TattooBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 2:04 PM GMT
See Also: 'Tattoo' Episode Guide
On an away mission, Chakotay discovers an ancient emblem of his people carved in a rock. When he shows it to Janeway, he explains that it's a symbol of the Sky Spirits and reflects an ancient myth that his people were seeded and educated by beings from off the Earth...except he's never believed in those myths, any more than she believes in Adam and Eve. Janeway encourages him to explore while they attempt to find out whether there are any natives on the planet who would object to their mining certain minerals.
When he returns to the surface, Chakotay sees several omens, including a giant bird which pokes Neelix's eye out. When they attempt to beam back down or send shuttles through, giant storms emerge, and one traps Chakotay on the surface after Torres and Tuvok depart. He finds a structure which resembles those he found as a youth on a trip to South America with his father, an anthropologist who never approved of his decision to enter Starfleet. On that trip, they encountered an isolated tribe with the same tattoos on their forehead as Chakotay bears now, and ridges on their faces which don't look completely human.
Chakotay enters a cave and speaks to one of the Sky Spirits, who tells him of their settlements on many worlds. He explains that he rejected his father's beliefs until after his death by the Cardassians, when he adopted the tattoo and took up his fight. The alien refuses to give Voyager permission to take minerals from the planet which they hold sacred, but releases the ship from the whirlwind it has been caught in to prevent it from landing.
Sigh. We finally get Chakotay's backstory, and it's New Age Romantic Indian Fluff. First of all, I think there's something racist about the suggestion that all the accomplishments of Native Americans were because they had genetic and cultural influences from outer space. Moreover, I was willing to buy that Chakotay didn't have one discrete tribe because it was possible that by his century, the tribes had begun to intermarry and merge their discrete traditions on planets like Dorvan V. But to learn that he's really some vague mish-mosh of faux legend and culture...what a disappointment.
What a disappointment, too, to learn that Chakotay didn't even accept his own people's traditions until guilt over his father's death struck him. I get the feeling there wasn't one Maquis on that Maquis ship who was fighting for ideological reasons, as opposed to from some sense of not fitting in elsewhere or the burden of responsibility from external sources. This guy is increasingly passive and reactive, accepting what he's told, following Janeway's orders...is there any personality in there? I know he's supposed to be a contrary, but this man is more of an adolescent looking for a path than someone with a deep ideological committment to bucking the status quo. He was contemptuous of people choosing to live in primitive huts when they could have warp technology, dismissive of the Rubber Tree People who were reputed to be his ancestors. Now I know what he doesn't believe in, but I still don't know what he does believe in. I miss the guy from "Parallax."
We do see some sparks in his scenes with the captain, a low-key, entirely personal reaction that's really nice to observe. They always stand a little too close and touch a little too often (especially lovely to see now in the wake of "Persistence of Vision," where she's got Mark on the brain and he might have Torres on his - much to my relief, the latter didn't snivel over Chakotay a bit). The Doctor actually had a better episode than Chakotay - when his insensitivity to Wildman's pregnancy led him to speak callously to her, he infected himself with the flu, and Kes extended the program without telling him so that he could experience real suffering. Go Kes! She might make a better ship's counselor than Chakotay, with or without his animal 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.