The Great Star Trek Voyager Rewatch: Faces

When the Vidiians capture a Voyager away team, one researcher believes that B’Elanna’s Klingon DNA might be the key to curing the Phage. To that end, he extracts all of her Klingon DNA and splits her into two people – one fully Klingon, and one fully Human. But only by working together can the two halves figure out how to escape the Vidiians.

At a glance, this episode sounds like a remake of TOS’s The Enemy Within, in which Kirk is split into his ‘good’ and ‘evil’ halves. In fact, this episode is a little different – the science is still as dodgy – but it helps us to delve more into the character of B’Elanna Torres. Klingon B’Elanna is headstrong, proud and inclined to violence, whereas human B’Elanna is more thoughtful and timid. All of her life, B’Elanna has struggled with her Klingon heritage, and wanted nothing more than for it to be taken away – but obviously when confronted with these different aspects of her personality, she realises she needs them all to be a complete person.

Assumptions I will be making that wouldn’t hold up in real life

  • That humans and Klingons could possibly be genetically compatible (see also all these planets having humanoid life forms, even with the pseudo-explanation of The Chase).
  • That the Vidiians have sophisticated enough technology to extract only maternal DNA from an individual, and grow it into an adult clone with the memories of the original.
  • That The Doctor can reintegrate Klingon DNA into a fully human B’Elanna. Maybe he used a retrovirus?

The Two Torres

I’ve always liked Torres, and I identify with her difficulties with her alien heritage. Just as B’Elanna was a half-Klingon who grew up in a human colony, I’m a half-English, half-Iraqi person who was raised in England by the English side of my family. I spent much of my life hating my foreign heritage too, and having my family blame things on my ‘Arab temper’. In fact, I pretty much am B’Elanna!

That being said, I still have to scrutinise the science of this episode. First off, why does Sulan need to extract B’Elanna’s Klingon DNA in such a way? Can’t he take a sample and use it to grow one or more full Klingon semi-clones, instead of removing the Klingon DNA from B’Elanna somehow?

Now, what exactly is left over if B’Elanna’s DNA is split in two? Klingon B’Elanna must only have the chromosomes from her mother’s ovum, and human B’Elanna only has the chromosomes from her father’s sperm. Hence any previously recessive genes will now be expressed in one B’Elanna or the other, which may of course lead to health problems (if B’Elanna was previously a carrier for any disease, one of her two halves will now have that disease).

This would lead to physical differences, but otherwise, up until now these two people have been the same woman (as they both somehow have the same memories). I don’t doubt that Klingon B’Elanna might find herself enjoying a fitter, stronger body, and that human B’Elanna would find herself feeling scared after such an invasive procedure was carried out. However, they are still the same woman – I don’t buy that they are two warring personalities that live inside one body. Yes, people can feel conflicted and ambivalent about things, but that doesn’t usually mean they are housing two distinct personalities, split along racial lines. B’Elanna’s hot temper is a part of B’Elanna the person.

The Phage

We live in a galaxy where most humanoid species can interbreed with each other, and in which the demands of the plot determine whether a disease is communicable between them. Is the Phage specific to Vidiians, or can other races contract it?

We don’t know how the Phage is transmitted, however we do know that it mutates very quickly, which makes it much more likely to be able to successfully infect new species. If other races aren’t immune to it, then presumably it isn’t spread by air or touch, or the Voyager crew would all be infected. If other races are immune, then Klingons being resistant to it isn’t such a big deal, as other alien humanoids would be as well.

Other points

  • Lieutenant Durst was only just introduced in the previous episode, and now he has been killed off. Farewell, Durst, we barely knew you.
  • This is the first episode to feature a Talaxian other than Neelix.
  • If B’Elanna hates her ridges so much, why not get them surgically removed?
  • Chakotay says his face was newly grafted, despite the fact that this would surely mean that his face would look something like Sulan/Durst’s, and not like the normal Vidiian face.
  • When a character is surgically altered so drastically, how can they ever be sure that their original appearance would be correctly restored? Maybe a transporter pattern trace can be used.

Summary – Faces: B’Elanna2.

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