The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
Because this was originally posted as a partial review, you may note some changes in the analysis and the score. I will note the original score as well as the amended score.
The pizza-faced aliens (Vidiians?) are back and have captured Paris, Torres and Durst ("Durst who?" I think you can guess what happens to him) during an away mission to an unexplored world. The Vidiians have split B'Elanna in two - one pure human, one pure Klingon, in the hopes that her pure-Klingon DNA can defeat their species-ravaging Phage.
Jump straight to the Analysis
(I haven't done a full review of this episode yet. I promise I'll get to it soon.)
(04/09/96 - Promises, promises....I'll get to it when I get to it.)
(07/29/96 - Okay, hold your horses...I got to it.)
In a darkened room, we see a wrist strapped to a pole, and we can safely assume the person the wrist belongs to is either unconscious or wishes they were. A voice can be heard, rattling off medical or scientific technobabble. When he finally use words the layman can understand, it's "B'Elanna, wake up."
We see the face of the suspended person. It's B'Elanna Torres...isn't it? She looks awfully different. In fact, she looks like a full-Klingon. Big hair, halfway down her back. Full turtle-shell forehead. Teeth that are easier to bite with than talk through. And eyes that you don't want turned on you for anything.
Captain's log. Voyager is returning to pick up Torres, Paris and Durst from their investigations of "magnacite formations" on the third planet of some system, which they were doing while the ship checked out the Avery system.
In the mess hall, the vigilant Neelix presents Tuvok with a "taste of home" -- a bowl of Plomeek soup, a Vulcan favorite. Tuvok assures Neelix that this is a needless extravagence; he will eat what everyone else eats. Neelix insists that he's enjoying the culinary experimentation, giving the crew a little something special from their A list of num-nums. Chakotay got corn salad, and Paris taught him how to make Peanut Butter and Jelly ("comfort food," Neelix repeats meaningfully.) Tuvok bows to the inevitable and accepts the soup.
He takes a cautious sip, winces audibly, and reaches for a glass of water. "It is ... piquant," he finally gasps. "It is zesty, isn't it?" Neelix gushes. He thought that the original recipe was a tad bland, so he spiced it up a bit. "I must point out," says Tuvok, "that if you alter time-honored recipes you are hardly providing a 'taste of home.'"
As usual, Tuvok is saved from Neelix by a call to his communicator pin. He graciously offers Neelix the New Plomeek and tells him to slurp in good health. Neelix takes a healthy swallow, changes color a few times, and proclaims the gastronomic experiment a rousing success. "There's no place like home," he sighs with unrestrained contentment.
Tuvok joins Tuvok, Janeway and Ensign Kim, who are puzzled by the fact that the away team isn't at the expected coordinates. More than that, the coordinates aren't at the expected coordinates--it's now several meters of solid rock. Assuming the worst (tectonic shifts and trapped or dead crewmen) Chakotay recommends sending an away team. Janeway asks how they'll get back with conditions that volatile. "bread crumbs," mutters Harry. Janeway gives him the patented "you'd better have a REAL good explanation for that" look and asks what the heck he's talking about. Harry explains that by using some sort of subspace spraycan they can grafitti-tag their trail so they can find their way back, just like--
"Breadcrumbs. Got it," finishes Janeway before Harry can. Sometimes I think she just likes messing with the ensign's head. She approves the away mission, consisting of Kim, Tuvok and Chakotay.
B'Elanna is strapped firmly on a gurney or table of some sort, the kind you expect Dr. Moreau to have a lot of. A Vidiian, grotesque of face but gentle of voice, approaches and apologized profusely for the inconvenience, but he believes she is very important to his people.
"Who...are...you?" demands B'Elanna, her words forced, garbled. He introduces himself as Sulon, chief surgeon of the Vidiian Sodality, the Dr. Mengele of his race. B'Elanna takes it in, still struggling to communicate, then churns out, "I demand...to know...what...is happening...to me!" Sulon holds a mirror to her face. For the first time, B'Elanna notices that she is a full-on Klingon. "You changed my looks so I'm more Klingon!" she rages.
Better than that, Sulon insists; he took her DNA, filtered out all the Klingon genes, and created an entire, full-blooded Klingon B'Elanna. No human DNA. No Torres. No trace of her human father, except maybe in her memories. He believes that Klingon DNA has the means to combat the Phage, the tissue-ravaging disease that has reduced the Vidiians from a high-cultured society to organ-bogarting boogiemen. These are the people who lungjacked Neelix in "Phage."
For those playing the home game, Torres has a human father and a Klingon mother. Torres would much rather be human and forget her Klingon genes, but she struggles to control her temper and her raging Klingon blood. Get on her bad side, and she'll go Medieval on your kneecaps. And she hates that side of herself.
Now it's all she's got.
She asks how Sulon expects to find out whether she's truly phage-resistant. "I've infected you with it," he says simply. Considering how Torres dislikes her Klingon half, she may be half hoping she doesn't survive.
Where is Tom Paris, you ask? He's working the chain gang with other prisoners of the Vidiians. We also meet Durst, a hotheaded crewman who wants to push back at the Vidiian guards until Tom reminds him, "they're the ones with the guns, remember?" Finally, they're dumped unceremoniously on their bunks to recuperate before their next shift toting barges and lifting bales.
Durst wants to DO SOMETHING. Paris is clearly in charge for once, and he reminds Durst of their priorities, which include finding Lieutenant Torres and escaping, which will take some information gathering. Their discussion is interrupted by a shrill but familiar cackle. Paris queries the source of the voice, an upper bunk. Out pops a Talaxian, who tells them that escape is an unreasonable expectation. He's been here six years, and he's never seen anyone leave. Except to become body parts for their captors. Paris asks why they weren't harvested for parts when they were first captured; the Talaxian tells him that the Phage makes them relatively weak, too weak to work the mines themselves. they need the prison labor. As soon as someone gets too weak to work--they're sent to the Hannibal Lector coat factory. Paris doesn't like the sound of that; Torres is missing, so she could already be dead. But he's not willing to accept that just yet.
After Harry and Chakotay lay the subspace breadcrumbs, they take off in different directions, looking for traces of their missing comrades. They hear a noise and a call from Tuvok; they meet with him, and learn that there are 5 lifeforms. "But we only had three on the away team," Chakotay protests. Tuvok lifts the eyebrow. "Then they're not alone."
On the gurney, B'Elanna struggles to breathe. She is in obvious pain, but refuses to acknowledge it. Sulon tells her that extreme joint pain is the first sign of the Phage; he's impressed that she's bearing it so well; some, he says, have been known to die from the agony alone. "It will take more than an infection to kill me," spits B'Elanna. Sulon checks the readouts, and notes that she's right--the Klingon appears to be winning the biological war. Sulon is ecstatic; he gushes about how his people will revere her as the savior of his people, the vanquisher of the abominable Phage.
B'Elanna tells him with some effort, "I'm probably your first Klingon, so i'll let you in on a secret--we Klingons find honor as warriors on the battlefield, not as guinea pigs in a laboratory." Far from taking offense, Sulon tells her he is glad to see she's coming to terms with her Klingonness, taking pride in it. "You have me to thank for that," he says in a fit of twisted logic. ("Hey, I stripped away the only part of your personality you liked and inflicted on you a disease for which there is no cure--what MORE do you want?") B'Elanna is not in a grateful mood, and tells him so. "That too may change," he says. He admires the heck out of Klingons, and even through his combo-pizza facial scars you can see the stirrings of Vidiian puppy love.
It's night, and Paris is sound asleep when guards add to the prison complement. It's Torres, and she wakes up Tom urgently. He's a slow riser, but when he looks at her he is instantly awake. "What have they DONE to you?" he asks.
Torres looks human in every way. More than that, she's a babe. Look out, Delaney sisters; you've got some serious competition.
Torres tells Paris what she knows; she awoke in a laboratory, and was told that they'd stripped her of all her Klingon DNA. She's in shock, and repeatedly touches her forehead, feeling for the ridges that had always been there but no longer are. She tells Paris that as a child she did all she could to hide her forehead (and Paris says he wore caps to hide his Admiral father's annual summer buzzcuts); she grew up on a colony on Kessek IV, where she and her mother were the only Klingons--in a time when Klingons weren't high on the Christmas list of the Federation types. "Nobody said anything...but we were different." Her human father left when she was five years old. "I convinced myself he'd left because I looked like a Klingon...so I tried to look human." She sheds the first tears we've ever seen from her.
Paris really shines in this episode. No smart-aleck hotshot, no swaggering playboy. This is the hidden Tom Paris, Mr. Courage Under Fire. It's a side I'm happy to see. He gives Torres a look of pure compassion. "Looks like you finally got what you wanted," he says, with a smile but no trace of humor. She returns his smile with an enigmatic expression. "You're right," she seems to say. "But at what cost?"
Tuvok and company hit a wall. One that shouldn't be there. One that wasn't there the last time they looked. Tuvok is convinced that something is rotten in the Delta Quadrant. he signals Janeway and tells her he thinks they've encountered Vidiian trickery again. Janeway's expression darkens; she'd rained down threats on the Vidiians the last time they crossed paths. She instantly goes to mental red alert, and tells the transporter room to be ready to pull the team back before she finishes commanding them to. Tuvok tries to phaser the rock-like force field away, which worked last time but not now. When Harry spots a Vidiian or two, he shouts out, and within nanoseconds they're back on the ship.
We don't know how much time has passed, but B'Elanna (I'll call the Klingon B'Elanna, and the human Torres) looks much better. So much so that she's already working on her escape. She wiggles in the restraints, and has one of them on the verge of snapping free. Sulon appears and asks her how she feels. "I feel strong," B'Elanna says, and her voice is certainly so--no more forced words, she sounds like a healthy Klingon warrior babe, fit to kill and happy to know it. She tells him it's frustrating to be chained like an animal and asks to be released.
She turns on the Klingon charm, a frighteningly raw seductiveness that promises ecstasy and danger in equal measure. "I suppose I am grateful," she says, and tells him that Klingon women are renowned for their physical prowess...and their "voracious sexual appetites" (in that moment, I never wanted to be a Vidiian so much in my life). "Why don't you let your creation out of her harness and ... study her in action."
Sschwinnnnggggg! It is Sulon's heart's desire...and his soul's shame. "I wish it were possible," he says when the shame wins out. "Don't condescend; I do have feelings." Like Cyrano, he's convinced that she couldn't possibly love him looking the way he does. he's got a serious case of low self-esteem. (never mind the mad-scientist morals and the disfiguring disease-from-hell.) He wants to feel pretty, but with this face that's just not likely.
But when you're a Vidiian, a new face is just a prisoner away.
Two Vidiian guards enter the prisoner quarters. Paris is afraid they're coming for Torres, who looks too weak to work and may be a ripe choice for Organ Processing...but they just look at he and her casually and then move on to Durst. They tell him to come with them. Durst demands to know why. They tell him he had asked to speak with his ship. Paris jumps up and says, "I'm the senior officer, I should be the one you take." A brief struggle ensues, until Durst calms Paris down in a bit of parallelism. "They're the ones with the guns, remember?" Durst tells him, then follows the guards away. Paris looks pissed.
His demeanor changes when he hears Torres. She's weeping, breathing in gulps, and clearly terrified.
On the ship, Janeway wants a debrief. Chakotay suggests the away team may be in even greater danger now. She asks Tuvok why the phaser didn't blast a hole like it did in "Phage," and Tuvok speculates that the Vidiians learned and adapted. She tells him to find a new way to blast through the defenses. She wants her people back; she has threats to carry out.
In the lab, B'Elanna is working on her restraints when Sulon calls to her; he has a surprise for her. He appears from the shadows, giddy as a lark, putting his best face forward...
well, someone's face, anyway.
"Durst," B'Elanna mutters in a voice of icy fury. "you killed him." Well, yeah, he says, but his body parts will save a dozen of my own people. Oh, well that changes everything, she says. She rips out the restraints, jumps up, hefts Sulon skyward by his Adam's Apple and slams him into the nearest bulkhead, determined to strangle the life out of him. She hears a noise and exits, stage right, leaving him breathing heavily through his recently-acquired nose.
Sulon, buddy...next time, say it with flowers.
On Voyager, Ensign Kim reports that they've discovered microfractures in the Vidiian forcefield--not enough to punch through with phasers, but big enough to beam someone through; that person could then sneak in, find their people, lower the forcefield and get them all beamed back safely.
Fine, says Janeway--but what's to prevent the rescuer from getting caught as well?
Chakotay has an answer to that. Within moments, Holodoc has Chakotay looking like a fresh-pressed Vidiian scarface. (Tattoo obscured for obvious reasons, though it would have been a hoot had they left it visible.) Complimented for his excellent work, Holodoc blushes. "You should see me remove a bunyon," he says. Tuvok brings Chakotay a genuine Vulcan-line Vidiian fashion ensemble to complete the effect. "Next time I need a good tailor, I'll know where to go," Chakotay grins...a disquieting sight with his new face.
In the tunnels, Torres is having a hard time of it. They get a brief break, and Paris forces her to sit and catch her breath. The Talaxian offers her water, and she accepts it gratefully. He tells her the guards will be away for a few minutes, so rest while you can.
What an ideal time for a Dialog Break.
Torres tells paris that she thinks the procedure changed more than just her appearance; when they took Durst away she was terrified. Tom says nobody would blame her for that. "you don't understand," she says. "I've NEVER been terrified." Terror isn't in the Klingon genetic vocabulary. And yet...take away the Klingon genes, and she's experiencing feelings she is not at all used to. "I'm afraid when they yanked my Klingon DNA, they turned me into a coward." How do you tell someone who's never been afraid before that courage is not the lack of fear, but continuing to act in spite of it? Pretty much by saying that. He tells Torres that she can make it; she just needs to have more faith in herself.
As the conversation lulls, the guards appear on cue. Paris tries to cover for her, but she insists she isn't feeling well. They take her back to the bunks. Or so Paris hopes. She says she'll try to reach a communications console and contact the ship.
The kindly Talaxian is secreting away more water bladders when he is grabbed from behind and threatened with death by B'Elanna. She demands to know where Paris is; he tells her, and mentions the human woman he had been with, before she was dragged to the barracks. B'Elanna is shocked. "A human female?" she demands.
While Torres rests, the Vidiian guards leave her alone. When she can't hear them, she jumps up and heads for the nearby console and tries to figure it out well enough to contact the ship. She makes some headway before the guards sneak up and grab her. They start to drag her away. "Where are you taking me?" she shouts. "A shower and a hot meal!" One of the guards scoffs. Translation: You're spare parts, babe.
As they reach the barracks doors, a lone Klingon taps a keg of whipass on the guards. By the time she's done Jackie Channing them into piles of quivering phagemeat, about three seconds later, she extends a hand to the floor-dwelling Torres, who tentatively takes it.
Torres is beside herself. (rimshot.) B'Elanna and Torres stare at each other, sharing a moment of total understanding. Then Torres passes out, and B'Elanna flings her over her shoulder and marches out the door.
Torres is shoved awake by B'Elanna, who calls her P'taQ (Klingon for "wimp" I think) and hands her something char-grilled and rancid on a stick. "What is it?" she asks, not really wanting to know. "Some rodent I killed." (Vermin: The other white meat.) "No thanks," Torres says as politely as possible. "Sorry I can't replicate you a souffle, but you need nourishment. I'm not carrying your sorry little behind out of here." For the next few minutes, Torres argues with B'Elanna the same way she later complains is the same struggle she's been having internally all her life. The Klingon wants action--fight, kill, maim, hurt, die gloriously. The human wants to live. Each side has a good measure of contempt for the other; the Klingon sees the human's tentativeness as cowardice; the human sees the Klingon's ferocity as dangerously naive instinct. Each disparages the other, but underneath the anger and resentment is a yearning for acceptance, for understanding, for respect. Torres offers the first olive branch. She says she thinks she can reprogram the computers to drop the forcefields so they can be beamed to the ship, but she can't do it alone. "So...you...need me," says B'Elanna in a mix of triumph and gratitude.
The end of another killer workday. Paris and the Talaxian talk, when a Vidiian places his hand on Paris' shoulder. He whirls around, the stress of losing his away team taking his emotions to the snapping point. "Get your hands off me!" he orders, fist clenched and raised to strike.
Okay, says the Vidiian, but I thought you wanted to get out of here. Paris is stunned, then he finds the wits to respond. "Chakotay?" he asks. Chakotay nods and asks about Durst and Torres. "Probably Organ Processing," says Paris, just in time; another guard appears and demands to know why Chakotay is talking with a prisoner. "i was told to take him to organ processing," he says. "I wasn't told!" "I was told you were." "Well, next time i wanna see the memo," the Vidiian mumbles, proving that bureucrats are the same even 70,000 lightyears away.
B'Elanna and Torres make it to the main security station--it's the last place they'd be expected to go. Torres immediately sets to work, and B'Elanna stalks the perimeter like a caged beast. The tables are turned; this time it's Torres who looks composed and her Klingon half who appears agitated. "Calm down," Torres urges. "You're not afraid anymore," B'Elanna notes, pleased. "I don't ahve time to be."
A shot rings out, nailing B'Elanna in the forearm. She fires back, and nails an ugly dude. Sulon's voice rings out, his weapon trained on the Klingon. "You're not going to kill me," she says contemptuously. "You need me." Sulon shifts his aim. "You're right, but I will kill her."
"Drop it!" yells Chakotay, his own weapon trained on the Durst-faced baddie. "Who the hell are you?" Sulon demands. "Yeah, who the hell are you?" seconds B'Elanna. "It's Chakotay," Paris shouts. Torres keys in the last sequence, and the force field drops. Tuvok hails them, and Chakotay announces they're ready to be beamed up. The good guys have won, it seems.
Sulon whips out another weapon from behind his back, and takes aim at Torres. B'Elanna, she who is always on guard against treachery, jumps in the line of fire. Torres screams.
Sulon screams louder. The hope of his people has a smoking hole in her chest.
Chakotay calls for the beamout, three humans and a Klingon. Sulon looks on in mute, slack-jawed horror as his creation winks out of his grasp forever.
On the transporter pad, Torres calls for a medic, but B'Elanna says there's no time. Torres holds her in her arms as B'Elanna commends her for her true courage and thanks her for thus making the death an honorable one. With that, B'Elanna breathes her last.
Holodoc examines Torres on a diagnostic table, an eerie parallel to the beginning of the show. he tells her she'll be fine, as over the next several days he reintegrates the Klingon DNA into her system. "You're not suggesting you're going to change me back..." Torres gasps. "That's exactly what I'm suggesting," he replies. Without her Klingon DNA, she can't survive. "So...she's saving my life again."
Chakotay asks Torres how she's doing. "I'm more at peace with myself than ever before, and that's a good thing," she says. "But?" Chakotay aks. "But...I'm incomplete. It doesn't feel like ME."
Chakotay tells her she and B'Elanna made a good team. "There's a lot in her to
admire," Torres admits. "I just have to accept that I'll spend the rest of my life
fighting her." Chakotay leaves her with her thoughts, as she strokes her smooth,
ridgeless forehead and weeps softly.
On the first viewing, I didn't like this episode. But coming back to it, giving it the full treatment, I changed my mind. I still have some gripes, but the strengths are too many to ignore.
This is a great B'Elanna episode. It's one of those utterly unfair, let's split the character into component parts and duke it out episodes that has faced a number of characters in Trek history, most notably Captain Kirk, who was split into Good and Evil. The conclusion: you need both parts.
Here, we have a character split into her parent species, human and Klingon. The result is much the same--the Klingon is "evil," the human is "good." The Evil is horny, the Good is paralyzed into perpetual indecision. Lives are at stake. It's the same dang episode at the core.
But I liked that episode. Forget the science. It's all about character. We saw the strength in the weak half, and the weaknesses in the strong half. The two make an exquisite balance, battling for primacy but settling on a compromise that is better than either half could accomplish by itself. Restraint tempers action; ferocity bolsters fear.
I found myself liking both incarnations of B'Elanna Torres. The Klingon was as sexy as she wanted to be, stoking the fires of seductiveness that L'Ursa and B'Etor could learn a few things from. Resourceful, cunning, deadly, she's the kinda woman Worf should meet. And the human Torres is smart but vulnerable, scared to death but able to suck it up and get the job done despite her terror. She accomplished the impossible: a one-woman buddy flick, though they shared the screen for only a few minutes. They had good chemistry in their scenes together; you can see the chaos of emotions they struggle with when looking at the previously-invisible half.
Enough about Torres; suffice to say I thought both were terrific. "Faces" provided excellent character development on a number of levels with her character.
Paris did a great job as well. It was almost out of character for him--gone were the jokes, the smirks, the who-gives-a-crud attitude. He was all business, a leader concerned for his people and willing to step up first to the chopping block to save his subordinates. It's a side I'd like to see more of. Too often we get Paris the Lone Wolf; Paris the Leader of the Pack is a welcome addition to his repertoire.
Durst was dead meat the moment we saw him. But I believe he also played Sulon, and that character was a little frightening. In "Phage" we got a look at the Vidiians, a people who were not above a little petty organ theft to keep their own people alive. (I've seen more than one prime time drama show that suggests there are people on this planet who do that too) here is a people that was once proud, peaceful and cultured, now reduced to a life of agony, hideousness, and scavenging for alien flesh. They were presented as dangerous but not openly hostile. In "Faces" and subsequent episodes, that changes; the Vidiians here have more of the heart of the monster than did the "Phage" Vidiians. They're taskmasters, mad scientists, Nazi doctors, using sentient creatures as lab rats, concerned only with their own needs. "It's okay that we killed that guy; see my cool new face?" On this planet, when someone gets that diseased, we dump them on a remote island to die. In their society, the diseased run things and the whole are running scared.
Sulon sounds compassionate; he has great goals, great expectations, he cares deeply for his people. But what he does to Torres is unconscionable. they may think the Phage is their biggest problem, but as the Vidiian Florence Nightingale, Denara Pel, later notes--the damage to the spirit is far worse. Sure, we feel bad for you, but it doesn't give you the excuse to steamroller my right to exist. If you're this way when you're on the verge of death, what kind of cruel freaks will you be when you're well?
No thanks. Mr. Tuvok: Phasers on Barbecue.
He's a bad guy, but he's played well. The guards, on the other hand, are your typical thugs. They all look like the Toxic Avenger and other Troma Films extras, but they don't even have the pretense of compassion that Sulon and the two "Phage" Vidiians displayed. There's no attempt to give them a warm and fuzzy side. See, they're people too; they're just not very nice people.
Here's my big complaint. The Talaxian prisoner, who's been there for six years and gives good advice for staying alive and provides water to those in need...is left behind. I'm sorry, but after janeway stated flatly in "Phage" that any future interference with her ship or crew would be met with the "deadliest of force," all they do is grab their own people and run. Didn't even rescue other prisoners, who will surely die at Vidiian hands. Didn't blow the place to hell. Didn't back up her threats. No wonder the Vidiians later came after the ship with a vengeance. In this episode, Janeway comes off worst. Every time they meet the Vidiians, they do worse. In many cases--with the Kazon, the Vidiians, and with some other races--Janeway makes their life worse in the Delta Quadrant by shooting her mouth off.
I praise Janeway in other episodes. But this one bugged me because she made a nasty threat, and completely weenied out. Maybe spite is a bad reason to nuke a planet full of sick people, but the very least they could have done was rescue their fellow victims from the clutches of their guaranteed killers. If nobody else, the Talaxian, who was a stand-up guy and deserved to be rescued.
Tuvok and Kim didn't have as much to do as Chakotay, but all did a decent job. The meetings of minds were occasionally entertaining as well as plot-forwarding. Kim's "bread crumbs" dialog with Janeway was cute. And Chakotay and Holodoc had some good zinging one-liners.
Dang. I take a year to review an episode, and I write a novel.
On a 0-10 scale, I originally gave this a 6.50. I've had second thoughts. I'm now giving it a 7.50. Torres, the human and the Klingon, were both given meaty roles and a chance to show us what presumably goes on underneath the surface of her character all the time. With the benefit of hindsight, Torres has shown tremendous growth since this episode; the experience apparently helped her slay some of her internal demons and shake hands with her inner Klingon. Her dual heritage had a chance to face itself in the flesh, size each other up, find reasons to differ and reasons to respect. Torres didn't kill her Klingon half; she came to terms with it.
(While you're waiting for Jim's typing fingers heal, you can always see what Julia has to say about this episode...)