the story: B'Elanna Torres is split by the Vidiians into her Klingon and human halves.
what it's all about: "Faces" ought to be remembered in the same league as Deep Space Nine's "Duet," at the very least, an unexpectedly deep first season episode. It's another of Voyager's first season knockouts, at any rate, proof that the series started out as boldly as it could, in a lot of ways setting a mark that would be difficult to reach in later seasons. If fans want to question any of that, it's their own problem.
In the vein of "The Enemy Within" from the original series, "Faces" finds an excuse to split a character into two individuals, but this time it's an intense character study featuring Voyager's most fascinating conundrum, the half-Klingon who seemingly retread ground covered by Spock and Worf before her but who somehow continually made the results fascinating. Torres had already reconciled her Maquis allegiances to her new Starfleet status in "Parallax," the first regular episode of the series, and then somehow does a good turn one better.
While Spock (half Vulcan, half human) and Worf (all Klingon, raised by humans) had struggled with finding their place in society, Torres struggled first and foremost with accepting herself. The Vidiians, who might've been a one-off wonder in "Phage," provide a handy excuse for Torres to confront her anxieties in the most literal way possible.
Apparently there were quibbles with the ending, with how the crew approaches the reunited Torres, but any other choice than the quiet one where she has to try and figure it out for herself would've robbed Torres of everything she'd gained and would continue to tackle ("Lineage," for instance), with an equally classic mirror in the later Doctor spotlight "Latent Image," which features an equally ambiguous conclusion.
Brian Markinson has one of the most unique guest-spots in franchise history, playing both a fellow Starfleet captive and the Vidiian scientist holding them prisoner (with a grim twist explaining why). The producers were clever enough to insert Markinson into the prior episode ("Cathexis") to help set it up.
- franchise - Giving the Star Trek theme of mixed identity a bold new spin.
- series - Officially dubbing the Vidiians a Voyager classic species.
- character - B'Elanna Torres sets the bar very, very high.
- essential - See above.