In the Star Trek: Enterprise TV series, the Enterprise was almost destroyed by a Xindi attack in the Delphic Expanse. Its Warp drive was not working. Warp drive was very, very important at that time. Tucker said that he needed a warp coil to repair the warp drive, which was almost impossible to get in Delphic Expanse.

Suddenly, they picked up a distress signal from a ship of a local race trapped by spatial anomalies. Although Enterprise was in poor condition, it was still more powerful than that ship against anomalies. Enterprise saved them.

Archer told that ship's captain about their huge repository of Trellium-D, which was immune to anomalies. They agreed to make a trade for it. But, Archer asked for a warp coil in return, which the other ship's captain denied. Archer even begged, telling him about how billions of lives on Earth was at stake, but to no avail. The other ship's captain was concerned about his crew... Without warp drive, it would have taken at least three years to reach their home planet. Both ships detached and went their own ways.

Then, Archer came up with a new idea: Pursue and attack that ship to take the warp coil by force. But, it was a very tough decision for him to make. So, he called on Doctor Phlox and asked about length of his service period. Then, he asked: "And in all that time, did you ever do anything you thought was unethical?"

Which type of ethics was he asking the doctor about? Why a doctor in this matter? Is that whether he ever injected poison in his patients to harvest their organs for his own goods?

Doctor Phlox said, "Twice. Why?" And Archer didn't ask for more details. Why was Archer just seeking for numbers to take his actions? What if the doctor had said, "No"? Would he not attack that vessel to get the warp coil when Earth was more important than his ethics?

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    Not again... Mr. Serial Downvoter, can you please provide reasons of your downvote? – I Love You 3000 May 27 '12 at 19:27
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    It's helpful to re-watch an episode or re-read a passage before constructing a question about it: getting the facts of the episode correct, like the quotation, would've resolved any ambiguity. – user366 May 27 '12 at 21:47
  • @Mark Exact words from Archer-Phlox conversation wasn't in my mind. Well, thanks to Kevin for correcting the question. But, even after correction, question is meaningful except number part.. – I Love You 3000 May 27 '12 at 21:59
  • @Mark And, also except main part: Ethics.. :) – I Love You 3000 May 27 '12 at 22:02

Archer wasn't asking about any special kind of ethics, just ethical decisions in general and what qualifies as a situation where you should go against your ethics. Breaking away from your humanity is a common Star Trek theme.

"And in all that time, did you ever do anything you thought was unethical?"

"Twice. Why?"

Source - Memory-Alpha

There was no special meaning to the number of times, he was only asking to discover if he had ever experienced doing something unethical.

A simple 'No' would not have resolved the situation. Whatever his answer Phlox, being a doctor, would have experienced similar issues in his past, how he dealt with them at the time would have influenced his discussion with Archer. If he had been against the decision he would have had arguments with which he could to try convince Archer.

By talking to Dr. Phlox, Archer was simply looking for validation for what he felt he had to do, or possibly to be given an alternative viewpoint.

Doctors in Science Fiction (and particularly in Star Trek) have long provided the moral guidance for those who make the decisions. Dr. McCoy was probably the best example, although all of the main doctors have had moral and/or ethical advice sought from them at some point. Characters mostly go to them when they are looking for the most compassionate solution, even if that is not what they actually get.

  • As a side note, I'm pretty sure that the doctor in each series had at least one major conflict with the captain over some ethical viewpoint. Usually more than one. – Omegacron Oct 17 '14 at 18:42
  • I would add that there is a tradition for practitioners of western medicine take an oath of ethics, which stretches back a couple of thousand years. Not all doctors take the oath as seriously as they should, but the presumption in Star Trek is likely that they take it very seriously indeed. – Broklynite Apr 1 '18 at 15:53

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