Retro Review: Resolutions

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Stranded with an incurable virus, Janeway and Chakotay begin to make a new life together, while the crew struggles to move on.

Plot Summary: Brought out of stasis in a lush clearing, Janeway and Chakotay learn from the Doctor that he can find no cure for the illness which will be fatal to them if they leave that planet’s atmosphere. Janeway orders Tuvok to take command of Voyager and set course for the Alpha Quadrant, leaving her with equipment so that she can seek a cure for their condition and a shuttle so that they can depart if possible. Though the crew presses Tuvok to as the Vidiians for medical assistance, Janeway’s final order is to insist that Tuvok not put the crew at risk by doing so. While Voyager heads toward the Alpha Quadrant, Janeway researches the insects carrying the pathogen, and Chakotay sets out to create a home, decorating their shelter and building Janeway a bathtub. Though she tells him to call her Kathryn, Janeway is uncomfortable with the idea that Chakotay is willing to settle so easily on the planet they dub New Earth. But she is forced to give up her research when a plasma storm destroys much of her equipment, and begins to enjoy the process of establishing a life on the planet. Meanwhile, an increasingly unhappy crew pressures Tuvok to hail a nearby Vidiian convoy, which he agrees to do only after Kes makes him understand how much the other officers are suffering. Denara Pel agrees to bring a treatment to the Doctor, though the convoy attacks Voyager before she can give it to him, forcing a battle during which Pel beams over the cure. On New Earth, Chakotay gives Janeway a backrub, yet when his touch lingers, she flees to her private bedroom. Later, unable to sleep, she insists that they need to define some parameters in their relationship. Chakotay tells her what he claims is an ancient legend about an angry warrior who was never happy until he was captured by a beautiful, wise woman warrior who called upon him to join her. Janeway takes his hand, and the two of them are soon sharing private jokes while making plans to explore the river together. Then Tuvok hails to announce that Voyager has brought a cure for their illness. The captain and first officer look traumatized and avoid eye contact with one another as they return to duty.

Michelle: I am embarrassed to admit that, even after all this time, “Resolutions” is probably my favorite hour of television. It isn’t the best hour – it’s not the best episode of Voyager, let alone of all Star Trek. It doesn’t pack the emotional punch of Doctor Who‘s devastating “Father’s Day” or create the magnificent blend of visuals, music, and performance of Pushing Daisies‘s “Smell of Success.” It may not even be the best Janeway/Chakotay episode, since there’s a strong case to be made for the third season’s “Coda.” But because of the emotional whallop it packed when it first aired, which has lingered for two decades, I am much too close to “Resolutions” to review it fairly or anything like. So rather than pretending I can, I’ve decided to recruit a fellow reviewer who is as biased as I am, so we can wallow in all the reasons we passionately love this episode.

Mary: Greetings! I am Mary Scott-Wiecek, better known in Voyager circles as monkee, fanfic writer and reviewer. I have never, ever been an even remotely unbiased reviewer. This is due to my refusal to blame the characters for anything those bad, bad writers, directors and producers force them to do. This is an astoundingly illogical approach, but there you have it. None of that matters here, though, because, of course, there’s not a thing wrong with this episode. Nope, not a single thing!

Michelle: I’m not a big reader of romance novels, but I am familiar with the Desert Island trope from pon farr fan fiction, namely the idea that if you strand two people who already have lots of chemistry and unresolved sexual tension for long enough without any other people around, sooner or later they’re going to have to do something about it or at least talk about it. So “Resolutions” may have a giant cliche of a plot – not radically different in some ways from “Attached” which is the equivalent Picard/Crusher episode – but let’s face it, we don’t actually care what sort of cheesy plot throws Janeway and Chakotay together. Nor do we mind all the time wasted talking to primates and building bathtubs, because we figure there must be a payoff coming.

Mary: Cliche? Absolutely. But it’s also a deeply rooted human desire – to be with your beloved, alone, surrounded by natural beauty. They write songs about it! “I believe in fires at midnight, when the dogs have all been fed. Golden toddy on the mantle, broken gun beneath the bed.” (Jethro Tull.) Or “Our house is a very, very, very fine house. With two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard, now everything is easy ‘cause of you…” (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.) This episode appealed to fans on a bone-deep level. It also helped that Janeway and Chakotay had two seasons of solid development behind them. They were two strong, appealing characters with established chemistry. Once the initial premise was set up, who wouldn’t want to see what happened next?

Michelle: I’m perfectly aware that I should be embarrassed, calling myself a feminist and at the same time admitting that my absolute favorite Janeway episode is the one in which she isn’t the captain – in which she declines that title, inviting her first officer to call her by her first name – in which the show’s writers prove that, as they hinted and as I feared all along, they have a hard time imagining that a woman can be a commander and at the same time a well-rounded sensitive, emotional, sexual individual. I’m aware as well that in the years since “Resolutions” first aired, we’ve developed a much broader vocabulary for discussing gender and sexuality, but my interest here isn’t whether Janeway might not be as cisgender as she seems or whether she might be demisexual or aromantic, all of which could be argued as possibilities. I’m still interested in the ways in which Janeway was a breakthrough character for mainstream television before we as a culture started discussing the problems with binary gender and sexuality. I still beat myself up for asking the question of why Janeway seemed so interesting to me as part of a pairing, since I’ve never believed that a woman needs a relationship to be complete.

Janeway is very different from Kirk, Picard, and Sisko – Kirk was always interested in relationships but rarely in monogamy, Picard largely chose to be solitary, Sisko was in mourning when we met him and later became involved in a relationship that had to become secondary, not to his position as a Starfleet captain, but to his role as the Emissary. We know that Janeway feels painfully conflicted at the thought of moving on from the man she left back home, that she enjoys her friendships with crewmembers, that she craves distraction enough to kiss holograms, so for someone with her personality, I really think it’s healthier for everyone if she allows herself to explore relationships. With nearly everyone on the ship, I’d buy the argument that the disparity in power creates serious issues – in fact, I might argue that of her relationship with Chakotay later on, after “Scorpion” when she pulls rank a few times. But not yet – certainly not here. Is it progress for women to insist that a woman must be alone to demonstrate that she can be alone, even in the 24th century?

Mary: I don’t think there’s any need to be embarrassed about being a feminist and loving this episode. I see Janeway as a very strong and admirable person on New Earth. I always thought that Chakotay was just a little quick to go into homesteading mode, but Janeway attempts to work the problem until it becomes impossible, then goes about the difficult and courageous business of changing her life goals and her entire sense of self. The New Earth sets, costumes, and music scream ROMANCE, but I can’t find any fault in the response of the Janeway character to the situation. In fact, re-watching it now, I’m struck by how much she reminds me of Picard as Kamin, who goes through a similar transition in the Next Generation episode “The Inner Light.”

What I am rather embarrassed about is that I wholeheartedly believed that Janeway and Chakotay had, indeed, entered into a relationship in this episode, which continued well into the third season. For months, I believed this! I was thrilled at how well it was working out! ‘Look!’ I thought to myself. ‘She is the Captain, yet she can balance that with a relationship. Yes!’ After a while,of course, I was forced to conclude that I was sadly mistaken, because if the writers had really decided to go this way, they’d have already overtly addressed it. I’m embarrassed by my cluelessness, but I also see it as evidence that the relationship could have worked out just fine, at least at first. I’m disappointed that the writers and producers weren’t courageous enough to take the plunge.

I do agree that as the series went on, and the crew’s journey became more difficult, the relationship might have become problematic. I see that more as a function of her being a commander than of her being a woman. I can’t truly imagine Kirk or Picard being able to pull it off, either. Perhaps the writers and producers reached that conclusion as well, but it would also have been interesting to see the romantic relationship end and morph back into a friendship while the professional relationship continued. The writers were too meek. Perhaps they didn’t really believe that it was impossible for a woman to lead and still be a well-rounded, emotional and sexual being, they just didn’t want to tackle it because it was too messy and difficult, like real life. Too bad, though.

Michelle: I wasn’t sure until seasons later, during “Shattered” – when a Janeway who never went to the Delta Quadrant asks Chakotay just how close they get, and he tells her there are some barriers they never cross – that we weren’t meant to believe Janeway and Chakotay were lovers while they were stranded on New Earth. But I was pretty sure from their behavior during “Basics” and afterward that the moment they got back to the ship, they did not resume any relationship they might have had on the planet. Romance on Star Trek is more soap opera-ish than on many nighttime soaps, since romance on Star Trek often involves people getting possessed by alien spores, being forced to read each other’s thoughts, catching some variation of the “Naked Time” condition, etc. etc. etc. Except on the very mature Deep Space Nine, nearly all relationships are fleeting and real love doesn’t much factor in. Kirk was never fond of commitment and Picard had trouble opening up to friends as well as lovers, but Sisko showed us that a Starfleet captain could have a long, lasting relationship even with a woman who’d betrayed everything he stood for by aligning with the Maquis.

I’m not sure I agree that down the road, a relationship between Janeway and Chakotay would have been problematic. “Resolutions” shows us how well they work together apart from their roles on the ship. People who are as compatible as they are and who clearly enjoy one another’s company and seem to appreciate one another’s superficial features have been known to fall in love, even when it’s inconvenient or inappropriate, and make it work because they know that their joint goals are more important than their personal egos. In fact, I think it would have solved some of the problems of having a captain isolated from Starfleet by having Janeway and Chakotay have a relationship. The writers rarely let Chakotay start arguments, let alone win them, because it weakened Janeway’s image as the captain, since her first officer isn’t supposed to be challenging her orders, especially given his Maquis background. But if they were committed on a personal level, they could have quarreled privately as equals, which would have made the arguments more dramatically interesting and demonstrated that people with real leadership skills can separate their personal feelings from the work they need to do.

Mary: Perhaps it’s just as well. The writers attempts to handle that kind of nuance in this series would just have made us mad! I wanted to like Paris and Torres, but their dialog sometimes sounded like it came right out of I Love Lucy! Maybe it all comes down to the fact that they really didn’t want to do story arcs, though the storyline of Voyager really would have benefitted from them. Sigh.

Michelle: I liked the idea of Paris and Torres as a couple much more than the execution – I felt that a lot of what made Torres a unique and powerful character was sacrificed to the relationship – but I was never as invested in them as a couple in the first place, since the show gave us far less reason to be until just before deciding to make them a couple. It would have made more sense for their relationship to be developed all along – they have a lot in common, from father issues to Maquis pasts not grounded in the ideology of the Cardassian conflict, and neither flinches from seeing the other at their worst. But it’s Janeway and Chakotay we see flirting over breakfast foods and laughing over mating behavior. Sure, it would have been interesting to have a female captain portrayed as fully self-contained – the sort they wouldn’t have had to saddle with a Mark back home in the first place, not worrying that we might not see her as a Real Woman otherwise – but that’s not the Janeway I adored from “Caretaker.” She was never chilly or isolated. Mark’s existence was always a story arc headed for doom.

When “Resolutions” aired, I wasn’t worried about whether Janeway could cope alone at the top. Until the nightmare that was “Night,” I still believed she could if she had to. I just didn’t see why she should have to, based on a protocol owing more to 20th century prudery than what I imagine 24th century human attitudes about sexuality might be. Even 20 years after this episode first aired, I look at Janeway and Chakotay and see two people who like each other, respect each other, have developed a strong friendship, share laughs, have similar values, trust each other, and seemingly can’t keep their eyes off each other. Why couldn’t they have continued to explore that on the ship, whether or not they explored it romantically on New Earth?

Mary: I would love to have seen them try. It might have been extraordinary and inspiring. It might have even set Voyager apart. Fifteen years later, it seems to me that Voyager does not command much respect among the general Star Trek fandom.

Michelle: Maybe that’s because after this episode, every single time Chakotay says, “My people have a saying…”, we all assume it to be made-up nonsense! But I can’t help feeling that more than my sense of romance is let down by the lack of follow-up to “Resolutions.” It feeds into my entire sense of Star Trek’s sense of optimism about the future. If we can erase racism, sexism, and speciesism, can’t we expect to do away as well with abuse, homophobia, harassment? Imagine a world where people decide who and how to love without prejudices about rank, social position, possibly even gender as determined by biology. It’s a final frontier Star Trek never managed to traverse in a satisfactory way, and when I think about where that could have changed, I always end up back in the shelter on New Earth where Janeway and Chakotay are holding hands, imagining a future together. It is, to me, an absolutely perfect moment.

Mary: Sigh. It still bums me out, but Voyager gave me many good friends, so, silver lining!

Michelle: For me too. I’ve known Mary for 20 years because of Voyager! “Resolutions” was central to the Janeway/Chakotay fan community, which is still going strong in social media all this time later. For that reason alone, I can’t imagine anything ever replacing it as my favorite hour of television.

What do you think? Chat with other fans in the Star Trek: Voyager forum at The Trek BBS.

Michelle Erica Green

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Michelle Erica Green

Writer, mother, reader, traveler, teacher, partner, photographer, activist, friend, fangirl, student, critic, citizen, environmentalist, feminist, vegetarian, enthusiast. TrekToday staffer for many years, former news reporter, current retro reviewer.

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