In the fourteenth episode of the first season of Voyager, THOSE DAMN VIDIIANS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For nonconsensual medical procedures, slavery/slave labor, body horror/gore.
I’m thankful for B’Elanna’s story within “Faces” because it easy for me to think about it and ignore the really weird worldbuilding done here. This is the second time we’ve had a Vidiian episode, and the choice to add more to their culture is… perplexing. At best. I think it’s hard to ignore the repetition here since the Vidiians really only have one purpose within this universe. They kidnap people, steal their organs to survive, and let those they’ve kidnapped die. You know, since organs are a VITAL PART OF SURVIVAL OF ANY SPECIES. Thus, it makes sense that they’d pursue a more permanent solution, one that didn’t require them to kidnap every species they come across. That’s a good development, right?
And yet, Sulan behaves so erratically that I can’t figure out how he fits into this world. He knows what he is doing results in the death of literally every single creature he steals from. And yet he treats B’Elanna with this weird paternalism that’s a combination of admiration and attraction, as if she’ll be allowed to survive this procedure. I think part of the problem is that the science itself makes no actual sense to me. If I understood this correctly, the Vidiians are able to strip out the DNA from each species that comprises B’Elanna, and then, using something akin to a replicator, they were then able to create two separate beings: a pure Klingon B’Elanna and a pure human B’Elanna.
It’s a bit hard to wrap my head around, but I ultimately don’t have a problem with that. However, if they could create an entirely new being just out of some DNA code, why weren’t they just creating new Vidiians? Why not use the pure DNA of another Vidiian, and then use the parts of that one to keep everyone else alive? If the Phage is going to infect them regardless of the species, why not devise a system that doesn’t ruthlessly exploit everyone around them? If the Vidiians were a “handsome” species, then why not use organs from newly-minted Vidiians instead of FRED DURST??? (Sorry, this is my favorite joke, I can’t help it.) I just found Sulan’s characterization so confusing. Did he seriously think that if he killed one of B’Elanna’s crewmates and then wore his face, she’d warm up to him??? WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE???
But what completely bewildered me was the slave labor. Why do they even have this? What were any of the prisoners doing??? Collecting rocks? It’s such an extraneous element to this culture and this episode that it meant nothing to me. The Vidiians already kidnap people to experiment on them. What possible need do they have for slave labor? This detail felt added on merely to give Tom Paris something to do so he’d be separated from the main action. Why did Human!B’Elanna feel “sick” during these scenes? Had she contracted the Phage? Except the Phage has to be given to someone, doesn’t it? That’s the impression I got from the scene where Klingon!B’Elanna learned what had happened to her.
Honestly, it’s a mess, but who cares when Roxann Dawson UTTERLY KILLS IT. Like I said, she’s so talented in “Faces” that I couldn’t help but enjoy the story this episode told us. Identity is a complicated and confusing thing, so I appreciated that this script explored the painful experience of having a mixed identity, especially when that paints you as a target within a prejudicial society. I think many of us who have features that are read as non-white can relate to the fear that B’Elanna had growing up. Thus, the script actually gives us a necessary dose of background information on B’Elanna while also exploring the surreal nature of having one’s racial identity literally split into two beings. B’Elanna simply makes more sense once you understand the difficulty she’s had in being half-Klingon!
Plus, while the ending to “Faces” kind of felt like that dreaded Reset button that Star Trek writers use so much, I think it’s more complicated than that. Yes, B’Elanna is restored to her original state. But she understands herself more. She knows what her Klingon half gives her as a person, and she can’t imagine herself without that part of her. That doesn’t mean she magically solved all her identity issues, though. That’s probably the best story choice here, honestly. At the end of the episode, she openly admits that she’ll still be fighting with herself, even though she’s gained a new appreciation for her Klingon side. This is a complex phenomenon, and it’s not going to be solved by a wacky adventure. It doesn’t help that she’s far from home and that she’s the only Klingon within 70 years travel time, either. She’s going to have these issues for a long time, but perhaps this is the first step towards acceptance.
The video for “Faces” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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