6/23/14

Star Trek: Asterisk "The Host"

Vital Information
Series: The Next Generation
Episode: S04E23
Air Date: May 13, 1991
Written by: Michael Horvat
Directed by: Marvin Rush

Premise
Beverly falls in love with a Trill, but can she handle who he is on the inside?

Recap
Meet Odan, the handsome Trill ambassador who, in two weeks, has established a passionate romantic entanglement with Dr. Beverly Crusher while being escorted to the Peliar system to mediate a dispute. It's a perfect opportunity for Data to step in and completely misunderstand why they want to spend so much time together. After Beverly escorts Data away, Odan returns to his quarters and reveals that there's something funky going on with his stomach area. No time to worry about that, though. After the opening credits roll, Beverly and Odan arrive late just a few seconds apart from each other to a briefing at the Peliar system. Troi knows what's up. She always knows what's up.

During the briefing, which includes a representative from Peliar, Odan claims that his father had helped out Peliar's Alpha and Beta moons in a previous dispute. Now that the two moons are at it again, he hopes to be as much help as his father was. He insists on taking a shuttlecraft to meet with delegates from the two moons. The transporter freaks him out for some reason. Riker volunteers to pilot the shuttlecraft, but on their way there, two armored ships appear and one of them takes shots at the shuttlecraft. Odan is critically injured. Back on the Enterprise, Beverly looks over her lover's body and discovers there's a parasite inside him. As she's preparing to take it out, Odan stops her and claims that he is the parasite and the body he's inhabiting is merely a host. Save the slimy mass of tissue, not the body.
Beverly had plans to settle down in a nice country home with this.
There's just one problem. It'll take at least a few days for another host body to make it all the way from Trill onto the Enterprise. Until then, they need an emergency solution. Although it's not known whether a symbiont will survive inside a human host, Riker, ever the willing volunteer, agrees to be the test subject for this experiment. The procedure is a qualified success. Odan will operate through Riker's body, but the arrangement will only work for a few days. Long enough to wait for a proper Trill host, but the negotiations must continue. All parties involved decide to let the truth be known. Odan's "father" was actually just his previous host. Odan is a symbiont who is now living inside of Riker, and he is who they must work with now.

Meanwhile, Beverly has to adjust to the fact that the man she loved is now inhabiting Riker's body. She's upset that he never told her that he was a symbiont, but he insists it never crossed his mind, just as she never told him that she was a single being. It's who he is, he never really thinks about it... except, apparently, when it comes to telling alien delegates who his previous host was. Then he has to make up a lie to cover his dual nature. But other than that... Beverly goes to Ten Forward and expresses her concerns to Troi. Troi advises her that if she can feel the feelings that she felt for Odan in Riker, go ahead an accept them, because one minute we have love and another minute it's gone. It's best to cherish it while it's around.
Who wouldn't love that face, anyway?
The following day, it's time for Odan to meet with the delegates. This time they meet on the Enterprise. They understandably quiz Odan on his knowledge of their past dealings. He passes their quiz with flying colors and then they get down to business. After this initial meeting, they are satisfied that he is, in fact Odan, but then he begins to experience rejection symptoms. Beverly gives him some medication to help with the pain, but a proper host body is still a few hours out. And she's still weirded out by Odan being in Riker's body. Picard tells Odan that the delegates are willing to sit down with him for final negotiations, though. So all they have to do is wait for that meeting.

Meanwhile, Odan asks the computer to find Beverly. When it says she's in her quarters he considers this information for a moment... but then Beverly comes to him. Under the pretense of checking up on his medical condition, she starts a roundabout conversation about his welfare, but Odan finally says that he wants her and if she's going to leave she better do it now. She replies that she's not leaving and they embrace passionately and kiss. She's finally able to look past Riker and see Odan. The next day, Odan insists that he continues in the delegation without medication, even though he is clearly in pain. He says that the medication is starting to damage Riker's body, and before any permanent damage is done, he must be removed even if his new Trill host hasn't arrived yet.
PHMMHMMPPHH
The delegates arrive and it's time for Odan to get to work. Unfortunately, while he's working, the Trill vessel contacts the Enterprise to say that they've had difficulties and won't arrive for another nine hours. After the delegations are over and the moons agree not to go to war, Odan stumbles onto the bridge and faints. Picard orders the Enterprise to rendezvous with the Trill vessel at warp 9. When they get there, Crusher discovers that Odan's new host body... is to be a woman. Well, unfortunately for Odan, Beverly is not bisexual. The transfer is a success, but the relationship is over. They have a tearful goodbye, and the Enterprise continues on its merry, heterosexual way.

Review
So there might be a few problems with this episode, but I think its ultimate message is an exploration of what it is we really love in people; is it their body or their soul or some combination of both? And while it's very interesting to explore this idea, I don't think they really come to a conclusion. I don't think they were really able to. In 1991 it would have been unthinkable to put a main character into a queer relationship, so that's where it had to end. I think it kind of circled around that idea, bumped into it a bit and backed off, waiting for Deep Space Nine to fully explore it a little more. Star Trek is always on the bleeding edge of mainstream progressive thought in that it goes just far enough to poke the bear, but then run quickly back to safety. In any case, the rest of the story was a fun exploration of putting the soul of the person you love into the body of a friend you love no more than a brother. That would be so weird, but it looked like, in the end, Beverly was going to be okay with it. And then the woman happened. Ah, well. By the way, how bout the original Trill design? I'm kinda glad Dax doesn't have those ridges.