Star Trek 610: Critical Care

610. Critical Care

FORMULA: Nor the Battle to the Strong + A Taste of Armageddon + Concerning Flight

WHY WE LIKE IT: The Doctor's ploys. The effects. A Trek allegory.

WHY WE DON'T: Hockey doesn't have a "guard".

REVIEW: When the Doctor's program is stolen and put to work on a floating hospital ship, he discovers his "do no harm" subroutine includes a proviso for "the good of the many outweighs the needs of the few". Recalling the classic Star Trek movies here isn't out of place because Critical Care is a rare instance of Voyager doing a proper classic Trek morality play. In the same way that, say, Let This Be Your Last Battlefield took racism to an extreme to show how ridiculous it was, this episode takes "two-tier" health care system and does the same. It's not quite as primal as racism, but it IS an issue for our times.

In this utopia, health care is allocated not based on wealth (as it might be in the modern world), but on perceived social contribution. A computer basically determines if you're worthy enough to receive treatment, and has garbage men dying from curable diseases, piled up on one another in the lower levels, and engineers getting free botox and one-on-one care on the upper level. (That computer sounds like a job for Captain Kirk!) The Doctor takes matters into his own hands and finds ways to reallocate the proper medicines to the lower levels, but he doesn't really see the big picture and ends up burning all of his poor patients' treatment credits. By trying to do good, he's done worse. That's why there's a Prime Directive, Doc!

But he doesn't give up. He's pretty sly with hospital bureaucracy and enlists the help of smarmy Dr. Dysek (Gregory Itzin is good in these kinds of parts, but he's done so many on Trek, he's starting to get ubiquitous). Ultimately, his plan is to make hospital administrator Chellick find out what it's like to have a low Treatment Coefficient. An effective ploy that saves lives in the immediate present, but one gets the sense that system won't be so easily fixed.

Comic relief is provided by the B-story as Voyager follows the trail of the Doctor's thief, a rascal by the name of Gar. Amusingly told, though it's also used to embarass Tuvok some more (a recent target of the writers' humiliations - maybe they think it's funny). First, the Doctor is kidnapped on his watch. Then, Janeway holds hands with him and makes like he's her "man" to convince Gar's girlfriend that she's not after him for romance. Finally, Neelix gets the information out of Gar that Tuvok didn't. It's like Worf's lean years all over again. Oh yeah, Tom and Harry definitely play hockey in this one, but I'll be damned if they understand the rules.

LESSON: Don't get sick, don't get pregnant and don't become a hypochondriac unless you can afford it.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High: A pleasant surprise! The episode scores points on its target issue, while still giving us an exciting medical story.


De said...

Lesson learned all too well.


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