Season Four - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Host: The Doctor Gets… er… um… a Boyfriend

Written by Michael Horvat, David Carren, J. Larry Carroll, Joe Menosky, and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Marvin V. Rush

Following the departure of the character Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton), it seemed for a while as if his mother, Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) was going to have very little to do. The only time she seemed to get airtime was when someone was sick or injured, and even then it seemed brief. Even during the time prior to Wesley’s departure, it seemed as if there were precious few episodes that really involved her and allowed her talent to shine through. This was quite different than the doctor from the original Star Trek series, where he was an integral part of the ship’s functioning.

Here, in The Host, that changes dramatically. In addition to being given a story that essentially centers around her, we also learn that Dr. Crusher has a sex life.

Hmm, you might wonder, haven’t the writers been dancing around sexual tension between Dr. Crusher and Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) for some time? Yes, they have. However, it becomes very obvious here that she is not waiting around for him to decide what he wants (never mind that Picard hasn’t been either).

The object of Dr. Crusher’s desire is a visiting Trill ambassador, Odan (portrayed by Franc Luz). Anyone who’s seen Deep Space Nine will be very familiar with the Trill species. They are actually two beings in one body; the humanoid body and the inner symbiont which looks like a slug. This slug is much longer-lived than the humanoid and can go through quite a few humanoid hosts during its lifetime. Since this was the introduction of this species to the fans, all the nuances of the character had not yet been ironed out. For instance, in The Host, Odan refuses to use the transporter. That apparently is not a problem by the time of Deep Space Nine.

Dr. Crusher is having a torrid affair with Odan, not knowing the whole story of his existence. The fact that he is made up of two symbiotic beings comes as a great surprise not only to her but to the rest of the crew. The problem here is that the Trill have been members of the Federation for quite some time. Wouldn’t it have been found out a long time ago? It really does not make any sense that this has been kept a secret for so long, especially when it is made clear during Deep Space Nine that they have been very active within the Federation.

Odan is on his way to the Peliar system to try to prevent war. When Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Odan attempt to shuttle to meet with the warring parties, their ship is fired on. Critically injured, it is then that everyone learns the true nature of the Trill species.

Looking back, this was another episode this season that was setting the stage for the launch of Deep Space Nine‘s launch a year and a half later. However, it is looking at it from that perspective that really points out a lot of the problems with the episode. If you’ve never seen any of the Deep Space Nine storylines, you probably won’t have much of a problem with the episode.

When the warring factions on Peliar agree to still meet with Odan, it presents a problem. Riker agrees to act as a host for the symbiotic worm and mediate the dispute. He brings to Riker all the knowledge of working with the Peliar for many years. What Odan had represented to them as his grandfather working with them previously was actually the worm in another host’s body.

For Dr. Crusher, it presents a problem of whether or not she can still love Odan in another body. McFadden gives a wonderful performance as she struggles with this question. Her emotions run the gamut as she deals with thinking her lover is dying, learning the truth about him, and coping with all that means. McFadden coveys it all and makes us sympathize with this woman in such an unlikely situation.

A fine performance is turned in by Frakes as well when he is hosting the Trill symbiotic worm in his body. I would put his performance akin to a man being pregnant – although he does it much better than Schwarzeneggar did. He has another life inside of him influencing his thoughts, words, and decisions. However, humans are not inherently suited for this as the Trill humanoids are, so his condition deteriorates rapidly. Even then he does not fall into overacting but keeps the part somewhat restrained.

This is a decent episode, although watching it now with what is learned about Trills later on in the back of my mind, it seems very inconsistent. However, the performances are good, and it’s very refreshing to see a minor character featured who hadn’t had much quality airtime for a while. It’s also very stand-alone; people who haven’t viewed much of The Next Generation or have a great familiarity with the Star Trek universe should be able to follow it easily. You might even enjoy it more than I did.

Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Half a Life

Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Mind’s Eye

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