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On TV Today's Date:

original airdate: 02-05-03

John Billingsley's portrayal of Dr. Phlox was terribly overlooked in the first season of Enterprise. And for most of this year he has been shoved into the same corner of the ship, giving simple advice and computer enhanced smiles for comedic relief. But this week's Enterprise placed the alien doctor as a key character in both the A and B story lines.

Following the normal Star Trek writer's formula, the B story line is light and funny. But the A story line isn't the typical "eject the warp core" or "blast the phasers through rock" story. This week Enterprise does what Star Trek was designed for: explore the human condition.

Star Trek has a long history of dealing with heavy issues. The original Trek held the legendary "first inter-racial kiss" when Uhura and Kirk locked lips. The Next Generation ran an episode dealing with the environment and the very next week an episode dealing with gay rights. And there wasn't a season when Deep Space Nine neglected to tackle a heavy issue from poverty to racism.

But no episode has ever been as subtle as this week's "Stigma." Stigma refers to the social embarrassment T'Pol is threatened with when she learns she is carrying a disease her culture frowns upon. It affects the brain and is transmitted during mind melds.

In this prequel universe, mind melds are still new to the Vulcans. And an even newer concept is their mantra, "Infinite diversity - in an infinite number of combinations," or so it would seem, because the members of the Vulcan medical council turn their pointed noses up at T'Pol, or anyone who has contracted the disease.

Doctor Phlox is then caught in his own lie when he attempts to acquire the latest medical treatment for T'Pol's condition. By this point we're twenty minutes into the program, and not one phaser has been fired. It gets better.

While T'Pol deals with the Vulcan command and her possible dismissal from the Enterprise, Dr. Phlox tends to sickbay where his second wife, Feezal, flirts with Commander Tucker. Last season it was revealed Denobulans have multiple husbands or wives, and that they can go years without seeing them.

Enterprise viewers have gone for the entire run of the show without seeing another Denobulan. Feezal, played by Melinda Page Hamilton, expertly matches the odd mannerisms of Phlox. When Marina Sirtis played the first Betazoid on TNG she mangled her native British accent to become what she thought was a Betazoid accent. However, no other Betaziod ever had a similar accent - or any accent. (Marina Sirtis jokes that Troi must have gone to boarding school) But the directors of Enterprise are much more consistent with the character traits of their aliens.

Commander Trip spends most of the episode running from Feezal, afraid her sexual advances will upset Phlox. But Trip must not have noticed the casual way in which Phlox treats marriage. The simple fact that he has three wives should've been a clue. Either Trip was just too put off by the concept of inter-species bigamy, or the writers were too concerned with funny sexy scenes than with how Trip would really handle the situation. I hope it's the former.

At any rate it's been nearly fifty minutes and still no phasers have gone off (or torpedoes, or tractor beams, or plasma bombs, or . . .). T'Pol fights the Vulcan medical council's narrow minded views at the risk of losing her job.

In the end, a member of the council steps forward, outs himself as a mind melder and defends T'Pol by explaining she was attacked when she received the disease. T'Pol keeps her job, and doesn't give in to the bigotry of the council.

On the surface this may just seem like a dramatic and complicated story, with no cool fight scenes. But if, indeed, you missed the real message UPN added a tag commercial. Just as the screen fades to black a PSA appears promoting the KNOW HIV AIDS organization. To make the message anymore clear Billingsley would have to step out of costume, sit on the set of sick bay and say "If you'd like to learn more about AIDS visit your local library."

This is what makes Star Trek so great. Educating people about stuff we'd like to forget about, and doing it in a classy fashion.

There is no greater mission.

Following Star Trek's example here are some important links relating to today's review:



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