The Vidiians are back! And they are even scarier than the first time (Phage)! B’Elanna Torres, Tom Paris and Pete Durst (Brian Markinson, a crew member first seen in Cathexis, the previous episode) are taken prisoner by a group of Vidiians on a mining planet. While Paris and Durst are used as workforce, Torres is studied by Dr. Sulan (also played by Brian Markinson) who sees in her Klingon side a hope to cure the disease that has ravaged his species for centuries, the phage.
Faces represents a successful and shocking stroll into horror territory for Star Trek: Voyager, which is quite inevitable when the antagonists are organ thieves whose bodies are patchworks made by kidnapping and killing humanoids around the Delta quadrant. The episode is shocking both due to the nature of the villains and for what happens to B’Elanna who’s literally separated into two individuals, one Klingon and one human (thus we have the opportunity to see Roxann Dawson in all her beauty), which is possible thanks to Vidiian technology.
Apparently, Klingons may be immune to the disease, something that Sulan discovers by infecting Klingon Torres in what I can only describe as a questionable medical practice. Studying the evolution of the disease in Torres could lead to eradicating the disease itself! Meanwhile, the human part of B’Elanna turns out to be weak and fearful, as she misses an entire part of her personality. Needless to say, his other side finds the strength to rebel and free herself, especially after seeing what happens to poor Durst, brutally killed and whose body gets literally salvaged. Sulan steals his face in an extremely creepy scene! The timely intervention of Chakotay puts an end to the terrible experience and saves Paris and B’Elanna.
But beyond the “genre” value of Faces, the episode splendidly develops the character of B’Elanna Torres who confesses to having spent her life trying to control the most aggressive part of her personality, the Klingon one, and that she’s always felt like two different people in one. Although the Doctor can bring her back to being the same as always thanks to some complicated medical procedures, the psychological damage suffered by Torres in this episode (with the separation of the two personalities, the psychological and physical conflict between them, and the death of Klingon Torres who’s killed by Sulan) will be felt for a long time, probably forever. Chakotay’s reaction at B’Elanna’s final outburst is fantastic: he can only remain silent and respect the tragedy that she’s going through.
In short, this episode is great, both for the subject matter (what determines our personality and who we are) and for the realization and its pure entertainment value. As for the theme, I couldn’t help but think of the Star Trek: The Original Series episode in which a teleportation accident creates a Kirk double (The Enemy Within, Season 1). The message is the same: our personality is the result of many different instincts and characteristics and our intelligence permits us to merge them in a more or less sensible way. Faces provides an excellent commentary on that. Ciao!
PS: The Delta Flyers podcast shoutout: this episode features a special guest, Brian Markinson, and it’s hilarious. Also, Robert Duncan McNeill recalled of how Roxann Dawson worked hard to make her performance credible in a story that she felt deeply, being of Puerto Rican descent and having lived in a country different from that of her family. Like B’Elanna, she also had to accept and love all the parts of her personality!
Previous episode: Cathexis
Episodio successivo: Jetrel