Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Host [4.23]

Beverly Crusher falls in love with Odan, a Federation ambassador involved in crucial negotiations.  When he is injured, it is discovered that his race, the Trill, are a joined species – a symbiont living inside a host.  To keep the symbiont alive, he is temporarily placed inside Commander Riker, who continues the delicate negotiations.  Beverly struggles with whether she can continue her relationship with Odan, knowing what he really is, but finally decides she can and must.  But when Odan’s “replacement” host arrives and turns out to be a woman, Beverly decides she cannot keep up with the changes necessary to continue the relationship.

Written by Michel Horvat. Directed by Marvin V. Rush.

Previous Episode: Half a Life • Next Episode: The Mind’s Eye

It’s definitely a new day in Next Generation when we have two episodes back to back which tell reasonably believable romance stories.  Well, perhaps “believable” is the wrong word when it comes to The Host.  Like many similar stories, the romance is actually a bit juvenile when you dissect  it:  Beverly and Odan’s relationship is less than two weeks old (going back to first encounter), but still she acts as if she has found her soulmate.  It’s a weakness of the series’ format – all romances have to be implausibly accelerated, with pretty much none of them coming out of, you know, people getting to know each other, being friends, and finding out that they have things in common and stuff.

But what does work here is that we jump into this relationship in media res, so to speak, so we don’t have to watch the awkward first meetings.  We get to jump into two actors who have got some pretty decent chemistry relating to each other in a way that makes us believe that they really care about each other.  And then Gates McFadden and Jonathan Frakes do a good job making us feel that they are really stressed out by what’s happening between them, and I buy it when Beverly gives into her feelings.

Of course this episode also introduces the Trill, who will not appear in Next Generation again, as far as I remember, but will become an important part of Deep Space Nine in the form of both Jadzia and Ezri Dax.  At that point, pretty much everything about the race will be changed except for the broad concept of the species being joined between symbiont and host.  If the eventual Trill “status quo” were in effect at this time, it would have rendered the drama in this episode moot.  In fact, that status quo deals with a bunch of issues that should have been addressed in this episode but weren’t, particularly the fact that there seem to be this sentient race of Trill Hosts who don’t exist for anything but to have their wills and personalities completely subsumed and their bodies enslaved by the symbionts.

The ending of the episode is making a bit of an obvious point, with Beverly talking about the issue being a human failing, and saying that perhaps in the future “…our ability to love won’t be so limited.”  For me, I just think the truth is this relationship is only two weeks old and so of course if this guy is going to change his entire physicality, it’s going to throw off the attraction.   And if Beverly is heterosexual, than Odan becoming a woman is going to cause hiccups in the relationship.  So like in other cases, it’s fair enough if the writers / producers want to make a point, but I just don’t agree with it.

Still, that’s a small part of an enjoyable episode.

Shout Out to the Past:
• Wesley gets a shout out, I think his first one since he left the show.

Setting Up the Future:
• As mentioned above, this episode introduces the Trill, even if almost all their characteristics are changed the next time they appear.

• The last episode started with Troi’s log entry.  This time we start with Dr. Crusher’s.

• Oog, creepy with Odan’s stomach

• I honestly can’t remember when people started talking about Global Warming.  Having it mentioned here was surprising for me.

• Beverly is in some sort of ship’s spa, with a Bolian hairdresser in the background.  It makes for a funny scene with Troi – “I don’t think it’s really a secret.”

• Why doesn’t the Enterprise shoot at the attacking ship?  Too far away?  But not too far away to use a tractor beam?  Or too politically dangerous?

• Nice line from Riker after Picard tells him that the risk is too great.  “Weigh it against the prospect of war.”

• The drama of what is going on with the planet is pretty heavy, and makes a good point about politics and environmentalism.

• Odan says it didn’t occur to him to tell Beverly the truth about him, but he’s obviously taking deliberate efforts to not share the truth of his people. 

• The scene between Deanna and Beverly in Ten Forward is a good one as well, even if the advice Troi gives is a bit adolescent.  I like Troi talking about her father.

• Nice job by Jonathan Frakes during the scene where he meets with the two representatives

• Can’t Beverly tell whether the injections are damaging to the host’s body?  Isn’t that her job?

• I like it when Picard and Beverly hug

• Beverly having to turn around to see the new host is a bit of an obvious moment

Crazy Talk: Captain Riker (Huh?)
Well, this episode would not have worked at all as is in a Captain Riker scenario.  Not because of what we’d lose without Picard (though I liked his scene with Beverly when he tells her that whatever else he is, he is her friend), but because it wouldn’t have made any sense for the ship’s Captain to volunteer to be a temporary host.  And having Odan go inside Commander Shelby would have been making a bigger point than the episode was wanting to.  It’s hard to imagine it working if Odan had gone into Geordi or Worf, for example.  Maybe Data.

Dialogue High Point
I think in the end my favorite is Beverly’s line to Data near the start:

Data, there are times when every second does count.

Previous Episode: Half a Life • Next Episode: The Mind’s Eye

2 thoughts on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Host [4.23]

  1. This was an OK episode. The thing that’s disappointing about the ending, though, is that it’s a reminder that the Star Trek franchise still hasn’t had an LGBT main character. There was an episode of DS9 where Jadzia got together with a woman, because their hosts had been married in past lives, but that wasn’t really followed up on later. There was no comment in another episode about Jadzia going on a date with a woman – “I’ve got a date with that cute Bajoran girl who maintains the Holosuites. So if I’m late to my post tomorrow, you’ll know it went well.”

    Anyway. Yeah, the romances on this show were seldom done very well, but this one wasn’t as bad as usual.

  2. The fact that Crusher had sex with Odan via Riker’s body was much too weird for me to really enjoy the rest of the episode :/ . I mean, really, how could she look him in the eye again after the Odan symbiont was removed? And frankly, the whole situation seems little better than rape from Riker’s point of view. Even ignoring the moral implications of a sentient yet enslaved host species (who seemed willing enough to submit to their role), taking advantage of Riker like that was utterly wrong.

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