FORMULA: The Enemy Within + Phage + Caretaker + The Enterprise Incident
WHY WE LIKE IT: Exploring B'Elanna's background.
WHY WE DON'T: Vidiian gross-outs. The reset button.
REVIEW: Faces is basically a device for B'Elanna to have a interior monologue... externally. Splitting her up not only into two bodies, but two natures as well, allows her to confront the violent Klingon half that so often caused her trouble, and at the same time reconcile herself with her braver, stronger side. Much of her every day anger seems to stem from self-loathing, as she blames her Klingon side for her father's abandonment. It's a strong, dual performance from Roxanne Biggs-Dawson, who looks - and acts! - totally different in either form, without sacrificing her B'Elanna-ness.
It's a good thing the premise works as a psychological metaphor (not unlike The Enemy Within), because it can't quite stand up to scrutiny despite the Vidiians being so medically advanced. For example, though there are precedents for transporter duplication, why don't the Vidiians use this technique to multiply their organ stores? Why does turning B'Elanna into a pure Klingon alter her accent? And if it's all a product of super-advanced Vidiian technology, why can it be so easily undone by the EMH? Aside from a requisite reset button, I mean?
The main thrust of the plot is focused on escape from the Vidiians, and here the Klingon B'Elanna fares better than her human half, breaking free and toasting rodents when an offer of "voracious" sex doesn't quite work on Sulan. He's more of a villain than the previous Vidiians, but still a pathetic figure, kind of like the Hunchback of Notre-Dame. One of my early misgivings about Voyager at the time was that it too readily tried to pain itself as "adult" by veering into the grotesque (a form of visual violence). The killing of Durst and grafting of his face on Sulan is pretty horrific here. And I can't help but think of it as gratuitous.
The other characters go through the paces either trying to escape or getting their people out (I feel sorry for the rest of the prisoners who were just left there at episode's end). Chakotay made up like a Vidiian is hardly as iconic as the Romulan Kirk, and barely necessary to the plot. At least it gives him something to do.
LESSON: Introducing a background character and doing away with him or her an episode or two later has now become standard practice.
REWATCHABILITY - Medium: The dramatization of B'Elanna's internal struggle is well done, but there's quite a bit of headless running around surrounding it. And I can't help but fear that the reset button at the end is just giving the writers permission for all sorts of wacky transformations down the line.