Star Trek Voyager: Tattoo

“We were taught your world had been ravaged by those with no respect for life or land.”

This is a Chakotay episode in which he discusses his tattoo. Also, he gets naked. If you haven’t seen it, you’re welcome for that mental image.

I’m having some trouble summing up the plot of this episode. Here’s the general gist; back when he was 15 and fighting with his dad, because that’s what TV-15-year-olds do, Chakotay and some others of his tribe met some people in a rainforest, who they were related to (speaking the same language and with the same stories of the Sky Spirits). They gave Chakotay’s father a tattoo like the one the older Chakotay has.

Many years later, Voyager finds a planet where the same native American symbols appear, and which throws up a storm every time they try to land or beam down. Then some people with Chakotay’s tattoo turn up. It turns out they are the Sky Spirits, they’re real, they’re aliens and this is where they live. Oh yes, we also find out why Chakotay got his tattoo, to honour his father after he died. This is also why he joined the Maquis. The trouble is, he just tells us all this, without it really having any impact on the plot, such as it is.

And honestly, this episode doesn’t really have a plot. The whole 45 minutes is about establishing something that, say, Stargate would use as a jumping off point for a story. Perhaps if the episode explored the impact of these revelations on Chakotay in more depth, and really got into his feelings about his father’s religion and so on, it might be interesting. But instead, his introspection only goes as far as some fairly typical strained-relationship-between-teen-and-father-that-the-son-later-regrets stuff. It’s a struggle to find much to say about it, as there isn’t much to it.

There is also a shot of Chakotay’s naked backside (though, if memory serves, he actually used a butt double). That is the only interesting or notable thing about the entire plot.

Luckily, this is one of those episodes of Voyager where the B story is far more interesting and memorable than the A story. After some very ill advised comments to a pregnant woman (see below) the doctor gives himself a 29-hour flu to demonstrate that, basically, no one needs any time off for illness, ever. Of course, he is soon disabused of that notion, and Kes improves the experiment by extending it without telling him, recreating the fear and uncertainty that goes with illness too. It’s a small, simple plot but it works, and I have to say, there are a good few healthy human doctors who could do with undergoing a similar experiment. Plus, Harry’s expression when Kes fesses up is great.

Bits ‘n’ pieces

 - It’s nice to see the flashbacks to Chakotay and his dad, but unfortunately the young actor’s delivery is really stilted.

 - Ensign Wildman is still undergoing the longest pregnancy in history. The doctor for some reason thinks that, as a male hologram, he is qualified to pronounce on how uncomfortable pregnancy is. He is, of course, wrong.

 - Janeway flirting watch: she and Chakotay get very snuggly while looking at Native American symbols.

 - They can’t land a shuttle, they can’t beam down, so Janeway takes the ship down towards the planet. This is clearly insane. I guess she really, really wants Chakotay back; she looks seriously relieved when they find him.

 - In this episode, we discover that Tuvok and Neelix both breed orchids, giving Neelix something else to attempt unsuccessfully to bond with Tuvok over.

 - Suttlecraft count: Tuvok and B’Elanna beam up, then later Chakotay can’t find any indication of the shuttle. Presumably it was lost, which makes three shuttlecraft down, the ship having only started out with two in the first place.

 - The inertial dampeners go offline. This happens on Voyager a lot.


Chakotay: Neelix, what the Рquoted for the way he blatantly nearly says "what the f*ck," which is pretty risqu̩ for Star Trek.

Chakotay: The logical course isn’t always the right course. Tuvok ‘s face...

Doctor (re Kes): She is far more devious than I ever suspected.

It’s just so incredibly slow and boring. One and a half strange native American symbols (the extra half is for the Doc’s B plot).

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

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