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The Trek Nation - Resolutions

Resolutions

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 2:12 PM GMT

See Also: 'Resolutions' Episode Guide

Janeway and Chakotay contract an illness which will be fatal if they leave the atmosphere of the planet on which they were infected. The captain orders Tuvok to take command of the vessel and set course for the Alpha Quadrant, leaving them there with a shuttle and equipment so that she can seek a cure for their condition. The crew is very unhappy with this decision, but since Janeway has ordered them not to contact the Vidiians, they have no options.

While Janeway researches their condition, Chakotay, who lacks Janeway's scientific background, sets out to create a home. He builds Janeway a bathtub after an offhand remark by her that she misses having one; he cooks, he makes headboards for their beds. He does an increasingly poor job hiding his attraction to his former commanding officer, who tells him to call her Kathryn. She tries to ignore his interest in her even while he's peeking down her towel, but seems comfortable sharing close quarters.

When a plasma storm destroys her research, Kathryn finally comes to the conclusion Chakotay reached weeks before: they're probably stuck on the planet for life. Surprisingly, she's not devastated by this turn of events, and spends an enjoyable afternoon rebuilding with him. That evening when her muscles knot, he offers her a massage, then gets beguiled by the scent of her hair and makes it clear that he wants to make her feel good any way she'd like. Kathryn flees uncomfortably, but she can't sleep, and gets back up to insist that they need to define some parameters in their personal relationship.

Chakotay, who seems to have been rehearsing this moment, tells her a tribal story about an angry warrior who was never happy until he and his war party were captured by a woman warrior who called upon him to join her; at the side of this woman, who was brave, beautiful, and very wise, he found the true meaning of peace. Kathryn realizes at once that this is not an ancient legend, and takes his hand. Fade out.

Meanwhile, Voyager has encountered a Vidiian convoy, which Harry Kim and then Kes plead with Tuvok to permit contact with despite the captain's orders. After much deliberation, Tuvok permits a message to be sent to Denara Pel, the Doctor's friend from "Life Signs"; she agrees to help, and arrives with an antidote for the captain and Chakotay. The ship is attacked by Vidiians nonetheless, but the crew defeats the organ-stealers and head back to retrieve the senior officers.

On the planet, Kathryn and Chakotay are nurturing a garden and what looks like a budding romantic relationship. They are planning a camping trip when the ship hails. Kathryn is deeply conflicted by this turn of events; she says a sorrowful goodbye to a monkey she's befriended on the planet, and doesn't even find words for Chakotay. They beam back to Voyager, where she gives Tuvok a token complaint for disobeying her orders. Then Janeway and Chakotay settle into their chairs, and their former roles - refusing to even look at one another. And the ship sails on.

Analysis:

I'm writing this review more than a year after "Resolutions" aired, and it's very hard for me to talk about it out of context of all that came afterwards. I can't forget the fact that this story was ignored as if it never happened, that Janeway was reconstructed as a sexless automaton and Chakotay portrayed as a spineless wimp who can be pushed around by any strong woman he encouters. I can't forget that the dynamic between this captain and first officer - which is what kept me watching the show during the many, many dreadful episodes - has been all but obliterated.

I also can't forget coming to the horrifying realization that my favorite episode about Trek's woman captain was the one in which she was NOT a captain. In "Resolutions," she was stranded in a situation out of a romance novel, and could be a woman precisely because she did not have to be a captain. Now I realize that Trek's producers don't believe that there IS such a thing as a woman captain. When she's a captain, she has no gender, and when she has sexual feelings, she has to be taken out of the context of command, like in the earlier "Threshold." "Resolutions" is simultaneously my favorite episode of Voyager, and the one which proved to me that there's no point in caring about Kathryn Janeway as a role model, because she will never be given the multidimensionality she deserves.

I am not in any way suggesting that a woman needs a man to be complete. But Janeway's been portrayed as a "people" person. She missed her dogsitter so badly that she almost let her ship get destroyed to fool around with a phantom version of him in a turbolift in "Persistence of Vision." Janeway's not Kirk - she takes her romantic committments very seriously. And she's not Picard - she's comfortable playing pool and going to parties with her officers. She's a lot more like Sisko, who likes to indulge his domestic sensibilities off-duty. But unlike Sisko, she doesn't have a family to go home to; she's only got holographic kids and lovers. That strikes me as pretty unhealthy, in the long run.

I don't think it's feminist progress to suggest that women should live alone just to demonstrate their independence and self-possession. We get plenty of independent women on Trek, like Admiral Necheyev and the pre-Bareil Kira Nerys (in contrast to Beverly and Deanna, who never seemed to get over Jean-Luc and Will respectively). It's the desire for hearth, home, and affection that there's been no place for. In other words, why can't Janeway fight space battles and fly through nebulas, and grow vegetables and play with kids and find lasting love? Why are wonderful careers and domestic happiness always presented to women as an either-or, even in the 24th century?

At a convention I attended, someone asked Kate Mulgrew if she would want to trade places with Janeway. Mulgrew immediately responded, "No, because then I wouldn't have my family." She said she'd only think it was worth it if she could take her kids with her to the Delta Quadrant. I wonder how good a role model Janeway can be when even the woman who plays her - and says she adores her - wouldn't want to be her. I also wonder whether Mulgrew wants to see Janeway maintain some abstract ideal of career decorum at the cost of emotional intimacy for the rest of her life. It's not a fair trade, for the captain of Voyager or for any of us.

Different people have different needs for independence and intimacy, and if this show had given us a Janeway shown to be happiest when working alone, like Picard, I'd appreciate her self-reliance even though I'm not sure we need another saint to serve as a model for chaste female power. What we really need is proof that by the 24th century, there won't be such a chasm between being a leader and being a sexual, social, family-oriented woman. A lot of people want a fulfilling romantic and domestic life in addition to a fulfilling career...men as well as women. From the way Kathryn Janeway has been characterized, she's someone who prefers closeness to command distance. And if her friendship with Chakotay has been constructed as evolving, if it's mutual and passionate, that is not a problem for this character. Trying to avoid such a development would be much more damaging; the feeble attempts to do so which have been made on the show, having Janeway behave priggishly while other women swoon over Chakotay, make Janeway look menopausal and Chakotay look like an inconstant jerk.

"Resolutions" demonstrated that these characters work well together even apart from the roles they play on the ship. We've already seen that Janeway can let down her hair, literally and figuratively, and remain a very strong individual - and that Chakotay's feelings for her go well beyond command loyalty. Trying to put a stop to that connection would harm both characters. No, I would not have chosen to have the writers develop a romantic relationship between the central officers when the show premiered, but it's there. It would have been interesting to have Janeway be independent of the need for a man, but Janeway would be a different kind of captain if she were that self-contained. She might come across as rigid and cold, a more typical stereotype than a maternal or romantic characterization of a woman in charge.

Romance on Trek is more soap opera-ish than anyplace else on nighttime television. Real people do not get possessed, catch diseases which make them horny, or get stranded in places where they can read one another's minds. Real people do fall in love - even in inappropriate situations, on the job - and it generally lasts more than 52 minutes. The dramatic tension on Voyager would be a lot stronger if Janeway and Chakotay had an ongoing relationship. Right now, they can never really have arguments, because it weakens their images as captain and first officer - he's not supposed to question her orders, she's supposed to keep him in line. But if they were committed personally, they could have private disputes as equals, and the level of emotional involvement would be a lot higher.

Sure, protocol's a problem. But from their present perspectives, the crew of Voyager are likely to be beyond Starfleet communications for the rest of their lives. No one is going to expect the commanding officers to remain in command mode 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for 70 years, not if they want them to continue to function adequately. It's not that I think Janeway can't hack it alone if she has to; it's that I don't want her to have to based only on some ridiculous protocol. There's no reason to believe that human values about decorum and leadership won't alter by the 24th century, the same way Trek assumes that we'll have eradicated racism, sexism, and speciesism.

Can't we assume that our values about love will evolve as well--that abuse, homophobia, and harrassment will become things of the past, that people will be free to choose whom and how to love without this century's restrictions based on gender, social position, prejudice? I think it would be more of a compromise to conservative standards to refuse to let her have an ongoing relationship than it would be to depict her in one--particularly a traditional monogamous heterosexual pairing.

I look at Janeway and Chakotay and think, these people respect each other, they like each other, they're friends, they trusted each other instinctively from the start, they agree on the important issues. And the chemistry is hard not to notice. Is there any stronger basis for a relationship? We have no role models to depict love between true equals; I suspect none of us have ever seen such a partnership thrive in the public and private spheres with equal success. But that doesn't mean we can't hope. Isn't dreaming a better future what Star Trek is about?

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.