Paris, Torres and One Other Random Crew-member are captured by the Vidiians. Paris is sent to work in the Caves of Manual Labour while B’Elanna is taken by a medical researcher who, believing Klingons to be immune to the phage, splits her into her Klingon and Human halves.
I love ‘Faces’ – the plot is classic Star Trek (essentially a re-run of the original series episode ‘The Enemy Within,’ except neither B’Elanna is evil) and it’s a lovely character study. The scene where B’Elanna argues with herself is especially fun; I’m sure we’ve all had that sort of conversation in our heads at some point. (Or is it just me? Perhaps I should worry about that, precious...). Plus Paris and Torres, ironically, have more chemistry here than in any other episode.
Roxann Dawson does a good job differentiating the two B’Elannas, especially through her voice. Her delivery as Klingon-B’Elanna has a bit of a whiff of Captain Kirk about it, every word coming out as if she’s just been punched in the stomach, but her softer delivery as Human-B’Elanna is very effective.* Neither B'Elanna sounds quite like the B'Elanna we've been getting to know, but both sound like they could be related to her.
This is the first time we hear B’Elanna’s back-story (from Human-B'Elanna), about growing up in a colony with no Klingons, her father leaving, and her thinking he left because she was Klingon. The desperate desire of a child not to be different, the problems caused by political tensions between a child’s home and their ethnic place of origin and the agony of a child trying to understand why a parent left are so immediately understandable – and painful – that her story and her mixed feelings about being suddenly human are both understandable and moving.
Klingon-B’Elanna’s story is not quite so interesting as Human-B’Elanna’s, but she does have a fabulously creepy vibe developing between her and her captor, B’Elanna playing on his obvious attraction to her while his attentions are wonderfully repellent and a little bit tragic. Brian Markinson, who plays both Expendable Ensign Durst and Sulan, the Vidiian medical researcher who does his work on B’Elanna, was introduced as Durst in the previous episode as well as appearing early on in this one, which makes Sulan’s appearance with Durst’s face pack that much more of a punch.
The episode is not flawless, of course. The idea that certain personality traits are attached to one's racial heritage is... well let’s face it, it’s spectacularly racist and incredibly dubious. But humans and Klingons are entirely different species, not just different races, so they just about get away with it. Even so, Human-B’Elanna seems a bit excessively jumpy for a Starfleet officer who’s normally pretty hard to faze; surely her courage doesn't reside in her DNA? And her telling Paris that she’ll try to contact the ship in front of the Vidiian guards displays a whole new level of stupidity, heretofore unknown even on television. But still, flaws aside, there’s some great stuff here.
Bits and pieces
- Quite why the Vidiian flunkys insist on taking Durst instead of Paris is a bit of a mystery. It’s like they know which character’s in the credits...
- Rob LaBelle plays a Talaxian here, not for the last time. Chakotay and Paris just heartlessly abandon him in the Vidiian labour camp. Maybe he’s one of a large, identical-looking family...
- Regular cast death watch: Klingon-B’Elanna dies here. Human-B’Elanna can’t survive without her Klingon DNA, suggesting she’s been split in half rather than duplicated a la Farscape, but it still counts. The regular cast deaths tally now stands at: 5.
Tuvok: It is rather – piquant.
Neelix: It is zesty, isn't it? I tried following the recipe in the computer's databank but it seemed so bland, so I took the liberty of spicing it up a bit. Call it plomeek soup a la Neelix.
Tuvok: I must point out that if you take the liberty of changing a time-honoured recipe you are hardly presenting ‘a taste of home.’
Human-Torres (to Klingon-Torres): That's the way you respond to every situation, isn't it? If it doesn't work, hit it; if it's in your way, knock it down. No wonder I got kicked out of the Academy.
A really nice character piece, rounded off with a lovely shot of B’Elanna running her fingers over her flat human forehead. Four out of four creepy Vidiians.
*To be fair to William Shatner, the clip most often used to demonstrate his unique speech patterns is from an episode where Kirk had, in fact, just suffered an injury to his ribs. No one ever points that out.
Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.
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