the story: The Doctor is kidnapped and forced to work in a hospital that has seriously messed up its priorities.
what it's all about: This is the Star Trek episode about healthcare, applying it so that it covers everyone equally. Clearly it's still an issue today, and so here we have a Voyager story that is clearly evergreen and part of the franchise social message tradition.
In some ways, it's the Doctor's version of "The Most Toys," the Next Generation episode where Data is "collected" and makes an extraordinary decision to use lethal force (though he's thwarted by a timely beam-out) against his kidnapper, who has demonstrated monstrous inhumanity. The Doctor makes a similar decision, although "Critical Care" doesn't pull its punches in the consequences, even if the results are an unambiguous happy ending, except for the Doctor, who wonders how he's reached the point where he can do something like that.
- franchise - It's exactly what Star Trek is all about.
series- It didn't need to be a Voyager episode.
- character - Although of course it works well as a Doctor spotlight.
- essential - It's the one episode where the quagmire of healthcare is addressed in the franchise.