Star Trek The Next Generation: The Host

Troi: "Accept the love."

This is a Beverly Crusher centric episode focused on how, why and who we love with a little bit of diplomacy thrown in. I'm not particularly a Crusher fan. I always wanted them to do more with the female characters. However, this is somewhat of a departure from the usual and there were bits and pieces that were quite interesting. "The Host" continues the exploration of love we saw in "Half a Life" with some important twists.

Beverly Crusher falls in love with the alien Ambassador, Odan. This is an important 'man' who has resolved many difficult disputes with skill and instinct. Their red hot romance has lasted all of ten days but they are obviously madly in love. There is only one problem. Odan is a symbiotic being who requires a host. At first, this is given a bit of a sinister edge but that is a red herring. What everyone has come to think of as Odan is actually a parasite that looks like a large, psychedelic caterpillar. Crusher is faced with an ever changing Odan and has to come to terms with what she really loves.

This episode raises many interesting questions. Is love mostly physical? Is it the outer shell that is most important to Crusher? When Riker acts as Odan's host, Crusher is understandably confused and a bit mortified. She overcomes her misgivings and loves Odan through Riker. She even seems to be okay with him as a caterpillar. It is when Odan takes on a woman's body that Crusher has finally had enough. I wasn't sure how I felt about that conclusion. Did it speak to the rigidity of human straightness or was it intended to infer homophobia?

If beauty is more than skin deep then why should the outer shell of people matter as much as it does? As with some other recent episodes I found the themes here to be relevant today. What is gender? Does it really matter? Why are we so hung up on physical appearance? Crusher's response is that we are inadequately evolved. I think I agree with her.

The secondary plot about the disputes between two moons was also very apropos. Climate change brought about by the use of an environmentally dangerous fuel source was about to start a war (sound familiar?). The comments about this and about negotiations were current and useful. I appreciated the way that Odan resolved the previous conflict. If we spent more time in other people's circumstances we might be much less greedy and confrontational. And that is why I love Star Trek. It proposes better ways, asks interesting questions and makes you think. I think this episode did all three.

Now for the lovely bits in this episode. I enjoyed the time in the spa with Crusher and Troi. Crusher is no girly girl and is embarrassed she is giving it a go. Her affair with Odan is the worst kept secret. Data's ability to understand what was happening in the elevator was comical and was nicely contrasted by the scene in the ready room where both Riker and Troi have secret smiles. I also enjoyed the bits with Picard as he was confronted with Crusher's romance. There was obvious tension but he still found it in himself to offer his support.

Bits and Pieces

While I get what the writers were trying to say when Odan protests that he didn't even think about telling Crusher he was a dual being, it is a little hard to believe that an intelligent ambassador who had researched Earth customs would be surprised at her surprise.

I was disturbed by the Trill hosts. It seemed that Riker's consciousness was suppressed by Odan. Are the Trill hosts a slave race?

Putting Odan in Riker's body was an obvious ploy by the writers but it probably would have been easier to put him in a woman's body. Some of us have experience carrying parasites.

Quotes

Troi: "You've been glowing."
Crusher: "Must be the astringent."

Governor Leka: "Listening is a skill which seems to have evaporated with the heat of argument."

Odan: "Did you ever tell me that you are a single being? Of course not. It was normal to you."

Crusher: "Perhaps someday our ability to love won't be so limited."

Some good questions, some fun bits and some annoying ones. Three out of five psychedelic caterpillars.

4 comments:

Juan Alberto Roche Rodríguez said...

Hi, I remember this episode for only two reasons that stock in my mind. I even forgot she had a going with Riker, :)
First where the Trills, I always thought they where a facinating alien specie, a symbiotic intelligent life form. I sometimes wonder how a evolution would have to be for produce something like that. But its definitely original. An intelligent life form thats no a humanoid. When I was young it kind of creep me a little at the same time. That little worm inside Jadzia. Facinating and scary all in one.

The other thing was what Crusher said at the end. Back then when I saw the episode for the first time I was a child and I havent realised yet I was gay, but the episode certainly put me to think. I didnt believe Beverly was being homophobic, but she was just stating something obvious, humans seems to have limitations, even for love. It is a very humble afirmation. Its kind of sad when you think about it.
Love es usually consider the greates feeling, the purest, the most amazing value we can hope to archive in this life. The force that move the universe. Love conquers all! and wherever, and yet its not always perfect and it seems not unlimited. Doesnt matter all the thecnological or philosophical advances or how far has humanity has come as an intelligent specie or what has over come. Their faculty for love is still limited even in the 24th century or for Beberly anyway (Or at least for the writers that is, who knows what would be if we get there in the future) That shoked me somehow, as very profound. Thats what I remember the most about the episode. The way Beberly said it was,... I dont know. Sad is the best way I can describe it.

Thanks for the review. Got me thinking again!

Anonymous said...

This was one of the many thought-provoking TNG episodes and one of my favorites as well (always liked Dr. Crusher, too). And, yes, what does love mean? As a straight woman, I can imagine loving another woman more than anyone else - but without the sexual aspect. Does that make sense?

Mallena said...

That picture is hysterical. Beverly looks goofy. I always liked Beverly and did not like her replacement, that Dr. Pulaski lady. Your review was very thoughtful and interesting. Do you love someone the same if the outside changes? It's a fascinating subject. I assume you didn't watch Deep Space Nine, where more we get more about Trills.

Billie Doux said...

An interesting and thought-provoking episode, and an excellent review, Doc. If I (straight female) fell in love with a man and he decided to change his gender, I like to think that I would still feel the same -- but I honestly don't know.

Mallena, I'm willing to bet Doc has seen Deep Space Nine but is being non-spoilery about Trills. I do like how they saw fit to make changes in the Trill concept for DS9, and that's probably all I should say without getting spoilery myself.