Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Voyager 2x9 "Tattoo"


There's two different versions of Chakotay in Voyager.  The first and more interesting one was not only an active participant in his own life, but was one of the most interesting elements of the first few seasons.  The second version was the opposite of that.

"Tattoo" is an ideal episode to see the first version.  This is basically an origin story, allowing us to glimpse the young Chakotay and his much-vaunted Native American heritage, the one he embraced as an adult but struggled against as a youth.  He struggled with his father, to be more precise.  The title of the episode is the real trick, though, how Chakotay actually has a deeper connection to the Delta Quadrant than anyone, except maybe Neelix.

The trick is that the tattoo he famously sports on his face is the product of a fortuitous encounter he and his father had, the event that finally bonded them (making it less cultural than most fans would probably assume, though more deeply personal and significant than they would be willing to credit the series with, too, and that in a nutshell is the difference between the reality of the show and the image fans tend to give it).

A group of aliens visited the Alpha Quadrant years ago, not in the way aliens usually traverse great distances of space, but in the purely ideal mode Starfleet has always yearned for, and which Chakotay is now in a position to do himself, free from all the politics that caused him so much hassle previously.  Coming across them again makes him come full circle.

Anyway, what this episode really does is illustrate Voyager's central conceit, that Starfleet has strayed from its ideals because it's become too difficult with all the politics and conflicts that obscure its original scientific mission (in a way, Q and Insurrection try to make the same point).  I guess it's appropriate that Chakotay finds peace aboard this ship, with a scientist as his captain, and that this peace is exhibited by total eclipse of an ego that once threatened to tear his family apart.  It's ironic that he's the one member of the crew that didn't need to return home to find it.  Maybe that's what ultimately reconciles the two versions of Chakotay.  Maybe "Tattoo" was a way of illustrating that.

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Memory Alpha summary.

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