• Mel Butcher

Star Trek Enterprise, But Good This Time

Scene from Star Trek Enterprise showing Dr. Phlox, T'Pol, and two Vulcan medical researchers

In spite of my earlier complaints about Enterprise, "Stigma" - season 2, episode 14 - by itself almost makes up for the entire show's sexist downfalls.

The episode follows two story lines.

1) We learn that the Vulcan Science Officer, T'Pol, contracted a rare disease, Pa'nar Syndrome, that can only be spread by a sub-population of Vulcans who have the ability to perform mind-melds. We also know that she has only engaged in this one time when coerced by another Vulcan encountered in their travels.

The ship's doctor, Dr. Phlox, attempts to help T'Pol by requesting data from Vulcan medical researchers at a conference without bringing her into it, but the researchers find out and accuse her anyway. In the process, the audience comes to learn that the disease is stigmatized on the Vulcan home world, to the point that most doctors are unwilling to research or share information on curbing the disease's symptoms. And there was much talk by medical staff from Vulcan about their disapproval of the "lifestyle" and the need to preserve "culture".

The pursuit of garnering this additional research which the Vulcan medical professionals are unwilling to diverge for those reasons is overlaid with the second story...

2) While Enterprise is stopped for the medical conference, Dr. Phlox acquires a new, fancy microscope. It gets installed by the ship's chief engineer, Commander Tucker, and Dr. Phlox's second wife, Feezal.

Now before I go further, I just want to share that Dr. Phlox is one of my most favorite characters. He's absolutely charming and brought to life by actor, John Billingsley.

Back to the story line, by second wife, I don't mean he remarried. For non-Trekkies, Dr. Phlox is Denobulan, a humanoid alien species that has rather different romantic customs and rituals. Specifically, it is customary for each individual to have multiple spouses. If memory serves, Feezal is the second of three for Dr. Phlox.

While Feezal is aboard the ship helping with the microscope, she appears to take a liking to Tucker, much to his discomfort. Her seeming advances make him so uncomfortable, that he eventually approaches Phlox to discuss it...

I'm impressed. A story line that can act as an allegory and condemnation on how we've treated diseases here, such as AIDS, overlaid with poignant explanation of polyamorism and its merits -- well, I think that's talented story-telling.

A far cry from the "Precious Cargo" episode (huge eye-roll). Admittedly, I'm shocked to find that they were written by the same two men - Rick Berman and Brannnon Braga.

#StarTrek #Enterprise #DrPhlox #TPol

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