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John Billingsley Diagnoses "Dear Doctor"

John Billingsley Diagnoses "Dear Doctor"

"Dear Doctor" proved to be lucky #13 for Star Trek: Enterprise. The episode, which aired on January 23, 2002 and was the 13th show of the series, also happened to be amongst season one's best and most ambitious hours and served to develop Doctor Phlox -- lending the character breadth and depth -- perhaps better than any other episode of Enterprise's four-year run. It also, thanks to the first contact with the Valakians, set the stage for what Trek fans commonly know as the Prime Directive.

Oddly enough, however, it was also quite problematic for all involved. The initial idea for the episode's denouement was for Phlox to disobey Archer's orders, but UPN brass objected, and the ending was changed so that Phlox not only followed orders, but came to agree with the captain, stating, "I came very close to misjudging Jonathan Archer, but this incident has helped me gain a new respect for him."

Some facts and observations about "Dear Doctor":

  • The movie the crew screened on movie night? The 1943 version of For Whom The Bell Tolls.

  • 5.65 million viewers watched the episode.

  • Kellie Waymire, who played the recurring role of Elizabeth Cutler on Enterprise and had also portrayed Lanya in the Voyager episode "Muse," died on November 13, 2003, at the age of 36, succumbing to an undiagnosed cardiac arrhythmia. Her role on Enterprise was not recast and the character was simply not seen again.

  • What's the common denominator between On Golden Pond, Star Trek: The Original Series and "Dear Doctor"? Chris Rydell. The actor, who played the Valakian astronaut in the episode, is the son of TOS guest star Joanne Linville (the Romulan Commander in "The Enterprise Incident") and On Golden Pond director Mark Rydell.

  • Porthos in this episode was played by Prada. The pooch's resume also included the starring role of Lou in the family comedy Cats & Dogs.

  • "Dear Doctor" was the first of five Enterprise episodes to be directed by James Contner.

On exploring the character of Doctor Phlox:

"Was it really the 13th episode of the show? I somehow thought it was the sixth. So take everything I say with a giant grain of salt. My memory of it was that it was earlier than that probably because I really hadn't had a ton of opportunity to explore the character, but it was 15 years ago, and if you tell a story a thousand times is it really a memory anymore or just a story? But I do know that I'd not had a lot to do before 'Dear Doctor' and that was my first chance to really explore the guy. So I was tickled to have an episode that had some weight to it."

On "Dear Doctor's" message:

"Obviously, it was a very controversial episode, and I appreciated that because I think that's one of the things that Star Trek was known for in its day, doing episodes that addressed interesting social issues in ways that were potentially controversial."

On co-star Kellie Waymire:

"'Dear Doctor' moved Phlox out of being the Yoda, out of being the comic relief. He'd been sage and whimsical, but he hadn't really wrestled with anything. And he did in that episode. It dimensionalized him. Plus, he had a bit of a love story there, with him and Cutler. It makes me sad thinking about it, actually, because we lost Kellie Waymire. I think she did one more episode of Enterprise before she passed away. She was a lovely young woman, so sweet and a wonderful actress. But the episode, with the moral issue and the love story, it made me realize there could be much more to Phlox over the arc of the season and the show. He could have been an insignificant character with not much to do."

On the ending:

"I have a vague memory that I was happier with the original ending. It was more interesting in the sense that it suggested I was not inclined to be an order follower if it went against my conscience. That, I think, was an interesting dynamic to set up potentially for future relationships with the crew, but I understood the reasoning of the network and the producers, that it might have so poisoned the well for the fans in terms of what they thought about me and that, perhaps, it undercut the captain's moral stature, too. So I got the thinking."