Star Trek 696: Doctor's Orders

696. Doctor's Orders

FORMULA: One + Dear Doctor as guest-written by M. Night Shyamalan

WHY WE LIKE IT: Plenty of Porthos.

WHY WE DON'T: An irrelevant interlude.

REVIEW: Spoilers ahead. It's very hard to evaluate an episode that hinges so completely on a final twist (at least, not without revealing it). I'll say this: If you don't know the twist, the episode is frustrating and seems badly written. If you do know the twist, it's rather tedious to go through its motions. Sure, you can play "spot the clues", but I'm not sure it's worth it. Voyager's "One" isn't long enough ago for it to be ripped off already. Sadly, with everyone in a coma, this promises to be a Phlox & Porthos-heavy show, but it has little of the charm of something like Dear Doctor. Not that John Billingsley and Breezy don't give it their all.

So we first see Phlox get handed the keys in a nice moment with Archer, taught how to take care of the engines, the helm, etc. How four days through a brain-liquefying anomaly only he and the dog are immune to has let him lower his guard as he walks naked through the ship (fair is fair, we saw T'Pol's bum last episode). We see his mind playing tricks on him, apparently due to his not being used to solitude, coming as he does, from an overpopulated planet. I'd say it's a more believable cause for his anxiety than it was for Seven's in One. Most of that is played with sound design, though nightmarish hallucinations eventually happen too.

So it seems like a strange cheat when T'Pol shows up lurking around. All of a sudden we wonder why Phlox had to be taught ship systems she claims are hers to maintain. Why he didn't give a second thought to parading around in the buff. Why he doesn't start calling T'Pol's name as soon as he hears the first noise. The truth, of course, is that T'Pol is just another hallucination and she's resting quietly in her quarters. The twist isn't even a difficult one to guess, but they do keep it going until the very last moment, even though Phlox is supposed to be "cured" by then.

In addition to the unanswerable questions above, there are other clues. She doesn't eat. She never interacts with equipment. And always refuses to do so. If you didn't get it the first time, you'll kick yourself for not seeing it. So while there's quite a few moments of anxiety, insectoid Xindi running around, Porthos almost getting shot, and a hairy escape out of the anomaly with Phlox at the engine controls, completely out of his depth, Doctor's Orders is little more than filler. A forgettable Twilight Zone episode, and that's all.

LESSON: Dogs will be the key to overthrowing the Sphere Builders.

REWATCHABILITY - Low Medium: At this point, we want the story arc to progress, so this is unfortunately a one-trick pony that's taking up valuable airspace. Nice limited cast, but all but one aren't exactly themselves.


Nicholas Yankovec said...

Unfortunately, I think these episodes are a necessary evil for a show with 20+ episodes per season. If all of them dealt with the plot, just think of the confusing mess it could lead to...

However, if the stand-alones were all somehow connected to the over-reaching plot, then it would work better.

So when Star Trek reviews are all finished, which won't be too long now, any plans of reviewing anything else? I'd like to see you take a similar stab at new Who and Torchwood, although I realise you have done more concise reveiws of them previously.

Siskoid said...

I don't mind the stand-alones when they're good. This one's just a one-trick pony is all. There is a connection to the arc, more than North Star, but the latter is still the better episode.

As for what comes next, it's the big question, isn't it? No other show has quite the scope of Star Trek (the series you mention being rather short). For a while I was thinking maybe Babylon 5. However, there's something about that ever growing number keeping score on how many days I've been blogging.

So right now, I'm thinking more along the lines of continuing with Star Trek's non-canonical releases (a novel a week and the rest in comics).

Other series can always get more in-depth articles (in their own formats) as warranted, just like I did with Doctor Who (though I've been remiss re: the fourth series).

De said...

I like the idea of doing a novel a week with the rest in comics. Then again, I'm somewhat biased in this regard :-)


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