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.