Space Ramblings

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Doctor’s Orders

Synopsis: While the crew is asleep, Doctor Phlox is left in charge of Enterprise.

Review: Doctor Phlox has been the most consistently underused ENTERPRISE crewmember with the exceptions of poor forgotten Mayweather. But unlike him, Phlox actually has an incredible amount of potential that tends to get wasted by just utilizing him to occasionally move the plot along or as a minor supporting character. A situation that has only grown worse in the third season as a recent interview by the actor testifies.

star trek enterprise doctors ordersNevertheless, Phlox has managed to steal the show in even the smallest parts in other episodes. His appearances in “A Night in Sickbay” that cataloged his routine were the highlight of an awful episode. “Doctor’s Orders” is strongest at the start when as in “Sickbay,” Phlox is simply and calmly going about his routine. But it’s when the episode tries to fit him into a remake of VOYAGER’s “One” that the material begins to unravel.

“One” was a very strong episode and a great concept in no small part because it was a way of creating character development for Seven of Nine by demonstrating to her that she needs other people. But there is no similar development necessary for Phlox and “Doctor’s Orders” doesn’t provide that development. As Billingsley has himself pointed out in the interview, Phlox is at heart an unflappable character. Odd as it might be, a scene of Phlox making his rounds with Porthos is somehow more interesting than one with Phlox stalking imaginary Xindi. “Doctor’s Orders”‘s plot would have made sense for T’Pol, incredibly derivative of VOYAGER as that may have been. But aside from training him to run parts of the ship it fails to do much in the way of developing Phlox.

While Roxann Dawson‘s direction is smooth and effective, visually “Doctor’s Order” simply never comes close to “One” in evoking a hallucinatory, paranoid atmosphere in which the unreal merges with the real. Instead, the episode quickly demarcates the line of reality with the only exception being the SIXTH SENSE-style twist involving T’Pol.

Billingsley and Blalock do get the chance to do some comedy and Blalock is surprisingly funny but Phlox is funniest when he’s relaxed and reacting normally, not in forced scenes when he’s running around like a chicken with his head cut off. The problem is that the producers have not grasped that Billingsley’s Phlox is naturally funny and that they don’t need to put him through awkward routines for that humor to shine.

All in all, “Doctor’s Orders” is a somewhat average and uninspired episode about ENTERPRISE’s most underused character, whose best moments are not so much plot-derived as montages of Phlox wandering an empty ship. The narrative device of Phlox’s letters to the same Doctor Lucas as in prior episodes are good but fails to serve as an adequate showcase for Phlox and Billingsley’s talents.

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