Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Faces"

***1/2

Air date: 5/8/1995
Teleplay by Kenneth Biller
Story by Jonathan Glassner and Kenneth Biller
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"That's the way you respond to every situation, isn't it? If it doesn't work, hit it. If it's in your way, knock it down. No wonder I got kicked out of the academy." — Human B'Elanna to Klingon B'Elanna

While surveying a planet with Lieutenants Paris and Durst, B'Elanna Torres is kidnapped by the Vidiians, who attempt to extract her Klingon DNA to fight their deadly epidemic, the phage. They reform her into two separate Klingon and human individuals. They lock Klingon-Torres in a lab for further study, and send human-Torres down into their tunnels with Paris and Durst to work as slave labor. In order to escape their captors, the two B'Elannas must find each other and work together while overcoming their conflicting dispositions.

"Faces" is an interesting, original story that doesn't seem remade from Next Generation stock like many of this season's installments. Taking "inner conflict" and putting it in the most literal sense imaginable (by way of the latest in sci-fi plots), this episode proves to be Voyager's first truly compelling concept, going down as the series' best so far. The series seems to be at its best when dealing with inner conflict and personal issues, as also seen in "Prime Factors" and "State of Flux."

Splitting Torres into two halves reveals two unbalanced extremes of her personality. Neither receives much of what the other has. Torres' Klingon half gets all her strength and courage, but an uncontrolled temper and no patience. On the other hand, her human half gets the patience and a cool head, but depleted strength and an inability to overcome intense lapses of fear.

The situation is thoughtfully utilized for some emotional moments, as Torres' dilemma is one of the most personal character aspects Voyager has yet examined. The core of "Faces" lies in B'Elanna's self-identity problem. Backstory (and some good stuff, at that) reveals that B'Elanna has spent much of her life trying to suppress her Klingon half. An interesting point is how the teleplay seems to side with B'Elanna's human side, as most of the personal dialog comes from her, rather than the Klingon. However, part of what human B'Elanna begins to realize as the show progresses is how much she needs her Klingon side to survive. The scene where human-B'Elanna reveals all of this to Paris is very absorbing (until Paris' extremely stupid line, "I guess you finally got your wish," upon which B'Elanna should have promptly strangled him).

The exchanges between chained-down Klingon-B'Elanna and her Vidiian captor Sulan (Brian Markinson) often proves interesting. Sulan tells B'Elanna she will be a hero in Vidiian history for her role in eradicating the phage. Klingons, however, do not appreciate being chained up, she tells him. "Klingons find honor as warriors on the battle field, not as guinea pigs in a laboratory." Sulan is impressed by B'Elanna, and would be even more impressed if she could eliminate the phage.

The show also successfully further develops the Vidiians' role in Delta Quadrant lore. Despite their motives, they come across as quite malevolent here, and are effectively utilized as villains for the episode's action/adventure quotient. There's one somewhat shocking scene where Sulan visits B'Elanna sporting the recently-grafted face of Lt. Durst, who was killed for his organs—grotesquely fascinating. At the same time, it's hard to simply condemn the Vidiians, because they're trying to preserve themselves. But after Janeway's warning of "deadly retaliation" in "Phage," I don't expect a future encounter with the Vidiians to be particularly diplomatic.

Attempting to escape, human-B'Elanna is caught by the Vidiians, but Klingon-B'Elanna, escaped herself, saves her from likely execution. And after some verbal exchanges that offers even more insight into Torres' past, the two finally begin to come to terms with each other and agree to look for a way to disable the cave shield preventing their beam-out.

The episode culminates in the medical lab, in another well-executed action/suspense scene where the two B'Elannas mess with the computers until they are able to disable the shield, but not before they set off an alarm in the process. Chakotay suddenly shows up, disguised as a Vidiian, to aid in the escape, then Sulan comes along and threatens to shoot everybody if Klingon-B'Elanna does not surrender herself for further study. A twist of events has Sulan in screaming anguish when he accidentally phasers his possible phage cure, Klingon-B'Elanna, who throws herself into the path of a phaser blast seconds before Voyager beams up the away team.

The Doctor is able to use the Klingon DNA to restore B'Elanna to her usual self, but the experience of being divided leaves B'Elanna shaken and confused, yet in realization that she will be fighting with her inner self for possibly the rest of her life. Even Chakotay has no words of wisdom to offer her—a rather resonating closing.

Biggs-Dawson plays the part of a Klingon as well as anyone I've seen on Star Trek (I almost wish the character would have stayed on the show), so much that it's almost hard to believe that the two B'Elannas are played by the same actress. Biggs-Dawson shows the perfect screen presence to bring this character to life, both mentally and physically, not a small feat by any means. It's too bad that, as chief engineer, she is so often limited to reciting technobabble. "Faces" gives her a fresh and exciting adventure with plenty of character-driven scenes.

Previous episode: Cathexis
Next episode: Jetrel

Season Index

23 comments on this review

Bill T - Thu, Jan 8, 2009 - 11:39pm (USA Central)
It just occured to me how selfish the motivations in this episode actually are. B'ElAnna successfully resisted the phage. Had she remained as a lab rat, she would have probably helped them cure it, and been honored as their greatest hero. How many lives would that have saved, not only Vidiian (which you may term criminals) but also all of the Vidiians' victims from other races? Millions? Durst was killed anyway, B'Elanna would have survived, Tom may or may not have been spared. So basically it was all cause Tom & B'Elanna just HAD to escape that the phage couldn't be cured, at least until sometime before Think Tank.

Hmm, I wonder what price the Vidiians paid the Think Tank to cure the phage?
Jay - Sat, Sep 5, 2009 - 12:06am (USA Central)
More importantly, how did the Vidiians contact the Think Tank?...it's over 40,000 light years away from their space.
Amy Zan - Fri, Sep 10, 2010 - 3:11pm (USA Central)
Actually, while it was well done, this episode was a retread of an original Star Trek in which Kirk was separated into Good Kirk and Evil Kirk by a transporter/ion storm accident. Evil Kirk is violent, selfish and criminally insane, but Good Kirk is a wishy washy weakling who can't actually do anything.
Jay - Fri, Feb 4, 2011 - 4:21pm (USA Central)
"...so much that it's almost hard to believe that the two B'Elannas are played by the same actress."

Roxanne actually touches on that in the DVD...she said her mother complimented her on her acting as the human B'Elanna but her mother told her that the actress that played the Klingon half...now she was really something!

I suppose if you can fool your own mother, that's some acting chops there...
Destructor - Sun, Mar 6, 2011 - 11:01pm (USA Central)
@Bill - I believe this is covered in another Voyager episode called 'Nothing Human'. Justifying the torture of a human by saying it might save the lives of lives is evil. There are other ways. Would you let yourself be injected with AIDS if someone said it might provide valuable research into the cure for AIDS? If you volunteered, sure. But Be'lanna didn't, and had the right to respond to that threat with deadly force.

@Amy - Pish posh. While this episode certainly echoes the TOS episode, it's hardly a retread.
Carbetarian - Sat, Apr 9, 2011 - 2:08pm (USA Central)
@Amy yeah, I kind of thought the same thing. My name's Amy too, btw! So, great names think alike I guess.

Anyway, I still really liked this episode. Roxanne Dawson did a great job, and I saw a little foreshadowing of Tom and Be'lanna's eventual relationship there. I could make some minor compaints about the ridiculousness of being able to split someone in half while retaining their memories like that. But, I think the good parts of this episode outweighed the silly parts enough for me to let that go.

The vidiian wearing Durst's face was totally disturbing. I'm kind of surprised they showed something like that on a prime time, generally family friendly, sort of show. Kudos to them for getting away with that! It was certainly memorable.

Three and a half stars from me too!
DSG2k - Tue, Jun 14, 2011 - 9:44pm (USA Central)
The major flaw of the episode is that, just as occurs in "Pathways", our supposed heroes escape without bothering to free anyone else. There was no valid reason for leaving that Talaxian or the other prisoners behind.

It's bad enough that they let the Durst face-stealer live, but in the same moment they condemned the innocent to death. So once you get past the "Enemy Within" character study aspects of the episode, you're left with a plot which entails a truly backwards morality play.
Matthias - Sat, Aug 13, 2011 - 8:19am (USA Central)
Yes I was wondering how they were going to free the dozens if not hundreds of other organ donors/slaves and where they'd put them on a ship as dinky as Voyager too but then they just peaced out of there and left them all to die. Could've been a nice new dynamic if they were hauling around a bunch of refugees on an already crowded ship but I guess there just wasn't enough screentime (or it's more of Janeway's prime directive extremism hehe).

Also Klingon B'Ellana's lifp..and..confptant..pauves..befween...wordf..drove..me..cravee..
Jay - Sat, Sep 17, 2011 - 10:09pm (USA Central)
It's true, they really should have rescued those people. They could have just said at the beginning of the next episode in a captain's log..."we just finished dropping off the prisoners we rescued at a nearby Talaxian colony". Or they could have just ignored them. After Equinox, VOyager took aboard several crew members, and then they were ignored afterwards. In TNG's First Contact (the episode, not the film), they took Minister Yale aboard, and then she was iognored thereafter (she presumably would have suffered the events of Night Terrors two episodes later, but we don't see). Ignored crewmen is less sinful then leaving prisoners to rot.
Clark - Sat, Feb 23, 2013 - 10:31pm (USA Central)
While the interacts between the two Torres proved interesting, this episode only gets, at most, two stars from me.

I'm sorry, but it's like, no one even cared that the Vidiians had killed off one of the crewmen. Not only that, but these people are systematically rounding up people from around the galaxy and harvesting their organs.

I don't care for the whole "they're trying to protect themselves" argument. You don't kill other people to protect yourself. What makes them any more special than others. And what exactly happened to Janeway's promise that she'd destroy them if they messed with her crew again?

If it was Sisko, he would sent a few well-aimed photon torpedoes their way. God, I wish it was Sisko.
Jeffrey Jakucyk - Sat, Apr 6, 2013 - 6:20pm (USA Central)
For whatever reason I never liked how Dawson portrayed her human self. I realize she's conflicted and understandably out of sorts, but she's just so timid I want her Klingon self to give her a good smack upside the head. It's not as if all her confidence and strength has to come from her Klingon side.
Sintek - Sat, May 25, 2013 - 3:21pm (USA Central)
I could barely watch this, the halting speech of Klingon Torres is unbearable. "Each..... sentence.... takes... over.. a.................. min.....ute......to.... c...o . m..p....le....t...e."

eddie - Thu, Jun 13, 2013 - 6:01pm (USA Central)
I agree with Sintek's comment. I hated the Klingon Torres. The episode had some interesting ideas, but I didn't like the execution.

A couple of people mentioned the Think Tank and the distance issue. I never thought of that as a problem. they had technology that was more advanced than the federation. maybe they had some propulsion faster than regular warp or had mapped anomalies to make their travel faster.
ZurielSeven - Sat, Jun 29, 2013 - 3:09pm (USA Central)
I believe that Roxanne's acting is actually rather phenomenal given the most likely psychological ramifications of having what used to be one person split along any dimension.

To have lived through so much as a single being and to be split must be a lot to have to deal with psychologically - a lot like running into gaps in your own behavior and thought processes. I believe that these were well played by the beautiful actress in both cases, as if she was dealing with thinking or taking action around things which she'd previously (rightly) assumed to be a part of her and which she no longer has access to.
inline79 - Thu, Aug 8, 2013 - 12:20pm (USA Central)
Well Jammer, you got your character episode. 5 stars for Roxann for this show!

But take the B'Elannas out of the picture and the rest of the story is pretty mediocre.

I'm tired of Starfleet people figuring out alien computers in a few minutes - I can't even figure out the Bluetooth in a rental car before I run out of gasoline.

As others have noticed, the rest of the prisoners get ignored during the rescue.

But worst of all, our Bad Captain's own integrity is compromised - that most emotional of speeches in "Phage" promised "deadliest" force... where was that? We're led to love/hate the Vidiians yet no action is taken against them in this second encounter. Janeway is not the type to be full of empty threats, nor leave other prisoners behind. That was very disappointing.

This is probably the best B'Elanna episode, but the bad guys win this battle.
T'Paul - Mon, Sep 2, 2013 - 6:29pm (USA Central)
Agree that if B'Elanna Klingon had hung around it would have been an interesting addition to the team.

I think the pauses between her words were simply her struggling with her rage and her anger at being tampered with.

I especially enjoyed the Neelix Tuvok soup scene at the beginning. I think other than Spock and Sarek, Tuvok is definitely the best Vulcan we've seen.
Petrus - Fri, Oct 4, 2013 - 4:42am (USA Central)
Just finished watching this.

This is one of my very favourite Voyager episodes; and probably Trek episodes in general.

I've always loved the Klingons; their women, even moreso. I spent nearly three years playing an Orc Hunter in World of Warcraft, as well; the Draenish Orcs are very similar, as a race.

The two women who've broken my heart so far in life have both been Hispanic, as well, so Roxanne Dawson's character holds a fair amount of significance for me. Nothing creepy, but there was a definite crush while the series was airing. My degree of emotional connection with both Torres and Chakotay, is by itself probably the reason why Voyager has become my favourite of the Trek series. I do, however, agree with everyone who wishes the writing could have been better, most of the time. It was criminal how much they neglected Robert Beltran in the end; he was a walk on, most of the time.

If I have any complaints at all where "Faces," is concerned, it's that the setup takes far too long, and the few minutes we get with both halves of B'Elanna, don't seem like anywhere near enough.

The one thing which I did think was very good about their dialogue, though, was the fact that the Klingon half repeatedly asked for acknowledgement, and for B'Elanna to admit that she needed her. That makes a lot of sense, because I've always felt that the main source of Torres' inner conflict was the fact that her Human half, always saw the Klingon half as a curse, and was never willing to recognise it positively, for what it gave her.

Watching this again, also makes me wonder where Voyager could have gone, if instead of getting Jeri Ryan as the show's resident fanservice, we'd had B'Elanna's Klingon half, as well as her human as part of the crew, as others have suggested.

For those who have complained about her Klingon half's slow speech and enunciation, while she might have exaggerated it slightly, I thought it was pretty much spot on. If you watch just about any other episodes with Klingon characters, you will notice that that *is* how they talk. They pronounce every word very carefully and deliberately. I also didn't notice a lisp as such, although her s and t sounds possibly weren't always completely clear. It looks like they gave her some bigger prosthetic teeth for the full Klingon role, which makes sense.

My rating is more than four stars, in the final analysis; but I guess I'm biased. ;)
K'Elvis - Tue, Oct 15, 2013 - 11:50am (USA Central)
It's difficult to have much sympathy for the Vidiians. It's a shame that they have this disease, and they should get help to cure it, but they aren't entitled to anyone else's bodies. If they must die out, so be it.

The problem I had with this episode is that they are in a death camp and they don't rescue anyone but themselves. This is not a matter internal to the Vidiians. They should have rescued them, it would have been easy to drop them off at the nearest inhabited world, their home planets could have arranged transportation from there.

By just walking away when they could have rescued so many would have made Voyager an enemy of dozens of planets. Imagine if Americans (or Canadians, British or whoever) were held in a death camp and someone came in and only rescued their own countrymen, when they could easily have rescued them all. The outrage would be tremendous. It would be similar in this situation, if word got out that Voyager had simply left their people behind.

This episode did have good points, but leaving these people behind was outrageous, and puts a taint over the episode.
Nic - Fri, Nov 15, 2013 - 3:28pm (USA Central)
The Fun with DNA [TM] plot is as proposterous as "Genesis" or "Threshold", but thankfully the plot serves the character rather than the other way around.

Still, as much as I appreciated the psychological aspects of this story, I wish they had thought of a more plausible way to have B'Elanna face her inner demons.
Tricia - Wed, Jan 1, 2014 - 2:23am (USA Central)
I agree with everyone who said they should have rescued the other prisoners. The fact that they left the Talaxian there, after he helped B'Elanna and gave her his own water in the mine, left a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe they wouldn't have had time to rescue everyone, depending how many prisoners there were. (They can't transport that many people at once, and presumably the Vidiians would have ships on the way) but they could have at least locked on to the Talaxian. I felt bad for him standing there as the others walked away. I wonder what Neelix thought when/if he found out about it?

Overall though, I did like this episode. Interesting story and good drama.
K'Elvis - Thu, Feb 20, 2014 - 8:22am (USA Central)
I just rewatched the episode. This episode would have been improved by the addition of two lines: "Scan for non-Vidiian life signs and beam them out" and the final line of the episode should have been Janeway saying "Execute General Order 24."

It seems that the idea of rescuing the prisoners didn't occur to the writers. Why is it that none of the alien races seem very concerned about the Vidiians? They ought be be united in waging war against them.

I strongly disagree that the Klingon Torres was being selfish by not being a guinea pig. She's free to volunteer, but that is above and beyond the call of duty.

This episode should have come later in the series. It's too soon for Torres to come to terms with her Klingon half, and indeed, by the end of the episode she doesn't. The similar TOS episode "The Enemy Within" had Kirk recognize the importance of both sides of his nature. If Torres had come to terms with both aspects of her personality, then we wouldn't have seen the inner conflict in her throughout the series. This episode might have fit better in perhaps the 6th or 7th seasons. Of course, if they did this, they couldn't have used the Vidiians, but here the Vidiians are really a Magguffin, they are just the means to have two halves of Torres interact with each other.

Durst seemed strangely prominent in the previous episode. Having a character get that much screen time out of the blue in that episode made me wonder if he was the alien presence. It had been so long since I watched the episode that I had forgotten all about Durst. After rewatching Faces, it's clear he was given so much time in order to have a "known" character killed off.

Sulan was foolish to think that a stolen face - especially one stolen from one of her crewmates - would make him more acceptable to Torres. If he wanted her cooperation, it would have been vital to keep them alive and unharmed. But perhaps the atrocities the Vidiians commit (that's the only way to put it) has so debased them that they can't think of their victims as people who have feelings. If you could put yourself in someone else's perspective, you would understand that to murder someone's crewmate and wear his face wouldn't make you more appealing, instead it would create utmost horror - Durst's face on Sulan's body is vastly more horrifying than Sulan's own hideous face. Sulan's face is monstrously ugly, but with Durst's face, it's true horror.

But if Sulan really can't see things from Torres' perspective, all he knows is that she likes human faces, so perhaps he would like her if he had a human face. It would make sense that the Vidiians "dehumanize" their victims. When you see someone as less than human (I know, they are aliens, so perhaps it should be "depersonize") it's much easier to commit atrocities.
K'Elvis - Thu, Feb 20, 2014 - 2:22pm (USA Central)
I just recalled that there was story back in the 1970's, a fan fiction entitled "Ni Var" where Spock is split into a Vulcan and a Human by means of the transporter. It was published in the book Star Trek: The New Voyages.
Ric - Thu, Mar 6, 2014 - 11:27pm (USA Central)
Although a bit too scientificaly absurd for my taste, the premise was at the same time really interesting. It had potential for a lot of good character building and moral debate - which was partialy done. The psicological metaphor is a joy. Also, Roxann Dawson delivered a Strong acting here.

I only found this carrying-rocks labor-camp a little too much. The main plot of getting people's organs was evil enough. The slavery seemed just pushing too hard the vilan-ish stuff, too unidimensional. And sure, leaving the prisioners there without help was ridiculous. Federation and Starfleet principles? Who cares!

However, overall this episode has really good Trek material. Btw, K'Elvis brought a very good catch! Many thanks for that. Lastly, it could have been really nice if they have kept both versions of Torres in the show.

Submit a comment

Above, type the last name of the captain on Star Trek: TNG
Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

Season Index

Copyright © 1994-2014, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of any review or article on this site is prohibited. Star Trek (in all its myriad forms), Battlestar Galactica, and Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc., NBC Universal, and Tribune Entertainment, respectively. This site is in no way affiliated with or authorized by any of those companies. | Copyright & Disclaimer