Unnatural LawBy Colin 'Zeke' Hayman
Posted at May 1, 2001 - 6:02 PM GMT
There is one rumour that makes all of Voyager fandom tremble. One report that strikes terror into the hearts of J/Cers and D/7ers alike. One relationship that threatens to leave a black mark on the writers' souls to the end of their days.
You know its name: the purported affair between Chakotay and Seven of Nine. You know its designation: C/7.
Enough hyperbole. My name is Zeke, and I'm a Voyager fan. (This is Trekkies Anonymous, right?) I'm here to give my two highly-opinionated cents about C/7, and hopefully to reach some reasonably intelligent conclusions. If I fail, you can vote me off the island. Onwards!
What It Is
Get your pencils out, class, it's time for Chakotay/Seven 101. We first heard about everybody's favourite unlikely couple several months ago; as soon as the first 'Human Error' rumours started circulating, heated discussions sprang up everywhere. That episode involved a holographic Chakotay in lieu of Tattoo Boy himself, but the idea began there, and Seven did admit to seeing "many admirable qualities" in the real first officer. Since that episode, two future C/7 sightings have been rumoured: 'Natural Law,' which strands the pair on an alien planet à la 'Resolutions,' and the finale, which is said to bring the two together for real. Got all that? Can I wipe off the blackboard now? Cool.
What It Does
The idea of C/7 affects a lot of Voyager fans; the most common effect is projectile vomiting. Three very large shipper groups -- J/C, J/7, and D/7 -- have good reason to hate this newcomer that's horning in on their racket. Smaller-but-significant groups like K/7 and C/P are ticked off for the same reason. Seven-haters (a large group) and Chakotay-haters (even larger) hate anything that gives their nemeses more screentime. Still others see the relationship as a concession to Rob Beltran after his public declamations of the show. (There are also the bashers, and they certainly do hate C/7 -- but they hate anything with a Voyager logo on it, so they don't count.) In the midst of this, there are some who don't mind the idea, and some who are full-fledged C/7 shippers; however, like a Klingon in a room full of Tribbles, they're getting more outnumbered all the time.
Why It Is Bad
C/7 is out of the blue...well, black, what with space and all. During Voyager's run, we've seen Chakotay in relationships with Seska and numerous guest stars; he was briefly the man of Torres's dreams, and he's had a deep-friendship-verging-on-more with Janeway for years. Seven hasn't been on his map. The two of them have had a mere handful of scenes since her arrival (I'll come back to that later), and there's never been a hint of romantic interest. Of course, Seven has only recently hit the dating scene. D/7 has always seemed mostly one-sided, with a few exceptions like 'Virtuoso's' coda; otherwise, Seven's heart has been won only by Borg (Axum and arguably One). Does C/7 make sense? The evidence mutters "Fat chance."
There are other cons. Beltran can act when he wants to, but nowadays he usually doesn't. Chakotay would be committing an out-of-character breach of protocol. As mentioned, C/7 interferes with three of the most established and popular VOY relationships. With only four new episodes to go, there's precious little time for new pairings to be fleshed out -- which makes C/7 a dubious use of those few hours. There are continuity problems, one of which ironically stems from 'Human Error' itself: if strong emotions threaten Seven's life, there's no way she'd risk an affair. That's five cons, and there are more where they came from.
What It Resembles
Case study. From day one, The Next Generation had two popular subtextual relationships: Picard/Crusher and Riker/Troi. But something unexpected happened in the show's final season. To the dismay of Imzadians, the writers suddenly pulled a Worf/Troi romance out of their hat and refused to put it back. Admittedly, it wasn't canon till the finale, but it was set up in two earlier episodes.
Sounds familiar, nicht wahr? Change about four words in that paragraph, and it's about C/7. Whether that bodes well or badly is hard to say -- Worf/Troi has actually become quite popular, but it's hard to shake the feeling that it didn't make sense. Will C/7 have the same fate?
Where I Stand
First off, I'm a J/Cer. Not a rabid one, but a moderate one. I like the characters in isolation and I like them even better in combination. Chakotay is a longtime favourite of mine, though Beltran's acting has been eroding that for years now. As for Seven, I hated her early on; still, I couldn't ignore the good writing she so often inspired, and over time I've come to like her. She's not a favourite by any means, but she's still a complex, interesting character, and I care about what happens to her.
So the two pieces appeal to me -- but does the puzzle? My kneejerk answer is a blunt "No." I want to see Chakotay with Janeway, not Seven. I don't really think Seven belongs with anyone yet. For that matter, I'm in the anti-Worf/Troi camp. If there has to be a relationship in the last few episodes, why not follow through on an established one? And so on. Like I said, that's my instinct. But it's not fair to judge things purely on instinct -- reason has to come first. And that brings me somewhere I never thought I'd go....
What C/7 Has Going For It
Three years ago, I remember watching 'The Omega Directive,' which featured a brief scene between Chakotay and Seven. It wasn't the highlight of the episode by a long shot, but it was then that something occurred to me: "Hey, those two have a lot in common!" The trick is to consider where they stand in relation to Janeway. In 'Caretaker,' Chakotay was the leader of a group hostile to her, and the situation forced her to call a truce; over time, she developed a deep bond with him. Seven? Ditto, three seasons later. And the more you think about it, the more similarities emerge. Both of them have been violated by Borg. Both were abducted from their homes. Both lost their parents tragically. Both have spiritual beliefs (the focus of that 'Omega Directive' scene). Both carry facial markings that remind them of their pasts.
As I said earlier, they haven't had a lot of scenes together -- but those they've had have been memorable. 'One Small Step' had strong Chakotay/Seven material, and there have been bits and pieces in episodes like 'Demon' and 'Tsunkatse.' The characters make a good contrast. In fact, for a year or so I've been hoping to see more of the friendship between them; I didn't expect or want romance, but Trek's most convincing couples have started out as friends.
There's also the acting to consider. Jeri Ryan is one of Voyager's best, and good work from her is a constant. Beltran's another matter; he's been slacking off for years now, but he tends to do all right when his character has passionate, emotional material to work with. He did it in 'Fury,' providing one of that episode's few bright spots; he did it in 'Workforce' for his scenes with Janeway; and, like it or not, he did it in 'Human Error.' That holographic Chakotay felt more convincing and real than the Angry Warrior himself often does. Good acting alone can't sell a relationship, but it sure helps -- and if C/7 is the only way the Beltster can recapture some of his old fire, it can't be all bad.
Then there's character motivation. So far we've seen C/7 in only one direction; we don't know how Chakotay feels, but Seven chose him as her template for a romantic partner. She could have chosen the Doctor or Tuvok or Tom Paris -- they've all helped her integrate into 's crew -- but she picked Chakotay instead. It doesn't necessarily mean anything, but then again, maybe it does. Think about the climax of 'Scorpion II.' Who made Seven's liberation possible? Whose voice was echoing through her mind as her old life ended and her new one began? That's right. And things like that stay with a person for a long time, consciously or otherwise.
What I've been saying here, frankly, surprises me. Only a month ago, I was swearing colourfully at the C/7 rumours. And like I said, I am a J/Cer. But you know what? I think we could do worse. C/7 has more than its share of drawbacks, but it also has advantages that are interesting and not obvious. I still think there's a very good chance we won't see it (the 'Natural Law' synopsis didn't include it, and everything about the finale is uncertain), but if we do, I've decided to give it a chance. Who knows? It may end up being the sleeper hit of the season. Or it may bomb. We live in uncertain times.
Colin 'Zeke' Hayman has become either famous or infamous for his parody website, Five-Minute Voyager; his work can be found in the Fan Fiction forum at the Trek BBS. He's also a Carleton University student when he can squeeze it into his Trek-packed calendar. Zeke likes to think of himself as Canada's answer to a question no one asked.