Delta Redux: A Voyager Rewatch: Faces

By Last Updated: December 5, 2015Views: 2423

Star Trek has never exactly been subtle when trying to deliver a message. Simply look at “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” and you’ll realize that at times when Star Trek deals with a sensitive issue it is often done in a stark black and white, obvious metaphor. It hits you over the head with the message is what I’m saying.

Faces attempts to deliver a message and it does so in the most heavy-handed way possible. The results are not stellar. This is a shame because the message the story wants to deliver is an admirable one, that diversity makes us better. Specifically the diversity within us, our disparate parts combine to create a unified whole. In essence love yourself for who you are rather than what you want to be or what other think you should be. An admirable message.

The execution of that message is less than admirable.

“That was a time when relations between the homeworld and the Federation weren’t too cordial. Nobody ever said anything, but… we were different. And I didn’t like that feeling.” – B’Elanna Torres

This is really too bad because there is so much potential in this premise. By splitting B’Elanna into her separate Klingon/Human parts the episode could have explored the theme of nature vs nurture. Are the races really that different fundamentally? Do the experiences of a lifetime contribute to the development of the psyche? After all we are told right away that the two halves were allowed to retain the memories of the past so essentially the Human B’Elanna and Klingon B’Elanna are the same person just different species. They still had the same experiences, they still had the same upbringing. Theoretically both halves should have the same personality just a different physicality.

That’s not the direction the writers chose to go.

Instead we are treated to stereotypes. The Klingon is an angry, bloodthirsty warrior while the human is a whimpering, weak coward. There is no reason for this if you think about it. Not all humans are cowards and that is not the defining trait of humanity, so why would B’Elanna’s human half revert to a frightened puddle of a person? And B’Elanna never grew up as a Klingon so how does she inherently know how to be “culturally” Klingon? I mean c’mon there has to be a farmer Klingon somewhere right? Or an artist Klingon? They can’t all be warriors all the time. You can’t build a vast space empire without one science-nerd Klingon running around somewhere.

Faces has no interest in exploring nuance. Klingon=warrior. Human=coward. No subtlety will be allowed. And as for sensitivity…we’ll have none of that either.

The scene where Human B’Elanna tells Paris about her childhood she admits to her self-loathing and her hatred of her ethnic side wishing she could just be “normal”. To which Paris – Mr. Sensitivity – replies, “Guess you got your wish,” which is a pretty dick thing to say to someone who just told you about race shaming.

The character of B’Elanna Torres is bi-racial. Someone who has been looked down upon because of her “other half” and who blames and hates that other half for ruining her life. She hates herself because of cultural insensitivity and social prejudices. This should have been treated with a deft hand. Instead we get stereotypes and racial shorthand. I’ll stop shot of actually calling this racism, because I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. Its just lazy.

Yes, we do get the scene where both halves realize the importance of the other. And by the time we reach the inevitable reunification of the two halves we get an impassioned speech by Human B’Elanna extolling the benefits of her Klingon half. It is well meant and it’s heart is in the right place but it falls short of actually sincerity by the treatment of the character leading up to this revelation.

This episode had an admirable goal and the potential to be a serious exploration of racial identity let down by poor execution and lazy writing. And that’s just too bad.

Next Time On Star Trek Voyager

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