“The Host”

“Odan! Is that a slug in your pocket or …”

Crusher’s all that and a bag of chips about Trill Ambassador Odan (Franc Luz). They can’t keep their hands off each other as the Enterprise transports Odan to negotiate a treaty between two intractable sets of aliens (TOS was always delivering medicines, TNG is always mediating disputes). After being injured in a shuttle, Odan reveals that his body is just a host and Odan is really some sluggish thing inside. All Trills are like this, it seems, but the slug (the symbiont) now needs a new body — and the nearest one is 40 hours away. Riker volunteers to host Odan to save the symbiont and the negotiations. This, of course, throws Crusher for a loop, but she accepts Riker/Odan (allowing Jonathan Frakes and Gates McFadden some kissy time) and the ambassador completes the negotiations. Afterward, a new host arrives just in time but (sad trombone) she’s a she. Riker is saved, but the episode ends with Crusher saying she “can’t keep up” with all the changes. Odan (in the new female body) leaves amicably.

Good thing Riker put on some pounds as the series went on.

Why it’s important

As far as making the tapestry, this episode was a very close call. Typically, the introduction of a major race in Star Trek warrants our attention, but Trills just aren’t huge players going forward — and what’s shown of them here is almost entirely at odds with what we see of Trills on DS9 (where Jadzia and later Ezri Dax are main characters).

But with the Trill stuff AND Trek’s first go at addressing same-sex relationships, we decided to review it. Interestingly, Crusher doesn’t go for Odan in a female body … but she admits that her inability to do so is a failing, mostly stemming from her difficulty in adjusting. Considering that this episode aired in 1991 and it was the first of many Trek episodes that broached this topic (with typical sci-fi couching) over the next few years AND it introduced us to a fairly major Trek race, we decided to give it a review.

What Trills look like after this episode. Yes, it’s an improvement.

What doesn’t hold up

The problem with this episode isn’t the message. You could argue that Crusher is somewhat old-school in her views … but I’d fall back on the infinite diversity in infinite combinations that our buddy Spock threw at us back in the day. Crusher’s inability to be with Odan in a female body isn’t because she’s morally opposed to the idea. She’s just not down for it personally.

The problems with this episode have very little to do with the episode itself. They have to do with what was established here about Trills compared with what we learn later. A quick list:

1) Trills here have bumpy foreheads, kind of looking like Romulans without the ears. Trills in DS9 appear basically human with spots running down their bodies. This is a problem if we stick with the Trek method of making all members of an alien race look pretty much the same — and all Trills going forward have spots.

2) Trills apparently can’t use transporters. But we see Jadzia Dax and other Trills do it often on DS9 — though we didn’t see that happen until at least a season of DS9 aired.

3) Hosts and symbionts have more of a mutual relationship in DS9. Here, the host body is really just a set of arms and legs. This, of course, is important if you consider that we learn on DS9 that most humanoid Trills DON’T have a symbiont. Oh, and the symbiont here looks a lot different than the Dax symbiont (though, there could be different kinds of symbionts, I guess).

The fact that most humanoid Trills aren’t joined flies in the face of Odan’s justification for NOT telling Crusher about his true nature. Odan (in Riker’s body) tells her that he never thought to mention it, asking her why she didn’t think to tell him that she wasn’t a joined species. This sort of works if ALL Trills are joined. It’s less believable if only a select number are (as DS9 tells us). Odan should be very aware of what he is because many of his fellow Trills are different.

4) The biggest problem, though, is that this episode makes it seem like the Federation knows next to nothing about Trills — as no one on the Enterprise had any idea that Trills were a joined species. But, on DS9, we know that Trills were on Earth more than 100 years earlier, sometime in the mid 23rd century (one of Dax’s earlier hosts knew Leonard McCoy and his “hands of a surgeon”) and Curzon Dax helped negotiate the Klingon-Federation peace treaty.

Now, maybe you could argue that the Trills were active in Federation/Starfleet affairs but generally kept their true nature secret. That MIGHT work, except that Benjamin Sisko and Curzon Dax had a relationship going back at least a decade prior to the events of “The Host”. Either Curzon sprung it on Benjamin after the incident with Odan — “Hey, Ben. There’s something I gotta tell you … ” — or the creators  just screwed the pooch on this one.

Really, they just should have made Dax a different kind of joined species, one the Federation knew about. It’s another instance of Trek amping up the mystery of something — like the Romulans in “The Neutral Zone” — only to crap all over continuity later by clearly establishing there wasn’t any mystery at all (or, that there shouldn’t have been). As for the details changing, DS9 had a similar problem with its interpretation of the Bajorans, whom we’ll meet for the first time a bit later in TNG and, of course, become key players in DS9.

Many of the Trill inconsistencies are addressed on Memory Alpha. As for the change in appearance, Paramount apparently didn’t want Terry Farrell (who played Jadzia Dax on DS9) to be hidden behind the makeup we see in the episode.

Final thoughts

While I like the message of this episode, it’s a little disappointing that one of the few Crusher-centric shows is a love story. She’s probably the least utilized character in the ensemble, and three of her big moments (this episode, “Attached” and arguably the series’ worst offering “Sub Rosa”) all have her going gaga for some dude. TNG became more Picard/Data focused as the years went by, but Crusher probably fared worse as far as the stories about her than any other character.

I did like the scene with Crusher and Troi in Ten-Forward, though. It’s always good when Troi is doing more than reading the emotions of bad guys on the bridge (ugh) or being kind of creepy when asking about the crew’s feelings and experiences (yuck). Here, McFadden and Marina Sirtis do a nice job of conveying the emotion of the situation without going overboard.

Final thoughts

Klingon society once again displays its honor and stability … NOT.

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