The Community Of Worlds: 5. The Tragedy Of The Perverts
Sat, May 2, 2015, 11:07am (UTC -5)
[...] But in most of these worlds no such escape was possible. Either chaos persisted till racial decline set in, and the world sank to the human, the sub-human, the merely animal states; or else, in a few cases only, the discrepancy between the ideal and the actual was so distressing that the whole race committed suicide.
We could not long endure the spectacle of scores of worlds falling into psychological ruin. Yet the Sub-Galactics who had caused these strange events, and continued to use their power to clarify and so destroy these minds, watched their handiwork unflinchingly. Pity they felt, pity such as we feel for a child that has broken its toy; but no indignation against fate.”
Sat, May 2, 2015, 11:09am (UTC -5)
Now that extermination seemed inevitable within a comparatively short time, there was an increasing will to meet fate with religious peace. The desire to realize the far cosmical goal, formerly the supreme motive of all awakened worlds, now seemed to be extravagant, even impious. How should the little creatures, the awakened worlds, reach out to knowledge of the whole cosmos, and of the divine. Instead they must play their own part in the drama, and appreciate their own tragic end with godlike detachment and relish.”
― In Chapter XI ― Stars And Vermin: 2. Disaster In Our Galaxy
Sat, May 2, 2015, 11:10am (UTC -5)
It was not only physical effulgence that struck me down in that supreme moment of my life. In that moment I guessed what mood it was of the infinite spirit that had in fact made the cosmos, and constantly supported it, watching its tortured growth. And it was that discovery which felled me.
For I had been confronted not by welcoming and kindly love, but by a very different spirit. And at once I knew that the Star Maker had made me not to be his bride, nor yet his treasured child, but for some other end.
It seemed to me that he gazed down on me from the height of his divinity with the aloof though passionate attention of an artist judging his finished work; calmly rejoicing in its achievement, but recognizing at last the irrevocable flaws in its initial conception, and already lusting for fresh creation.
In my agony I cried out against my ruthless maker. I cried out that, after all, the creature was nobler than the creator; for the creature loved and craved love, even from the star that was the Star Maker; but the creator, the Star Maker, neither loved nor had need of love.
But no sooner had I, in my blinded misery, cried out, than I was struck dumb with shame. For suddenly it was clear to me that virtue in the creator is not the same as virtue in the creature. For the creator, if he should love his creature, would be loving only a part of himself; but the creature, praising the creator, praises an infinity beyond himself. I saw that the virtue of the creature was to love and to worship, but the virtue of the creator was to create, and to be the infinite, the unrealizable and incomprehensible goal of worshipping creatures.
And so there came upon me a strange peace and a strange joy.
Looking into the future, I saw without sorrow, rather with quiet interest, my own decline and fall. [...]
Still probing the future, from the moment of my supreme unwithered maturity, I saw my death, the final breaking of those telepathic contacts on which my being depended. Thereafter the few surviving worlds lived on in absolute isolation, and in that barbarian condition which men call civilized. Then in world after world the basic skills of material civilization began to fail [...]”
― In Chapter XIII ― The Beginning And The End: 3. The Supreme Moment And After
Sat, May 2, 2015, 11:11am (UTC -5)
[...] his attitude to his creatures was very different from what it had been for any other cosmos. For he was neither cold to them nor yet simply in love with them. In love with them, indeed, he still was; but he had seemingly outgrown all desire to save them from the consequences of their finitude and from the cruel impact of the environment. He loved them without pity. For he saw that their distinctive virtue lay in their finitude, their minute particularity, their tortured balance between dullness and lucidity; and that to save them from these would be to annihilate them.”
― In Chapter XV ― The Maker And His Works: 2. Mature Creating
Sat, May 2, 2015, 11:12am (UTC -5)
”In his maturity the Star Maker conceived many strange forms of time. For instance, some of the later creations were designed with two or more temporal dimensions, and the lives of the creatures were temporal sequences in one or other dimension of the temporal "area" or "volume." These beings experienced their cosmos in a very odd manner. Living for a brief period along one dimension, each perceived at every moment of its life a simultaneous vista which, though of course fragmentary and obscure, was actually a view of a whole unique "transverse" cosmical evolution in the other dimension.
In one inconceivably complex cosmos, whenever a creature was faced with several possible courses of action, it took them all, thereby creating many distinct temporal dimensions and distinct histories of the cosmos. Since in every evolutionary sequence of the cosmos there were very many creatures, and each was constantly faced with many possible courses, and the combinations of all their courses were innumerable, an infinity of distinct universes exfoliated from every moment of every temporal sequence in this cosmos.
In some creations each being had sensory perception of the whole physical cosmos from many spatial points of view, or even from every possible point of view. In the latter case, of course, the perception of every mind was identical in spatial range, but it varied from mind to mind in respect of penetration or insight. This depended on the mental caliber and disposition of particular minds. Sometimes these beings had not only omnipresent perception but omnipresent volition. They could take action in every region of space, though with varying precision and vigor according to their mental caliber. In a manner they were disembodied spirits, striving over the physical cosmos like chess-players, or like Greek gods over the Trojan Plain.”
Sat, May 2, 2015, 11:13am (UTC -5)
At length, so my dream, my myth, declared, the Star Maker created his ultimate and most subtle cosmos, for which all others were but tentative preparations. [...]
I strained my fainting intelligence to capture something of the form of the ultimate cosmos. With mingled admiration and protest I haltingly glimpsed the final subtleties of world and flesh and spirit, and of the community of those most diverse and individual beings, awakened to full self-knowledge and mutual insight. But as I strove to hear more inwardly into that music of concrete spirits in countless worlds, I caught echoes not merely of joys unspeakable, but of griefs inconsolable. For some of these ultimate beings not only suffered, but suffered in darkness. Though gifted with full power of insight, their power was barren. The vision was withheld from them. They suffered as lesser spirits would never suffer. Such intensity of harsh experience was intolerable to me, the frail spirit of a lowly cosmos. In an agony of horror and pity I despairingly stopped the ears of my mind. In my littleness I cried out against my maker that no glory of the eternal and absolute could redeem such agony in the creatures. Even if the misery that I had glimpsed was in fact but a few dark strands woven into the golden tapestry to enrich it, and all the rest was bliss, yet such desolation of awakened spirits, I cried, ought not, ought never to be. By what diabolical malice, I demanded, were these glorious beings not merely tortured but deprived of the supreme consolation, the ecstasy of contemplation and praise which is the birthright of all fully awakened spirits? There had been a time when I myself, as the communal mind of a lowly cosmos, had looked upon the frustration and sorrow of my little members with equanimity, conscious that the suffering of these drowsy beings was no great price to pay for the lucidity that I myself contributed to reality. But the suffering individuals within the ultimate cosmos, though in comparison with the hosts of happy creatures they were few, were beings, it seemed to me, of my own, cosmical, mental stature, not the frail, shadowy existences that had contributed their dull griefs to my making. And this I could not endure.
Yet obscurely I saw that the ultimate cosmos was nevertheless lovely, and perfectly formed; and that every frustration and agony within it, however cruel to the sufferer, issued finally, without any miscarriage in the enhanced lucidity of the cosmical spirit itself. In this sense at least no individual tragedy was vain.
But to me this mystical and remote perfection was nothing. In pity of the ultimate tortured beings, in human shame and rage, I scorned my birthright of ecstasy in that inhuman perfection, and yearned back to my lowly cosmos, to my own human and floundering world, there to stand shoulder to shoulder with my own half animal kind against the powers of darkness; yes, and against the indifferent, the ruthless, the invincible tyrant whose mere thoughts are sentient and tortured worlds.
Once more? No. I had but reverted in my interpretative dream to the identical moment of illumination, closed by blindness, when I had seemed to spread wing to meet the Star Maker, and was struck down by terrible light. But now I conceived more clearly what it was that had overwhelmed me. I was indeed confronted by the Star Maker, but the Star Maker was now revealed as more than the creative and therefore finite spirit. He now appeared as the eternal and perfect spirit which comprises all things and all times, and contemplates timelessly the infinitely diverse host which it comprises. The illumination which flooded in on me and struck me down to blind worship was a glimmer, so it seemed to me, of the eternal spirit's own all-penetrating experience.
It was with anguish and horror, and yet with acquiescence, even with praise, that I felt or seemed to feel something of the eternal spirit's temper as it apprehended in one intuitive and timeless vision all our lives. Here was no pity, no proffer of salvation, no kindly aid. Or here were all pity and all love, but mastered by a frosty ecstasy. Our broken lives, our loves, our follies, our betrayals, our forlorn and gallant defenses, were one and all calmly anatomized, assessed, and placed. True, they were one and all lived through with complete understanding, with insight and full sympathy, even with passion. But sympathy was not ultimate in the temper of the eternal spirit; contemplation was. Love was not absolute; contemplation was.”
― In Chapter XV ― The Maker And His Works: 3. The Ultimate Cosmos And The Eternal Spirit
Sat, May 2, 2015, 11:14am (UTC -5)
“And the future? Black with the rising storm of this world's madness, though shot through with flashes of a new and violent hope, the hope of a sane, a reasonable, a happier world. Between our time and that future, what horror lay in store? [...]
It seemed that in the coming storm all the dearest things must be destroyed. All private happiness, all loving, all creative work in art, science, and philosophy, all intellectual scrutiny and speculative imagination, and all creative social building; all, indeed, that man should normally live for, seemed folly and mockery and mere self-indulgence in the presence of public calamity. But if we failed to preserve them, when would they live again?
How to face such an age? How to muster courage, being capable only of homely virtues? How to do this, yet preserve the mind's integrity, never to let the struggle destroy in one's own heart what one tried to serve in the world, the spirit's integrity?
Two lights for guidance. The first, our little glowing atom of community, with all that it signifies. The second, the cold light of the stars, symbol of the hypercosmical reality, with its crystal ecstasy. Strange that in this light, in which even the dearest love is frostily assessed, and even the possible defeat of our half-waking world is contemplated without remission of praise, the human crisis does not lose but gains significance. Strange that it seems more, not less, urgent to play some part in this struggle, this brief effort of animalcules striving to win for their race some increase of lucidity before the ultimate darkness.
Mon, May 25, 2015, 5:45am (UTC -5)
And if they were seriously concerned about the Meng, how about they give the Valakians the cure under the condition they provide better conditions for them?
For all we know the Meng die out or devolve because the Valakians die out.
As for me, as I continue watching the series, I'm pretending this episode never happened because I like Phlox too much for me to think of him as a genocidal butcher.
Mon, May 25, 2015, 11:07pm (UTC -5)
Jonathan Archer, Season 1 Episode 22: Fallen Hero.
If there was any justice in the universe the transport captain in this episode would have replied,
"You sentenced billions of Valakians to die out, what's a single Vulcan matter to you?"
Sun, Jun 28, 2015, 6:36pm (UTC -5)
If only Enterprise had been cancelled instead of Farscape...
Anyway, I don't know how you can dismiss Phlox developing a cure to a horrible disease, and then WITHHOLDING it, knowing that it will cause a world to end.
The reasoning for this decision was so flimsy, that it requires extensive mental gymnastics to justify.
Dr Phlox ends up coming off as some sort of mengelesque monster, seeming to not be at all disturbed by what he is doing.
Was this could not have been intentional on the part of the writers, but it is still disturbing.
This episode managed to be both preachy and repugnant, and left me feeling sick inside.
Maybe if I took Star Trek less seriously, it would not have bothered me so much.
Mon, Jun 29, 2015, 7:28pm (UTC -5)
Sorry armchair philosophers: moral relativism doesn't make you intellectual; it's actually nothing but a cop-out. There's nothing high-minded or grandiose about moral relativism; it's a sign of intellectual and moral weakness, nothing more.
Tue, Jun 30, 2015, 7:07am (UTC -5)
Archer had 3 choices. Keep the Congenitor and risk making an enemy of one of the few really friendly species out there. Give the Congenitor back and refuse the asylum request of one individual. One could argue that being friends with them has a better chance of eventually changing things for all Congenitors than rescuing one individual.
But the point in the end was not "sex slavery good" vs "sex slavery bad". That's preposterous. Archer made a "selfish" choice to do something against the human moral code because it's better for his people. Plain and simple. I disagree with you about "Dear Doctor" being genocide, but at least you have a shot at defending that. Trying to twist Congenitor into saying that Archer or the show runners were CONDONING sexual slavery because of cultural differences is preposterous.
And based on simple story telling techniques you're OBVIOUSLY meant to agree with Trip. In the end he learns the price of interfering... the lesson wasn't that he was wrong about the Vissians. The lesson was that he shouldn't be playing hero by himself in the middle of a first contact.
Wed, Jul 1, 2015, 10:15am (UTC -5)
Or Firefly :(
Wed, Jul 1, 2015, 10:22am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 2, 2015, 10:42am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 11:50pm (UTC -5)
One point I would make is that the Prime Directive seemed to be applied rather inconsistently and arbitrarily through the various Trek offerings.
I always saw it as a plot device, an artificial constraint to create difficult moral and practical dilemmas for the crew to overcome. To me it was similar to kryptonite for Superman or ion storms interfering with transporter beams, rather than truly being the guiding principle of Star Fleet and the Federation.
As for the decision, assuming giving any aid was acceptable, it was terribly wrong.
Dooming one species to extinction was "playing God" much more than saving them and possibly keeping another species from fully reaching its potential, especially when that species seemed to live a happy and healthy existence.
Fri, Nov 6, 2015, 6:50am (UTC -5)
And it's partly shocking not because of what the characters do but because of the bizarre way it's presented, as though it was obviously the correct, yet difficult choice that any enlightened species would make. Honestly, I can't even comprehend this script going through in such a manner. It's a shame because as some others have said-it could've been a great episode without the epic atrocity that took place-certainly no fault of the actors or the set design, etc. Upon seeing it the second time I'm surprised I haven't seen it or heard it mentioned before in lists of the most grand insane moments in fictional television programs. A list of confounding moral teachings in TV. A list of utterly absurd reasoning for modern post-WWII peoples that exists in mainstream culture. It's truly bizarre. As deeply as you're prone to analyzing these (and I love reading your reviews when I catch an episode on reruns, so I'm no stranger here) it's stupefying to me that this gets a high rating and the only time I've read your comments section and thought how much I'd like you to create a page devoted soley to the comments of one of your reviews, so that you can address them thoroughly for us. Because this one really deserves it. I'm still blown away after a day of thinking about this one. I might even watch it again because I'm trying to wrap my head around it.
Sat, Nov 14, 2015, 3:50pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 17, 2015, 1:23am (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 17, 2015, 1:47am (UTC -5)
For a comparison to another series, in DS9's "Hippocratic Oath" Bashir was initially against trying to cure the addiction, in part because he'd been captured but also because he shared O'Brien's distrust of what the Jem'Hadar would do with themselves and to others after they had been cured.
Thu, Mar 31, 2016, 7:37am (UTC -5)
But its greatest power is in laying the groundwork for what the Prime Directive comes to be. And you can argue until you're blue in the face about whether its right or not in its conclusions, but it seems to be that what it least brings is consistency so far as the series is concerned.
Funny, charming, thought provoking and dramatic all in one. 3.5 stars.
Sat, Apr 23, 2016, 11:22pm (UTC -5)
This is only a half truth. In the circumstances, the Menk were being treated fairly well, certainly better than humans treated other ethnic groups in similar circumstances.
And even if the Valakians were oppressing the Menk, it would still be morally repugnant to let them die. Because genocides are generally bad.
Dear Doctor uses a fundemental misunderstanding of science to justify an ethically monstrous decision, and then pats itself on the back for being 'thoughtful' The fact that a significant minority of Star Trek fans defend this episode is a real shame.
Wed, May 25, 2016, 12:00pm (UTC -5)
So I have no answer and I still liked the episode. I also like the theme song. :)
The pat on the back is the spirited discussion this piece of science fiction created. Good story, 4 stars.
Wed, May 25, 2016, 11:43pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jul 15, 2016, 9:51am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 22, 2012, 1:08pm (UTC -5)
Archer withholds the cure from the Valakians possibly resulting in the extinction of the Valakians.
Archer gives the cure to the Valakians possibly resulting in the suppression of Menk development and their continued enslavement, if not their extinction.
Not sure how the hell I missed this. Great point here! Reason enough not to give the cure out?
I think so.
In any rate, this episode make you think as all the good ones do. Easy 4 star episode.
Thu, Jul 28, 2016, 5:16pm (UTC -5)
If you like this episode... man, examine yourself.
Thu, Aug 4, 2016, 10:36am (UTC -5)
The Prime Directive has a couple aspects. One aspect is forbidding contact with species that aren't ready for contact. Warp drive is an arbitrary criterion, but it's useful. At that point, contact is inevitable; they are on the galactic stage. The other is intervening in a planets affairs - you can't meddle in their politics, for example. The first aspect doesn't apply - contact has already been made. If you can trade with them, you can offer them medical aid.
Yes, Earth today would be different if aliens had helped the Neanderthals survive. So what? That sort of thinking would leave you unable to act. The future is hypothetical. Answer a distress call and you get one future, ignore it and you get a different future. Both futures are hypothetical. Imagine that we lived in a world where Neanderthals had survived. It would be a different world, but it would be a world where Neanderthals and homo sapiens coexisted - Neanderthals were not going to take over the planet. We could look back and speculate about a world where Neanderthals had gone extinct - we might recoil in horror at the thought. What makes us give that hypothetical world preference over our own? We prefer our own perspective, but the people in this hypothetical world would prefer their own as well. Then there's the issue that the Neanderthals were not a society where contact would even be a consideration.
If I was the captain, Phlox would be on the next transport to Denobula.
Tue, Aug 16, 2016, 9:19am (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 27, 2016, 9:41am (UTC -5)
As for the episode in question, Archer says that they were not out there to play god. What a stupid statement. Whether you give them a cure or not, you're playing god. You have a decision to make; save the people or let them die. whichever you choose, you're deciding their ultimate fate. Fact is "God", the universe, fate, whichever you choose, brought them there to make the ultimate decision. In their mind, they reneged by saying maybe they'll find a cure in the future. in truth they decided that the race should die. In my opinion, they blew it.
From time to time I come across episodes where I don't subscribe to Trek "doctrinë", but I don't let that color my rating.
(****) It was an excellent episode despite it's unethical conclusion.
Tue, Oct 4, 2016, 6:48am (UTC -5)
I thought it was an entertaining hour but the conclusion really didn't sit well with me. I think it WAS going great when Archer was pretty adamantly disagreeing with Phlox but then *POOF* maybe what 8 hours later he completely agrees with him???
Seeing as this was a prime directive-oriented episode, and I kind of can only see this as 2.5 stars max and was feeling a bit empty, I immediately put TNG's Who Watches The Watchers which is a Prime Directive episode done right.
And who doesn't get a chuckle whenever a Mintakan says "The Picard"? hahah
Mon, Oct 17, 2016, 2:45am (UTC -5)
Fascinating to me that the same Star Trek franchise that produced "Prime Factors" on Voyager could produce "Dear Doctor" on Enterprise. In "Dear Doctor," the Earthlings refuse to share warp drive technology with a less advanced civilization that pleads for help as it dies from a genetically contracted disease. Fair enough: The Federation in Star Trek generally refuses to share advanced technology, especially warp drive, with less advanced peoples. Yet the Enterprise crew also discovers a cure to the disease that they refuse to share -- and "Dear Doctor" labors to present this choice to let an entire people die as an act of respect for their natural (Darwinian?) evolutionary development.
The problem, obviously, is that this premise is hypocritical in the extreme: The Golden Rule, common to all cultures and religions on Earth, says "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." In the best formulation, this moral precept basically means "treat others as you would consent to be treated in the same situation." This episode breaks that rule. And it is hypocrisy: Whenever a Federation starship pleads for medical or humanitarian aid from a more advanced alien species on Star Trek, there is never any talk of "we'd better just die because that's the natural order of things."
It's too bad, as well, because I otherwise enjoyed this episode. The narrative framing device of the doctor's perspective, with all of the quiet character moments and observations, makes for a pleasantly meditative episode. There's lots of thoughtful stuff here. But when the episode goes from debating whether to share warp drive technology to making an argument against saving a weaker species from certain death with medical aid squarely within our grasp, this show really jumps the shark.
In many ways, "Dear Doctor" is the anti-Star Trek, representing a sort of scientific and clinically detached moral perspective on a basic question ("are we obliged to save the life of someone when we have the ability?") rather than the secular humanist perspective we usually see in this franchise. As this episode goes on, the abstract language it employs in dialogue about real people suffering gradually becomes more uncomfortable, until finally it comes down on the side of refusing to help people in need because they are less evolved than us. Hell, even TNG was never this cruel to a more primitive species: In the episode "Pen Pals," Picard bends the Prime Directive in response to a direct plea for help from a dying planet where Data has befriended a girl, noting that her request for assistance "changes things." In that show, the Enterprise solves the planet's unstable tectonics, and the doctor wipes the girl's memory to protect the PD.
Yes, the Enterprise episode "Dear Doctor" has generated a lot of debate on this web page, and maybe that's a sign that it strikes a chord. But philosophically and ideologically, this story's solution doesn't fit with anything we've ever seen on Star Trek before or since, as every captain from Kirk to Janeway has been willing to respond to humanitarian appeals from primitive cultures. Ultimately, the pleasant character vibes of this episode fall apart as soon as you recognize its moral tunnel vision in trying to justify an argument that dying people aren't entitled to help from those who can help them. There's something very off-putting about this one; had they only left out the discovery of a cure, it might have been a great show. As such, I give "Dear Doctor" 1 1/2 stars out of 4.
Wed, Nov 23, 2016, 5:31am (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 13, 2016, 11:52pm (UTC -5)
Someone mentioned that if the Menk did not exist, or had been killed off by the Valakians as sentient species are supposedly wont to do, then Phlox would almost certainly dispense the cure immediately with no moral dilemma. This sounds about right. So can you imagine what would happen if the Valakians had found out about the cure and Phlox's reasons for withholding it?
Valakian leader: Captain Archer, please just consider the problem for a while longer. Surely the fate of our entire species deserves more consideration! At least take a few days to see the problem from all perspectives! If your mind remains unchanged, then we will accept whatever decision you have made.
Archer: Fine. I don't believe it will change anything, but since I'm dooming your entire species (which I only became aware of like two days ago) I guess I can give you a couple more days.
Skip forward two days, with Archer returning to find the Valakians all decked out in their finest Menk-skin coats and excellent Menk-fur caps, jauntily walking down the street twirling their Menk-bone canes. Small Valakian children are seen tossing balloons filled with Menk blood, shrieking with joy.
Archer: What happened?!
Valakian leader: Well, we thought about things, and we decided to follow that natural order stuff you were talking about before. With that in mind, we slaughtered every last Menk. Do not fret! We have made good use of all the parts. The meat is rather tough but our space-pigs are not dissuaded.
Archer: Oh dear God...
Valakian leader: Oh yes, precisely! God, or Evolution as you named it before, must be pleased. It is only natural! If Evolution had intended them to live, then I would not have this exquisite new coat! Surely this is proof of nature's will.
Phlox: Oh, yes! Excellent! Truly excellent. Here's the cure! Well done, sir.
Tue, Jan 3, 2017, 2:45pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 12, 2017, 1:07am (UTC -5)
Now this episode would have had real legs and lived up to the praise Jammer and others have heaped on it if The writers understood the prime directive. The PD says you can't interfere in the cultural development of a planet. So if Archer decided Starfleet couldn't interfere by taking sides in a war where the valskians were killing off the menk that would have been a real honest moral dilemma, with good reasons for and against, and perfect for the prime directive. Can we give weapons to the Menk or warp drive to the valakians? Could have been a thought provoking episode. Instead the writers use bullshit science and totally misinterpret the PD to make Amber and Phlox look like idiots at best, mass murderers at worst.
Thu, Jan 12, 2017, 6:27am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 12, 2017, 10:24pm (UTC -5)
However, in TNG, the episodes "Pen Pals" & "Homeward" both say the prime directive also means the Federation is not supposed to interfere with natural destruction of races without warp drive. Note that "Pens Pals" was in season 2, while Roddenberry was still involved, so you can't say it was against his interpretation. Of course, both episodes also had the Enterprise ultimately ignoring the prime directive, as the writers don't really believe in it when it's taken to that extent.
Tue, Apr 4, 2017, 11:54pm (UTC -5)
First, regardless of whether you agreed with the eventual decision (I didn't), it should be possible to appreciate this episode for its other merits. Its excellent, minor key score just as a teensy example. In fact I thought this was a mighty impressive episode; thoughtful, insightful, very well written (by a team who BTW wrote several episodes of 'Mad Men') right up til the point where the doc drops his bombshell about ALREADY HAVING A CURE. From that moment on I'm afraid this non-interference stuff kinda ran roughshod over other considerations.
I'm surprised, before this point had been reached, that someone didn't tackle the warp-technology dilemma by simply informing some other medically advanced races about the situation; bringing the mountain to Mohammad so to speak. They may not have decided to come, but it seems like the sort of suggestion Archer should have made.
Rather than comparing any member of the crew with Hitler (Godwin's law has been broken so many times already I' e lost track), let's imagine that Bashir, or any of the doctors from previous series had been asked to operate ON Hitler when he was a teenager. I'm pretty sure Bashir would have just told everyone to take their arguments out of sick bay, and got to work.
Mon, May 1, 2017, 4:27pm (UTC -5)
Phlox's decision is basically an example of all the bad things about science, it'd be the same as going "Who cares about preventing global warming and possibly saving this planet? How do we know we won't do more harm? Just let nature take its course and see what happens" if we followed that logic, we wouldn't be around long enough to develop warp drive let alone help another planet.
Sat, May 6, 2017, 7:41am (UTC -5)
I for one groaned when I realized just how many responses I would have to read before writing this. It's similar to listening to a long-familiar argument by your partner about something you will never see eye-to-eye on, but for the sake of the relationship, you simply.must.listen.
But then, surprise, one day he says something that maybe moves you. Perhaps because you happen to have a bit more energy at that moment, or you just remembered why you love him SO much and so you are listening the tiniest bit more carefully, or even that he unexpectedly devises a new way to explain it. In any case, he nudges you a little and you can see, a bit, from the other side.
And reading this very, very long debate has moved me, at least a little bit.
So, thank you to everyone for the reminders: That it seems like very good advice to believe that there is always at least a one percent chance that I am just plain wrong about any position I have taken; that absolute certainty is directly contrary to biological reality; and that the more loudly something is shouted, the more likely the shouter has doubts he wishes to deafen.
So, this statement, representative of several positions, is noteworthy:
Sat, May 6, 2017, 2:12pm (UTC -5)
This isn't that. This is much, much stupider, and hinges on Trek's magical understanding of biology and evolution. There are a lot of comments here implying that Dear, Doctor put forward some big ethical paradox that's still being debated today, but the debate on websites like this one is only about Star Trek. It only makes sense in the context of this episode, this series, and it ultimately comes back to the question of whether this is a good or bad episode.
I haven't seen anyone suggest that if tomorrow we found a previously undiscovered island with neanderthals on it, and those sapient beings were on the verge of an extinction event that we could prevent, we should let all of those individuals suffer and die because they share their island with another less intelligent primate species that 'might' evolve to be more like us in the absence of the neanderthals. Because that would make no sense whatsoever. Dear, Doctor isn't bad because it makes us uncomfortable, it's bad because it's nonsense.
Tue, Jun 6, 2017, 7:46am (UTC -5)
It is blatantly shown here that the life of millions or even billions depend on the subjective and maybe fundamentally twisted mindset of two people alone. The decision of interference vs. non-interference is really to heavy a burden for a greenhorn like Archer and Phlox, which is not even an evolution specialist, is he (let alone an expert on the valerian society)? I think it is really, really not Archers decision to make (and judging by the result, he failed, too)
Why did`t they ask Starfleet or someone else for any help? Why the is there nothing like an ethics committee debating such matters? A council consisting of experts or at least representatives of the civilizations diverse points of view (this would also have made a great predecessor for the federation council btw). This is a matter where something like a social consensus HAS TO BE reached. Imagine human rights activists (or better "sentient beings right activists", as star trek tends to stupidly pun on the word "human rights") hearing from the Valakians. There would have been an outrage over the Arbitrariness of this one Starfleet executive, would´t it?
Now some will argue "maybe this was actually done", as they surely reported all mission details back to starfleet - but that is not how the story sells it.
In my opinion, it would be even more realistic, and appropriate to the matter at hand, had they - after such an encounter- made a good portion of a season or at least a several episode-long story arc about a science team staying on the planet, calling for assistance, building a joined starfleet / vulcan operation with a spacedock near the Valakian home world.
But the writers decided to use the death of millions as a one episode plot device (not unlike a "Monster of the week", but more like "dying civilization of the week") - which I find distasteful. The interference vs. non-interference theme and all its implications and complications could have been easily the single main storyline of all Star Trek Enterprise. Instead, they relied on stupid xindi and nazi war stories and god-awful temporal shenanigans. But that is another story (And yes, when you think about it, Star Trek does this all the time, but that shows, although Storytelling evolved, Enterprise was pretty much lazy and tired).
The whole thing is based on so damn much speculations. You can`t just base the deception on the speculation of the menks becoming the master race. They state is almost as a fact (as Phlox explains, that evolution is a fact…), but I render this plain wrong under the presented circumstances and context.
As for Archer withholding warp technology. I give em that, this seems reasonable - we all know that a not so peaceful civilisation could use them to build antimatter bombs etc.
But literally no other variables where taken into account.
Just take a look of other not so unlikely things to happen:
- For crying out loud, the Klingons could well coquer the Valakian home world, because the Valakians are getting to weak to defend themselves, and the Menk are not yet capable to "help them out" / replace them (or in a slight variation: "…Oh look ….the Borg assimilated the Valakian Homeworld… there goes the Menks opportunity for "greatness").
- They are developing their own warp drive, so the Menk and/or the Valakians decide to move on to other planets, rendering the whole concept of "one race must die so the other can expand" useless
- The Menk and the Valakians may manage not only continue their peacefull coexistence in the next 200 years, but to overcome the 'apartheid' entirely. Sorry, I will be forced to use some racist vocabulary here: Imagine some Aliens landing in the US and looking down on the supreme white race oppressing the black community. They theorize the white master race is going to die out because of their decadence, thus enabling the black community to rise - not taking into account that the 'apartheid' on fine day some 200 years later will cease to exist.
See my point?
Let me add something: Even if you take some of Phlox and Archers esoteric mumbo jumbo "nature decides" BS into account, you also have to think about the technological evolution. They actually developed the technology to make contact with warp civilizations by sending ships out into space. So basically, the evolution of their brain enabled them to get the sciene right and to reach out and ask for help …. for crying out loud!
Which leads me to the whole PD concept of "non-interference with pre-warp civilizations" being like drawing a really, really arbitrary line in the sand (which is not the fault of Enterprise…). What tells us that a civilization is ready for first contact only because they can fly FTL? What if they instead develop subspace communication? Imagine the egyptians miraculously developing warp technology (which, in the realms of the star trek universe, would not be the most unlikely thing to happen…)? When exactly in earths history where humans morally fully equipped to deal with the rapid progress of technology? Surely not today, or in the mids of the eugenics wars. There is and should always be a moral struggle, even with making contact with warp-civilizations. And some of the pre-warp civilizations maybe far more ready to make contact with other species and getting help than the most of the feudal, conquering, slave-trading warp-civilizations we have seen so far.
BTW: I also despise the whole "Playing god" and "let nature decides" argument (which I feel are sides of the same coin). Citing a higher power is always a cheap way out of the "moral dilemma" presented here.
Tue, Jun 6, 2017, 8:06am (UTC -5)
Archer himself brings up the fact, that he his judgement is not clouded by but lead by human compassion. He even bringt up the comparison with the Vulcan behaviour. For me, this was always the reason why the Federation worked so well, the Humans and their compassion and the Vulcans with their dry rationality outweight and balance each other.
But here Archer teams up with something entirely different, and I will never understand why: Phlox' Nihilism.
Mon, Jun 12, 2017, 8:03pm (UTC -5)
And most people here opposed to the decision are not just disagreeing with it-they are arguing the episode itself is bad. This is no different than people arguing over quality of Star Trek 2009. Maybe it's great, but the fact that people argue about whether it is or not isn't an argument that it is.
Anyway, I haven't seen the episode in a while and should probably wait till I rewatch it, but I think we need to go back to core of the issue. I will try to use only arguments presented in the episode, to make sure we are talking about quality of the story.
Valakians are dying and ask for help. Archer and Phlox agree. It turns out there is an another specie with them, Menk. They are less inteligent and are treated as secondary citizens. Phlox sees sign of Menk being smarter than they seem. He concludes that they might be evolving and theorizes that Valakian presence is preventing them from it. He thinks giving them the cure would be wrong, because it would interfere with their natural development.
1. How does Phlox know Valakians are preventing them from getting smarter? For all we know, their co-existence is precisely the cause of their apparent intelectual rise.
2. Evolution never intends for any specie to die, it's point is to avoid extinction. Valakian disease has nothing to do with their development. So this argument is factually wrong.
3. See above for the comparison with the neaderthals. It's not giving them "evolutionary advantage" since their disease is not evolution.
4. When Archer point Phlox has no way of knowing this will happen, Phlox says "evolution is not a theory, it is a fundamental scientific principle" and that's that. But Archer wasn't questioning evolution itself, just his prediction of it. Phlox has no way of knowing this will happen.
5. Archer's speech at the end says "they didn't come here to play god". This implies his ultimate decision is based either on refusal to interfere with "nature's choice"-which we know is nonsense-or on fear of the incredible responcibility of deciding who lives and who dies. Alright. But them giving Valakians the cure wouldn't be condemming anybody to death, the negative consequence is potentially preventing Menk's evolutionary advancement. Them not giving it would. And remember, they already have the cure. They are not refusing to involve themselves, they've already doen that. So either way, they are making a life or death choice.
So, even if anybody here thinks of an inteligent reason why they should have done what they did, fact is that their actual motivation in story is largely based on bullshit science. Screw morality, how is that well-written dilemma? How is that good storytelling?
Anyway, once we eliminate objectively invalid, their motivation for not giving Valakians the cure boils down to possibility that maybe Valakians dying out might lead to Menk becoming more advanced. So it is things being just as good/bad for both vs things being definitely worse for one and MAYBE better for the latter-at the cost of millions of dead. I'm sorry, but only defense (and very weak one regardless) of that I can think of is Archer's decision at the end may be seen as him choosing not to chose, unlike Phlox's who straight up said giving the cure would be unethical.
Hope I made some sense.
Mon, Jun 12, 2017, 10:26pm (UTC -5)
"Evolution never intends for any specie to die, it's point is to avoid extinction"
I wouldn't say evolution has an intent or a point. That implies evolution is something with thought & goals...a "guiding hand". Evolution is controversial because there is no guiding hand involved.
Evolution by its nature is random, which is why predicting how a specific species will evolve doesn't work (you can make some general statements...a large species confined to a small island will likely shrink over time or die out...note in this case you can't say it will definitely shrink, as it may die out!). So saying with certainty that a species will definitely get smarter is completely misunderstanding what evolution is.
Mon, Jun 19, 2017, 2:36pm (UTC -5)
Alot of commenters throwing around words like "murder" and "genocide" without knowing what they mean. And no, if a stranger fails to save another stranger's life that is not "murder" in any jurisdiction anywhere. Outside of a special relationship (parent child, doctor patient, teacher student...) it isn't even illegal.
Mon, Jun 26, 2017, 4:27am (UTC -5)
@Jason R. "A stranger fails" 1. They are not strangers, they are people they asked and that agreed to help them. 2. They didn't "fail", (he already had the cure, remember), he refused and purposefully let them die. 3. "doctor patient" "DOCTOR PATIENT" "D.O.C.T.O.R. P.A.T.I.E.N.T."
Mon, Jun 26, 2017, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
So if you see a man about to be hit by a car, can save him, but choose not to, it is certainly not murder. Absent a special relationship, it is not even illegal, unless there is some good Samaritan law on the books a la Seinfeld - but even in the latter case, you are not a "murderer".
I haven't seen the episode, but based on the facts described, Flox and Archer had 0 obligation to the aliens and are in no conceivable way "murderers" for failing to help them, period not up for discussion.
Sat, Aug 26, 2017, 6:41pm (UTC -5)
However.... this doesn't mean I wouldn't have made the same choice. You can't just fly from planet to planet giving warp technology to every species that asks for it. The result would be a galaxy teeming with cultures in posession of this new power, who lack the sophistication to use it responsibly. The Vulcans had a bloody good reason for carefully shepherding humanity through the transition to being a warp-capable society.
In fact, this episode is painfully prescient to me, as a European, who has seen my country and others in our union fling our borders open to the third world and the middle east, thus attracting whole nations of people who are utterly unequipped to benefit the modern society they arrive in.
Sorry to get political, but warp technology (like 21st century western civilization on Earth) is damned hard earned and must be fiercely guarded, lest the whole galaxy be reduced to the level of the lowest common denominator.
On a lighter note: It was a good episode. Flox's love affair was a bit awkward, but Archer/Bakula came into his own here. I even got a tingle during his play god speech.
Tue, Sep 12, 2017, 3:52pm (UTC -5)
The thing I liked about this episode was that there were so many opportunities to go off the rails and make it overly dramatic or action-filled, and each one was ignored, with the script again and again choosing to take the thoughtful route.
The female crewman (Cutler) could have thrown herself at Phlox, or alternatively reacted badly to his explanation of his marriage situation. Instead she just continued on the course of being somewhat interested in him and wanting to see how it went. Phlox, for that matter, could have acted less maturely about the whole thing, but he chose to get advice from both T'Pol and Hoshi, and then forthrightly talk to Cutler about it.
The Valakians could have gotten more angry, or even violent, when Archer chose not to give them warp drive (especially considering T'Pol's foreshadowing earlier in the episode warning Archer how seductive human technology would be to less developed races). They were understandably not happy with the decision and tried to make their case more than once, but they didn't go overboard. Them seeming difficult or violent might have made the decision not to interfere easier for Archer, or the audience, but we don't end the episode with any ill will towards the Valakians, despite agreeing with the decision not to interfere in the planet's natural evolution.
The script could have chosen to make the Menk's situation more oppressive and thus more easy to abhor outright, but instead they truly were just about as well-treated as could be expected for the less advanced sentient species on a planet. Certainly they seemed to be better treated than humans have ever managed to treat each other when we've encountered a less advanced civilization, and we were always dealing with our own race.
The speech at the end of the episode really delivered a great conclusion to the story, and, as Jammer said, it was earned throughout the episode and seemed natural, despite being such an obvious nod to the future we know is coming. It's amazing what an affection I've come to feel for the Prime Directive over the years. I was quite tickled and moved by Archer's words, which predicted creation of the Prime Directive, and by his adoption, after a night of careful contemplation, of that directive's earliest incarnation. "Don't play God."
Tue, Sep 12, 2017, 6:02pm (UTC -5)
Speaking of people rating the overall best and worst episodes of Star Trek, I saw one comment above stating that Tuvix was one of the best, being another example of thoughtful Trek with a difficult moral dilemma. Now that's interesting, because I didn't love Tuvix. But just as people have a problem with Archer's decision in this one, I wasn't a huge fan of Janeway's actions in that one. I personally would have done the same thing she did. Obviously they wanted Tuvok and Neelix back. Still, I didn't feel her decision was necessarily of the high moral calibre to which Star Fleet aspires. The biggest problem with Tuvix, though, wasn't Janeway's action. It was the fact that she was forced to take that action. It was completely unbelievable. Tuvix was made up of Tuvok and Neelix. Tuvok or Neelix would happily give their own lives for the safety of anyone on the Voyager crew. They've both been shown time and again to be selfless and brave. Especially once Kes had voiced that if it were up to her, she would want the two back separately, it became totally unbelievable that Tuvix wouldn't "do the right thing" on his own. So sure, Janeway acted like a monster at the end there. But she wouldn't have had to, if Tuvix had really been who he was supposed to be. An amalgamation of Tuvok and Neelix. So one thing this episode has going for it that Tuvix didn't, is that the dilemma is not entirely unbelievably manufactured.
Many people in the comments above also complained that Star Trek continuously exhibits that they suck at biology. Especially genetics and evolutionary biology. I agree with this wholeheartedly. But I'm pretty used to it. Has there ever been an episode of Star Trek that did deal with genetics or evolution in a realistic scientific way? No? Then relax and enjoy the ride. Sure, my degrees are in engineering, not evolutionary biology. That was just my minor. (Haha, intentionally showing off/proving I do know the facts.) But I've always elected to suspend disbelief in these biology concept Treks. Otherwise I would go crazy. (I was pretty damn relieved when I was certain that the "cellular entertainment" contraption on DS9 was meant to be funny. I wasn't positive when the sentence first left the guy's mouth.) In fact, the only science fiction I've ever found biologically realistic was written by Michael Crichton. Would love suggestions of other authors who know what they're talking about!
In Jammer's review, as well as in the comments, people mention that the Menk are the "less intelligent" species on the planet. Thus, they will need to continue to evolve to surpass the Valakians in intelligence. But that's not what I got out of the episode. My take was that the Menk were already as intelligent, if not more intelligent, than the Valakians. Which indicates that in recent evolutionary times, their intelligence has been increasing more rapidly than the Valakians'. The difference was that the Valakians had become intelligent FIRST, meaning they'd developed first and they were now (just due to custom, not out of malice) holding the Menk back from what they could accomplish if they weren't second class citizens (once again, not in a "intentionally being mistreated" sort of way). Now, I'm not saying that it's important. I'm not saying that the Valakians deserve to die because of what has happened in recent evolutionary history. I'm just saying that, from what we've seen of how clever the Menk are, it's not so much what they "could" achieve, after continued evolution in the absence of the Valakians, but more like what they would probably achieve, even at their current intelligence level, if they were the ones controlling the planet and its resources.
Another commenter above mentioned that Phlox, as a doctor, had a moral obligation to try to help those people once he found the cure. I agree with that, from my moral perspective. And interestingly, I am 100% certain that the EMH from Voyager (who was programmed by humans) would also agree. But Phlox is not human, and he feels from his moral perspective that under certain circumstances, we have to let the natural order of things play out. Not because it's predestined in any religious way, but because it is what would have happened had he not interfered, and he has no room to know what the long term results might be. Pretty much, he thinks a bad outcome, even the extinction of an entire race, is morally superior to an outcome in which he almost single-handedly dictates the future of two sentient species. It's pretty much the definition of the Prime Directive. That's why I'm pretty confused about the hate.
This is a pre-warp society. This is a planet with two competing sentient races. I say competing because of the line uttered by a Menk in the episode, "The Valakians don't let us live where the soil is fertile." How can Archer and Phlox know the right answer? Maybe the Valakians will find a cure within a hundred years. Maybe their furious medical research, spurred on by their impending doom, will lead to them being one of the most medically advanced societies in the Alpha quadrant. Maybe the Menk will experience some unrelated plague in 50 years, and the Valakians' research will allow them to cure the Menk, even though they are in the end unsuccessful in curing themselves. Maybe, if Phlox had given them the cure, they would have reverse-engineered it, and in 75 years, when it was concluded that the Menk were breeding too much and draining too many resources, they would have designed a genetic mutation and introduced it into the Menk population. Maybe, had he cured them, the Menk and Valakians would have fought a war nuclear war in 120 years over the planet's fertile areas and destroyed each other. Maybe they would have both lived and thrived and eventually become one completely integrated society. My point is, Phlox's intervention, whether the morally superior choice or not, would have without a doubt changed the course of life on planet and future of both races, forever. That conclusion is unavoidable. And it's quite the responsibility. One that he should take on? Perhaps. But the Prime Directive may point towards no. When members of the Federation are dealing with pre-warp societies, it's almost like they're following the Temporal Prime Directive. They've set "invention of warp" as the moment in a society's development at which it's ok to "make changes to the timeline". Interfering with this planet, as Phlox said, is like some alien turning up in (or even going back in time to) the time of the neandrathals and helping them overcome the obstacles that pushed them to extinction.
Anyway, these have been my disorganized ramblings in response to some of the comments above. There were too many for organized ramblings!
Wed, Sep 13, 2017, 12:10pm (UTC -5)
I love this episode too and was completely baffled by all the hostility directed towards it. You are right, people are finding this episode morally objectionable not artistically objectionable. I just don't understand their anger. I think this episode, along with other of these early episodes, is looking at why what came to be called the Prime Directive was necessary and what events went in to shaping it. I don't think the episode in itself is saying that Archer and Phlox are actually right to do what they decide to do, they were in a really awful situation of having to decide what to do and were forced to do what they thought was right as nothing was in place to direct them. They can't even be sure (well Archer can't, Phlox seems sure!) that they've made the right choice but shouldn't have been put in the position where they needed to make the choice themselves anyway, they shouldn't have had to have that responsibility. I find Phlox fascinating because he is so very alien and not human, I don't really get that so strongly from many other non human Trek characters. Phlox's moral perspective isn't human and he seems to have a clearer insight into what his 'playing at god' might result in than Archer initially does. Personally I think that Phlox was right, but I don't think we have to agree with him (as many of the comments above demonstrate, many viewers didn't and got very VERY angry...) The episode doesn't seem to me to be dictating that we agree, it seems more open than that. What it's about is the need for a Prime Directive.
Thu, Oct 5, 2017, 8:29am (UTC -5)
One point I’d like to make is how everybody assumes that it was just Archer and Phlox that made the call and that’s that....they file their reports, the information on the cure would be in the database. Basically Starfleet would get the information, and if they disagreed with the outcome they could dispatch envoys no problem.
Sun, Nov 5, 2017, 3:25am (UTC -5)
One thing I haven't seen mentioned (it's possible it was, as I haven't read every comment) is how Phlox's decision was influenced by human perspectives. He originally sees nothing wrong with the Menks' condition, as they seem quite content with the way things are. It's only after human crew members argue that they have their potential limited by the Valakarians that Phlox eventually come around to that position. In fact, I don't think he would even consider withholding the cure if not for how humans have influenced his view on the Menks.
So, paradoxically, it's human ideals, mediated through Phlox's alien perspective, that lead to a decision Archer makes against his instincts. It raises some profound questions of how human morality can be differently interpreted by other species--and lead to unforeseen outcomes. That's my perception of the episode, anyway.
Thu, Nov 23, 2017, 12:49am (UTC -5)
The whole point of it is survival of the species and adaptions that get passed on.
I liken the whole 'Screw it, let'em die' to the 2013–2016 Ebola Epidemic.
The Prime Directive would have us sit back and go, "Well they're not exactly a warp (Western) civilzation and well maybe go-- I mean 'evoloution' has a divine plan for them. They might become the next Nazi germany or something if we save 'em. Screw'em let 'em die."
No, we as a western society went. "Oh no, people in trouble! Let us help!"
Fri, Dec 22, 2017, 9:11am (UTC -5)
In fact, I think I'm done with Star Trek, at least for some considerable time. I like shows about aliens, but not shows seemingly written by aliens whose normative ethics are completely abhorrent by human standards.
Wed, Jan 3, 2018, 5:58pm (UTC -5)
There was an example given where if an alien race came to fix defects in rival species during our evolution, would we have been happy to watch them eventually kill us all off planet of the apes style? That's the argument - not religion.
In the context of the story the decision itself was a small (albeit catastrophic) part. The most intriguing part for me was the framing.
Sat, Jan 6, 2018, 1:00pm (UTC -5)
Maybe, being a simpleton, for the wrong or oversimplified reasons, maybe through misunderstanding evolution, or projecting fantasies, but that is not relevant. At all.
If you attack his decision, you should attack it based on Prime Directive principles.
Not your own ideas that contradict Prime Directive altogether.
Lets suppose Picard came across a comet headed towards a planet holding a pre - industrial civilization of millions. According to Prime Directive he would have to let them burn. How is that different? It isn't.
Is it "genocide" through inaction? Of course.
So, if you folks have a moral problem with Prime Directive, get the hell out or quit winning. This is Star Trek. Prime Directive is canon. End of discussion.
4 stars. I rarely agree with Jammer. He is spot on.
PS. I was expecting an easy solution like "you have to breed with the Menk species". But the writers were bolder than that...
Sat, Mar 10, 2018, 5:28pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 20, 2018, 9:14pm (UTC -5)
In DS9, Doctor Bashir faced similar situations and no Prime Directive stopped him, at least, to try to find a cure.
Everything was going well before the stupid twist. What I thought was going to happen, logically, was that since the Doctor couldn't possibly find a cure, the hopeless people would try to force Archer to hand over Warp technology, as hinted more than once.
Well, I guess our “Neelix” Doc did not pass in the charisma test. Under the same circumstances, let’s think, what would Bones do? Bashir? Crusher? Any human doctor?
Tue, Mar 20, 2018, 10:04pm (UTC -5)
Ok, ok, I never ever liked Neelix, but at least it was sort of touching when he decided to stay on the asteroid - I was happy, 'cos he was a real pain in the... nose, but it was a little sad too - bitteraweet.
This is the first time ever I've been watching Enterprise. Please, no spoilers!! I do hope they leave him on a asteroid too! And Archer back to Earth, where maybe he can make a difference making easier decisions.
Sat, Mar 24, 2018, 3:25am (UTC -5)
First, I want to put some facts straight. Many people here argued that letting that species die is in some way equivalent to letting a bleeding person die. That is, to me, completely false. That comparison frames the discussion completely different: From big picture to small picture compassion. There is no question that letting somebody bleed to death, even though you could help and are asked for help, is morally wrong. But this episode is not about that.
As somebody earlier pointed out, what if a hundred million years ago, there were intelligent dinosaurs, and some alien race decided to save them? Then we would have never existed. Would you still applaud their decision? I mean, you couldn't, obviously, but would they have been right?
This episode was about interference - even though some of the other posters deny this. What they want to do is put their finger on one certain moment in history and freeze it in time. This one species is here now, so we must save it, completely ignoring the consequences. Lets think this through: Archer saves the Valakians. Sounds great. He is now directly responsible for EVERYTHING that happens after this point. If the Valakians decide to genocide the Menk a few years later? His fault. If the treatment doesn't work, and the Valakians die out anyways? Also his fault, as he (or humanity, if he is dead already) should have helped them again. Or should he say "No, we helped you once, not a second time though"? What if the Valakians need constant help? Where do you draw the line? They are pre-warp, as I understand it, so they are not "there" yet. Do you give them replicators, transporters, warp drives? If Archer takes the responsibility for saving their lives, he takes on the responsibility for their continued existence.
Or to put it into the "small" frame of reference: You see a starving orphan. You give it food, so it survives for another ten days. What now? You now have the responsibility for that child. Of course, it would be the right thing to help that child, and it would feel good. But what have you really given that child? If you truly want to help, you take it in, give it an education, until it can survive on its own.
Now why was that child starving? Maybe it was because it was living somewhere where food is scarce, and too many people already live there. And suddenly, there is not one child, but a hundred. Or a thousand. Or millions. And if you give them food, they will have children of their own, which in turn need food, and so forth. Suddenly, your small problem becomes a giant one. Instead of helping one starving child, you created millions of starving children.
And that is what this episode is about. Archer simply can not comprehend the consequences of his actions. Sure, maybe he cures them, and afterwards, everything turns out allright. That is one possibility. The other is, that the Menk will always be second class citizens, permanent slaves. I know, people believe Phlox was wrong in this assessment of the situation, but we just don't know for sure, and neither does Archer.
I think people should pull back a little and not get so hung up on the specifics of the plot. Instead, consider the general question asked here: Is it right to interfere? If aliens landed and helped the Roman Empire, or the Confederate States, or China, or Germany, or Sweden, or the Inka, no matter if the end result was "better" or "worse" - would that have been right? Who decides, if it is better or worse? If you help the Romans, and the germanic tribes or the gauls never have the chance to achieve anything, or even to exist - who wants to have that responsibility? Can you say for certain that this or that would have been better? And if you are sure that one or the other outcome would have been better, can you say the same for future events? If given the choice right now to help either China or America - can you say for certain that one or the other would turn out better? Who do you support in the middle east? And keep in mind, in all those examples, you are not even part of the species: You are some alien that knows almost nothing of the history of those events. All these examples are pretty poor, given that for most of them we can use hindsight. Archer can not do that.
Archer made the only sane choice here: To stay out of it. He was right: He is not there to play god (and no, that is not a religious argument, as somebody tried to protray it: He is not implying that he is interfering with "gods plan", he simply says that he can not decide the fate of an entire species). Even if it goes against all his urges. He wants to help. The pain he feels must be unfathomable. Picard made similar choices all the time - only that his choices had clear black-and-white consequences, most of the time. Here, the consequences are very unclear - which is why people find it so offensive. Everybody has their own interpretation of what would happen next, and thus finds it easy to say what would have been right or wrong to do.
Wed, Apr 25, 2018, 10:06am (UTC -5)
Fri, May 4, 2018, 10:48pm (UTC -5)
Far too often, ENT episodes are focused on action scenes and lack much intelligence or thoughtfulness -- we get that in spades here in a very carefully crafted episode that uses the monologue effect very well. There's plenty about learning about humans (emotions, relationships, compassion, desire to help)-- a staple Trek theme. And there is the impossible dilemma -- difficult decisions to be taken without the guidance of a Prime Directive.
I've always thought BIllingsley seemed a capable actor and the Phlox character had potential -- but both were incredible in this episode. You could see the pain in Phlox's face when he pauses to answer Archer's questions on finding a cure -- this was brilliant. The character really goes through the gamut of emotions.
This episode also seemed far more realistic with the aliens speaking alien languages as the UT wasn't working for the Menk. We had subtitles, Phlox speaking Denobulan. It was as if no stone was left unturned in trying to make this as realistic as possible about Phlox's life, life on the Enterprise, and Valakian/Menk society.
Now for the controvery: First of all, I think evolution is BS but I realize others (Phlox/Archer) believe in it. That's fine. If Trek is to propose the "right" solutions to very difficult philosophical problems (the potential extinction of a race is as big as it gets), then I think this episode violates that ideal. So ultimately Phlox gains respect for Archer because the captain sees things his way -- to not give the Valakians the cure which would potentially stem the development of the Menk, who are eventually meant to be the 1 surviving race. Phlox clearly develops an appreciation for the Menk. (What if the Menk were like Nausicaans?) I suppose, strictly speaking, this would be consistent with the PD as Archer/Phlox would not be interfering with a pre-warp society (that has already been contaminated by Ferengi, as T'Pol pointed out earlier). But would the PD allow a race to go extinct? Doubt it.
So are Phlox/Archer playing God or not? They're damned if they do, damned if they don't. That's what's brilliant here. The one thing that's clear to me is that Archer should not give them warp capability. But Phlox has to give the cure to the Valakians. Would we try and preserve the rhino from extinction? Yes, it's because of us that some subspecies of it are now extinct. But was it meant to be extinct? Maybe because it was not able to survive when man proliferated and he wasn't able to preserve it. But in this case the Valakians will be preserved if Phlox gives them the cure. The evolution theory is so full of holes so it's entirely possible Phlox came to the wrong conclusions, although the episode would not have one believe that.
A strong 3.5 stars for "Dear Doctor" -- I think back to the opening when it's just Phlox feeding his "animals" -- an innocuous start to what builds into a hugely controversial episode. ENT succeeded here. An episode like this can probably be pulled off once a season. There's just so many layers here -- even Archer seeing the Vulcans who remain on Earth (for like a century) in a new light, understanding how they must have felt about humans when he has to figure out whether or not to give the Valakians warp technology and stay on and spoon-feed them. It's not really a question of agreeing or disagreeing with the final decision from Phlox/Archer -- but seeing what a complex, multi-faceted, and intelligent episode this is. Too bad ENT rarely reached these heights.
Sat, Jun 16, 2018, 4:47pm (UTC -5)
Secondly, it is interesting to see the emotions that it rices. I am not sure that Archer to the right decision but to me it does not matter. There is a lot if strange moral considerations in Star Trek , this was one. It was presented in a good way and although I could think of arguments to take another decision in this episode it fits together.
Honestly , interpreting the prime directive in such situations must be almost impossible. And here , when a policy is lacking, what should Archer do. His derision is consistent and understandable.
Sun, Jun 17, 2018, 5:10pm (UTC -5)
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Mon, Jun 25, 2018, 4:46pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Aug 4, 2018, 3:32am (UTC -5)
Phlox is an asshole. First he considers withholding the cure from the captain, but then he goes pussy and tells Archer about it BUT then gives some weak-ass arguments why the captain subsequently should not use it, thereby dropping this weird moral argument in the captain's lap. I mean, I get that the captain is responsible for these choices (which also makes me think why the hell T'Pol didn't force Federation/Starfleet/Vulcan escalation) but damn Phlox, you're a coward. All too happy to geek your way through the tech side of these things and come up with a cure, and then give the God gun to the captain. In an episode where you're constantly saying you're not sure about human competence, you should at least have talked to T'Pol first, being the token two exo-experienced officers on board.
Interesting story, but for me, mostly about how much of a pussy Phlox is and how hard Archer is trying to catch up with the qualms and quandaries, the facts-of-life and the conundra coming at you, when joining the ranks of the more powerful interstellar species.
The two species on the planet (it's been five minutes and I already forgot their names) were just particularly unlucky to get utterly shafted by meeting these two incompetent dummies who first get their hopes up, and then push them off a cliff with nothing but an umbrella. Super crude storytelling devices, terrible unnecessary cruelty by the writers.
Wel... 1.5/4 stars for me, for seeing Archer trying to come to grips with being a mere metal marble in a pinball machine.
Mon, Aug 6, 2018, 1:27pm (UTC -5)
So "cure" isn't even the appropriate word for what is being discussed. Gene modification is. Basically GMO-ing a race.
That would certainly seem to violate the Prime Directive.
Fri, Aug 31, 2018, 9:40am (UTC -5)
You’ve perfectly described one of the many ways in which the writers’ bone-headed ignorance regarding how evolution works stuffed this episode.
A pan-species genetic change that results in them all dying is physically impossible. A spontaneous genetic mutation that inevitably results in the death of the host whilst conferring no survival benefit isn’t a trait that’s likely to remain in the gene pool for very long, much less afflict every single individual of the species.
There are only two in-universe explanations I can think of that could explain this contradiction: one is that Phlox was wrong about it being a genetic condition. The other is that the condition is not naturally occurring, which implies that an advanced alien race has manipulated the Valakians at a genetic level.
Obviously there is zero evidence in-episode for either of these explanations because the real reason is that the script is bollocks.
Sat, Sep 8, 2018, 5:49am (UTC -5)
OH MY GOD YES I MUST DIVORCE MY GIRLFRIEND CANCEL MY ENTIRE LIFE AND WATCH THIS GRIPPING DRAMA.
Mon, Sep 10, 2018, 5:07pm (UTC -5)
The writers were lazy, they should make a plot where we can understand why they were left to die. I will watch the following episode tomorrow hoping Phlox has a mortal genetic disease.
Still much better than Discovery... That's cancer!
Fri, Jan 4, 2019, 10:08pm (UTC -5)
I thought for the uniform, threshold were bad but this somehow takes the cake for prime directive episodes.
Sun, Jan 6, 2019, 6:28pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 17, 2019, 6:56am (UTC -5)
As was previously stated Doctor Phlox should loose his license to practice medicine. The reason we have a moral code is so that we can make the best decision possible when the choice is not so obvious. The moral code of medicine is to save lives not involve yourself in the politics of whose lives they are.
The human moral code has been carved in stone at this point, literally! It dictates that even in extreme circumstances even the most morally corrupt individuals, Hitler, Caligula, Nero, whoever (provided they are not posing a imminent threat of death or harm to others: we wouldn't ask a policeman or solider to stop shooting at someone who is still shooting back) but, once they are out of the fight if injured, even if they were the enemy a moment ago, it is the moral responsibility to provide aid in anyway capable.
There is simply nothing that can be said to redeem this episode. Archer failed as a captain and Phlox failed as a doctor!
Tue, Apr 30, 2019, 2:45pm (UTC -5)
This episode is egregiously wrong and oozing with toxic stupidity, and is likely to permanently deminish my enjoyment of the rest of ENT, which had pleasantly surprised me thus far. I suppose every season of every Trek has had its crap episodes, but to see a stinker like this given four stars by ANYONE, is utterly infuriating.
Thu, May 23, 2019, 12:33am (UTC -5)
I read all the comments and it was, mostly, very interesting. I feel like it is one of the rare episode were the subject was too vast for a TV show and certainly for one episode.
I love the a/b plot structure of classic trek - so far Entreprise did not use it enough, whilst Orville is becoming a master of it - but, as someone noted before, the B plot may have taken too much time for a clear exposition of the dilemma at hand.
Dilemma is the keyword. Many here have oversimplified the topic by saying it was only a matter of giving help or not.
The strength of this script is that it never tried to show a biased vision of this new world. Too many time in Star Trek the point of view of the captain (and the viewer) is quickly shown as a very simple very basic social issue that the mighty Starfleet will try to resolve in a few days. For this to work, the writer make the conundrum simple by exaggerating the divisions and the arguments of each belligerent. DS9 was at his best when dealing with Bajoran politics and the complexity of the situation because they took the time to expose it.
Here, it would have been very easy for the writers to help our candide captain by making the dominant species vile, ill-intended or more clearly supporters of slavery. The script could have shown a immediate and certain bad side effect of the so called “cure” but they use no shortcuts. The letter structure allowed a clear, even distant, description of the situation by a non-human point of view almost like an omniscient narration.
In my humble opinion, the situation should have been presented this way: Is it the Entreprise right to alter the DNA of an entire species, even at their demand? The rules of self-determination are of no use here because the aliens are not developed enough to do the alterations themselves and understand the consequences. The rules for genetics modifications in the Federation are the result of a war and decade of thinking.Amazing Episode.
I read all the comments and it was, mostly, very interesting. I feel like it is one of the rare episode were the subject was too vast for a TV show and certainly for one episode.
I love the a/b plot structure of classic trek - so far Entreprise did not use it enough, whilst Orville is becoming a master of it - but, as someone noted before, the B plot may have taken too much time for a clear exposition of the dilemma at hand.
Dilemma is the keyword. Many here have oversimplified the topic by saying it was only a matter of giving help or not.
The strength of this script is that it never tried to show a biased vision of this new world. Too many time in Star Trek the point of view of the captain (and the viewer) is quickly shown as a very simple very basic social issue that the mighty Starfleet will try to resolve in a few days. For this to work, the writer make the conundrum simple by exaggerating the divisions and the arguments of each belligerent. DS9 was at his best when dealing with Bajoran politics and the complexity of the situation because they took the time to expose it.
Here, it would have been very easy for the writers to help our candide captain by making the dominant species vile, ill-intended or more clearly supporters of slavery. The script could have shown a immediate and certain bad side effect of the so called “cure” but they use no shortcuts. The letter structure allowed a clear, even distant, description of the situation by a non-human point of view almost like an omniscient narration.
In my humble opinion, the situation should have been presented this way: Is it the Entreprise right to alter the DNA of an entire species, even at their demand? The rules of self-determination are of no use here because the aliens are not developed enough to do the alterations themselves and understand the consequences. The rules for genetics modifications in the Federation are the result of a war and decades of thinking.
I agree with those who said that the destiny of this planet is certainly not over once the Entreprise left. We know that everything that happens on a Starfleet starship is studied and scrutinized by the hierarchy and acadamy and it is certainly truer for the flagship and only deep space ship. Archer just decided that he was not capable to make a immediate and world-changing decision and took a temporary one.
P.s.: Apologies for the uncertain grammar, English is not my native language.
Sat, Jul 13, 2019, 7:33pm (UTC -5)
And, of course, the episode is incredibly unsubtle about the point that it genuinely doesn't know what the right course. Archer looks at the damn camera and says as much.
Of course, Next Gen having been made when it was, it's unsurprising it and the subsequent Treks take a hard line anti-Colonialism stance. And since in practice humanitarian aid bleeds incredibly easily into colonialism. If you're really, truly ignorant of all of history - even today, we ask "Do we send humanitarian aid to a famine, knowing most of it will end up in the hands of a brutally violent authoritarian government, and keep them in power, even as it mitigates some of the famine?"
Wed, Aug 14, 2019, 2:15am (UTC -5)
What a shame then, that it rests on a complete nonsense where evolution is concerned. I can and have happily swallowed nonsense about DNA for the sake of a good plot, but the idea that there are things that are 'more evolved' or 'less evolved' or that evolution is a process with a goal is wrong in the sense that it is incorrect, and it jars as much as if the Enterprise were shooting DNA from it's phase cannons. Worse, in fact, because of the moral implications which can be derived from it, as demonstrated in the episode's conclusion.
Things can be better evolved for their environment, or worse evolved for their environment. There is no evolutionary tendency toward sentience, or anything else. We are not 'more evolved' than chimps or bacteria, although we are probably better evolved to take advantage of the current environment than the former, and will prove less resilient to changes in the environment than the latter. If there were to be a change that threatened our extinction, it would not be pre-ordained or be part of a natural process to benefit bacteria or any other species or organism, 'standing on an evolutionary threshold', although it might unleash a wave of evolutionary change.
Accepting this teleological idea of evolution is a step too far for me. I can accept Time travel paradoxes, FTL travel, DNA manipulation and the rest, but leaving a sentient species to die because it's a natural process? The warped thinking behind what 'natural' means in this context is the sort of thing that leads to Social Darwinism, Racial Destiny and Anti-Science. And whatever else Trek is supposed to be about, I'm pretty certain it isn't any of those.
Wed, Aug 14, 2019, 4:27am (UTC -5)
Kermit, I think Trek has been guilty of this sort wrongheaded idea of evolution in the past for sure (I'm looking at you Voyager...) but I don't see that being what was going on in this episode.
Phlox is a human (basically) looking at another race through human eyes. He's saying their evolution is towards something more human cognitively, intellectually, whatever. If he's making a value judgement about it's because he's a being who evolved values so that's what he does.
Sure from mother nature's standpoint a human is no more evolved than a cockroach - building starships and flying cities is no more or less valid a survival mechanism than building a tree nest - yet from our point of view one is certainly more interesting (and even desirable) in the long run.
Phlox's ethical decision isn't a claim that "evolution" judged one more worthy than another (or at least that isn't how I read it) but simply that it isn't ethical for us to put our fingers on the scale and raise one species above another. His comments that they were on an evolutionary threshold can be read as "about to become a lot more like us". His example to Archer about saving the Neanderthals was pretty on point.
Wed, Aug 14, 2019, 4:55am (UTC -5)
Then their soccer ball gets run over by a truck. The kids are in despair: what to play if not soccer? Some of the kids come up with an idea for a new game of running and tagging one another. Those are the ones who were less skilled at soccer. The former soccer stars are kind of miffed. They want to go back to playing soccer because it's the game they shine in.
If only a helpful adult will come along and repair their soccer ball, and all will be as it was. Soccer will be back and this new game (which the less soccer inclined kids turn out to be pretty good at!) will never be played.
So is it ethical to come in as an adult and fix their soccer ball?
Fri, Oct 11, 2019, 3:46pm (UTC -5)
I think Dr. Phlox's use of the word "evolved" is totally and dangerously incorrect. When he says a species is "more evolved" than another, it propagates the unscientific belief that evolution has an ultimate destiny, when in scientific reality, it does not. Evolution is based ONLY on genetic mutations that benefit survivability in a particular environment over those without the mutation. We're not all destined to become pure beings of light.
The words he could have used that would have been scientifically correct would have been "developed" or "complex." It's possible the Valakians may have had a more complex neurological system than the Menk. But it is IMPOSSIBLE for Phlox to know if a species' brain would become more complex generations down the line without the use of a time machine. The only argument I could see is by wiping out the Valakians, the Menk's prime benefactors who they relied on for survivability, would create a new environment where the Menk must adapt or die, possibly favoring resourceful Menk over the long run.
This episode gets 0 Stars purely for the garbage science alone. This episode may have even informed some people's personal understanding of evolution, which is almost unforgivable.
But this episode is not about evolution really. The story they wanted to tell (but also failed here as well) was about the origins of the Prime Directive and non-interference in other planetary races' development. Many people have stated here in the comments in respects to the appalling interpretation of the Prime Directive in this episode, so I don't need to go into it too.
But there was something here that could have worked and made sense as a morality tale for the need of non-interference, and they totally missed the opportunity. Everything in the episode is the same leading up to that conservation between Phlox and Archer. My change would have been Phlox couldn't find a cure. He's a doctor, not a cultural anthropologist, so of course he then pleads with Archer to still try to help them live (Hippocratic Oath and all). The Valakians had earlier asked Archer for their warp drive technology so they could go out on their own to see if another species can help them find a cure. Because of Phlox's urging and his own pain at seeing suffering, Archer reluctantly gives the Valakians the specs for warp drive to help them save themselves. But the Valakians prove incapable of handling this new technology in their current state of scientific development, where they unintentionally cause an anti-matter chain reaction, destroying the entire planet. Both Menk and Valakians are now wiped out. The Prime Directive is about culture, technology, and engineering and the need for a race to develop social ideas and these advanced machines on their own. It is NOT about watching people die until they magically figure out warp drive technology.
Yes, my proposed story change is a lot darker, but it actually is a story about the need for the Prime Directive that MAKES SENSE, both scientifically and culturally.
Tue, Oct 15, 2019, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
This episode initially asks us to judge the relative utility of saving a race that will eventually die out anyway, versus doing nothing. It then seamlessly transitions to asking us to consider the larger question of whether we should even be concerning ourselves with the first question in the first place. And I think that's where a lot of people fell off the train. The first question wasn't really answered. But the second question was. They decided not to answer the first question, because they couldn't. Not that time, not that place.
That non-answer is what really threw people off this episode. But I urge those of you in that category to reconsider. My enjoyment of this episode does not hinge on the decisions made. If it does for you, I suspect you are too close to the material, and not seeing the big picture. Take a few steps back and re-watch it. Try not caring whether they answer the question or not, and just enjoy watching them wrestle with it. It's the journey people, not the destination.
Mon, Oct 21, 2019, 3:17pm (UTC -5)
I don't think that's an accurate analogy at all. The Menk have no need for a "new heart." Their health is perfectly fine, so it's not like a hard moral or medical choice needs to be made here. Only the Valakians have need for medical intervention. And if cured, there is no evidence that it will only prolong another inevitable extinction. A cure is a cure.
The failure of this episode is the junk science that if 2 sentient species co-exist and one goes extinct, the other will flourish and "evolve" into a more intelligent species. So Phlox and Archer did not provide necessary medical services as a result.
The more accurate analogy would be: "Patient 1" is dying and in need of a heart transplant. "Patient 2" is his brother and is perfectly fine and healthy. The doctor has a perfectly good new heart waiting to be transplanted into Patient 1, but the dumb amoral doctor, with absolutely no evidence, believes that Patient 2 will flourish into a better individual without his brother around anymore, so condemns Patient 1 to die. What a load of bollocks.
Tue, Oct 22, 2019, 1:19am (UTC -5)
As for the episode we did get:
I think the point of the episode is that Archer and co don't have enough information to make the call.
The analogy of two individual patients isn't accurate. We're talking about two sentient species that share an ecosystem and have some sort of symbiotic relation. So yes, one should be very careful before they decide to intervene in such a case and upset the balance. Anyone who thinks Archer or Phlox thought that "the Valakians 'should' die" is completely missing the point here.
Now, I'm not necessarily saying that their decision was right. Maybe it wasn't. Helping people in need is also important, after all. It's a fascinating dilemma which we should discuss. But even if we reach the conclusion that Archer and Phlox were definitely wrong, that doesn't make them genocidal monsters. The situation is way too complex for us to make such judgement.
Wed, Oct 23, 2019, 5:25pm (UTC -5)
Thanks for compliment! In an alternate universe, I hope my counterpart was able to write some Star Trek episodes.
And I agree with you re my analogy being not quite accurate - it was only meant as a direct rebuttal to Brian Lear's analogy, not one I would have brought up as an exemplar.
I agree that the issue of a total world-wide intervention is much more complex than a heart transplant. But my argument to that is that even if Archer and Phlox believed they didn't have enough information, they erred on the side of natural selection and non-interference, which they knew very well would cause the extinction of millions (if not billions) of a sentient life form. Why not err on the side of life, especially if they can do something about it? Isn't that what practicing medicine is all about? Not making moral decisions based on who deserves to live and die but just saving any life at all costs? We subvert natural selection every day by taking all kinds of medications. Medicine itself is a form of species interference, rendering natural selection amongst humans almost moot.
I think this episode made a mistake using medicine and disease as a vehicle to explore non-interference, if that's the route they wanted to go. A more nuanced discussion would have been political, as we can apply that to our current world's situation, especially at the time this aired circa 9/11/01. At what point should a society interfere in another's development or internal politics? Do we have a moral duty? Or do some well intentioned decisions in the moment sometimes backfire?
What if the Valakians were actively committing genocide against the Menk? Does Archer have the right to intervene on moral grounds? Is it worth starting a war with the Valakians to save the Menks? Even if Archer intervenes and overpowers the Valakians with his superior technology, then what? Does Archer have to stay there permanently to keep the peace? I find that much more interesting than a doctor withholding necessary medical care.
Mon, Nov 11, 2019, 4:46am (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 24, 2019, 12:29pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Feb 1, 2020, 3:42am (UTC -5)
The worst part of this episode is that is otherwise fascinating and wonderfully constructed. By altering the dilemma somewhat, this entire debacle might have been avoided. Perhaps if the Menk faced certain extinction if the Valakians survived as they both fought over scarce resources. Or the key to Valakian genetic survival was in cross-breeding with the Menk, but their prejudices stood in the way. Or the Doctor made a shocking discovery that the vaccination came through harvesting genetic material from the Menk in such a way that caused them harm. ANYTHING but the distant possibility that the Menk might not reach apex primacy over the planet in a million years.
Even if Archer still accepted that deeply flawed logic, the episode might have been redeemed if we concluded on a moment of thoughtful melancholy. “Did we do the right thing dooming this entire race to certain extinction in deference to a warped understanding of evolution?” Phlox might have mused aloud. Instead, Phlox tees up a date for himself and everyone goes about their business, content knowing that by the Age of Picard, all of Valakian culture, an entire race, its music and history and science, its hopes and dreams vanish from existence with the highly dependent Menk likely also extinct from sudden neglect.
Sat, Feb 8, 2020, 8:29am (UTC -5)
Sat, Feb 8, 2020, 9:55am (UTC -5)
No doubt "Dear Doctor" is one of Trek's most controversial episodes -- the amount of comments here never ceases to amaze me.
The thing is if Phlox didn't discover the cure then there is no difficult decision etc. But I agree that the final choice is cruel and wrong. But I have an issue with those who say the episode is garbage etc. because they fail to consider all the quality aspects of this episode.
What made me want to respond to your comment was having watched "Carbon Creek" yesterday -- similar in some ways to "Dear Doctor" as it is a very different kind of ENT ep. But one scene in particular -- where Mestral decides to use his phaser to rescue the trapped miners against the initial wishes of the other 2 Vulcans who don't want to contaminate the locals -- was handled much better in "Carbon Creek". T'Mir eventually decides to help Mestral and they free the miners who know nothing of the phaser.
So I wish "Dear Doctor" was written in such a way that the cure, while known to Phlox/Archer as working, is delivered in a way so that they are not so obviously interfering. Maybe they couch the cure as an untested/unproven/uncertain or they deliver it via the water system or atmosphere while leaving the planet etc.
Wed, Feb 19, 2020, 11:32am (UTC -5)
Man was not meant to play God. It's natural for the Valakians to die out. It's natural for the Menk to survive. It is not for humanity to wander along and say nope, I don't like this arrangement, I choose to change this.
The Prime Directive exists for a reason, a little more use of it on this planet and our history would be a lot less bloody.
Fri, Jun 5, 2020, 3:52pm (UTC -5)
I love a great Trek episode with "gray area", but there isn't any here. They could either save millions of people or not, and they chose "not." Do have them make that choice to save a 2nd race could be made gray if there was an immediacy to it (the classic who lives and who dies) but their reasoning was all conjecture over what might happen after centuries have passed.
Basically, if there had been no 2nd race, they'd have given them the cure... that's seriously messed up. This is a horrible "morality tale" that is lacking in morality. By this episode's "logic" of "let nature run its course" then no one should combat disease, which the chars obviously don't believe. Horrible episode.
Fri, Jun 5, 2020, 6:55pm (UTC -5)
I agree I wouldn’t have gave this episode 4 stars either. I think the reason it was rated so highly is because it brings up some interesting points that can be discussed. “Deep issues” and what not. Personally Trek will always be a tv show and I judge episodes on my entertainment. Did the episode hold my attention the entire time? Were there times I was smiling or laughing? Would I want to watch the episode again one year later? In general I also usually like episodes that are smaller in scope and are more character studies than grand problems dealing with an entire planet. I’m not quite done with this first season but I enjoyed the episodes “ Silent Enemy”, “Shuttlepod One”, and “Acquisition” the most so far
Sat, Jun 6, 2020, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
An evolutionary process that had been happening for millennia on an alien world... Noone has the right to come in and "cure" this process just because the outcome is unfavorable. Here's a scenario: the Valakians are saved, but they now know the Menk were destined to survive when they went extinct. What's to stop a real Valakian version of Hitler from getting it into his/her head that at some point in the future, the survival of the Valakian race could be at stake again. Then he goes full-on Hitler and murders every last Menk on the planet.
This is precisely why someone can't just simply play god just because they can. Noone is wise enough to determine the future and see all ends.
Mon, Jun 22, 2020, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
Phlox and Archer does the exact same thing, saying the Valakians are not worthy because they have the virus. They should die, so that the Menk might evolve. Might. They are depiced in the final scenes as vile, immoral, evil beings that plot to wipe out an entire race just because they think it's the right thing to do. They convince themselves billions should die in the name of Fate and The Plan of some unknown future. How can you not see how wrong that is?
"An evolutionary process that had been happening for millennia on an alien world... Noone has the right to come in and "cure" this process just because the outcome is unfavorable. "
Science doesn't care. The "process" means nothing. The future is unknown. The actions in the NOW is what's important, and what defines Archer and Phlox. The part where Phlox insinuates neandertals might've "beaten" the humans is nonsense. So what? If they are so worried about the future through their actions, why is interacting with ANY species allowed? Why help ANYONE? Why have medicine at all - we're actively changing the future through helping people! If someone cured the spanish flu before millions died, you might've not been born! The universe wouldn't have cared.
"Here's a scenario: the Valakians are saved, but they now know the Menk were destined to survive when they went extinct. What's to stop a real Valakian version of Hitler from getting it into his/her head that at some point in the future, the survival of the Valakian race could be at stake again. Then he goes full-on Hitler and murders every last Menk on the planet."
I can just as easily construct a scenario going the other way. It's not relevant. What is a future Menk is a space Hitler that kills 40 other civilizations? What if a valakian would later develop eternal life and peace to all? What if person X stubs his toe? Everything in the future is unknown, and no future is the wrong future.
"This is precisely why someone can't just simply play god just because they can. Noone is wise enough to determine the future and see all ends."
Saving people in need isn't playing God. Actively withholding a cure is genocide. They are, not even through inaction (they are waaay beyond that) responsible for the death of an entire race of highly intelligent species that has asked for their help. Begged, even. That came to THEM, which the episode also mentions.
It's evil. It's despicable. And Archer is a hypocritical fool when he goes off on the other (more evolved) aliens in Observer Effect for exactly the same thing, but this time it's bad because it happened to humans!
Mon, Jun 22, 2020, 12:24pm (UTC -5)
Man was not meant to play God. It's natural for the Valakians to die out. It's natural for the Menk to survive. It is not for humanity to wander along and say nope, I don't like this arrangement, I choose to change this.
The Prime Directive exists for a reason, a little more use of it on this planet and our history would be a lot less bloody."
People should not take any medicine. They should not wear glasses or use a prostetic limb. Forget about hearing aids. Children with illness should be left alone. It's not natural, and it's not for humanity to say nope, I don't like this arrangement, I choose to change this.
This is what you're saying. Now take off those glasses, God wants you to not be able to see.
Tue, Jun 23, 2020, 3:14am (UTC -5)
I understand what you’re saying but I don’t think humans inventing glasses for humans is the best analogy. It would be more like aliens showing up here on Earth tomorrow and giving us Covid vaccines. Okay maybe something more devastating like the Black Plague would be more apt but I’m trying to bring it to current times. But what effect would that have on us? Would people who took the vaccine be outcast for ingesting something from aliens? Would religions be altered? Would most of the worlds funding go into trying to contact these aliens again? There’s all sorts of repercussions and questions to be asked.
Tue, Jun 30, 2020, 11:58am (UTC -5)
Here is something for you, unless you want to argue that morality comes down from a higher power, then there is no such thing as “real” morals. They’re just man’s opinions, “letting a species die out is bad” has as much objective truth value as “Parsifal is better than the Ring” “veal is delicious” or “cats are better than dogs” that is to say that they have no objective truth value at all, no moral claims do.
That isn’t to say that something needs to be objectively true to be true for YOU, but nothing can be moral or immoral in the way that something can be say...blue, or physically dead.
Tue, Jun 30, 2020, 12:33pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jun 30, 2020, 1:15pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 22, 2020, 6:03am (UTC -5)
I myself would have gone against Phlox and Archer, and their decision at the end shocked me. Even after giving the matter a lot of thought and trying to acknowledge the ways in which I could be wrong, on balance I would still side with handing over the cure.
But I do think the opposing argument has its merits. It's a shame it wasn't argued as well in the episode itself as fans have argued it here. Completely brushing off the scale of the intervention on the basis of "We should always help people" is a deeply reductive position to take. Phlox and Archer are not condemning the species to certain death, and do help them to extend their lives, potentially enabling them to find a cure themselves. They're not rigidly adhering to some principle of non-interference but stopping shy of giving themselves total freedom to change the course of another planet's history. It's a compromise position, and in most moral dilemmas we recognise compromise as reasonable, don't we?
While the most compelling thing about the episode is that it asks a question with no existing real-world parallels, it is, of course, reminiscent of debates around euthanasia and intervention in armed conflicts. We have to recognise that the pitch of the debate - the comparisons to Hitler and general hatred directed towards a single TV episode - is more the result of our own intense fear of death and what it represents, more than it is a coolly rational stance. At the end of the day, with events on this scale, you simply do not know how many lives you are saving or condemning with your actions.
As I say, I personally would take the risk and deliver the cure.
Wed, Jul 22, 2020, 6:08am (UTC -5)
In particular, I think it would have been better to have Phlox state that a cure is only potentially possible *if* he, assisted by other Earth doctors, dropped all other duties to perform a decade or so of research. Once you start looking at what else has to be sacrificed in order to play God on other planets, it gets a lot harder to deny the need for a prime directive.
Tue, Sep 1, 2020, 2:12am (UTC -5)
First off, regardless of the morality of the ending, the episode was very good. The acting was good. The dialogue was good. The music was good. The story was good. They really put you into an alien mind, which is no small feat. I feel like the episode works on a lot of levels.
That being said, Phlox and Archer definitely were wrong, in my opinion. In fact, I'm contorting myself to try to come up with a way that this can be viewed as morally gray, in even the smallest respect, but I just can't do it.
So how does the episode try to justify it? I'll sum it up:
1. The disease is genetic, not an outside agent
2. There's another developing species on the planet
3. They are a pre warp civilization
4. It's an alien world and we shouldn't interfere
The episode tries to disguise the fact that these are terrible reasons by combining all of them into one big confusing argument. But when you break it down none of them make any sense.
What the hell does it being genetic matter? We fight against genetic diseases all the time NOW, we don't stop people with Sickle Cell from getting bone marrow transplants because it's "the natural evolutionary process." By the logic of the commenters above, what right do we have to interfere?
Oh, but it's an alien planet! ...And? Like, what does that have to do with anything? The prime directive only emphasizes non-interference because of cultural preservation and the safety that comes with a slow, natural development. It's not because other planets aren't as worthy of life or whatever. Would you argue that doctors shouldn't treat patients from other countries? Other ethnicities? What's the difference between that and other planets? Some arbitrary technological red line?
The only factor that might've made for an interesting moral dilemma is the Menk, but the only way that would work is if they were actively being persecuted, and if the diseased party were generally the bad guys. As it stands, that argument could apply to any species in the ST universe. Oh, Humans are holding Klingons back from their true potential. We should let all of them die! It's ridiculous, and tries to hide that behind some mystical worship of "evolution." It doesn't change the calculus at all.
The prime directive is about cultural preservation and the understanding that slow, self-generated progress is beneficial to a society as a whole. Not from some aversion to playing god.
Mon, Nov 23, 2020, 3:32am (UTC -5)
I must have blocked this completely from my mind, because the only thing I remember about it is the doctor quizzing Cutler about medical terms (she is very pretty, and it was neat watching her remember the names and connections of medical terms), and I remember them watching a movie and Trip claiming he had something in his eye (that was actually the only scene with him in it!)
Besides that, the show was HORRIBLE!
First, for the "B" plot: polygamy is fundamentally wrong! And yet they try to normalise it with the doctor having multiple wives. And rather than that replusing Cutler, she "wants to be friends and see where it goes"?? Disgusting!
And the "A" plot-well, all I can say is I'm glad this is fiction. For one thing, they play evolution like it is fact, and then decide to not help a civilization who needs it! That is REALLY out there!
I will use this as an example (albeit, it is a poor one, but I can't think of anything else): I am Black myself, and yet, if let us say the Black Death would kill every every European and Asian person in the 14th century (it was a Eurasian pandemic at that time), I would never condone letting it happen if I had a cure, just so that Africans would never be enslaved, or First Nations wouldn't be decimated! That is horrible!
Again, I'm glad that such things are in God's hands, and no human would ever have to make such a choice, especially since the choice given in this show is what the writers feel is acceptable!
But, in universe, I can see Archer maturing, and even mentioning a directive. He can see that such blundering into others lives is injurious
Ok, I'm off to the comments now-I'll read a few, but I still stand by what I said
Mon, Nov 23, 2020, 5:46pm (UTC -5)
>And the "A" plot-well, all I can say is I'm glad this is fiction. For one thing, they play evolution like it is fact, and then decide to not help a civilization who needs it!
What do you have against evolution? I read that you're religious but can't you fit that in to your beliefs and say God planned evolution? Do you take everything in the bible literally?
Mon, Nov 23, 2020, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
"What do you have against evolution? I read that you're religious but can't you fit that in to your beliefs and say God planned evolution? Do you take everything in the bible literally? "
I would think saying that God planned evolution would constitute blasphemy in the highest extreme. To say God designed beings with an in-built mechanism to fight and struggle and suffer for their survival? Not really surprising that religions are against that idea.
Mon, Nov 23, 2020, 8:15pm (UTC -5)
I would think saying that God planned evolution would constitute blasphemy in the highest extreme. ... . Not really surprising that religions are against that idea.
Maybe your religion, @John, is against it. I sympathize, as there are many reasons to be against it on scientific grounds. But that does not excuse the laziness in saying "religions are against that idea". Many religions are not against the idea.
Take catholicism. Here's what the pope said:
The Big-Bang, that is placed today at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine intervention but exacts it. The evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.
You can read the whole thing here:
I don't know what religion you are @John. But just because your religion is against evolution - and again I sympathize, there are many reasons to be against it from a purely scientific perspective - that is no reason to drag other religions onto your side of the argument. Religions are as diverse as people, including on the topic of evolution.
Mon, Nov 23, 2020, 11:49pm (UTC -5)
But on to your question: DID GOD USE EVOLUTION?
Many who do not believe in the Bible embrace the theory that living things emerged from lifeless chemicals through unknown and mindless processes. Supposedly, at some point a bacteria-like, self-replicating organism arose, gradually branching out into all the species that exist today. This would imply that ultimately the mind-bogglingly complex human actually evolved from bacteria.
The theory of evolution is also embraced by many who claim to accept the Bible as the word of God. They believe that God produced the first burst of life on earth but then simply monitored, and perhaps steered, the process of evolution. That, however, is not what the Bible says.
According to the Bible, Jehovah God created all the basic kinds of plant and animal life, as well as a perfect man and woman who were capable of self-awareness, love, wisdom, and justice.
The Bible account of creation does not conflict with the scientific observation that variations occur within a kind, not different kinds
Thu, Nov 26, 2020, 11:29pm (UTC -5)
Or a brain.
The utopia Star Trek promises can't even exist anywhere the fascist impulses that would defend "watching the death of an entire race for the greater genetic good" also exist.
The have nots will wage war to survive. The haves will allow all kinds of corruption in order to protect themselves from falling through the cracks.
It's what creates the rot in societies that ultimately leads to their collapse.
And nothing said by amoral cynics like Jack will make "Two women are allowed to kiss" as dangerous.
Fri, Jan 8, 2021, 9:40pm (UTC -5)
That alternative idea for the episode is such a smart solution the episode's central problem that the writers not going with it feels baffling.
The potential destructive power of warp drive, something that even in testing could prove to be a deadly threat to not just the desperate Valakians but also the unaffected Menk? That's the kind of situation where Archer perhaps concluding that he can't give it to them given the risk would be an understandable one even if half the audience didn't agree with the decision.
Going that route could even be a chance to include the senior officers in the discussion, with Trip's familiarity with warp engines leaving him believing its too dangerous to give to anyone who can't handle it. On the other hand Hoshi, who's studied the Valakian culture as part of the mission communications, believes they have the capacity and competence to best deal with it.
At the heart of it the Captain has to face the choice of one race likely dying out, or fundamentally altering a society via technology that could pose an existential threat to both races. It would still have the best elements of the actual canon episode (raising questions & exploring Archer's character) while removing the abhorrent parts of it (the dreadful understanding of evolution & dubious conclusion).
Tue, Jan 12, 2021, 11:39pm (UTC -5)
My first impression of this episode was similar to Jammer's reaction. I thought it was the best written and performed of the series so far. The questions it asks are thought provoking, if controversial. It is what Star Trek is supposed to be.
After giving it further thought though, I ultimately agree with what appears to be the majority. The writers really got the moral of this story pretty screwed up, in my opinion. I understand that the Prime Directive is supposed to be a fundamental principle of Starfleet. And I also understand that they are supposedly still working out exactly what that is at this point in time. But the logic here makes no sense.
Evolution is real. That does not mean that natural evolution is some sacrosanct principle of the universe that should be worshiped or deferred to. And there is no reason to think that "letting nature take its course" is preferable to human intervention to preserve the life of a species that would otherwise die off without it.
At the heart of evolution is the principle of "survival of the fittest." Well, if a humanoid species is "fit" enough to travel in space in search of a cure for a species-threatening genetic illness, and if they happen to find someone that can actually cure that disease, doesn't that make them pretty damn fit? Who are Archer and Phlox to decide what the conditions for survival should be?
And how far does Archer and Phlox's philosophy go? Is it immoral and against the principles of evolution for someone that is not medically trained to go to a doctor when they get sick? Is it immoral and against the principles of evolution for a doctor to treat someone that doesn't have the medical knowledge to help themselves? Or do these principles only apply when the disease is literally capable of wiping out the entire species? Should we stop seeking a cure for cancer or AIDS? What about Coronavirus? Should we just let it run its natural course? Even if it means the deaths of millions?
And what about the practice of medicine in third-world countries and other communities that don't have the same knowledge and resources that the "Western" world has developed. Was it wrong to make a huge effort to vaccinate the entire continent of India to erradicate Small Pox? Is it wrong to vaccinate or provide AIDS meds to people in Africa?
The conclusion to this episode is extremely logically flawed. With that said, I appreciate that the writers at least had the guts to raise this question. And to do it in a relatively well written and performed episode. Ultimately, I still think the episode was a good one ... but the "moral of the story" is fundamentally bankrupt.
Wed, Jan 13, 2021, 1:06am (UTC -5)
The question of just how far non-interference goes is a good one. I had a hunch maybe five years ago, which is slowly becoming a conviction, that Bablylon 5's preposterous race the Lumati, featured in the episode Acts of Sacrifice, is a pastiche and biting satire on Trek's Federation. It's just too close to home the things they say about refusing to lift a finger to help 'inferior races'.
This race is mostly played for laughs, which is telling since their philosophy is arguably the other side of the coin of the PD.
Sun, Feb 21, 2021, 1:12pm (UTC -5)
This is the type of question that Phlox says he knows the answer to.
Natural selection basically says that an organism that has characteristics that give it advantages in a particular environment have a greater chance of surviving and producing offspring. Not that a species will automatically continue to evolve into something better. What is an advantage one day may be a disadvantage in a million years. I want to note that I used the word "better" a moment ago. This is where writers go wrong when discussing evolution often times. They seem to think that humans must evolve "upward" and become "better" like demigods or Q or something. They seemingly believe that there is some "intended path" from one celled organism, to monkey, to man, to god. After a nuclear holocaust a cockroach is better adapted to survive on Earth than a man who looks like Brad Pitt and has the brain of Albert Einstein. If Phlox decided that a catastrophic event happening on Earth some day is inevitable should he stop treating humans to make way for that plucky young inheritor of the Earth the cockroach?
Phlox saying that he knows how these two races will evolve in 1000 years is silly. What will happen in a million? 10 million? 100 million? Saying that one race is going to be "better" than another one therefore he is going to let one species die is a moral judgement that is as monstrous as it is stupid. A judgement that some very bad people in humanity's past have also made to excuse some terrible crimes.
Bad science. Rotten morals. Terrible episode.
Tue, Mar 9, 2021, 6:35pm (UTC -5)
IMO the episode is fascinating - well paced, well acted, well put together. The problem, however, is that well made pro-eugenics propaganda is still propaganda - which, entirely non-hyperbolically, this episode is (albeit unintentionally, I'm certain).
Discussion of the intent of the episode, the prime directive, whether we should always help and so on is interesting, but secondary. The fact is, the science underlying Phlox's arguments is so utterly wrong as to render all his reasoning objectively worthless from the get-go. What ticks it up to abhorrent is that it's quite literally the same misunderstanding of evolution - and subsequent reasoning - that underpins eugenics. I was stunned when the end wasn't Phlox realising how wrong he was, and that the episode furthering unambiguously portrays him as correct. Other Trek episodes are also badly wrong on evolution, but Dear Doctor isn't the harmless pulp they are.
Even if it wasn't fundamentally wrong, Archer had many other options to explore before letting an entire race die. Others in this thread have given many suggestions, from moving the Menk to at least asking Starfleet. The script presents a false dichotomy - which, although unwitting here, is a hallmark of propaganda.
But frankly, it all boils down to this - regardless of any peripheral details. Phlox and Archer decide to let a race go extinct (genocide or not) because of eugenics-adjacent pseudoscience, and the ending encourages us to see that as a tough but ultimately correct call. Hopefully I don't have to argue why that's bad, even irresponsible.
Tue, Mar 9, 2021, 6:53pm (UTC -5)
You are going to be very disappointed with a large portion of the Trek fan base, I'm afraid.
Mon, Jun 7, 2021, 10:29pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jun 8, 2021, 6:07am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 9, 2021, 2:09pm (UTC -5)
Once again, given the future prediction that the Menk will evolve in the absence of the Valakians, whether the Valakians should be helped or not is a moral question which I am not commenting upon at all. May be Archer / Phlox are immoral to withhold medicine. I am just saying that the science shown may not be bad.
Thank you very much for responding to my comment.
Wed, Jun 9, 2021, 2:23pm (UTC -5)
The theory of evolution won't just change one day. That's not what the word theory implies. You are simply not clued up with the subject or the nature of a scientific theory of that nature. Theory refers only to the point that we don't know everything about it - not that it's some guesswork. The core details will be as true 10000 years from now as they are today.
Wed, Jun 9, 2021, 5:21pm (UTC -5)
Moreover, in the context of Star Trek and it's commonly hominid aliens, the idea of "predictable evolution" actually makes sense. It's an example of a bit of fictional science that makes the Trekverse more consistent, even if it's unlikely to be true in our own universe.
I'm quite baffled, though, by those who think that this is a justification for what Archer and Phlox did (or rather: didn't do) in this episode. I think there are other arguments to support their decision, but the argument of "we'll let this species die because they are genetically inferior" is not doing them any favors...
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 4:29am (UTC -5)
To say that we will discover this is wrong in any significant way would be a complete overturning of evolution. It's sort of possible this will happen but the script clearly doesn't reference any such development, and it can't simply be explained away as a small, incremental change in our understanding.
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 4:36am (UTC -5)
Will we one day discover natural selection is not the guiding force in evolution? Possibly, but it seems very, very, very unlikely.
If we did make this discovery would we have to start from scratch and basically ditch almost every word that has been written on the topic since 1859? Yes, we would.
What is not coherent is to try to save the episode by proposing something that completely and utterly overturns evolution by natural selection and then treat it as merely an incremental change in our understanding.
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 4:57am (UTC -5)
That sentence is true for specialists but far less so for generalists like Humans. We, as a species have not adapted to any specific environment.
The Hominidae and especially homo sapiens has developed bigger and better brains that makes us capable of adapting to more and more environments. There are Humans in the antarctic and in space. Homo Sapiens, because of this adaptability are also called general specialists. Any sentient being forming a civilization would need to have significant brain power. Certain forms of Mollusca are on a similar path. Rapid brain(s; they have several) growth and more and more complex behavior. Meaning that one could assume that if a species gets on the path of continued brain growth it will develop into something that for primitive Humans could be seen as godlike.
I must admit, I don't remember the episode, even though I have seen it... oh Enterprise...
here an amusing vid about how much higher our IQ's are compared to our ancestors. :)
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 6:37am (UTC -5)
I don't think, in context, there was any misunderstanding or contradiction of natural selection in this episode and even if there was, it was incidental to the main ethical dilemma.
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 8:00am (UTC -5)
"Will we one day discover natural selection is not the guiding force in evolution? Possibly, but it seems very, very, very unlikely."
There's no reason to a-priori assume that's there is only one principle guiding evolution. Denying natural selection is indeed silly, but we may well discover that reality is more subtle and more complex than we first thought.
"If we did make this discovery would we have to start from scratch and basically ditch almost every word that has been written on the topic since 1859? Yes, we would"
Ditch every word? No.
Update tons of stuff? Yeah.
When revolution happen in science, the old theories remain useful for certain limited domains. Our understanding of the physics, for example, has been completely altered in the past century at least twice (relativity and quantum mechanics) but we still teach and still use Newtonian mechanics.
I give this example of physics because it's my field. But there's not reason to assume biology would be any different.
By the way, if you'd show quantum mechanics to a 19th century physicist, they would laugh it off as crazy. I'm pretty sure that modern molecular genetics will also sound like "black magic" to a 19th century biologist.
It's a bit amusing that so many people, including some prominent scientists, claim that such complete revolutions are unlikely to happen in the future, when history proves otherwise... One would think that after a century or two of insanely cool progress, revolution after revolution, they'd start to see the pattern ;-)
(Disclaimer: None of the above is an endorsement to the silly arguments of pseudoscientists and/or religion fundamentalists who say things like "it's just a theory" or "science is baloney because it changes all the time")
"Is evolution or an understanding of it really a key component to this episode?"
No. But it's an interesting discussion nevertheless, and it is - at least - somewhat related to the story of the episode.
(Unlike that debate about religion we once had on the Voyager's "Parallax" page, which is downright funny given the number of other Trek episodes who deal with that topic directly ;-)).
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 8:13am (UTC -5)
This raises interesting questions: What other traits, besides intelligence, might have a near-universal advantage in the Darwinian battle for survival? Would we find these traits on pretty much every planet that can support life?
We get tantalizing hints of the power of this idea by studying parallel evolution here on earth. Things like eyes, for example, evolved more than once. Apparently, developing vision is such an awesome "cheat" that evolution goes down this path again and again.
Unfortunately, being limited to a single planet, most questions of this sort aren't scientifically answerable at the moment. But if we ever discover life on other planets, we'll *know*. I find this to be absolutely fascinating.
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 9:27am (UTC -5)
As I keep pointing out, what Dayala above was suggesting is not a subtle or nuanced development in our understanding but the complete overturning of all that we understand. You may or may not think this is likely one day, but the script does not remotely hint at this - which suggests the cause here is that usual Star Trek problem of misunderstanding how evolution works rather than the belief that natural selection will be refuted one day.
"Natural selection basically says that an organism that has characteristics that give it advantages in a particular environment have a greater chance of surviving and producing offspring."
"That sentence is true for specialists but far less so for generalists like Humans. "We, as a species have not adapted to any specific environment... There are Humans in the antarctic and in space."
Different humans have evolved in radically different ways in response to different environments. Skin colour is perhaps the most obvious. But this isn't a unique point for humans (look at bears v polar bears) and hardly proves the sentence is less true for humans - quite the reverse.
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 10:43am (UTC -5)
I wouldn't say radically. The genetic diversity of the entire human species is very low. Chimpanzees for example have a far higher diversity. Around 100.000 years ago humanity almost died out. Down to around 10.000 individuals. We all come from these 10.000.
We can survive in arctic climate not because of skin color but because we have developed methods like thermo clothing, special housing and food preservation. With these techniques any human can survive anywhere. Head shape, skin color or weird smells don't matter. Also not many bears in space. :)
Absolutely. Maybe the way evolution works is radically different for other life forms. Maybe it is somehow planet specific. Or on the surface of a star and the life only lasts a millisecond. Believing that we have found a theory that is true for the entire universe certainly seems daring. But for us that doesn't matter. Let's not forget WW3 starts in 5 years. :D
The thought of walking through the ancient ruins of a civilization that was gone before we came into existence. *sigh* That would be sooooo cool.
If you have a lazy afternoon then google "Fall of Civilizations" on youtube. It's wonderfully melancholic.
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 10:48am (UTC -5)
Where in the episode does it demonstrate this misunderstanding?
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 10:54am (UTC -5)
I am still unclear as to what this episode gets so horribly wrong about evolution.
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 12:16pm (UTC -5)
"Let's not forget WW3 starts in 5 years. :D"
Suddenly that's doesn't sound so funny... :-(
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 2:18pm (UTC -5)
Consider - for example - that Newton came up with his laws of motion, gravity and viscosity. Newton was able to use these laws to predict the motion of planets, but not, say, the motion of fluids. A few hundred years later, just the laws of motion, gravity and viscosity were put together with another Newtonian invention, calculus to produce the Navier-Stokes equations, that can predict the motion of fluids. It would be wrong to say Navier and Stokes overturned Newton's theories. They simply figured out a way to extend its inherent predictive power in a direction that Newton himself had failed to. My point is, showing a future theory is more predictive than a current theory does not mean that the future theory is invalidating the current theory. It could be building upon, while completely accepting current theory, like Navier-Stokes theory of fluids builds upon, while completely accepting all Newtonian theories.
Thanks for reading.
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 8:25pm (UTC -5)
"Let's not forget WW3 starts in 5 years. :D"
Suddenly that's doesn't sound so funny... :-(
Does knowing history before it happens mean you can change it? Seeing as we avoided the Eugenics Wars of the 1990’s - there was no Khan Noonian Singh who ruled the world in 1992 - I think Star Trek might be an elaborate way for humans from the future to warn us :-)
@Jason R. asked, "@Booming didn't home sapiens cross breed with other human variants eg: neanderthalensis [sic] at various times? I don't recall the specifics, but a book I was reading recently alluded to the possibility”
Yes they did, or at least that is what the genetic data we currently have shows us. Here’s the best book on the topic,
@OmicronThetaDeltaPhi said, "There's no reason to a-priori assume that's there is only one principle guiding evolution. Denying natural selection is indeed silly, but we may well discover that reality is more subtle and more complex than we first thought.”
Great point! And indeed, that is certainly true for the Trek 'verse at least. Or does no one remember the TNG episode “The Chase”?
GALEN: I made a discovery so profound in its implications that silence seemed the wisest course. This work has occupied my every waking thought, it's intruded upon my dreams, it's become my life. When finished and I announce my findings, it will be heard half way across the galaxy.
I think that sometimes people forget that in Star Trek, a few of the fundamental laws of nature have already been broken.
They can travel faster than light, which our current laws don’t allow. On evolution, humans didn’t spring up randomly on Earth. Life was not guided by natural selection towards human form.
Humans on Earth were seeded there intentionally by aliens. Alien designs directed our evolution towards its current form.
Here’s how the female shapeshifter explained things,
Salome Jens: Our civilisation thrived for ages, but what is the life of one race, compared to the vast stretches of cosmic time? We knew that one day we would be gone, that nothing of us would survive. So, we left you. Our scientists seeded the primordial oceans of many worlds, where life was in its infancy. The seed codes directed your evolution toward a physical form resembling ours. This body you see before you, which is, of course, shaped as yours is shaped, for you are the end result.
Picard and Q might well have been standing on Earth when the first sparks of life emerged from the primordial goo (“All Good Things…”), but humans didn’t spontaneously come out of that goo - humans were seeded into that goo by aliens.
Now neither Phlox nor Captain Archer could have known all this. But the viewers of “Dear Doctor” certainly knew it. Knowing how Star Trek will, um, evolve over the next few hundred years of canon, brings added weight to these words,
ARCHER: What I've decided goes against all my principles. 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.
Archer wasn’t sent out by Earth to play God. The aliens in the TNG episode “The Chase” were sent out by their civilization to play god. But don’t kid yourself. If you are picking which race will live, and which will die, you are playing god (see TNG "The Survivors").
Not everyone wants that Job.
Fri, Jun 11, 2021, 4:33am (UTC -5)
Yes, but these genes are slowly phased out because most of them aren't useful. I must admit though, that my knowledge barely goes beyond a few interesting talking points. The book Mal recommended appears to be quite good on a scientific level, even though the author sometimes seems to walk into other fields where his grasp of the topics isn't as firm.
I'm not too worried. Right now we are in a new phase where certain elites bombard us with what among many others Kaiser Wilhelm II called the yellow peril. It is really nothing new.
China has started to refocus it's diplomacy lately because frankly their strategic situation is not great. Almost all countries in the region are closer aligned with the USA and/or more or less hostile towards China.
The USA has China surrounded with military bases and China has a huge demographic problem. What business the USA has in Taiwan which is a breakaway state of China I do not know. But before we wander off into another yellow peril debate, let's just see WW3 positively. Less Corona news, for example. The no good young people, meaning all young people, can be send off to conquer cities bigger than Paris but whose names we never heard of. Full employment!!! During WW2 the Nazis shot the first object into space so I'm hopeful that somebody will develop the warp drive during WW3. Let's not forget that the Chinese sign for crisis is also the sign for opportunity (not true but it sounds really good:) Oh Jonny F... He was high on speed during the entire Cuban missile crisis. Well, he was basically high all the time... :D
Ok, now I'm completely off topic. Sorry!
Fri, Jun 11, 2021, 10:17am (UTC -5)
"Ok, now I'm completely off topic. Sorry!"
Yes you are.
Some how, you've a managed to spin a very real concern to the future of the human race (which has nothing to do with China specifically) to a rant that's - basically - political propaganda.
I know you really dig communism (I'm not being sarcastic here nor am I being imflamatory. You've said that openly and directly at a dozen times), but "off topic" doesn't even begin to cover what you did here.
Can you please *please* stop doing that? This is a Star Trek forum, where we have the opportunity to expand are horizons beyond the toxic stupidity of the current media, and beyond this silly "us vs them" mentality.
Fri, Jun 11, 2021, 10:55am (UTC -5)
"Archer wasn’t sent out by Earth to play God. The aliens in the TNG episode “The Chase” were sent out by their civilization to play god. But don’t kid yourself. If you are picking which race will live, and which will die, you are playing god (see TNG "The Survivors"). "
I think that's the main dilemma of this episode.
Archer basically stumbled into a position of "playing god". No matter what he'd do, he is already involved.
Remember that the Valakians initiated contact. They *asked* for help. They are also clearly aware of the existence of alien life, so there's zero danger of cultural contamination on that front. So if it weren't for the Menk, the decision would have been easy: Give them the cure.
With the Menk... well, I don't envy the decision that Archer had to make here. It's a very complex situation, and any decision would have huge consequences:
On the one hand, one could argue that when people ask for your help then it's obligation to give it to them.
On the other hand, looking at the complex symbiotic relations between the Valakians and the Menk, one could argue that interfering with then already delicate balance on this world is reckless and dangerous.
As for me, I find myself swayed back and forth. It's a well-crafted moral dilemma with no obvious "correct" answer. And if I were Archer, I would have felt terrible afterwords - regardless of what I'd decide in the end.
Guess that's why I'm not a starship Captain, eh?
Fri, Jun 11, 2021, 11:27am (UTC -5)
I do not "really dig communism". The rest I will ignore. My description of the power struggle in the south china sea and eastern asia is accurate, no IR scholar will dispute it. Facts don't care about your feelings.
Fri, Jun 11, 2021, 12:06pm (UTC -5)
Well if we are being technical it's more accurate to call China a breakaway state of Taiwan :)
Fri, Jun 11, 2021, 12:31pm (UTC -5)
I always wonder how the USA sells weapons to a state-like entity it doesn't recognize as a country. Cash upfront? How does this maybe/maybe not defense treaty work? It's a mess.
Fri, Jun 11, 2021, 4:45pm (UTC -5)
Millions fled China to the U.S. during the period of famines caused by various communist experiments. Those people and their ancestors lobbied and continue to lobby Congress in the U.S. to protect Taiwan. You can look up the Taiwan Relations Act if you’re interested as it answers your follow up comment as well.
Fri, Jun 11, 2021, 6:36pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 11, 2021, 6:39pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 11, 2021, 9:53pm (UTC -5)
"As for me, I find myself swayed back and forth. It's a well-crafted moral dilemma with no obvious "correct" answer. And if I were Archer, I would have felt terrible afterwords - regardless of what I'd decide in the end.
Guess that's why I'm not a starship Captain, eh?”
Star Trek used to be much clearer about what an insane burden it is to sit in that captain’s chair. From the very first episode, Pike tells his doc,
PIKE: You bet I'm tired. You bet. I'm tired of being responsible for two hundred and three lives. I'm tired of deciding which mission is too risky and which isn't, and who's going on the landing party and who doesn't, and who lives and who dies. Boy, I've had it, Phil.
BOYCE: To the point of finally taking my advice, a rest leave?
PIKE: To the point of considering resigning.
And Pike’s replacement hears something very similar from Commodore Stone,
STONE: Now, look, Jim. Not one man in a million could do what you and I have done. Command a starship. A hundred decisions a day, hundreds of lives staked on you making every one of them right. You're played out, Jim. Exhausted.
TNG showed us the other side of things, with Riker. Here’s a man who everyone believes is ready to sit in the Chair, but he just can’t seem to take on that kind of responsibility,
HANSON: This is the third time we've pulled out the captain's chair for Riker. He just won't sit down.
after which Picard tells Riker,
PICARD: Will, you're ready to work without a net. You're ready to take command.
But something in Riker’s brain just won’t let him take that giant leap of responsibility,
RIKER: What am I still doing here? Deanna, I pushed myself hard to get this far. I sacrificed a lot. I always said I wanted my own command, and yet something's holding me back. Is it wrong for me to want to stay?
TROI: What do you think?
RIKER: Maybe I'm just afraid of the big chair.
DS9 also took an extended look at the burdens of Command.
DS9 started off with no Captain, and no ship. And Sisko was almost ready to leave the service anyway,
SISKO: I'm investigating the possibility of returning to Earth for civilian service.
PICARD: Perhaps Starfleet Command should be considering a replacement for you.
SISKO: That's probably a good idea.
Eventually, Sisko has all the burden of the galaxy (or at least two quadrants of the galaxy) thrown at him, pushing him up the chain of command,
TODDMAN: If you pull a stunt like that again I'll court martial you or I'll promote you. Either way you'll be in a lot of trouble.
Eventually we see Sisko take on a whole different level of responsibility, and with it, a whole different level of stress,
ROSS: It's late.
SISKO: I know. I was just waiting to see if there is any news.
ROSS: Ben, we've got a big day ahead of us tomorrow. I want to nail down the details on the Bolian operation. I need you focused.
SISKO: I will be.
ROSS: I know how you feel about your crew, but you and I are responsible for an entire tactical wing. Thousands of lives depend on the decisions we make tomorrow. You can't afford to be awake all night worrying about one ship.
SISKO: Admiral, you can order me to my quarters, but there's no way I'm going to sleep. Not as long as the Defiant is out there.
ROSS: All right, as you wish. But you should understand one thing. With any luck, we'll be sending the Defiant on a lot of missions, and you're going to have to get used to it. Good night.
Sisko goes from being responsible for hundreds of lives aboard a ship and space station (Picard has about a thousand), to thousands of lives in an entire tactical wing.
These kinds of escalated levels of responsibility, and the very real stresses they create, somehow got lost on Voyager. At least Pike, Kirk, Picard, and Sisko had the full support of Starfleet. Janeway had no one. But for whatever reason, the Voyager writers just didn’t have the courage to take on that very real aspect of the Captain's Chair. As @MadS says above, we see nothing in Janeway when she has to decide on Tuvix that comes anywhere close to what we could expect from Picard or Pike under such circumstances.
But we get it here with Archer.
I wrote about it in the thread for “The Masterpiece Society” where @Peter G. very insightfully brought up Babylon 5 and the Lumati as a contrast. I’ll just copy a small part of what I wrote here:
"That’s what good leaders do. They don’t always come up with the right answer. But they use everything at their disposal to come to the best decision they are capable of. They do their best, and it is hard.”
The reason “Dear Doctor” is a four star episode is because it shows Archer doing his absolute best to come to decision on this. You can see the ethics are consuming him. He reaches out to the most experienced people he has at his disposal,
ARCHER: The Valakians want our warp technology.
T'POL: What did you tell them?
ARCHER: That I'd think about it.
ARCHER: Safe to say I know where you stand on the subject.
T'POL: Even if you give them our reactor schematics they don't have the technical expertise to build a warp engine.
ARCHER: They have no experience working with antimatter. I doubt they even realize how dangerous it is. They're not ready.
T'POL: Then your decision shouldn't be difficult.
ARCHER: We could stay and help them.
T'POL: The Vulcans stayed to help Earth ninety years ago. We're still there.
ARCHER: I never thought I'd say this, but I'm beginning to understand how the Vulcans must have felt.
And though it goes against everything he *feels*, Archer in the end comes around to Dr. Phlox’s perspective. Not because it is 100% guaranteed to be right. God knows how things will turn out a million years from now?! But he decides because he’s the Captain, and making that decision is his job, even if it tears him apart.
Contrast that with Burnham making Captain on Discovery, and you’ll see how far this franchise has fallen.
Fri, Jun 11, 2021, 11:05pm (UTC -5)
I agree that one distinguishing feature of the various series is how seriously the writers take the incredibly power (and burden) a Captain have. On VOY we certainly never get the gravitas that we see on (for example) nu-Battlestar, where the issue of who's in charge is so serious that it has to be resolved politically. The idea that Janeway is just in charge of the Maquis after the pilot is...strange. And from then on it's taken as a given that she's the Sky Marshall, Grand Inquisitor, judge jury and all the rest. No votes of their peers ever taken, no challenge of her authority (even in Scorpion!). That's pretty wild, since she wasn't just a Captain, but in almost every sense was their Queen. She even turned the tone of her Captaincy into maternal care at certain points, which is certainly more of a Queen-attitude than a 'woman in the workplace' attitude.
And yeah, don't even get me started on DISCO on that front.
Sun, Jun 13, 2021, 8:23am (UTC -5)
When it comes to the question of giving the Valakians warp drive, T'Pol is very clearly right. That's not a very difficult dilemma. You don't give people magical access to f***-ing antimatter unless you are absolutely sure that they'd know how to handle it.
Antimatter (which some people don't realize to be a real thing) is insanely powerful as well as volatile. A single ounce of antimatter, upon contact with ANYTHING, will result in a blast that's equivalent to about 1 megaton of TNT. This kind of "help" is almost certainly going to backfire disastrously.
This, though, has absolutely nothing to do with the question of giving the Valakians the cure for their disease.
Janeway is a control freak, plain and simple. A mostly benevolent control freak, but a control freak nevertheless.
Ordinary this wouldn't be a problem for a Starfleet captain, because of the restraining effect of the admirals and the rest of the fleet's command structure. But in the Delta Quadrant... well, we've seen the results.
Sun, Jun 13, 2021, 8:48am (UTC -5)
If you think that a modern global war is going to resemble WWII with it's physical invasions and ground maneuvers - think again. Nobody is going to march troops into any cities. Why bother when information warfare is just as devastating?
We live in strange times, and it is difficult to tell - from our current limited perspective - how future historians will describe our era. But it may well be that WWIII has already started quite a while ago.
(and to be absolutely clear: I'm not referring to one specific faction or nation as the cause here. Reality is far *far* more complicated then that)
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 1:05am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 24, 2022, 4:04am (UTC -5)
It's as though some of the commenters here didn't pay attention to the particulars of the episode. T'Pol said, "We helped humans 90 years ago, and we are still there." Is humanity supposed to be prepared to make that kind of commitment every time they want to help a species? Humanity is not out there to play God.
Every species must overcome obstacles on the path to becoming a warp civilization. In this case, the obstacle is medical. If all their intelligence can't come up with a cure within 200 years, then should they be entering the galactic community? The Vulcans helped humanity because we invented warp travel on our own. If we didn't do that, then they wouldn't have given us a second thought, no matter how intelligent we seemed. It's not just raw intelligence that determines a worthiness of a species, but also its ability to master the natural forces of its own world.
This was one of my favourite episodes of the whole series. That, and Cogenitor.
Mon, Feb 28, 2022, 4:02am (UTC -5)
This episode leans too far in the "there's a literal divine plan" direction for me. They can call it evolution in the script, but evolution doesn't have a plan - whatever's going on here is described as if it does. I imagine it'll probably work better for people with more concrete religious beliefs.
Sat, Mar 12, 2022, 9:12am (UTC -5)
Once he answered the call from this intelligent race (capable of self determination) and the Dr found a cure as well as discovering the possible long term repercussions of delivering it, their only obligation was to give the information, all of it, and explain the suspected outcome to this sentient race.
The moral decision and the possible fallout from whatever action or inaction they subsequently choose to make is theirs and theirs alone to make. Otherwise Archer is subscribing to, and even going beyond, the paternalism of the Vulcans that he hates so much.
Mon, Mar 28, 2022, 12:06am (UTC -5)
If they wanted to create a true moral dilemma, one that leads toward the prime directive, what they should have done was make the cure for the Valakians something that would wipe out the Menk right now. We must kill the Menk to save the Valakians. That is the actual moral dilemma that would lead to the Prime Directive. Instead, they give us no reason to believe the Valakians and the Menk can't both survive on the planet together, even if the Valakians are cured. Therefore, there is no moral dilemma, you give the Valakians the cure.
To summarize my point, the only way you can hide behind non-interference is if you have to kill the Menk to cure the Valakians. That is not the case here. Give the Valakians the cure! Any other decision is, as others have pointed out, evil.
Now while I think the writers botched this episode, I have to give them credit for two things:
1.) This is the first episode of Enterprise that actually kept me engaged me
2.) This is the first episode in which they managed to elicit an emotion from me,
the emotion was anger, but still an emotion none the less.
Mon, Mar 28, 2022, 7:35am (UTC -5)
Except that wouldn't be a moral dilemma, at all.
Mon, Mar 28, 2022, 6:10pm (UTC -5)
No argument from me. Absolutely in the situation I outline above the only decision is not to interfere.
I think there is a lot of confusion about what the Prime Directive is. Either confusion or I just see it differently than a lot of people. The Prime Directive doesn't exist to solve moral dilemmas, it exists to keep Star Fleet out of them to begin with.
I think some people think the Prime Directive simply says don't make contact with an alien species until they have warp flight, however, there is clearly more to it than that. In the TNG Episode "First Contact" (not the movie) we see that the Federation clearly spends years studying and conducting reconnaissance on a planet before they make First Contact. After all, you would want to know the lay of the land, know who you are dealing with, what kind of socioeconomic issues exist there.
I say all this to explain, in the scenario I lay out above, the question the Prime Directive raises is not whether you would give the Valakians a cure after you get there, rather should you get involved from the start. In my scenario Archer would have made a promise to the Valakians before he had even been to their planet, he didn't even know it was a possibility yet his actions could effect another sentient species. The Prime Directive would prevent this by telling them not to interfere.
Sat, May 14, 2022, 11:03pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Aug 21, 2022, 12:18am (UTC -5)
And then here's my little analogy about malaria on Earth. It's not perfect but still gets my thoughts through. Certain ethnicities on Earth have genetic defenses against Malaria. And yet doctors treat people who don't have those defenses when they catch malaria. Any doctor who refuses to treat one of those sick people on the grounds that treating them is "against nature/evolution" would be called an idiot or evil or both.
I doubt a person who thinks like that would have ever become a medical doctor in the first place
Episode could have made a little more sense if it had a non-doctor being the main person arguing to "let nature take its course"
Sat, Oct 15, 2022, 1:27am (UTC -5)
Nonmaleficence - do no harm.
Beneficence - maximize benefit.
Autonomy - the person (people) have to ask you for help and give fully informed consent.
Justice (this one is key) - you have to consider all stakeholders in care. If helping one person hurts somebody else, then it is unethical.
I don't think there was anything immoral about this episode, despite what people above are saying. Phlox specifically says to Archer, "You're forgetting about the Menk," when they are debating whether or not to interfere. This lets us in on the entire problem. If the planet only had the Valakians and not the Menk, it would likely be ethical to interfere because nobody else would be impacted by helping them. But because helping the Valakians could disadvantage the Menk, it was unethical to interfere under the principle of justice.
The ethical dilemma here is not about helping the Valakians, it's that doing so will possibly limit and thereby harm another sentient species on the planet. Phlox relies on a scientific theory, evolution, to support this. Archer can literally only choose the Valakians or the Menk. This dilemma was setup by illustrating what the Valakians think of the Menk: that they are inferior.
I do somewhat agree with an above poster that it might've been useful to bring the Valakians into the discussion between Archer and Phlox. The problem is that to do so would be admitting that a cure is possible, which in of itself would be interference according to the (future) Prime Directive.
The Prime Directive is a directive of neutrality. The best thing to do is to do nothing. Enterprise arrived and left. They gave the Valakians medicine to ease symptoms and pain, which supports all four ethical principles.
The Valakians are not in danger of immediately dying. They have 200 years. This means that they will still be around when Picard's Enterprise is roaming the galaxy. Honestly, if they can't figure out warp travel even after knowing it's possible, and they can't master the natural forces of their homeworld (including the genetic forces causing their disease), then natural selection has spoken. This isn't about "divine ordination," it's about what is fair to the Menk.
Another hypothetical half-measure is that maybe in 100 years when half of the Valakians are dead, they will let the Menk roam free instead of being assigned to designated communities. Maybe they will become more integrated into society and the Valakians will come to see the Menk as Dr. Phlox sees them. Almost going extinct could change their whole world view, and having to overcome their own disease could be the defining moment of their species. It would be wrong to take that away from them.
The only thing I really wish is that Phlox defined the genetic disease and described the cure. Did he derive the cure from the Menk, or something else? This would give us more info. At the end of the day, I don't think it matters. Helping the Valakians is unjust to the Menk.
Thu, Dec 15, 2022, 11:51am (UTC -5)
Back then, I guess, I was simply so relieved of finally getting a really thought provoking episode after many, many dull, half-baked and/or simply stupid Enterprise outings that I agreed with Jammer on his rating.
This really felt like Star Trek on its best.
It is not...
I still think, that it is an above average Enterprise episode, because it's not brain dead like some others, it's still more thought provoking than most episodes of Enterprise. But unfortunately for the wrong reasons: The conclusion of the 'dilemma' and the 'logic' behind its existence in the first place are deeply, deeply flawed and make its protagonists at best look stupid, at worst vile social darwinists.
What was meant as a 'back story' for the existence of the prime directive, a story about the Enterprise crew realizing that their actions have consequences and that sometimes to do nothing is the right thing turned into a demonstration of the arrogance and stupidity of Archer and Phlox. Archer is really the epitome of incompetence - and this could have been a strength of the series. An inexperienced captain and crew (because they are the first ones out there) make mistakes, sometimes horrible mistakes - but gradually learn from them and develop the Starfleet code of conduct. However, the other characters on Enterprise (his crew, Daniels from the future) repeatedly treat and talk about Archer like he's a wise sage and the greatest man who's ever lived even when he repeatedly does not act like one.
In this episode many things are fine until the scene in the mess hall. Archer has all of the right arguments on his side in his exchange with Phlox - yet does a complete 180 overnight and concurs with Phlox not to help the Valakians, no, worse, to actively withhold the already developed cure from them - because they don't want to play god?!?
HELLO?? What do you think you are doing here?? Condemning a whole species to likely extinction because another species MIGHT develop better???
What's that then, if not playing god???
We are expected to applaud Archer for gaining the moral high ground. Phlox is fawning of Archer's greatness in the final words to Dr. Lucas. I can only hope that his correspondent actually replied with a firm: 'You morons did WHAT??? Send me this magic cure you developed within days and I'll help those poor people!!'
Thu, Dec 15, 2022, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
What's that then, if not playing god???"
People seem to have trouble distinguishing omission from commission. Archer didn't "condemn" anyone.
If I push you in front of a train and you die that's murder. If I see a train about to hit you and I decline to save you (even if you beg for my help) it's not only not murder, it isn't even illegal.
Minding your own business is the opposite of "playing God".
Speaking of gods, is Q immoral for not saving the Valakians? How about Kevin Uxbridge? Or the Traveller? They could just as easily have intervened as Archer. Did they "condemn" the Valakians.
I realize scifi invites us to analogize to our own species and even to treat everything as allegory. But if we take the premise seriously, these are aliens on an alien world. Archer has less obligation to save the Valakians (at the Menke's expense) than he does to save a group Gorillas from being slaughtered by another rival group.
Thu, Dec 15, 2022, 1:37pm (UTC -5)
That's actually another difference between common law and civil law countries. In Canada not helping would be legal, in Germany you would commit a felony punished with up to one year in prison. Civil law countries often have duty to rescue laws while common law aka former English colonies do not.
Thu, Dec 15, 2022, 1:49pm (UTC -5)
I presume the penalty for murder, even in Germany and other civil law jurisdictions, is more than 1 year :)
Thu, Dec 15, 2022, 2:59pm (UTC -5)
The issue isn't whether failing to "save someone" is murder, or should be illegal, or immoral. The issue of how much you owe strangers in trouble is a serious question (I think the obligation to others is always present), but is complicated by *what* to do. But the PD and the issues raised in the episode are not just about helping someone who fell on the street, and deciding not to lift a finger to do anything about it. We are talking about changing an ecosystem to help one member of it, knowing you will alter the ecosystem in ways you can't anticipate. There are many agricultural examples of this in modern times, with pests or predators introduced into an environment to "help" with a problem, and the imbalance creates terrible results. I understand that coyotes in Australia are an example of this, but there are many more. That it may involve humans makes it more, not less, severe.
And what's more, the PD issues raised aren't just about natural disasters like in TNG's Homeward. What if two species are actively fighting: do you "condemn" the loser to death by not interfering and helping them beat the other guy? Or what if, due to economic of other considerations, helping one may harm the other's well-being? Do you pick winners and losers? And what if the one you help spits in your face for your trouble, do they "owe" you something for helping them?
I'm not really taking a stand for or against Archer's choice, but it's much more complex than just "help them or you're bad".
Thu, Dec 15, 2022, 5:08pm (UTC -5)
No, all punishments are just 1 year. We have a social democrat, liberal + green government. Very liberal prisons.
They are responsible for the biggest increase in military budget in federal history which is fairly ironic considering that the Greens were pacifistic not too long ago. :D
Here is the paragraph fro the German penal code. Isn't that a felony? (I found an english version just for you)
I get why the PD was invented by Roddenberry. You are totally right. I would add that it's about forcing a superpower to never interfere because as you point out even with ethical motives one can easily create nightmare scenarios. This is even more true when motives are self-serving and what isn't self-serving to some degree?
I was really only highlighting that in most of Europe "Failure to render assistance" is a crime. In the West only England, Canada and most of the USA have nothing like that.
The PD is the ultimate answer to the trolley problem.
Never get on the trolley! ;)
Fri, Feb 10, 2023, 9:24pm (UTC -5)
Wouldn’t that have been a win-win?
Wed, Mar 22, 2023, 3:22pm (UTC -5)
I love that this is a thoughtful story with a lot of introspection. I was waiting for the Valakians to seize Enterprise and then have to be fought back. That's the easy way out, and one too many writers would take. Bravo.
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