Such a beautiful episode. It has so much heart to it. The Enterprise comes across a species of aliens called the Valakian, who do not have warp technology but have entered deep into space, in hopes of finding aliens that do. They are in search of a cure for a virus that’s killing their people. Their entire species faces extinction in a few generations.
Enterprise offers to help, while researching the disease Doctor Phlox learns of another species, the Menk that lives in unison with the Valakian. The Menk are seen as lower life forms by the Valakian. Phlox hypothesis is the Valakian are dying by natural order and the Menk are destined to become the dominate species on the planet.
Archer wants to cure the Valakian but Phlox convinces him it’s not their right to play God. Phlox reveals he discovered a cure for the virus but says it’s not appropriate to give it to them because of the technological limitations. Archer ultimately decides to give the Valakian medicine to alleviate the symptoms for a period of time and give them more time to discover a cure for themselves if possible but he doesn’t give them the cure.
It’s truly a wonderful examination on where to draw the line on help and overreach. Saving the Valakian would condemn the Menk to a low class position and perhaps in several generations grow into a planet full of war and conflict. Allowing the Valakian to die may allow the Menk to evolve but there is no guaranteed they would progress as the dominant species. Ultimately it’s not Enterprise or Earth’s place to make those decisions. The natural evolution of a species and planet has to unfold on its own. A poignant message mankind needs to adopt should we ever travel outside our solar system.
“I Like To Play With Toys” Productions®