What is love? (baby don’t hurt me… just kidding!) They say love is only skin deep, that our emotions and feeling that we call LOVE is really just a physical attraction in many ways. Yes, people claim to be in love with someone’s mind but, to many people, looks are a key factor. Now, what if the person you are in love with shows up with a new look that is so drastically different that you don’t recognize them. Will you still feel the same about them as before? What if they show up in a whole new body? How about then? This is the dilemma that Crusher finds herself dealing with in today’s episode. Originally airing on May 13, 1991, this is The Host.
Stardate 44821.3:The Host
Odan, a Trill Ambassador, dies and Riker must temporarily take his symbiont in order to continue the negotiations. Unfortunately Doctor Crusher has fallen in love with the deceased Ambassador and it seems that part of him has continued on in Riker and possibly beyond.
Beverly Crusher is in love. The Trill Ambassador, Odan, has been aboard to assist Governor Leka Trion in negotiations between the two moons of Peliar Zel. Odan takes a shuttle with Riker to the Alpha Moon only to be attacked by an unknown ship. Odan is mortally wounded and upon returning to the ship it is discovered that he has a strange parasite in his body. He awakes long enough to inform Doctor Crusher that, no matter what happens, the parasite must survive. We soon learn that the Trill are a joined species that have a symbiotic relationship. The host takes a symbiont until the day of their death unto which it is transported to another host, taking with it all of the memories and experiences of its previous host. Unfortunately there is no other Trill on board so Riker volunteers to temporarily host the symbiont until one can arrive. The procedure is completed and Odan lives although through Riker’s body.
Odan-Riker informs Governor Trion of what has occurred and, uneasy with the change, she agrees to inform the moons but warns that the Moons may believe that this Starfleet officer could have his own agenda. Although the negotiations can continue, Crusher is torn by this new event. While the man she loves is still alive, Odan is now inside Will Riker. She begins to wonder if she was in love with the physical body of Odan or his ‘soul’, the symbiotic being. This is something new for both of them and, Crusher ultimately decides that she can live with Odan as he is, inside a new host body.
The negotiations begin and, while the Moon ambassadors are reluctant, they seem to be willing to work with Odan-Riker. However, Riker begins to exhibit signs of his body rejecting the symbiote and this could threaten the life of Odan himself even though his new host is days away. Odan-Riker continues the negotiations regardless of the pain of the symbiote rejection. Although the Moon Delegates have agreed to work with Odan-Riker, Odan begins to worry that Riker may be irreparably harmed if the symbiote is not removed before the new Host arrives. Beverly comes to terms with the situation, realizes that she is still in love with Odan no matter what host he is in. Unfortunately, even though Crusher had found a way to ease his pain, as Odan-Riker completes the negotiations, he collapses in the Observation Lounge.
Odan-Riker insists the Symbiote be removed from Rikers body even though the new Host has not arrived. Beverly reluctantly agrees and, when the time comes, she complies with his wishes. Hours later, the new host arrives and Beverly is once again torn with her feelings. The new host is a woman named Kareel and, even though Beverly is still in love with Odan, this change has taken its toll. Worries she can not live with the uncertainty of who Odan will be if he changes again, She and Kareel-Odan part ways, vowing to remember each other always.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This is one of Beverly Crushers best episodes. She doesn’t get much of a chance to really show her depth as a character but in this one, we get to see more of our beloved Doctor. Although she has fallen in love in past episodes and ends up hooking up with a ghost in a later episode (I’m not kidding), with the exception of her late husband Jack, I don’t believe there has been one quite like this one. For the first time we see Beverly genuinely in love, not just infatuated and, that is where her failings as a human bring her to tragedy. She feels love for this being named Odan but after living with him in the body of Will Riker and then a completely unknown woman, Beverly can not just love the being that is Odan, as her limitations prevent her from seeing beyond the flesh once again.
I don’t know that Beverly had really accepted Odan while he was in Riker instead I felt that she had only accepted that she could be comfortable with this change. She could ignore that it was Riker because he was still HE. When Odan became a female, she recognized that she could not continue this path and that in itself is heartbreaking. Beverley is shown to be a strong but ultimately flawed human being and that, in itself, is a huge step for the character. Gone is the somewhat two-dimensional ‘Plot Convenient Doctor’ and, for possibly the first time, we get to see Beverly Crusher the Human Being.
In many ways, this kind of thing happens to people now with sex changes and gender reassignment. People change their looks so dramatically they practically become a whole new person while the people around them must deal with the dramatic change. For some it is so jarring that life long friendships are ended overnight. For others it is a process but they come to accept this new version of the same person. No matter what, they are the same person inside as they were before and that is really what matter in the grand scheme of things. They say that love is only skin deep, but is it really?
On the production side, the actors in this one did an AMAZING job. Specifically the work of Jonathan Frakes. He really gets a chance to explore his range in this one and he does a bang-up job. Even though he never really physically changes, when Odan ‘took over’ his body, I forgot at times that it was Riker and not Odan that was there. Frakes ability to change into a new character so well was simply incredible and I have to give him props for it.
Gate McFadden also did a terrific job adding some additional depth and personality to her character. All in all she seems to usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to character episodes and this is one she really shined in.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
Beverly mentions her son Wesley and his success in StarFleet Academy. We’ll get to see more of him next season, so if you missed him…he’ll be back.
This is the first appearance of The Trill although their look will change the next time they appear on-screen. The next Trill that appears will be that of Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. Gone are the facial ridges and in their place…spots. Trust me, it’s a nice change.
Beverly taking advice from Troi on how to handle the relationship with Odan-Riker had to be awkward for Troi.
We never hear from the people of Peliar Zel or its moons, nor from Odan the Trill.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: The Mind’s Eye
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Late To The Game 1/19/2020 (Originally published 8/10/18)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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