the story: Phlox is forced to sedate the rest of the crew and operate alone for four days.
what it's all about: From Next Generation's "Frame of Mind" and "Remember Me" to Deep Space Nine's "Distant Voices" to Voyager's "Projections," the franchise has a rich history of episodes where characters have a hard time telling what's real. And "Doctor's Orders" is part of that tradition. It also runs parallel to Voyager's "One;" like Seven, Phlox ends up alone and handles it poorly. Seven's experience ultimately taught her that she did value the company of her crewmates despite her hard drone-honed exterior. Phlox, meanwhile...Well, it's really just an excuse to hang out with him. Is that really such a bad thing?
Phlox had been a standout of the series from his introduction, a typically cheerful individual who livened every scene he graced. Beginning with "Dear Doctor" (like that one, he composes a letter to Dr. Lucas in "Orders"), however, Phlox took on a darker reputation, one "Similitude" would confirm earlier in the season.
Yet Phlox was also good for unusual bits of comedy, such as in "Two Days and Two Nights" and "A Night in Sickbay," and "Orders" draws on that, too. But mostly it's just an episode where the spotlight is fully on him, and it's a tall order for any character, but as with everything else thrown his way, Phlox is up to the challenge. "Orders" may be lightweight and unrelated to the season arc, but it's also the last chance in the season for the crew to let loose a little, before it becomes darker, and that was exactly what it was set out to do.
- franchise - Shares storytelling DNA with episodes from every Next Generation era series.
series- Not particularly relevant to the season arc.
- character - It's an excuse to spend some quality time with Phlox!
essential- Too bad he's often used as an aside, when he isn't involved in heavy subject matter.