Friday, March 24, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 97 (The Host)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Within any TV series, if it runs long enough, facts will change.  Sometimes, the changes are explained, even if halfheartedly.  I remember when Star Trek: Deep Space Nine first aired, one of the characters was Trill.  She had spots down the side of her head, which was in contrast to the only Next Generation episode with a Trill, The Host.  In this episode, a Trill ambassador is being transported by the Enterprise to negotiate a peace treaty between a planet and two of its moons.  Rather than have the spots, he has ridges on his forehead.

The episode centers around the ambassador, Odan, and the chief medical officer of the Enterprise, Dr. Crusher.  In the ten days that he’s been onboard, they’ve hit it off.  They think it’s their little secret, but everyone seems to know.  (That is, with the notable exception of Lt. Cmdr. Data.)  He refuses to use the transporters on the grounds that he doesn’t like being taken apart and reassembled.

This isn’t entirely true.  He hasn’t told anyone that the Trill are a joined species, meaning that Odan is actually a slug inside the humanoid host.  This fact is exposed by an attack on the shuttle carrying Odan to the surface.  The host is critically injured, but Dr. Crusher is able to save the slug and eventually able to implant it in Commander Riker.

Much to her surprise, Odan is willing to continue their romance.  This is no big deal for the Trill.  Apparently, they change bodies like we’d buy a new car.  It is a big deal for Crusher, who isn’t used to her boyfriend changing bodies like that.  (The issue of the ship’s executive officer hitting on her isn’t really brought up.)  After a while, she overcomes this.

The final blow comes when Odan’s new host finally arrives.   His new host is actually a female.  Crusher politely informs the new Odan that humanity isn’t ready for gender-swapping lovers yet, even though we’ve had that capability for centuries at this point.  There are cases where a married couple has to deal with one partner having gender reassignment.  (One article on the New York Times details this.)  You’d think that our species would have gotten a little more used to this by the 23rd century.

Yes, I suppose that Crusher doesn’t want to admit her own personal bias, but I’m not the first person to note that the show dropped the ball in this regard.  It seems that the issue that the show tries to deal with is how much we love the person for who they are rather than for what they are.  In this version of the Trill, the symbiont takes over the host personality.  You have the same personality in a new body.

It is a little awkward to have this be a superior officer.  Crusher never brings up the issue of looking Riker in the eye after the new host arrives, even barring the issue of the new gender.  The two of them never have that awkward moment at the start of the next episode.

For that matter, no one mentions that they’d potentially be giving Odan access to  Riker’s working knowledge of the Federation’s flagship.  In this regard, they really should have had a guest actor play the new host.  I understand this was probably done because there was some risk to Riker, not being from Trill.  There were way too many issues that were just glossed over.

It’s a shame because the story feels rushed here.  Poor Dr. Crusher falls madly in love with a man only to have him change bodies on her twice.  Part of this was that he was an ambassador.  You know it’s not going to last either way.  She’s not going to leave the ship and he’s not going to stay.  I get that the Trill were supposed to be a one-off species.  This is the reason for the inconsistencies regarding Deep Space Nine.

I really think that this should have played out over several episodes.  I’m sure there was some other way a Trill could have been written into the story, perhaps as an advisor.  The show really could have explored so many issues.  To have Odan written in and out so quickly is a shame. 

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