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Overview – On an away mission, Chakotay is startled to discover markings that remind him of an expedition that he was on as a child with his father. The markings are followed by visions and leads Chakotay on a personal journey of resolving a past regret. Meanwhile, the Doctor takes it upon himself to experience what his patients endure when they are sick. While he intends it to be a lesson for the rest of the crew to not be so “whiny” about being sick, it soon turns into a lesson on empathy.
Score: 7/10 – I found this to be a great character story that really fleshes out Chakotay (who, up until this episode, has only had “Initiations” to give us some depth to our first officer). The idea that various indigenous cultures have been influenced by extraterrestrial life has been around for a while, and it was interesting to see it come to fruition here. I liked how the story was more than just finding a connection between aliens and Earth, but instead became about Chakotay. Star Trek is always at its best when it is character driven. The B story with the Doctor is also quite entertaining, giving us some a funny moment when Kes reprograms the Doc's illness to turn the tables on his self-righteous attempt to teach the crew a lesson.
Relevance – 2 points. Scoring a point for continuing the story of Ensign Wildman’s pregnancy. This will eventually end with the birth of Naomi. Another point for delving deeper into the reasons that Chakotay joined the Maquis. The reasons as to why Chakotay leaves Starfleet are not given much detail throughout the episode, and “Tattoo” seems to be the most detail that is given on this.
Continuity – 3 points. Scoring a point for story continuity. With two stories here, namely Chakotay’s journey of self-realization and the Doctor’s back-firing attempt to teach the crew a lesson, do not intertwine much beyond a superficial level, each one plays out well. Character continuity is solidly maintained. With Chakotay, his spiritual side had already been developed, and now some much appreciated depth has been added. His reverence to the land fits his character well. The Doctor, meanwhile, is in full Doc mode as he believes that his programming is superior to the human condition, and programs himself a viral infection that will indicate that the crew is quite capable of performing their daily duties while ill (or pregnant). When Kes alters the program to extend the duration of the illness, he responds in a predictable (and funny) manner. Kes, of course, is the best person to teach the Doctor such a lesson, and her motivations for it are on point. As far as universe continuity goes, everything seems to be in place here as well. The idea of the Sky Spirits influencing the “Inheritors”, of who Chakotay is descended from, is a cool addition to Star Trek mythos.
Character Development – 3 points. It’s impossible to not give full marks here. Chakotay doesn’t get much attention in the character development department, and the second season is likely his strongest one with three great episodes focused on him. We see much more depth and detail given to his spiritual side, as well as how it ties in with his joining the Maquis. We see him as a young man and witness some of the tensions between him and his father, and by the end of his story we are made privy to seeing some closure. The Doctor and Kes get some good attention in the B story. The Doctor gets a dose of his own medicine as he tries to show the crew how to work through a cold. Kes has the clever idea of altering the program a bit, which teaches the Doctor a valuable lesson in compassion.
Social Commentary – 2 points. Finding peace with one’s past and heritage is a key message here. Chakotay comes face-to-face with an important feature of his ancestry, and he finally to understand the lessons his father tried to teach him when he was younger. We ourselves often discover a comprehension of the lessons that our parents, teachers, and mentors from our past have tried to teach us much later in life. Typically those lessons come with experience and gained wisdom. As far as the Doctor’s flu story goes, well, we learn a basic lesson on empathy, but it is fairly superficial.
Cool Stuff – 1 point. I must score a point for the Sky Spirits and their story. They give us a fascinating idea as to how a group of indigenous Americans developed into a significant culture. The connection between these aliens and Earth is a fun concept to ponder.
Rank – Captain (18 points). A very solid episode for Voyager’s second season. Chakotay’s fans are definitely wanting to see this episode as it provides our first officer with a cool, almost origin-like story. There is some suspense and intrigue in the mystery of these aliens that are soon identified as the Sky Spirits, but there is also some humor, warmth, and heart-felt connections. It is a shame that more was not done with Chakotay over the years, but this episode is a gem for him.
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