Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Host”

“The Host”
Written by Michel Horvat
Directed by Marvin V. Rush
Season 4, Episode 23
Production episode 40274-197
Original air date: May 13, 1991
Stardate: 44821.3

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is bringing a Trill ambassador named Odan to mediate a dispute between the inhabitants of the two moons of Peliar Zel. His father had performed a mediation between the moons in the past. Crusher and Odan have also started a romance over the course of the ten-day trip, though they’re trying to keep it secret. That’s not the only secret — in private, Odan’s belly swells and ebbs because there’s a slug in it he hasn’t told anyone about.

After Crusher and Odan have a roll in the hay, there’s a meeting with the governor of Peliar Zel, where the conflict is laid out. Alpha Moon taps Peliar Zel’s magnetic field as an energy source, but their doing so has an adverse environmental effect on Beta Moon. Beta is accusing Alpha of genocide, and Alpha refuses to give up their energy source.

Troi finds Crusher at the ship’s spa, where she doesn’t remember ever seeing the doctor before, at which point Crusher realizes that the fact that she’s in love isn’t exactly a secret, what with her wandering around the ship glowing and all. Meanwhile, Odan picks Picard’s brain about Crusher, including asking how committed she is to Starfleet. (Picard’s terse response lowers the temperature in the room by about fifty degrees.)

Odan takes a shuttle down, refusing to use the transporter — and against the advice of the Peliar Zel governor. There’s a bunch of radical factions, and she can’t guarantee Odan’s safety on a shuttle. However, he insists on not taking the transporter. Riker pilots the shuttle down.

A Betan ship appears and fires on the shuttle. Odan is badly hurt, but Riker manages to pilot the shuttle back to the Enterprise (why the Enterprise never fires on the Betan ship is unclear). While Crusher and Ogawa examine the injured Odan, they’re concerned that he’s suffering from a parasitic infection, but Odan reveals that he is the parasite. The Trill are a joined species — a host body and a symbiont — and while the host body dies, the symbiont lives on. It turns out the “father” that mediated on Peliar Zel in the past was actually a previous host body. (Using the transporter would also damage the symbiont, which is why he was so insistent on taking a shuttle.) Crusher has the symbiont in stasis, but that will only extend the symbiont’s life a few hours, and Trill’s new host won’t arrive for another two days.

Riker volunteers to serve as a temporary host, as Odan is needed to mediate the dispute, which is hairsbreadth away from devolving into war. Crusher implants the symbiont and is only a lot freaked out when Riker starts talking like Odan, even calling her “Dr. Beverly” as Odan did.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: The Host

Crusher and Troi talk in Ten-Forward, as the former is having serious problems dealing with this. Did she love Odan’s eyes? His hands, his mouth? If so, that’s gone — but if she loved the person, that shouldn’t change even though he now looks like Riker. Of course, Riker being the new host makes it worse, as he’s a colleague and friend.

Odan then enters Ten-Forward, and Crusher initially refuses to look at him, until Troi talks her into embracing her feelings, and she turns to look as the music swells (and the eyes roll).

Representatives from the moons come on board to meet with Odan, who manages to convince them that he is really Odan. Unfortunately, Riker’s body is rejecting the symbiont. Crusher does what she can to delay the inevitable with medications, but it’s an uphill battle.

Speaking of inevitable, Crusher and Odan fall into bed again. (I can’t imagine the stress of sex is good for his weakened body, but whatever.)

The next morning, Odan — who’s being less and less helped by the medications Crusher is providing — meets with the representatives. But both sides are massing troops in case negotiations break down. Odan also insists that, by day’s end, the symbiont be removed from Riker regardless of whether or not the new host has arrived, as he’s not willing to risk Riker’s life.

Picard reminds Crusher that, whatever else he and Crusher are to each other, he’s her friend and is there for her. She gratefully gives him a big-ass hug.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: The Host

Odan successfully completes the negotiations, bringing about peace — then collapses in a heap. The Enterprise warps to meet with the Trill ship carrying the new host while Crusher removes the symbiont from Riker. The new host arrives — a woman named Kareel.

After successfully implanting the Odan symbiont in the new host, Crusher is cold and distant to her in a way she wasn’t even when Riker was the host. She says she can’t handle the rapid-fire changes, and she says it’s a “human” problem (which is, I’m sure, news to bisexuals everywhere). Odan is understanding, kisses her wrist one last time, and leaves.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Twice Troi actually gets to give Crusher good advice to help her through the difficulties of her relationship with Odan, first with regards to the speed with which their romance has gone, and later when Crusher has trouble dealing with his symbiotic nature.

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data walks into the turbolift when Crusher and Odan are smooching, and the latter’s attempts to be discreet work a little too well on the literal-minded android.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: The Host

The Boy!?: Crusher got a letter from Wes — he’s at the top of his class in exobiology, but having trouble with ancient philosophy. Dumb kid….

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Crusher and Odan have fallen hard for each other. For Odan, it’s complete. For Crusher, it’s enough to get her past her friendship with Riker, but not enough to overcome her heterosexuality.

There’s also a great conversation between Crusher and Troi in Ten-Forward where the former talks about the first person she loved unconditionally: a soccer player. He was eleven, Crusher was eight, and she already had their entire future lives planned out even though he didn’t know she existed. Later in the conversation, Troi counters with her first unconditional love: her father, who sang to her and protected her, and who was taken away from her; she’d given anything to hear him sing again, but she also still treasures the love she had for him.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: The Host

I Believe I Said That: “Is that the colgonite astringent you have on your eyes?”

“Yes. I guess so.”

“I’ve never tried it.”

“Someone just put it on me.”

Troi asking Crusher what she’s doing in the spa and Crusher failing to be nonchalant about it.

Welcome Aboard: Patti Yasutake is back as Nurse Ogawa, firmly establishing the character as recurring. Barbara Tarbuck, William Newman, and an uncredited Lathal Bine play the Peliar Zel governor and the representatives of the Alpha and Beta moons, respectively, and all serve to create no impression whatsoever, as the episode isn’t really concerned with the dispute as anything other than a means to move the plot along. Frank Luz and Nicole Orth-Pallavicini play the two Trill iterations of Odan with charm and verve — in particular, Orth-Pallavicini is to be credited for doing such a good impersonation of Luz in the final scene.

Trivial Matters: This episode introduces the Trill and several aspects of their culture — a good chunk of which will be tossed out the window when the Trill become a recurring concern via the character of Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. Among the later contradictions to be introduced by DS9: The inability of joined Trills to safely use the transporter is never referenced again, as we see joined Trills using transporters all the time without ill effects. Odan states that all Trills are joined, where we later learn that it’s a small fraction of the species that are actually joined and most Trill aren’t. Here, the symbiont is the only important part and the host is virtually a blank slate (as witnessed by the bland affect of Kareel before implantation, and how little of Riker shows through when he’s implanted), where later Trills we see are a true melding of two people (best seen in the personality differences among Curzon, Jadzia, and Ezri Dax). An entire DS9 episode is dedicated to the importance of Trills not maintaining relationships across hosts, yet Odan continues to carry his torch for Crusher. And, of course, the different makeup, as Trills have spots running down their sides from the temples down instead of bumpy foreheads and funny noses.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: The HostThe novel Forged in Fire by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin addressed the latter issue, establishing that a Trill colony was exposed to the Augment virus (the same virus that caused some Klingons to have non-ridged foreheads, as seen in the Enterprise episodes “Affliction” and “Divergence”). Descendents of Trills from that colony have bumpy foreheads, and Odan came from that subset of Trills.

An earlier host of the Odan symbiont was seen in the short story “First Steps” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch & Jill Sherwin in The Lives of Dax anthology.

The Enterprise re-encounters Odan in a couple of different comic book stories. First in Star Trek: The Next Generation Annual #4, published by DC, written by Mike W. Barr. Next, they meet again in the TNG/DS9 crossover comic book Divided We Fall, written by John J. Ordover & David Mack, published by WildStorm. In the latter, Kareel is killed, and the Odan symbiont is implanted in Crusher.

This is the first episode directed by Marvin V. Rush, a director of photography for TNG, as well the three subsequent Trek series. He would go on to direct two Voyager episodes and two Enterprise episodes as well.

Rush’s biggest challenge as a director was doing a Crusher-focused episode while Gates McFadden was visibly pregnant: constantly wearing her lab coat closed over her stomach, tons of chest-up shots, plus the big-ass tray over her belly in the spa scene.

Make it So: “There’s someone new in my life.” I really have a hard time liking this episode for a variety of reasons. Part of it is wholly unfair to the episode itself: after watching DS9 for seven years and seeing everything they established about the Trill (not to mention more work done with the Trill in various novels and comics over the last decade-plus), it’s hard to watch this episode and think of it as the same species. So I kind of have to turn my brain off and try to pretend it’s not really the Trill, exactly.

But the episode has other problems, as well, one of which is traceable to TNG‘s standalone nature. This type of love story is hard enough to pull off in an hour, but it doesn’t get that much room. Just prior to this, we got to watch a romance bloom between Lwaxana Troi and Timicin, and it worked because it had room to breathe. “The Host” starts with Crusher and Odan already hot and heavy, which is required because the affair needs to be upended by the shuttle accident. But still, too much time is spent on irrelevancies, like the turbolift scene with Data, which isn’t as funny as the script desperately wants it to be. That scene also raises the question of why they’re keeping the romance a secret; that’s never explained (and made more ridiculous by the two of them being pretty openly goopy in the shuttle bay right in front of Riker and La Forge).

There’s also Crusher’s endless hand-wringing after the symbiont is implanted in Riker, especially the end of the scene in Ten-Forward where Odan stares longingly, and Crusher slowly turns around to finally lock eyes with him, and the music is just horrific and you want to throw up. (Well, I did, anyhow.)

I also would have liked to have seen how Riker felt about his body being used to have sex with a colleague. Was he aware of what happened? If so, how does this affect his relationship with the doctor? (The answer, depressingly, is “not at all,” which is frustrating.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: The Host

Finally, there’s the most controversial element of the show, which is the ending. Several have accused the ending of being homophobic at worst, insensitive to a non-heterosexual point of view at best. What leaves a bad taste in my mouth watching it is the way Crusher universalizes it: it’s a “human” problem, and maybe some day humans won’t be so “limited” in love. If she’d kept it to her own individual preferences, I doubt there would have been an issue. In fact, it would have made the ending stronger, with Crusher admitting to a personal, rather than human, failing, and Odan being genuinely confused by it. Instead, Crusher generalized, thus causing the character to marginalize a segment of the human population (both homosexuals and bisexuals) by omission.

Frank Luz gives a charismatic performance as Odan, it’s always good when McFadden gets more to do, and it’s a nice acting exercise for both Jonathan Frakes and Nicole Orth-Pallavinci, as they have to impersonate Luz, and both do so well. But ultimately, the episode is less than it should be.


Warp factor rating: 4

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