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.
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.