Fifteen years ago today, or January 23, 2002, marked the premiere of the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Dear Doctor.” It was the 13th episode of the show’s first season and it was not only a solid showcase for John Billingsley as Dr. Phlox and a strong hour of drama unto itself, but it proved to be one of the most-controversial episodes of the entire series, sparking debates about evolution and arguments over playing God with another species. Further, some very on-the-nose dialogue rubbed more than a few people the wrong way. Even its production created controversy: UPN demanded an altered denouement that landed Archer and Phlox on the same page rather than left them disagreeing.
Here are some facts, figures, anecdotes and comments about “Dear Doctor” –
Memorable dialogue #1: “Uh, something in my eye,” Tucker claimed when Phlox caught him tearing up during a screen of For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Speaking to StarTrek.com in 2013, John Billingsley noted that “Dear Doctor” was the first Phlox-heavy Enterprise episode and explained that he appreciated the fact that a Phlox episode followed the Trek tradition of tackling an issue with a lot of gray area. “I definitely agree that, just for me personally, aesthetically speaking, the episodes over the arc of four years that I thought had the most impact and held the most interest for me were the ones that actually did deal with issues,” he said. “The cloning episode (“Similitude”) in the third season was particularly good. There was an episode (“Cogenitor”) in which Trip interferes with a couple’s decision to use their quasi-servant as a person to breed for them. That was one that got people’s panties in a twist a little bit, and those are the kinds that are interesting. So I’m glad that ‘Dear Doctor’ was one that provoked some folks. It was dark. It creeped people out: an entire race of people are going to be doomed to extinction. I rather liked the darkness of Enterprise when it chose to be dark. I always wondered, ‘Gee, what would Enterprise have been like if were a cable show?’ The fans might have rebelled. It might not have been what they wanted, but to me it would have been interesting.”
“Dear Doctor” marked the second of Kellie Waymire’s three appearances as the recurring Enterprise character, crewman Elizabeth Cutler. Waymire had previously portrayed Lanya on the Voyager episode, “Muse.” Waymire died unexpectedly in 2003 at the age of 36. Rather than recast the role of Cutler, the producers of Enterprise chose instead not to feature the character again.
Dr. Jeremy Lucas is only heard here, but Richard Riehle made the character flesh and blood by playing him in fourth-season installment, “Cold Station 12.”
Memorable dialogue #2:
“What do you suggest?” Archer asked Phlox. “We choose? One species over the other?”
Phlox replied, “All I’m saying is we let nature make the choice.”
“To hell with nature,” Archer protested. “You’re a doctor. You have a moral obligation to help people who are suffering.”
James A. Contner directed “Dear Doctor.” It was the first of five Enterprise hours he helmed, and was followed by “Carbon Creek,” “Minefield,” “The Communicator” and “Horizon.”
The wife-husband tandem of Maria Jacquemetton and André Jacquemetton wrote the story for “Dear Doctor.” They wrote two other stories for Enterprise and went on to work as writer-producers on Mad Men, earning two Emmy Awards during their time with the show.
Memorable dialogue #3: “Someday my people are going to come up with some sort of a doctrine,” Archer said, “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.”
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