Star Trek: Voyager: Critical Care   Rewatch 
June 4, 2018 8:07 AM - Season 7, Episode 5 - Subscribe

The Doctor's program is taken from Voyager, and he is put to work on a vast hospital ship, where the twisted medical system is based on social status, rather than medical condition. (Please note: this is not a time travel episode.)

I've got a fever, and the only cure is more Memory Alpha:

- Debi A. Monahan, Gregory Itzin and John Durbin all guest starred in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Monahan played Melissa in "His Way", Itzin played Ilon Tandro in "Dax" and Hain in "Who Mourns for Morn?", and Durbin played Traidy in "A Simple Investigation".

- Gar is trading in iridium, which is claimed to have a very short half-life, allowing Tuvok to deduce how far away Gar could have gotten with it. This would have been a (synthetic) radioactive isotope of iridium, with a half-life ranging somewhere from 2.5 hours (195Ir) to 73.83 days (192Ir).

"That feeling you get from healing someone – infectious, isn't it?"

- The Doctor, to Voje about healing the Level Red patients

"It's not that, it's just... I already have a man."

- Janeway, as she takes Tuvok's hand to demonstrate to the adulteress that she has no romantic interest in Gar

"You were hoping your behavior was the result of a malfunction. I'm sorry, Doctor, but I must give you a clean bill of health."

- Seven of Nine, to The Doctor about whether his ethical subroutines had malfunctioned; also the last line in the episode

Poster's Log:

This is very forthrightly a social issues episode, which have been part of the franchise from the beginning, with varying levels of anviliciousness ("See, people who are black on the left side and white on the right side are like this...") and effectiveness. There's an excellent visual differentiation between Red Level, which is crowded and noisy, and Blue Level, which is like a cross between Voyager's sick bay and an Apple store. We've already seen the Doctor have a breakdown when he has to choose which critically ill patient to treat ("Latent Image"), so his horror at being forced into a system where robo-triage is standard procedure has some precedent.

But... it seems like the episode is hedging its bets, especially WRT some of the less-pleasant aspects and implications of the situation. Chellick is hired by the Dinaali to run the medical system because they apparently don't want to have to make the hard decisions themselves, but that part isn't really discussed, nor that these hard decisions are necessary because the Dinaali turned their planet into a Crapsack World. So, you have the heavy of the piece as a less-human-looking alien (Chellick looks like he's had a bad face transplant) and the people who maybe aren't so bad looking completely human (and mostly blonde at that). There's frequent mention of the "allocator", the AI that makes the decisions about who deserves what level of medical treatment, and I thought that they might be setting things up for a Landru-type situation, or maybe even say (or hint) that Chellick was tweaking the treatment coefficients to give higher TCs to politicians and celebrities and their families. Speaking of the whole concept of TCs, it further muddies the waters WRT the relevance of the episode when the different weights given to different occupations and such are described in meritocratic terms; you can delve deeper into the ethical issues around the question of whether some people are more worth saving than others in a situation where resources are limited (and especially given the episode's emphasis on how a certain drug is given to people with higher TCs but in non-emergency situations), but the episode doesn't really do that. Instead, much time is given over to their gaming the system and saving maybe a dozen people. If it sounds like I'm overthinking things a bit, it's probably because not only has there been a huge amount of debate over healthcare in this country (this episode takes place several years after the Clintons' unsuccessful attempt at healthcare reform), but also I work in a healthcare setting and have thought about these things a lot.

Anyway. Some other aspects of the show: the crew tracking down Gar, who looks a bit like a crafty terrier, with his trail of crooked deals and broken hearts, and Neelix superseding Tuvok's mind meld with his own diarrhea-inducing cooking; the design of the Dinaali's world (not just the aforementioned differentiation between the Red and Blue levels, but also the hospital ship, which reminded me a bit of Jabba the Hutt's barge in Return of the Jedi); and, on a less pleasant note, how all the doctors were male and the sole nurse female. At least Voyager has Nurse Paris. Also good work by the guest stars; Itzin has done a few other roles in the franchise, and Larry Drake has a couple of Emmys from L.A. Law. Finally, I liked the bit at the end where the Doctor contemplates that whole "First, do no harm" thing, although I thought that it ended rather abruptly.

Poster's Log, supplemental: Seeing how eager the Dinaali were for the Doctor's assistance just reminded me of how many copies of his program are "employed" as MinerBot 5000s back in the AQ. Talk about your uneven distribution of resources... Also, any time the allocator was mentioned, I thought of Bowie yelling "I'm an alligator!" at the beginning of "Moonage Daydream."
posted by Halloween Jack (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
This was a solid, well-told episode with talented guest stars that would have worked quite well with minor tweaks in any other Star Trek show with say, McCoy, Phlox or Bashir. It felt like Classic Trek, and in this case that's a high compliment. Star Trek is well-known for the scifi trope of holding up a mirror to (and critiquing) modern society. This episode does a nice job of continuing that legacy. The allegory about free market healthcare is still (unfortunately) relevant 18 years after this first aired.

But... it seems like the episode is hedging its bets, especially WRT some of the less-pleasant aspects and implications of the situation. Chellick is hired by the Dinaali to run the medical system because they apparently don't want to have to make the hard decisions themselves, but that part isn't really discussed, nor that these hard decisions are necessary because the Dinaali turned their planet into a Crapsack World.

True. I have to say though, I really appreciated that this episode didn't try to over-reach in terms of repairing Denaali society. It made for a better story.
posted by zarq at 9:24 AM on June 4, 2018 [4 favorites]


Particle of the Week: Cytoglobin seems like the winner here, given how much the Doctor did to get more.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Medical diagnosis minigames occur in many Star Trek Online missions, including an autopsy and a collaboration with Leonard McCoy during a trip to the past.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: -17.
* Crew: 137.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 14.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 2 games of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

Notes:
* The racial element bothered me here too.

It's been a bit since I felt the need to complain about this with Voyager, which is good, but this didn't sit right with me either:

So, you have the heavy of the piece as a less-human-looking alien (Chellick looks like he's had a bad face transplant) and the people who maybe aren't so bad looking completely human (and mostly blonde at that)

Seems like it would've been pretty easy to mix that up a bit, and they should have.

* Voyager security for the win again.

I about died at this line:
JANEWAY: I want someone to tell me how this snake oil salesman managed to evade every security protocol on the ship.
Of all the willing suspension of disbelief Voyager asks of me: sapient holograms, Threshold-lizards, FTL travel, whatever, the idea that Voyager even has security protocols is probably the most ridiculous. In retrospect, I wish I'd been tallying up the number of times Voyager got hacked during this rewatch, because I'd straight up forgotten this was such a theme.

I was also disappointed by how incompetent Tuvok comes across in this story - I realize it was done to set up Neelix's (ethically dubious but reasonably funny) gastrointestinal distress gambit, but I really wish there had been more stories where Tuvok got to kick ass as an investigator, like he did in Random Thoughts.

* This is... okay? Middling.

In terms of quality, this sort of reminds me of Repression: the episode is competently put together and features some fun performances. I was especially amused by Janeway and Tuvok awkwardly holding hands and pretending to be a couple. Gar reminds me of Harry Mudd quite a bit, which is a good thing in this case.

Apart from the 'blonde == good / ugly == bad' thing above, this episode was pretty okay.

At the same time, I felt like it should've been... more. Just a little. Like, maybe Voyager rendering aid to the Dinaali at the coda, or two more minutes of thought about why the Doctor was able to break the Hippocratic Oath, or... dunno. Just a little more.

So this is a definite step forward for the show, but not a big enough step for my taste.

Also:

Seeing how eager the Dinaali were for the Doctor's assistance just reminded me of how many copies of his program are "employed" as MinerBot 5000s back in the AQ. Talk about your uneven distribution of resources...

Right? Man. I hadn't thought about it during the episode, but I can't unsee it now that you've pointed it out.
posted by mordax at 9:47 AM on June 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite moments in all of Voyager is Janeway trying to hail someone on the hospital ship and getting essentially a 20th century customer service line that offers her automated options.

ALLOCATOR [OC]: This is Hospital Ship Four Two, Allocation Module Alpha.
JANEWAY: This is Captain Janeway of the Starship Voyager. I would like to speak with someone regarding a member of my crew who is aboard your vessel.
ALLOCATOR [OC]: Administrator Chellick is currently unavailable.
JANEWAY: Then may I speak with someone else?
ALLOCATOR [OC]: Only Administrator Chellick is authorised to communicate with alien species.
posted by Servo5678 at 10:00 AM on June 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


Just in terms of the ongoing count of (the lack of) photon torpedoes, they clearly have means to produce more. Not enough into the lore to know why that might not work, but it’s consistent that a Federation vessel doesn’t seem to ever run out of them.

Aside from the valid points made above about the social commentary, I found the storyline about encouraging young medicos to see beyond set processes as a part of the message.

Still following this rewatch. Thanks for keeping it going.
posted by michswiss at 6:08 AM on June 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


The Cloud:

Chakotay: "We have a complement of thirty eight photon torpedoes at our disposal, Captain."
Janeway: "And no way to replace them after they're gone."

Clearly they figured out a way to add more to their inventory.

There's a fun video on YouTube which counts up all the photon torpedoes ever fired by the ship during the series. Spoilers for the rest of the season.

mordax, I wish I'd thought of suggesting 47's as a countable metric for your ongoings. :)
posted by zarq at 7:00 AM on June 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


This was a solid, well-told episode with talented guest stars that would have worked quite well with minor tweaks in any other Star Trek show with say, McCoy, Phlox or Bashir. It felt like Classic Trek, and in this case that's a high compliment.

True, though I'd add: it fits best in Voyager. For one thing, The Doctor is Best Doctor. Also, if it had taken place in the Alpha Quadrant, it might have devolved into a tired Prime Directive-oriented conflict, rather than the more personal approach here. I do agree that the story's not as bold as it could have been (and that's all the more surprising given that this is season seven), but it's engrossing and thought-provoking at least. And I'm always on board any time the Star Trekkers stick it to The Man.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 8:04 AM on June 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


Just in terms of the ongoing count of (the lack of) photon torpedoes, they clearly have means to produce more.

Yeah, I'm specifically making fun of them for that bit in The Cloud that zarq referenced. And on sort of a meta-note, for never keeping track of supplies at all even though 'lack of supplies' is part of the basic pitch for Voyager - a better show would've had them resupplying those sometimes, and also probably cannibalizing them for antimatter during hard times.

It's sort of like how I'm keeping track of the crew because absolutely every reference made to their numbers is '150' even though the number hasn't been that high since the Caretaker array pulled them to the Delta Quadrant. (Seriously, read the transcripts - they never acknowledge a single crew death when talking about how many people are on Voyager.)

Basically, I'm poking at them for being literally unable to even remember the pitch for their own show.
posted by mordax at 10:16 AM on June 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also:
mordax, I wish I'd thought of suggesting 47's as a countable metric for your ongoings. :)

Man, I missed that entirely. That's brilliant.

Personally, I wish I'd been counting leaps toward home and hacking attempts, and... oh, I know there were a few more things.

And:
And I'm always on board any time the Star Trekkers stick it to The Man.

This is fair, and I can totally see most people liking this one better than I did.
posted by mordax at 10:19 AM on June 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Personally, I wish I'd been counting leaps toward home and hacking attempts, and... oh, I know there were a few more things.

The problem of course is once we start, the number of things we can count is endless. :)

Hey, we can always tally additional stuff in the series finale thread!
posted by zarq at 10:24 AM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, although I'm already saving up a pretty angry essay about Endgame itself. (I imagine there's a lot to talk about generally.)
posted by mordax at 10:28 AM on June 5, 2018


True, though I'd add: it fits best in Voyager. For one thing, The Doctor is Best Doctor.

Yes, I totally agree.

Also, if it had taken place in the Alpha Quadrant, it might have devolved into a tired Prime Directive-oriented conflict, rather than the more personal approach here.

That's a very good point.
posted by zarq at 10:39 AM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, although I'm already saving up a pretty angry essay about Endgame itself. (I imagine there's a lot to talk about generally.)

I'm sure there will be. :)
posted by zarq at 10:46 AM on June 5, 2018


It's sort of like how I'm keeping track of the crew because absolutely every reference made to their numbers is '150' even though the number hasn't been that high since the Caretaker array pulled them to the Delta Quadrant.

"I'm responsible for the 150 crew members aboard this ship (147 of which we never see)." - Mike Nelson as Captain Janeway
posted by Servo5678 at 11:10 AM on June 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


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