LifesignsBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 2:08 PM GMT
Voyager rescues a dying Vidiian woman, but the Doctor is uncertain how to treat her and creates a holographic, healthy version of her body so that he can transfer her consciousness into it and consult with her. The woman, Denara Pel, is ecstatic to feel and look healthy for the first time since she was a child. She is a scientist working on a cure for the phage, and enjoys both working with and getting to know the Doctor, who finds himself developing romantic feelings for her.
The Doctor suggests that Torres' DNA may help him treat Denara, but Torres is outraged at the suggestion, after what the Vidiians did to her. Dr. Pel enters, overhears the conversation, and apologizes to Torres, explaining that her people are so desperate that some of them will do anything to save lives. Torres is somewhat more sympathetic and agrees to try to help, though the Doctor will have to perform surgery on her skull.
The transplant seems to be working, and the Doctor and Denara share a romantic evening in a holodeck simulation by Tom Paris after Tom advises the Doctor to explore his feelings. But then Denara begins to worsen, and the Doctor realizes that she's been poisoned...by herself. Denara tells him that she can no longer stand to live in her diseased, hideous body and wants to destroy it. The Doctor convinces her that he loves her - not her appearance - and begs her to reclaim her life. She reluctantly allows her consciousness to be transferred back into her body, and dances with him on the holodeck.
This episode had a lot of analogies to the plight of terminally ill patients, particularly AIDS patients whose bodies waste away to the extent that not even their own lovers recognize them. Denara Pel was a very moving character, and the Doc's reaction to her was sublime: he was afraid to love her, but for none of the reasons which she feared - her appearance, her disease. The Doctor can't catch the phage, and her disease-ravaged body doesn't horrify him, nor drive him to pity; he approaches her illness as a scientist, and her personality as a man without the deep-rooted appearance prejudices that all humanoid species on Star Trek seem to share.
I love watching the Doctor become human; I loved his scene with Paris in Sandrine's, and his scenes with Kes - whom one might have expected to be a little jealous of Dr. Pel, but who kept the Doctor's best interests at heart. I also thought Torres' reactions to the Vidiian were right on target. This was superb scriptwriting, and a demonstration of how much can be accomplished in a "bottle" show where the crew never leaves the ship.
Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.