We get a glimpse of what Doctor Phlox does when nobody’s looking. He feeds the menagerie of animals in his sickbay, and even indulges in some of their food. Phlox is one of few characters (Mayweather being another) on Enterprise to have completely adjusted to space travel. Even T’Pol gets queasy on occasion, mostly because of the food and the smell of humans, but she gets used to it. Phlox has a pen pal, Doctor Lucas, with whom he regularly communicates (and whom we will meet in season four). He’s working on a letter to Lucas when the Enterprise intercepts and rescues a pre-warp vessel with two sick crewmembers. Phlox identifies the disease and works on ways to relieve the symptoms. Taking them back to their home planet, they discover the population to be made up of two independently-evolved species of humanoid, the Valakians, and the Menk. Phlox discovers the disease only affects the Valakians and not the Menk. He searches for correlations in the two species’ biology.
From outward appearances, the Valakians are more advanced than the Menk. They are technologically advanced and have achieved space flight while the Menk live in comparably primitive surroundings, but they demonstrate that they can adapt and learn. Phlox is troubled that he cannot find a cure for this disease which threatens to wipe out the Valakians. Phlox, in his letter to Lucas, speculates this could simply be a matter of evolution with the fittest surviving over the weakest. Meanwhile, he “courts” crewman Cutler and wonders if she is attracted to him. Denobulans tend to be excessively flirty, but he doesn’t know how to bridge the gap with humans, but again, I don’t understand how different species can find each other attractive. It’s like dogs and cats, tigers, and wolves. Archer has a dilemma on his hands when one of the Valakians asks him for warp technology so that they can travel farther and, hopefully, find the cure for their illness. Remember, this is before the Prime Directive was established, so it turns into a sticky situation.
Archer wants to help the Valakians, but he begins to understand why T’Pol favors non-interference. The introduction of warp technology would change the course of their shared cultures. Phlox tells Archer his idea about the natural course of evolution on the planet, and that in attempting to cure the Valakian illness, he may disrupt this evolution. He confesses that he has already found a cure, which surprises me because it appears Phlox has deliberately withheld information. His duties as a medical doctor are not compatible with his curiosity and conjecture as a scientist, and if he feels uncomfortable balancing the two, he should probably resign his commission. This episode does not represent an ethical quandary for me. I’m perfectly fine offering my assistance (in any way I can) to help others, and I don’t know why a non-interference directive would be involved except to cover our heroes’ butts so that they’re not obligated to provide advanced technology to a dying race.
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