Friday, August 30, 2013

Voyager, Season 1: Faces

Voyager, Season 1
"Faces"
Airdate: May 8, 1995
13 of 168 produced
13 of 168 aired

Introduction

B'Elanna wakes up in a Vidiian lab to discover she is fully Klingon. How did she get here? How did this happen? Can she escape, and if she does, will she able to recover her human half? Will she even want to?
Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!




Writing

Kevin: This episode is a favorite of mine. I think the episode is a great horror outing for the series. The idea of the alien abduction and experimenting is great. And sure, the minute you see Durst, you know he is going to die, but the specific way he bought it was really upsetting. Little touches like the tuft of hair and the cuts around the mouth and nose to make it look like they stretched it to make it fit were pretty upsetting. I do think the Vidiians come off as a little more sadistic this time around. Particularly the "meal and a hot shower" line was pretty upsetting.

Matthew: I didn't mind the sadism at all. It makes sense to me that the Vidiians, especially after suffering such a devastating disease for so long, would have someone filling the Josef Mengele role. I definitely agree on the effectiveness of the horror. It was well paced, too. Can I just ask what the point of the Plomeek soup scene was? It had nothing to do with the episode, and kind of made no sense, since Neelix billed it as "authentic" soup, then copped to changing the recipe immediately. Is he just a moron?

Kevin: The strength of the episode for me is the character development we get for B'Elanna. We get a really novel way for her to explore her issues with her Klingon half. I liked that they eventually landed on her realizing that both sides of her were useful, though I think the solution at the end was a little too neat. They seemed to reduce her Klingoness to something that could be achieved with gene therapy. I think it actually would have been a fun twist if the Klingon B'Elanna were the one who internalized her self-loathing, leaving human B'Elanna to be the competent one. In any event, the individual scenes for both halves and their conversation together in the caves were great and really interesting to watch. I thought human B'Elanna did a really good job of portraying the paralyzing fear she experienced. I also liked protective, encouraging Paris. Their scenes together were really sweet. Overall, I think the fact that the show delved so deeply into a major character's personality really elevates the episode.

Matthew: Creating a duplicate is a sci-fi trope, and especially a Star Trek trope, probably initiated by "The Enemy Within" in TOS season one (perhaps an argument can be made for Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but they were located within one body). So it could be a lame rehash if done poorly. As you say, we get loads of development for B'Elanna, which renders whatever problems we might have (and there are problems) with the actual sci-fi aspects of the plot somewhat moot. They really added a lot to B'Elanna's back story with this show, and it is a nice build on to the previous stuff we've gotten, e.g. her feelings of alienation and anger, washing out of the academy, and so on. Unfortunately, I agree on the cure. If a bit of gene therapy can completely rewire someone who has had all those genes stripped by some superior medical technology, then isn't the Federation basically as advanced? It seemed like having half of your genes taken from you should create two half-assed copies of the parents as opposed to two versions of the child. 

Kevin: One of the downsides for me are the issues it raises for the Vidiians as "cool villain." However the conversion happened, they basically had to create or convert another whole person to make a whole other person to manifest one half of the two B'Elannas. If they can easy spawn a whole humanoid, why not just use that for an organ farm? It makes the moral quandary that makes them so interesting less potent. Also, I think that the Klingon B'Elanna was a little too "Klingon" culturally speaking. How do both have complete memories, but apparently from their new perspective? Also, I think the scenes of the crew trying to find a way to beam in were filler. Chakotay really did nothing but show up at the end. Also, the holographically disguised cave was exactly the thing that fooled them in the last encounter, so it's a bit much it worked again this time.

Matthew:
I was mystified by where they got the other B'Elanna from. The consequences of that fact are, as you say, problematic for the overall story of the Vidiians. I suppose you could say that even if they could replicate organs indefinitely, that wouldn't cure the phage, but you're right that it does throw a wrench into their established modus operandi. The fact that both had each memory involved in the combined life was also kind of mind boggling. It could have even worked better if each only had some memories, and in talking about them, they discovered that an integrated persona was more complete, or at least not something that could be abandoned and still leave her life experience meaningful.

Acting

Kevin: Roxann Biggs-Dawson does an amazing job in this episode, particularly as her human half. She really sold the paralyzing fear of her human half. I think the first few scenes of her purely Klingon side was a little stiff, but her scenes with her human half were gangbusters. Her last scene in Sickbay was also great. If she wasn't really crying, I would be really surprised.

Matthew: Yeah, her human scenes were great, and basically made up for any questions about the Klingon performance. The actress has really built a character in the scenes she's been given, and I'd say by this point she is the most identifiable, sympathetic character on the cast (followed by Paris and Janeway).

Kevin: I think that Brian Markinson did a good job as both Durst and the Vidiian. I liked him when he was talking about what the Vidiians used to be and how he didn't want to be patronized. My other issues with the scripting aside, I think he really nailed the internal motivations for the character.

Matthew: I'm in agreement here. The character could have been a caricature, but as the other guest actors have done, the Vidiians are not left to be just one note monsters. I thought Robert Duncan McNeill did a fine job being both gallant and sensitive. This may be the show that put the bug in the writers mind that the characters should be brought together. The actors have chemistry.

Production Values

Kevin: The sets are pretty good and varied. I like the labs and the barracks, though I do question why the barracks would have full access computer terminal right there. Also, the split screen for the two B'Elannas was really well done. Every time Star Trek has to do a split screen, they get better at it. I liked the make-up for Klingon's B'Elanna, though in one of the close-ups in the lab, you could really see the wig line.

Matthew: At this point, the split screen is basically not noticeable. Of course, the dark set was much more forgiving for it.  It's harder to do on a starship set.

Kevin: I think they did a good job not giving away the reveal for the fact that the same actor played both Durst and the Vidiian. Watching it again, you can hear it in the voice, but the first time through, I didn't see it. The make-up job for Chakotay was pretty good as well.

Matthew: The three varieties of face makeup on both principal Vidiian characters (that is: Sulan, Sulan with face, and fake Chakotay) was top notch. The way they made it look as if the human face had been stretched and layered over the other skin was as gruesomely realistic as any big budget horror movie. I will say that the hand appliances on the Vidiians looked like rubber gloves.

Conclusion

Kevin: This episode is similar to me to State of Flux, where the episode moves very well and is a lot of fun to watch, but falls short on a couple of plot points. I gave that a three, but I am going to give this one a 4. The episode really digs in and both explores the character history of a main character, but also gives us some growth. This is in the top quartile for me, and a highlight of season 1.

Matthew: I enjoy this show, but the science questions drag me out of the moment enough to diminish it into average territory for me, despite the very good character development for B'Elanna. If they had just not explained the process, it may have been better. But I suppose they still would have had to explain the solution. So my 3 makes a total of 7.

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