Thursday, 28 November 2013

Review: Voyager 1.14: Faces

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Human and Klingon B'elannas.
Star Trek Voyager - Season One, Episode Fourteen - Faces
Written 16/6/13

Apparently the attraction of Phage's premise was too good to just leave hanging, and so this week we get delivered a sequel to that episode, as well as a chance to focus upon B'elanna that doesn't make physicists cry. For an episode with a number of quite absurd moments and ideas about how people work, it was surprisingly moving in places, down entirely to the brilliant acting from Roxann Dawson. (Who would later go on to direct episodes of Lost and Heroes, as well as later Voyager and Enterprise stuff.)
     Tom, B'elanna and some random yellowshirt from last week get kidnapped while off on an away mission by the Vidiians, the race of fleshy people from Phage who are affected by that eponymous virus and thus harvest other species' organs to survive. Crazy Vidiian scientist Sulan has worked out that Klingons may be immune because of some intangible "strength" to their species, and so has managed to use technobabble to split half-Klingon B'elanna into two individuals; one Klingon, one human. While he infects angry Klingon!B'elanna with the Phage, which she survives easily, her human counterpart reveals to Tom how she feels weaker and despite her childhood identity issues, wishes they could be together. Chakotay disguses himself and beams inside, and Klingon!B'elanna helps Human!B'elanna to escape, giving her life in the process. The reset button is pushed and B'elanna is returned to normal.
     Despite the odd idea of having a hybrid split into two different species is by modern biological standards (the rules regarding hybrids seem to be consistent if different in Star Trek), I think that it worked to bring B'elanna out from her shell. The normal B'elanna would rely too much on her defences, built up from years of abuse and mistrust, to ever reveal as she does Tom her childhood issues surrounding her poor mother and absent father, and the stigma presented about being neither Human nor Klingon felt very akin to the issues felt by mixed-race people in the US.
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If this is what the title is referring to, I'm going home.
     The episode's more odd moments came quite often. Dr. Sulan is an incredibly creepy character; not in a mad scientist way, but in a "this is a really creepy guy" way, especially as Klingon!B'elanna offers sexual encounters in return for her release and in response he goes off and grafts the yellowshirt's face to his own as some kind of plumage. The scene where he reveals his new face paces that very fine line between the terrying and the hilarious, and which I think it is very much varies on my state of mind at the time. (On this viewing, for example, I was laughing my ass off.)
     Voyager is clearly trying, and for that you have to give it some kudos. I think that the episode should have been a bit more about B'elanna than it was, and the way that the premise was handled meant that the final messages felt very insincere, as I felt as if it was treated as through B'elanna has some kind of multiple personality disorder with a Klingon voice and Human voice always arguing in her head. Which isn't how brains work, unless the show was trying to tell us that B'elanna has some serious mental issues. But it was nice to get some development out of her at all, and I think that made up for the rest of the episode's faults.

Thanks

NEXT WEEK: Voyager gets serious as we talk about war criminals, genocides and we wonder if they can write an episode in which Neelix is not a dick... it's Jetrel.

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