For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here
Overview – En route to Azati Prime, the Enterprise encounters a trans-dimensional disturbance in their path. The disturbance would be deadly to humans and would add an additional two weeks to their journey to if they attempt to fly around it. Instead, a plan is devised to keep the entire crew, except for Phlox, in a comatose state. The normally sociable Phlox, meanwhile, finds himself alone for four days, having to deal with the solitude. During the journey, he starts to question as to whether the disturbance is having an unexpected effect on him as well.
Score: 9/10 – This is a fabulous episode that puts Phlox front and center. It is a mixture of comedy, suspense, and thrills. It is nice to see Phlox take command of the ship and be the hero. There are a few funny moments (the idea that if there was nobody else on the ship that Phlox would occasionally do his rounds in the nude). A few moments that make you jump as Phlox starts to hallucinate. Oh, and just in case you haven’t seen it yet, BIG SPOILER AHEAD! One of the best parts of the whole episode was the setup of the big plot twist. T’Pol is seen with Phlox for much of the episode as his only sentient companion. The end of the episode reveals that T’Pol has been in a coma like the rest of the crew the whole time, making the T’Pol that Phlox had been talking to was another hallucination. The set-up was well done. While we initially buy the idea that T’Pol is real, if you watch her closely, she never touches anything. When Phlox offers her a bowl of his Denobulan soup, she never touches it. When in engineering during the crisis, T’Pol becomes unable to operate the controls, using an excuse of the radiation affecting her more than anticipated. It is a well-executed plot twist.
Relevance - 2 points. One point scored for the Phlox’s letter to Doctor Lucas. This was introduced in “Dear Doctor”, and will be followed up again. It also lets us know what Doctor Lucas was up to since the Xndi attacked Earth. A second point is scored for the reference to something Phlox told Hoshi Sato about how Denobulans think it is healthy to have hallucinations a few episodes back in “Exile”. In this case, having the hallucination of T’Pol was definitely beneficial.
Continuity - 3 points. Everything checks out. T’Pol’s odd behaviour can easily be overlooked as it was not really T’Pol that we were seeing. This keeps character continuity in check. Archer having the utmost confidence in Phlox, Tucker being ready to take on death if it meant saving the ship and its crew (a forshadowing of the series finale). Universe continuity also works here, as everything that has been previously established stays intact. We also can score a point for story continuity. While this episode is in the middle of the Xindi story arc, it does well on its own or as a chapter in the season-long saga.
Character Development – 2 points. With everyone else being in a coma, it is hard to develop anybody other than Phlox. He is the main star, with everyone else being there to help further his development.
Social Commentary – 1 point. How does one deal with isolation? How does one deal with stressful situations? Well, in all honesty, there is not much being said on any topic really. While this does not diminish how great the story and the episode is, I cannot give more than a single point for this section.
Cool Stuff – 2 points. The whole story is cool and gives us a cool moment, especially the reveal at the end. I am also giving a point for showing a clip of the movie “The Court Jester”. It showed that good comedy will transcend the centuries.
Rank – Captain (19 points). I think this is a wonderful episode. Even if you are not into the Xindi storyline, “Doctor’s Orders” is a strong episode that highlights the character of Doctor Phlox and the acting of John Billingsley. It is great storytelling that keeps you guessing, mixing the humor with some scares. Definitely an episode to watch, perhaps even a few times.
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