Revisiting Star Trek TNG: The Host

Dr Crusher is in love in The Host, the latest episode of Star Trek: TNG in James' epic lookback series...

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

This review contains spoilers.

4.23 The Host

The Enterprise is taking the Trill ambassador Odan to mediate a dispute, and as part of the ship’s full-service medical package Dr Crusher has been giving him a lot of personal attention. They’re in love! It’s horrible. Crusher has just arranged to meet in Odan’s quarters for a little hypospray when he’s summoned to a meeting. And this being the Enterprise, you don’t want to miss a meeting otherwise you won’t have any clue what’s going on for the rest of the week.

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The problem is that this planet, Peliar Zel, has two moons. And these moons both have colonists. And the colonists on the Alpha moon are doing something which makes the people on the Beta moon angry. More angry, even, than them being known as the Beta colonists. So Odan is here to fix the problem. So far, so Star Trek TNG. But things go badly when Odan, after declining to use the Transporter, is injured in an attack on his shuttlecraft.

As Crusher tries to save his life, thinking she’s found a massive parasite infection, Odan reveals that he IS the parasite. His host body is dying and he instructs Crusher to order him a new one, but when it emerges that war will break out before it can arrive, Riker throws himself on the grenade and volunteers to be the new host for Odan. Because apparently you can just shove a slug in anyone’s guts and it’ll basically work fine.

(The plan works, but Crusher is confused. She fell in love with Odan, not Riker. In fact everyone’s confused in this episode, because at some point Picard is trying to comfort Crusher because she’s upset about some dude who isn’t him and Troi ends up convincing Crusher to make out with Riker. “It’s Complicated” doesn’t even start to cover it, but I guess that’s the problem of spending all your time in one of three locations which are in turn frequented by your six other friends.)

Although Odan’s negotiations go well, he’s upset that he can’t convince Crusher to use Will Riker’s biologically-subjugated body to fulfil her sexual needs. But eventually she sees a rose he gave her earlier in the episode and decides that actually, she can do just that. The two reconcile and Odan manages to complete the negotiations just in time. The Enterprise races him to a rendezvous with the Trill ship carrying his new body and all appears to be going well – until Crusher meets Odan’s latest host and she’s a woman. QUELLE HORREUR.

Unfortunately it seems that Crusher’s love can transcend any boundary, except her own homophobia. That’s not the deliberate lesson but it’s very hard to watch the episode and end up with any other reading. All the reading I’ve done around this episode suggests they didn’t want it to appear homophobic, but the way Crusher’s legs snap closed the moment she sees Odan’s in a female host now leaves very little room for any other interpretation. Crusher announces that she can’t keep up with all this body swapping and the pair agree to part ways, which is at least a merciful end as far as the viewers are concerned.

TNG WTF: So the future is supposed to be, like, incredibly user-friendly to the point where you can basically tell your computer to do anything and it can even understand retroactively whether you were actually talking to it or not. But what happens if a drink isn’t in its database? “Please input molecular structure.” Oh right, let me just get my electron microscope out and have a look at my vanilla shake next time I have one just in case I end up next to a replicator that doesn’t want to help me get a drink.

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TNG LOL: There’s a lot to laugh about in this episode, but my favourite moment was Odan proclaiming “I’ve never felt better, except once or twice” to absolutely no interrogation from Crusher. No-one can accuse the Trill of hyperbole, it would seem.

I also liked Crusher’s “Medical school didn’t prepare me for [conducting a medical procedure.]” Mate, what did you even go for then?

To Boldly Go: The Enterprise is en route to Peliar Zel to mediate a dispute. Or rather, it’s taking a Trill ambassador to do the mediating. Once again, the Federation flagship is doing the job of a glorified taxi.

Mistakes and Minutiae: I mean anyone whose watched Deep Space Nine’s various Trill episodes is going to be wondering what the hell’s going on in this episode. The Symbionts look different, the hosts look different, they can use transporters, they don’t have those head-dots, they act differently, they have different restrictions on their transfer from one person to another… Luckily for us, this is a TNG lookback so all we have to say is wow, Deep Space Nine really got a lot wrong when it brought the Trill back.

That said, I’m slightly unclear as to how Trills can be so poorly understood by Starfleet medicine if, somewhere out there, Benjamin Sisko has been palling around with Curzon Dax and Jadzia is two years away from turning up on Deep Space Nine. If you have a continuity note (or piece of headcanon) that explains why this isn’t a problem, do share it. Otherwise we can just blame Deep Space Nine for getting it wrong again.

Time Until Meeting: 6:23. This meeting is unusual for giving us a chance to see the pre-meeting small talk before the exposition (I mean, meeting) starts.

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Captain’s Log: There’s something very Original Series about this episode, and I think it’s mostly how they play the Trill incredibly straight, so you have this weird romance subplot bumping up against some Lovecraftian body horror. I’m supposed to be thinking about Crusher’s romantic confusion but instead I’m like “Dude’s being mind-controlled by a neon slug living in his guts!?” So that doesn’t really go well.

Also it’s really hard not to just watch this episode and be distracted by all the Trill inconsistencies. I mean I get where it all came from and part of me thinks I shouldn’t care about minor continuity glitches that arose, retroactively no less, out of practical necessity. But also I really do care and it basically ruins the episode for me because almost every scene that deals with trills I’m going “NOPE!”

And that might not be a problem if the episode was about anything more than the nature of the Trill, but it’s a pretty big deal in terms of caring about Crusher’s emotional turmoil, and I really can’t relate. Even more bizarrely, the subplot of “we need Odan to stop this war!” gets resolved offscreen, probably because everyone knows that’s not the point of this episode. But if the main plot is boring and the subplot is half-told and it’s riddled with inconsistencies… that makes it a bad episode. It just does.

Read James’ lookback at the previous episode, Half A Life, here.