Fri
May 11 2012 2:00pm

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

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


Keith R.A. DeCandido’s latest novel, Goblin Precinct, is now available. A high fantasy police procedural (think Law & Order meets The Lord of the Rings), it’sthe sequel to Dragon Precinct and Unicorn Precinct, and is available from Dark Quest Books. Go to Keith’s web site for info on how to get the book, whether an eBook or print book from an online dealer, or an autographed copy of the trade paperback directly from Keith.

42 comments
Christopher L. Bennett
1. Christopher L. Bennett
I've always preferred to think that Odan and Kareel represented a host species that was the Trill version of Homo habilis or something, a less intelligent hominid able to contribute less intelligence of its own to the mix. That would also explain the difference in transporter sensitivity.

The big continuity problem you didn't mention, Keith, is how the Trill could've been closely involved with the Federation for generations (for we later learned that Emony Dax had known McCoy in his youth and Tobin had been to Vulcan in the 22nd century) without anyone ever finding out about the symbionts. It's a huge inconsistency, and DS9 pretty much ignored the background about the symbionts being secret (since Ben Sisko certainly seemed to be in on the secret while Curzon was alive).

As for the ending, to be fair, Beverly never really said it was about the new host's gender, just that it was the constant change and unpredictability that she couldn't adjust to. She wasn't saying heteronormativity was a human trait, just that attachment to a lover's physical attributes (and thus reluctance to see them change frequently) was. I agree that it was kind of a missed opportunity on the writers' part and has some unfortunate subtextual implications, but as far as the text itself goes, I think a lot of viewers are too harsh on the character in-universe.

One thing I will give this episode is that it got the vocabulary right. The correct word for a symbiotic organism is a symbiont. Some other franchises, such as Marvel Comics (Venom) and Stargate (the Goa'uld), use the inaccurate term "symbiote" instead. That term was coined in Hal Clement's 1950 novel Needle, because Clement didn't know what the correct word was. He regretted the mistake later, but the book was influential enough that the term "symbiote" came into widespread usage in fiction. But TNG (and thus DS9 & VGR) used the correct form of the word.
Sky Thibedeau
2. SkylarkThibedeau
I kissed a trill and I liked it
The sweet taste of Blood Wine chapstick
I kissed a Trill just to try it
I hope her slug don't mind it
Whether Ezri or Jadzia Dax
Those Trill thrill me to the max
I liked it I liked it.
Christopher L. Bennett
3. TBonz
I've never liked this episode as I found the romance to be too treacly. Plus - the burbling of the women about it while exercising in modern-day exercise togs just screamed 1980s and yanked me right out of the episode, making me remember that it was just a show.

As for this comment "with Crusher admitting to a personal, rather than human, failing" while I agree with your commentary in general, I question the "failing" bit. It's not a failing to be heterosexual and unable to love someone of the same sex, just as it's not a failing to be homosexual and unable to love someone of the opposite sex.

Plus - I think it was more having Odan change bodies twice in a short period that was the problem. She had problems initially when Odan was hosted by Riker, and a second change was just too much. I think even a change into a male body would have been too much for her.

I didn't mind the Trill inaccuracies as the rules on them were changed later on, so it's not the fault of this show that they're seemingly different.
Christopher L. Bennett
4. Mike Kelm
I agree with CLB that DS9 pretty much ignored this episode except that Trills were joined species. I'm just suprised that the writers used Trills and not created a new race for Dax to be. Called it the something else and say that the Trills are offshoots of them...

Dr. Crusher's issue isn't that the new host is a woman, it's that it's the third different body that her lover has been in this week. I think that's a shock to pretty much anyone. I took Dr. Crusher's comments to mean that humans couldn't adjust to the body (surface beauty) changing that quick, not just gender. If you go on a first date with a beautiful redhead and a week later she looks completely different, you might not want to go on a second date with her.

My biggest issue (outside of the completely different trill species we are seeing) is when Riker/Odan and Crusher end up in bed together. I have two issues with this- first out of respect for her colleague and friend I don't think Beverly would have sex with his body, and second, it's the same issue we had with Riker in "First Contact." Riker is not in control of his body and has sex. We don't know if he wants to have sex with Beverly or not but it isn't him in command of his body, it's Odan, which means that Riker can't consent to what is happening to him. It's the same as if someone had slipped him a date rape drug- Riker is raped (again). This seems very out of character for a generally sensitive character in Dr. Crusher. I get why the writers did it, I just don't like it.
Christopher L. Bennett
5. Sean O'Hara
While Crusher claims her issue is with Odan's constant body swapping, she was interested in continuing the relationship until she found out the new host's sex. Considering that next season we get The Outcast, I think it's perfectly reasonable to take Beverly's line as indicative of a hetero-normative if not outright homophobic attitude by the writers and producers.
Christopher L. Bennett
6. StrongDreams
@5, "hetero-normative if not outright homophobic attitude by the writers and producers."

I was gonna say this anyway but you provided the perfect opportunity. Since when exactly does one character stand as a representative of an entire culture? (Answer: in lazy writing and lazy fan expectations.)

According to current bio/social theory, some people are "born" gay or bi or straight. Even if Beverly's problem is that she personally can not adjust to a lover in a female body, why is it "homophobic" of the writers to have a heterosexual character? Why, other than fan expectations, should every Star Trek character have to be as flexible as Jack Harkness?

There seems to be a certain amount of old-fashioned sexism at work here as well. No one complains (that I know of) that Picard and Riker are committed heteros, but people complain because Beverely isn't bi?

Basically, Beverely is not able to adjust to the idea of her lover being a slug that wears a human-looking body as a suit. Homophobic? Seems like a stretch.

And I agree, far worse is the idea of Bev sleeping with Riker's body while Riker is mentally incapacitated.
Christopher L. Bennett
7. Tesh
"Since when exactly does one character stand as a representative of an entire culture?"

That's a common 'Trek disease. Common in most fiction that uses other planets for that matter. It extends to climates, too; Hoth=ice, Tattooine=desert, that sort of thing. Klingon=angry Samurai, Vulcan=logical prick, Romulan=sneaky jerk, Ferengi=greedy huckster, and so on. Nuance takes time to develop. (Which is why I so dearly love Spock, Worf, and especially Quark and Rom.)
Christopher L. Bennett
8. Lsana
@3, 6,

Thank you. This is pretty much exactly what I was going to say. Gender is one of the components of romantic love. How many people out there, gay or straight, would stay with their current significant other if he/she suddenly got gender reassignment surgery? I'll bet it's nowhere close to 100%.

Crusher is no more homophobic for not wanting to have a romantic relationship with a female host body than gay men are misogynist for not wanting to have a romantic relationship with a woman. The idea that Crusher has some kind of obligation to be bisexual strikes me as far more "unfortunate implications" than anything in the episode.
Christopher L. Bennett
9. ALeistra
It's not at all heteronormative of the writers to portray Beverly as being completely heterosexual. It's heteronormative of them to write her as not mentioning that aspect of things, and instead suggesting if not outright stating that all humans are heterosexual. (Yes, yes, her statements could also be interpreted as referring to frequent changes, except that it wasn't until she learned the new host was female that she got upset.) Had she just said "sorry, I'm straight", nobody would be complaining.
Christopher L. Bennett
10. StrongDreams
@9, ok, I see your point. Let's imagine that instead of saying, "humanity is limited," she had said, "some humans might be ok with it but I'm not."

On the other hand, how common is it for any person (in real life) to admit to a personal failing instead of trying to transfer it elsewhere? Heck, transference is so common it even has an official name (um, "transference".)

I also have a hard time viewing hollywood people as "heteronormative" (yes, stereotype). Given the heavy-handedness of "message" shows in general, I would not be surprised if Beverly's statement "humans aren't ready yet" was the writer's indictment of 20th century values, rather than an endorsement of them.
Christopher L. Bennett
11. StrongDreams
Completing my thought...

I would not be surprised if Beverly's statement "humans aren't ready yet" was the writer's indictment of 20th century values, rather than an endorsement of them. After all, wasn't Odan presented as kind, sensitive, and understanding, and Beverly as a bit of a trog?

If the writers really were "heteronormative", Beverly's rejection of the relationship would have gotten more support, don't you think? Even 20 years ago, were there contemporaneous reviews of the episode cheering her on and condemning Odan as a creep and a pervert? I don't remember any. I mean, the ending is sad for Beverly.
Rob Rater
12. Quasarmodo
Crusher probably would've reacted exactly the same if the new host was a butt-ugly male.
Christopher L. Bennett
13. rowanblaze
@5 Either I am totally misunderstanding you, or misinterpreting "The Outcast." Even when I saw that episodes for the first time, I immediately saw one of those unsubtle anvils Star Trek is famous for, indicting hetero-normativity. Heck, that message was about as subtle as "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" from TOS.

I happen to agree with @1 CLB (and others), Crusher's issue was with the rapid changing of Odan's physical appearance. She may not have had as much an issue with Riker's body because he's a good loooking, familiar face. Maybe she'd fantasized about him. That does lead to the unfortunate implications mentioned by others. As randy as Riker is supposed to be, this the second time in less than a year he's been used as a sex toy.
Christopher L. Bennett
14. DRickard
Persnikity nit-picking comment here...
Projection is the ascription of personal failings or bad thoughts onto another person (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection).
Transference is the transfer of feelings/desires from one person to another (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transference).
I know.. nit-picking; but accuracy counts.
Keith DeCandido
15. krad
Bonzie: You're conflating two episodes. It was in "The Price" that Troi and Crusher went to work out in 80s leotards and do girl-talk (a scene I actually loved). This episode had them in a spa. (Gates McFadden's pregnancy would've made a workout scene impossible.)

To everyone: as I said in the rewatch, my issue wasn't with Crusher's not being bisexual, my issue was with her generalizing and speaking for all of humanity at the end.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Christopher L. Bennett
16. Christopher L. Bennett
@15: Look at it this way, maybe: Perhaps Beverly really was speaking of her own reactions, but was too defensive about them to own up to them as a personal trait, so she deflected by blaming it on her species' limited ability to adapt.
treebee72 _
17. treebee72
Thanks to the power of Amazon Prime, I just watched the end of the ep. Considering Beverly turns to great the new host with a smile on her face that turns to shock & upset over seeing a woman (complete with 'Oh What a Horrible & Sad Twist' music), her 'I can't handle the constant changes' excuse comes across as just that, an excuse.
Christopher L. Bennett
18. bottledroger
@14 -

Really? You actually wrote "accuracy counts" after quoting from Wikipedia?
Christopher L. Bennett
19. Sean O'Hara
@13 - Franklin Hummel, the man who spearheaded the letter-writing campaign to get a homosexual character into Star Trek, was incensed the The Outcast is what the writers came up with in response:
In fact, what most gay Star Trek fans found condescending was "The Outcast" which, while preaching against "sexual intolerance," hypocritically continued Star Trek's own twenty-five years of failure to show openly gay crewmembers on the starship "Enterprise".
(That's actually tame compared to some of the complaints he voiced on Usenet.)

Instead of a gay character, we get a planet of the hats with enforced androgyny and a persecuted heterosexual woman. And on top of that, Picard comes down on the side of letting said heterosexual woman be "cured" of her deviancy. Of all the episodes for Picard to adhere to the Prime Directive, why that one -- I mean, the science chick from First Contact gets asylum even though she's under no threat, but the metaphorical gay character has to be reprogrammed?

You can read more about the TNG staff's dismissive attitude towards gay characters here.
Alan Courchene
20. Majicou
For this episode's Trill vs. DS9 Trill:
A biologist who wrote a book about Star Trek and got a whole HEAP of her facts wrong did manage to make one good point: the conception of the Trill in this episode doesn't make any sense on the face of it. The main problem is that the symbiont, despite being so called, is really just a parasite here: the symbiont gets a body to interact with other beings, but the host apparently gets SFA: his/her personality is completely subsumed and made dormant (forever if it's a lifetime commitment), and he/she gains an inconvenient inability to be transported safely (unless you go with the explanation that it was just to keep the whole symbiont thing a secret). As the author asks, who the hell would volunteer for that? And it all seems very complicated and delicate, but Riker can serve as a host? Really? That certainly can't jibe with DS9's notion that not even all Trill are suitable to be hosts. I can't really swallow the idea that the Trill have been able to keep their status a secret when they're "in" enough with the UFP to serve as ambassadors. And has no non-Trill doctor ever needed to examine Odan or any other joined Trill before? It can't work unless they're the one of the galaxy's most reclusive and secretive species, which doesn't mesh even with this episode.

The makeup change might be debatable, but I think all the changes made to the Trill on DS9 add up to a huge authors' saving throw, taking an interesting race with serious story-logic issues and turning it into something that could be sustained through a whole series.
Christopher L. Bennett
21. StrongDreams
@19,
wow, it's Usenet week on Tor. Yesterday while checking out the backstory on Ishmael, I ran across an old archived post from Gharlane of Eddore, and now you bring up Franklin Hummel. Gosh I remember wasting spending hundreds of hours on the sf topics, back when a unix shell account on a university mainframe was high-end computing.

I still think there are elements of "The Host" and "The Outcast" which are the writers' way of saying, look how backward they are. But I also see that in doing so, rather than simply having gay characters, the writers/producers were perpetuating the very thing they were criticizing.
Christopher L. Bennett
22. Earl Rogers
@21: It's definitely a case where the intentions do not match the execution.


And no, I'm not going to give them a "but it was the 90s!" pass. Poor storytelling is still poor storytelling.
Christopher L. Bennett
23. Earl Rogers
However, I do have to disagree with those who find Beverly to be "heteronormative" here. Some people (surprise surprise!) genuinely only feel sexual desire for the opposite gender, so they can't make the jump to bisexuality.

Anymore than it's fair to ask a gay man to "just try being straight".

It was just explained poorly.
Christopher L. Bennett
24. Christopher L. Bennett
@23: Right, and Keith has said as much at least twice now: The problem wasn't that Beverly doesn't like girls, the problem is that she implied that was a "human" attribute rather than a personal one.
Christopher L. Bennett
25. Kathy J.
"For Crusher, it’s enough to get her past her friendship with Riker, but not enough to overcome her heterosexuality."

It may surprise you (it certainly isn't fashionable to say it), but many people don't consider heterosexuality something that needs to be overcome.
Kristen Templet
26. SF_Fangirl
It strikes me that a big problem with this episode is that we're supposed to believe that Crusher and Odan are in love after knowing each other a few days. That's lust. Its also very obvious that she barely knows this guy because he's hiding major components of his personality - that he's an immortal slug. (Maybe not immortal, but he's been around long enough to fake being his own son so he's much longer lived than humans.)

There are many, many problems with this episode, but it starts with that assumption.
Alyssa Tuma
27. AlyssaT
A friend and I were recently discussing the proliferation of awkward kisses/sex scenes/physical love in the world of TNG. Lack of chemistry is a hard thing to critique because it can be difficult to tell if the fault lies with the writing or the performances or the specific chemistry between actors or what. It just seems to happen A LOT on this show, and with different combinations of characters/actors, so I tend to perhaps lean more towards blaming the writers.

This all said, imagine my delight with Crusher and Odan's very magnetic physical chemistry! As @26 points out, I too wouldn't label this "love," but it was nice to see two TNG characters who convincingly couldn't keep their hands of each other. There was even a little visible tongue (a la Top Gun) in those early scenes. Wowza!

Of course, we went right back to the terribly stilted face-mash kiss (a la a 1950s family musical) with Riker and Crusher. This probably actually made sense in this case, considering the body swaps and the feelings associated with being in love with someone who is a parasite in the body of one of your dearest friends. But still. Back to the chemistry vacuum. Sigh.

Not only was it completely disturbing that they didn't explore the deep ethical problems with using a colleague/friend's body (unknowingly) for a physical relationship, but I am always surprised in this episode how little regard they have for Riker's body at all. It's Odan who keeps insisting that they have to remove him from Riker's body soon because, uh, Riker will DIE! And they're sort of, "Oh, okay, I guess, if you insist." I never know why Picard and Crusher seem so DUH about this.
Paul Howard
28. DrakBibliophile
I thought the people complaining about the "anti-gay" aspect of this episode are missing the big problem (which was implied when some here talked about the Trill using Riker's body for sex).

This episode has the Trill enslaving other species pure and simple.

It annoyed me that none of the writers saw this and few of the viewers saw this.

Oh, Deep Space Nine use of the Trill was somewhat better as there it shows more of a union of the Trill and its host than this episode does.
Christopher L. Bennett
29. Christopher L. Bennett
@28: "This episode has the Trill enslaving other species pure and simple."

Well, not necessarily. Remember, what we saw of the unjoined host Kareel suggested that on her own, she had low intelligence and little identity. I think the original idea was that the hosts, despite appearing humanoid, were little more than domesticated animals and that the symbionts had all the higher cognitive functions and personality. It was your standard Trekkish "Don't judge by appearances" message, in that the part that looked more like us was just an empty shell and the hideous slug thing had all the "human" attributes like intelligence and emotion and personality.

Also, if the two species had evolved that relationship over millions of years, with the humanoids serving as the bodies and the symbionts serving as the brains, then it wouldn't be right to impose human values on it and say it's immoral, any more than it would be right to condemn black widow spiders for killing their mates or bonobos for having sex with children and relatives. It's just what's natural for them, what they're adapted for. And it's evidently a true symbiosis, with each partner gaining benefits: the symbionts gain size, mobility, and manipulative organs, and the hosts gain the intellect, imagination, and social complexity to improve their survival strategies. (Indeed, their evolution of traits like refined manipulative digits, phonetic speech, and the like may have emerged as a result of their symbiosis, since a subsentient race would have less incentive to develop them.) So it isn't wrong, because it's benefitted both species and is what they're naturally adapted for.

This is part of why there's a Prime Directive. It's about recognizing that what works for humans doesn't necessarily work for other species, that there's no absolute, universal set of ethics.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
30. Lisamarie
I have to agree that I actually found the end offensive because she implies that heterosexuality is a 'failing'. Uh, what? I don't think any of my gay/bisexual friends would consider me 'limited' because I happen to only be attracted to members of the opposite sex.

Agreed on the squicky implications of using another person's body for sex.

As for the body changes - while platonic love is a wonderful thing, I do think an important part of what we consider romantic love is physical attraction, and I also don't believe our bodies are just husks that house our souls/spirits/consciousness and to be truly enlightened we'll just eventually transcend/ignore it, but an integral part of our personhood. So I think it IS very 'human' in that we have a hard time separating the two and can't easily get used to the idea that while the 'mental' part is the same, the body has changed. They are both parts of the person. I don't think I'd be able to handle somebody's body changing on me either.
Joseph Newton
31. crzydroid
What a let down...I had been prepared for this episode to be good. It might have worked better as a book, because it was just executed so poorly. I found it awkward and hard to sit through for some of the reasons you mentioned...throwing in this passionate love scene right at the beginning without seeing it develop just made me uncomfortable (in the sense that it was bad or boring or poor drama). And 10 days?? Though this might seem to be in character for Beverly given another romance she mentioned to Troi (I believe that was in the leotard scene, no less). But there were other places where the acting was noticeably awful, the jokes didn't even hit home, and some scenes were just boring and hard to get through. I started literally cringing when I realized that Crusher was about to get with Odan in Riker's body. I mean, Riker was supposedly still in there somewhere, right??? Contrast this to the previous episode which had me engaged pretty much the whole time. The only plus is that I thought Frakes did a good job when he was being Odan.

I don't want to say too much on the homosexuality thing here because it's been so thoroughly discussed, and it's kind of a shame that the last two minutes dominates the entire viewing of this episode. But if the point of this episode was to be a homosexual tolerance message, they sure didn't do a good job of it by throwing it in at the very end of the episode. Maybe that's because the homosexuality debate is such a big issue in our culture. To be fair, others on here have pointed out the using Riker for sex thing. But I think there's that whole issue to explore; the idea that Riker's personality seems to be completely repressed for that time, and yeah, the reprecussions of how he deals with that experience afterward. Part of the reprecussions part is just part of the "ship in a bottle" nature of the show that you always mention.

One could also start thinking about people with disabilities or mental injuries. Crusher's line about loving his hands or his eyes could extend to that issue. Perhaps you love someone, and then they suffer a head trauma and have brain damage. What did you love about them? Perhaps your lover's entire face becomes burned. What did you love about them? It brings us some questions about the nature of love in general.

I'm going to come back to the homosexuality issue just to address your comments about Crusher generalizing to humanity. Now, as other people have pointed out, she doesn't specifically mention heterosexuality, just all the changes (which does sound like an excuse; and maybe it is meant to be). But it's reasonable to assume she is talking about not overcoming our sexual preferences in general. Imagine a homosexual (not a bisexual) that was in love with someone of the same sex the entire episode, and then at the end the new host is someone of the opposite sex. Crusher rejecting the new host at the end would still fall into the same human "failing."
Justin Devlin
32. EnsignJayburd
This episode gets points for coming up with a fantastic concept for a new species, but getting it wrong the first time. Very wrong.

I know hindsight is 20/20, but wouldn't the episode have been so much better - and make more sense - if they had started with the idea that the Trill are a "joined" species like in DS9 in the first place? I mean, what kind of culture breeds humanoid hosts solely for the purpose of being inhabited by symbionts that take total control of said hosts? Sounds like slavery to me. And it would have been far, far more interesting if Riker and Odan were truly joined.
NICKOLAS POLISKEY
33. jlpsquared
@Everyone.

I am seeing alot of terms here about that discussion at the end of the episode, like heteronormative, homophobicm heterophobic., etc..., but at the end of the day, the impression from bev that I got was "buzz off Odan, I am a little sick of you", but she was trying to be polite. And good for her.

That being said, I disagree completely with the feeling of this episode. I always felt that this and the one before it "Half a Life" are two of the better, if not the best, ever star trek ever romances. Sorry Krad, I realize you are a writer and what not, but as an audience member, I do not feel as if I need to see every moment of a romance on screen. I realize here it was for plot-purposes, but I also found it refreshing to jump in mid-romance.

further, The Chattaway score was very good, and the guy that played Odan was VERY good, for a trek one off guest star.
NICKOLAS POLISKEY
34. jlpsquared
One more thing. Considering the philosophical aspect of attraction/love.

I am a scientific minded ST fan, not a lala land lib ST fan. I don't think for a second "love" is anything more than the human bio-chemical reaction to help the species reproduce. I am married, and I love my wife and kids, but I don't think there is some godly mysterious reason for love. I met my wife, thought she was hot, got to business, and now I have 2 kids. case closed.

When I hear Star Trek fans talk about "mystery of love", it makes me suspect they are really no different than bible thumping christian republicans.
Christopher L. Bennett
35. RMS
I am a gay man, and I never saw this as a homophobic episode, even when I first saw it back in the mid 1990s (it was in 1996).

I think Beverly was saying that it is a human failing for most of us to not be able to love a person for who they are, with gender irrelevant.

Yes, there are true bisexuals out there who like both sexes equally, but they are not very common, and true bisexuality is far from being a standard human quality. Most of us have a preference.
Christopher L. Bennett
36. Risingson
I'm a gay man and, again, I don't see this as homophobic, but just as badly executed as you have discussed. The awkward kisses (something that seemed to be typical in the scifi television), the Riker character which, again, is a sexual/plot device, the many issues hinted but then discarded by the parasite personality thing... Seriously: in this first watch, the fourth season is, by far, the worse of the first four ones.
Christopher L. Bennett
37. Etherbeard
It seems to me that Crusher implies she could be with Kareel-Odan if she knew the symbiont was going to keep that host for a long period of time. Of course there's no way to make that guarantee. The scene is certainly not overtly homophobic, and in my opinion it's not even accidently homophobic.

What I don't understand is how the host/ symbiont relationship could have arisen naturally at all. Perhaps this is explained in DS9, but the evolution seems impossible if it requires surgery for the two to be joined. Maybe that could have been a result of Riker being human, but it was definitely implied that Crusher needed to be there in a professional capacity for the more standard joining.
Christopher L. Bennett
38. drewatl
another gay man here. those who see homophobia, heteronormative this or that are seeing what they want to see. it's a personal blindness and bias. it's unsupported by the script. consider beverely's perspective. she fell for one person who wasn't outwardly real; she'd been deceived. she rejected him when riker's body was borrowed. then tried to push forward, made somewhat easier because of her years of familiarity with riker. but seeing the female host made crusher's fears and uneasiness coalesce and insurmountable. it became real. she clearly said the body switching was too much, it was unfamiliar to humanity that loved ones may permanently change physical bodies randomly. it was a statement of fact. think of your own lives. do you feel differently about people you befriend online once you really see or even meet them?
Christopher L. Bennett
39. Sam0
I frankly don't understand any of the discussion about supposed "heteronormativity" or whatever here. Maybe the writers or producers or whoever were homophobic; I honestly don't know. But, for the life of me, I cannot understand the arguments here that seem to understand the ending of this episode as being homophobic.

To me, assuming that it's actually possible for someone to be heterosexual, this is the most reasonable outcome -- and actually the LEAST possible insulting ending for gays. Over the course of TNG, we have no other hint that Crusher was at all bisexual. If she were to suddenly jump into a sexual relationship with a woman, I think that would have set the gay cause BACKWARD.

One of the primary tenets of the gay rights movement in recent decades is trying to convince people that being gay is not just a "choice" or a "lifestyle." It's part of who you are. If Dr. Crusher has no leanings toward homosexuality, and has displayed none before, having her suddenly jump into bed with a woman would frankly be insulting to gays. It would symbolize the idea that one CAN just "choose" to be gay or straight (or bisexual, as the case may be).

And, as such, if Dr. Crusher actually is really straight (and has never had lesbian desires, which were never articulated elsewhere in the series), it is in fact a "human" failing that she is referencing at the end -- i.e., it's a psychological and perhaps even biological fact that some humans are predisposed toward heterosexual relationships, some are predisposed toward homosexual relationships, and some are open to both. Crusher apparently is not, and we should not act like she's somehow homophobic by refusing to have a homosexual relationship. That's like saying that a gay person is somehow "wrong" to refuse to have heterosexual relationships. Are people here seriously arguing that!?!

Assume for a moment that the future in TNG actually is a society welcoming to gays. Even if we accept that Crusher's "human failing" was an inability to change her sexuality, that's actually precisely what gay rights advocates have argued. Why on earth should we assume that Crusher was saying it was a "human failing" to not be homosexual, when her words in context are more straightforwardly referring to an inability to change sexuality on a whim? (If indeed she is specifically referring to sexuality at all, rather than a general human inability to completely ignore drastic changing appearances in a lover.)

It's only when we make the a priori assumption that the TNG future is homophobic that Crusher's statements must be read as homophobic. If we assume that TNG people are actually okay with homosexuality, Crusher's statement could easily mean something completely different -- and something that actually supports the gay cause.

But setting aside all of this, just try to imagine for a second what else the writers could have done at the end of this episode to explain Crusher's change of heart. Honestly, she needed some sort of shock to make her realize how she couldn't personally deal with the drastic changing appearances of a partner. (How many of us could?)

So, just having another relatively attractive man show up wouldn't do it. The new host could have been fat or short or ugly, which would just make Crusher look shallow. And the writers certainly couldn't have done something else to change the new host's appearance like make him Black or Asian: that would have set off calls of "racism."

Instead, they chose to make the new host a woman. And they had Crusher essentially admit what gay rights movements have been telling us for decades: sexuality isn't just a choice. I have no doubt that Crusher could have continued to love the "person inside," but let's face it, we saw a fast "fling" on this episode where physicality was heavily implied. If Crusher's heterosexuality is actually genuine, it would be seriously insulting to gays as well as straight people to just have her frivolously alter it on a whim. And the inability to do so is in fact a characteristic of humans -- gay, straight, whatever.
Christopher L. Bennett
40. Sam0
By the way, I agree that most of what we see on TNG has heteronormative overtones, just like every other TV show on at the time.



But heteronormative is different from homophobic. It's one thing to
show episodes that depict primarily heterosexual relationships. It's a
different thing to assert that the show is actively promoting hatred of
gays or implying that they are abnormal. It's yet another thing to make
the assumption that the future society depicted in TNG is also
homophobic.



It seems to me that the reading of the ending that infers that Crusher
is saying that homosexuality is a failing must also assume a homophobic
agenda both in the writing staff of the TV show and in the society
depicted in the future TNG world. Given that there's little evidence
from any other episodes that the characters in TNG are actively
homophobic, I think it's quite a stretch to assume that Crusher is implying
the society as a whole is here.
Edward Chinevere
41. Drawde
Isn't it peculiar how all the gays came out of the wordwork at the end of the comments section? ;) I am another gay man. And I know it's controversial to say so, but I'm not of the belief that being gay is strictly biologically determined. I think that it's a combination of nature/nurture or genes/choice- that your biology predisposes you to certain choices and experiences, and the sum of these results in your sexual orientation and sexual identity. And, I certainly don't hold anyone's choices against them - even Beverly's, for whom it is clearly the lady bits on the new Odan that freak her out. Just look at her face when she turns around to meet the new "him."

All things considered, this episode gets more flack than it deserves. I grew up in the 90's, and this is relatively progressive storytelling. We forget often how far we've come in social acceptance. This was a good compromise on the part of the Trek universe between the progressive ideals set forth in the first season and the boundaries of the general audience of the 90's. I don't see it as homophobic or heteronormative in the slightest. What's far more heteronormative is the way that ladies just dangle like ornaments from their husbands' arms in most episodes. (See "Too Short a Season," "We'll Always Have Paris," "Sarek." UGH. DOUBLE UGH.)

While I wouldn't entirely call it homophobic, it does become frustrating how the series continues to evade the issue completely, especially as time goes on and the average viewer's attitides become more open. I mean, wouldn't it be a blast if Voyager had a gay crewman - one sad, lonely little dude who probably spends a lot of time on the holodeck. Especially given the terribly unappetizing nature of all the guys on that senior staff.

Here's a fun thought (totally going into let's-pretend-land here so don't flame me!): If the trill nature actually were the way it was laid down in DS9 (namely a joining results in a merging of the personality of the smbiont and the host), then Riker/Odan is just pretending to be wholly Odan! Which means he's totally using the situation to get into Dr. Crusher's spandex. Not saying that this was ever implied, just adding an unnecessary addition to the Riker-as-sexual-predator pile.
Keith DeCandido
42. krad
First of all, Drawde, I've been enjoying your comments that you've been putting in.

Secondly, I'm going to repeat what I said in the rewatch itself: my problem isn't with Crusher's attitude in and of itself, because she isn't bisexual. My problem is her universalizing her feelings and saying that "humans" have trouble adapting to such a change.

Also, to add to the point I made in both the rewatch and the comments something else: Crusher was more than happy to hop into bed with a close friend with whom she's had no sexual interest in order to continue being with Odan which is WAY WAY WAY skeevier to my mind that sleeping with someone who's of the same gender. But she doesn't even give a second thought to boinking Riker's body.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido

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