Monday, June 15, 2015

Cult-TV Theme Watch: Sick Bay

Sick Bay, Med Bay, Medical Center (or Centre) -- every sci-fi TV series set on a spaceship features this crucial chamber.  

The Sick Bay, in essence, is a hospital ward, a laboratory, and a doctor's office all rolled into one.  

It is the chamber where new diseases are discovered and cured.  

It is the realm where mystery visitors (like Khan Noonien Singh, or Balor) are healed and made whole before wreaking havoc.  

It is the place where Worf must decide if he should donate blood to a Romulan soldier, or let him die.

The most famous sick bay of all remains the one featured in Star Trek (1966 - 1969), the suite lorded over by Dr. Leonard McCoy, Dr. M'Benga, and Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett).  It is here that Sarek has a heart operation ("Journey to Babel,") Spock is healed after a gunshot wound ("A Private Little War") and where Captain Kirk gets his ears and eyebrows tucked for a surgical alteration ("The Enterprise Incident.") 

It is a place of discovery, too, regarding Tribbles ("The Trouble with Tribbles"), and other life-forms.

All additional generations of Star Trek -- The Next Generation (1987 - 1994), Deep Space Nine (1993 - 1999), Voyager (1995 - 2001), and Enterprise (2001 - 2005) all prominently featured a sick bay.

In the series, The Starlost (1973-1974), a sick-bay of sorts appears in one early episode, "Lazarus fro the Mist."  Here, Devon (Keir Dullea) must awaken a sick technician from suspended animation on the Earthship Ark so he can correct the craft's collision course.  The only problem is that the technician is terminally ill, and so to awaken him with no cure may save the people of the Ark, but will result in his death.

On Space:1999 (1975 - 1977) Dr. Helena Russell (Barbara Bain) controls Medical Center, and heads a staff of doctors including Dr. Mathias (Anton Phillips), Dr. Vincent (Jeffery Kissoon), and more on Moonbase Alpha.  Medical Center's resources are crucial in several episodes, for the birth of children ("Alpha Child"), the restoration of gravely-wounded aliens ("End of Eternity") and even as a psychiatric unit of sorts, for those believed unstable ("Dragon's Domain.")

Uniquely, 1998's Mercy Point (which aired briefly on UPN) was set on a medical space station, with a team of doctors (not unlike M*A*S*H's surgeons) contended with diseases and injuries from all over the sector.

Even the ramshackle, Firefly class ship Serenity on Joss Whedon's Firefly (2002) had a med bay, one tended by the young and brilliant Dr. Tam (Simon Maher), a doctor destined for greatness, but side-lined as a fugitive from the Alliance. His med-bay was of little use in the treatment of complex syndromes, and so Tam, on one occasion had to steal into an Alliance hospital (pictured above)

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