Star Trek: Voyager

"Tattoo"

3 stars

Air date: 11/6/1995
Teleplay by Michael Piller
Story by Larry Brody
Directed by Alexander Singer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I feel like I'm fading ... just fading away. You don't know what that means to a hologram! My simulated virus is leading me to a simulated death." — Doc, with a simulated illness

Nutshell: Not great, but good. The backstory of Chakotay is especially engaging.

While on a routine mission of scouting for necessary resources on an M-class planet, Chakotay sees a symbol from his native past drawn on the ground of the planet. Rather startling since, just as in "The 37's," it would seem impossible to find such an Alpha Quadrant trait somewhere in the Delta Quadrant.

This is a good but not great Voyager episode. Despite a number of flaws in the story details, "Tattoo," like "Initiations," can pass with three stars because it works in the end. It's one of the season's more original stories, with a genuine Michael Piller teleplay (from a story by Larry Brody) that features cerebral storytelling centering around a relevant character core.

On long-range sensors, the Voyager picks up an M-class planet with an alien presence. Maybe they know something about Chakotay's symbol. Unfortunately, the aliens don't respond to hails, and the away team can't beam down to the surface because every time Torres tries to establish a transporter lock, a storm mysteriously forms at the precise beam-down coordinates, preventing transport. So Chakotay, Neelix, Torres, and Tuvok take a shuttle to the surface to have a closer look. On the surface, Chakotay finds a number of natural objects that he thought were indigenous to Earth, which he had seen in a South American jungle some 20 years ago while on a spiritual quest with his father.

Can you guess there's a connection between the aliens on this planet and Earth's history? That's what the underlying story of "Tattoo" does, and with fair success. Unfortunately this happens in the midst of some typical plot devices, like the away team being forced to abandon Chakotay when a strong storm "zeros in" on their position and separates them from the Commander. And later, the story introduces an unimpressive and completely unnecessary jeopardy angle when Janeway attempts to rescue Chakotay by landing the Voyager (an overused trick which seems to happen for the sake of happening) only to get caught in an intense atmospheric disturbance which causes the ship to begin plunging toward its doom. This scene makes me wonder if it's really a good idea for Janeway to be landing the ship on a whim—jeopardizing the entire crew for one officer.

But the successful elements of "Tattoo" are how it affects Chakotay. This episode is good character piece. During the away team's survey, Chakotay is reminded of the time he went with his father on a quest through undisturbed lands using ancient techniques. Piller's teleplay makes decent use of flashback to the past when Chakotay was a teenager. The editing together of the flashback scenes with the scenes taking place in the present is done smoothly with visual correlation, creating a strong narrative sense. Chakotay's backstory is compelling from a character point of view, answering a number of questions the series had yet to address.

Young Chakotay (Douglas Spain) was quite a different person. He didn't really believe in much of the spiritual mumbo-jumbo of the Chakotay of today, and wasn't happy to be on a quest in the middle of the jungle with no technology. Chakotay's father (Henry Darrow) was the type who respected land as a permanent home. He didn't believe in living for extended time on starships, and wasn't really happy with the fact that his son wanted to join Starfleet. Their scenes together are enlightening, although Spain's performance is way off the mark here. His line delivery is either just plain bad, or he's trying desperately to cover up an accent. I'll give him one thing though—he sure looks a lot like a young Robert Beltran could've looked.

On his quest, Chakotay and his father met a unique tribe who isolated themselves from the rest of the world. They wore strange markings and had unique stories to tell. Twenty years later and some 70,000 light years away, Chakotay meets a race of aliens on this planet who provide him with the answers to several questions from that day in his past, including where the tribe people originated, why they isolated themselves from society, and why they wore the marks above their eyebrows—the same tattoo Chakotay bears today to honor his father. While this is not as dramatically moving as the episode wants to purport, it does make for an interesting story—far more interesting than most Voyager stories of late.

Piller's story finds its strengths in character building scenes and aiming at a higher brow in science fiction premises. On a lighter note, Piller also supplies a reasonably amusing B-story where the Doctor attempts to justify his lack of bedside manner to Kes by programming himself with a simulated virus to prove that sick people don't need sympathy.

But the story's weaknesses appear in scenes that try to pad out the episode. One of those is the aforementioned Voyager-in-jeopardy plot, where the ship is saved by a ridiculous deus ex machina seconds before impact. Also, there are a few visual details that remain unclear. Take, for example, the hawk that attacks Neelix. Why did it attack him? And at the end of the episode, the hawk shrieks out, and Chakotay says to his new alien friend (Richard Fancy), "I hear what he's saying." Then there's dramatic music as if this is the story's big payoff moment. Okay drama, but what does it mean?

There's also the feeling here that Star Trek enjoys writing itself into history to get little messages across. This is the third Trek plot this season to do such a thing. First we had "The 37's" and now we have "Tattoo"—coincidentally aired the same week as DS9's take on historic events, "Little Green Men." Is this an intentional endeavor by the writing staff?

Oh well. Despite some objections on the plotting, I'll give this one an A for effort. It has some good characterizations and backstory, and it tries to be different.

Previous episode: Persistence of Vision
Next episode: Cold Fire

◄ Season Index

53 comments on this review

Big Jones
Mon, Mar 24, 2008, 1:12am (UTC -6)
No mention of Beltran nearly breaking character and being on the verge of laughter for half the episode? That was the best part. :P
Anthony2816
Fri, Jun 13, 2008, 2:25pm (UTC -6)
The writers have no concept of the size of the galaxy. Voyager just happens to find a floating Ford pickup truck. Voyager just happens to find the planet of Chakotay's Sky Gods. Later, Voyager just happens to find a couple of displaced Ferengis.

This just completely ignores probability!
Occuprice
Mon, Jul 7, 2008, 10:08pm (UTC -6)
I don't know, I never really liked this episode. I guess I'm just not a Chakotay fan.

Well, at least not with his Spiritual Crap. I usually love spiritual and religious plot threads and such. Sisko (and Kira too) on DS9 and Roslin (and all the others) on BSG are fascinating with their spiritual and religious journeys.

I've always found myself unimpressed and annoyed when watching Chakotay struggle with similar issues.
Jhoh
Mon, Oct 27, 2008, 10:09am (UTC -6)
I always thought these episodes about Chakotay were extremely stupid and racist, turning Native American cultures into a big mash of sci fi magic, most of it completely made up and having absolutely nothing to do with the real original culture. Having the "sky gods" turn out to be aliens that they just happen to find is pretty much George Lucas territory. The only thing missing from episodes like this is a Jar Jar character. As I remember, Beltran himself was very disappointed with his character's treatment as far as episodes like this go.

For perspective on how horrible these episodes are, just imagine if Voyager ran across a dragon, and Harry Kim has to explain that Chinese people believed in dragons, and through the course of the episode they reveal that dragons were real all along and they live in the delta quadrant, but visited China (specifically China) a very long time ago, and it leads Harry to come to some kind of spiritual awakening (which has no real bearing on his character in the future anyway). Or I have one, let's say that Captain Kirk flies the Enterprise into the center of the galaxy to find god, and it turns out it's just a big alien head that zaps people with lightning, and Heaven is really Needles, California (there sure are a lot of bark scorpions in Heaven).
Nic
Thu, Oct 22, 2009, 9:14am (UTC -6)
I agree with previous post. Terrible episode that had no impact on the character. Saved only by the fantastic Doctor story.
Mal
Fri, Oct 30, 2009, 12:54pm (UTC -6)
It's amazing: what passed for enlightened television back in 1995, is obviously ridiculously bigoted today. Just goes to show you how much progress we have really made in 14 years (fuck, fourteen years! we're old...).

I agree that the show is awfully narrow-minded. But remember, when Jammer wrote this review, America was even more narrow-minded.

A little empirical evidence of progress:
- In 1995 there were NO (zero) black governors, today there are two (2). (When the episode aired, there was only 1 female governor, today there are 4).
- In 1995 there had never been a black Attorney General; the current AG is the first.
- In 1995 there had never been a black Secretary of State; Colin Powell was the first (2001).
- In 1995 there was one (1) black Senator; today there is... one (1). Well, some things don't change :)

That said, I wonder if TV is actually worse off? Back in 1995, Avery Brooks (the Sisko) was the lead of a non-black show. Today, how many non-black shows have a black lead? Any?

And what do blacks have to do with Native Americans (the subject of this episode)? Nothing, but frankly, Native Americans are still pretty much fucked, and I just don't see that changing...

That said, compared to the crap that Voyager had been spewing out for weeks (months!) prior to Tattoo, this was certainly a three-star effort.
Hapworth
Tue, Feb 2, 2010, 12:17pm (UTC -6)
Yeah, like others, I'm bothered by the coincidences--Voyager coming across the 37s, Voyager bumping into a race of aliens that made contact with his tribe long ago. I'm all for putting logic aside, and I'm no hardcore sci-fi type (the type that demands, for instance, that physics must support (right down to the level of equations) a particular story detail), but when Star Trek--in all its guises--enters La La Land I have to admit that I inwardly groan. It's the biggest fault of Roddenberry and his successors: too many episodes simply don't pass as quality "SCI" fi (emphasis on the "sci"). There must be a way to have Chakotay's past come out more naturally and believably.
Carbetarian
Sat, Apr 16, 2011, 11:00pm (UTC -6)
I agree with Jhoh. The comparison to Harry Kim finding dragons pretty much sums everything up. But, I'll still give this episode three stars based almost exclusively on two things:

1) Neelix getting pwned by that bird. HA!

2) The doctor gets sick, and becomes even more hilarious than usual.
Matthias
Tue, Aug 16, 2011, 8:35am (UTC -6)
"Can you hear what the hawk is saying?" Yes it's saying "CAAAWK BRING ME THE TALAXIAN SO I MAY FEAST UPON HIS EYEBALLS!"

Too much Indian Magic and Universal Village for my tastes, thank you very much.
Nathan
Sat, Oct 29, 2011, 4:40pm (UTC -6)
Bleh. At least it wasn't a TOS-style parallel Earth.
Justin
Sun, Mar 11, 2012, 11:25am (UTC -6)
One thing I like about this episode is the use of the flashback. It's a great character development tool which would eventually be used to perfection in LOST. I recall at least 2 later Tuvok episodes which used flashbacks as well as at least one Seven of Nine episode. Too bad they didn't do more of this. It would have been a great, consistent way to set Voyager apart from the other series.
Justin
Sun, Mar 11, 2012, 12:45pm (UTC -6)
Also, @Jhoh - I don't find anything particularly "racist" in this episode. At worst it's well meaning and maybe a little naive. Then again, if the writing were good enough, I wouldn't mind seeing an episode where a group of interstellar Christians try to convert other worlds, or a Bhuddist civilization on a Federation colony, or space-dwelling Hare-Krishna's. I don't mind Trek's primarily agnostic sensibility, but exploring Earth religions in an interstellar context might have been interesting to see.
Paul York
Wed, May 2, 2012, 4:15pm (UTC -6)
The emphasis on respect for nature of indigenous people and the disrespect of using firearms was good, I thought. It shows that respect for nature is universal, not indigenous to only Earth, and that space travellers can share these values. I did not buy the idea that the Federation respects nature, as Chakoty claimed. In fact the Federation and Starfleet have imposed a technological empire, just as our industrial society has done.
Roger Lynch
Thu, Jul 19, 2012, 2:10pm (UTC -6)
Other than the most writers in this block, I always enjoyed this episod. Maybe, because I grew up with the writings of Mr. Erich v. Däniken. I am fifty by now and in the seventies the man´s opinion has been a hype.

Jhoh
Thu, Sep 20, 2012, 6:29am (UTC -6)
One thing about the idea of interstellar Christians and so on, if they were ever done in a Trek episode, they would have to be the villains, yet Chakotay's dad is practically identical but "he's right" because indians in this story are magical (in the interest of the story wanting to have a good heart or whatever it is). It's a well intended racism but it's still racism.

Personally the best review of this episode is the one done by SF Debris on blip.tv, it's a good second opinion.

I will agree that compared to a bunch of the other Voyager episodes around this time, this really is more like a 3 star episode. For Voyager anyway.
Lt. Yarko
Tue, Jun 11, 2013, 6:28pm (UTC -6)
Eh.

Native Americans were not only enlightened, but enlightened by ALIENS! And, of course, the European invaders were nothing but diseased jerks. Yeah, yeah. I know this story. I never really fell for all the romanticizing of native american culture that became sort of popular in the late 2000s. Not that I don't respect their culture as I respect any, but I think that some people think their culture was more peaceful and enlightened than it really was. Native American stories bore me, to be honest. Avatar was like this. Boring. The only one that I can think of that didn't bore me was Dances with Wolves, but that was more because of the humor and high production values. Primitive drawings, medicine bags, and dancing around the fire generally put me to sleep.

And, don't even get me started with the magic storms appearing out of nowhere then disappearing again. I suppose they came up with that technology while worshiping hawks. Ugh.
Ian
Wed, Jul 24, 2013, 2:54am (UTC -6)
I really get tired of the "native good, white man evil," drivel. Those who constantly accuse others of racism usually make such accusations to make themselves feel superior, like they claim 'racists," do.
For the record NO ONE is all good or all bad.
Europeans may have defeated the native-americans but they usually got help from other native-americans.
Cortes and 500 Spainards defeated the Aztecs civilization of a million because the other natives in Central America were tired as serving for humna sacrfices by having their hearts ripped out by the thousands every year.
Scalping was a tried and true method of killing by others and their is eveidence that an earlier culture and people that was closer to caucasians actually existed in the early Americas before the native-americans, who we call native-americans actually killed them off...
T'Paul
Thu, Sep 5, 2013, 3:51pm (UTC -6)
I think one thing is criticizing this episode and another is using it as a proxy to attack indigenous Americans.

Yes, it is perhaps implausible to come across a symbol of Chakotay's ancestors on a random planet in the Delta Quadrant, especially just where Chakotay and co. beam in, but hey, it's a TV series about humans in space, and the stories revolve around that.

Voyager has a character of indigenous American descent, and this is a way of exploring his character.

It's a story, a fairly harmless one I would say, and as a US program, I think it's legitimate to have native American themed programs, when there is a dearth of them, and transfer these stories to a sci fi context. Nobody is saying that this is the truth, it's simply a story.

As for the last comment, the Spanish didn't win because of an uprising of the oppressed in Central America, but through introducing diseases that the local residents didn't have and through political machinations, motivated by greed to obtain natural resources... this is just a fact.

Having said that, some indigenous societies (in fact almost all) did significant damage to the environment well before the Europeans arrived, and it is true that a certain romanticism almost universally ascribes them a love and concern for the environment that may not have been true.

Where the difference lies is the huge scope of the change to the environment that often accompanied colonization, which is perhaps at the heart of indigenous resistance to change wrought by settlement. It's not that everything was perfect, but a certain balance was knocked off, which leads to indigenous people yearning for things to be the way they were before colonization, yes, perhaps idealizing certain things, but aren't we always motivated by ideals? (Surely a question that needn't be asked of Star Trek fans). If idealizing our ancestors, accurately or not, helps preserve the environment I'm all for it. I think if we don't start to take care shortly, then we may start looking on that past that some others above have criticized so lightly with much kinder eyes
Mad
Wed, Sep 18, 2013, 12:00am (UTC -6)
"Yes, it is perhaps implausible to come across a symbol of Chakotay's ancestors on a random planet in the Delta Quadrant, especially just where Chakotay and co. beam in, but hey, it's a TV series about humans in space, and the stories revolve around that."

No. They revolve around situations that are supposed to make sense within the context of that TV series.

"Voyager has a character of indigenous American descent, and this is a way of exploring his character."

Except they don't. Chakotay's "American descent" is nothing but bunch of ignorant stereotypes, that only hurt actual native Americans. And even if it wasn't, there are much better ways to explore that, than more racist magical Indian nonsense. And frankly why do they need to explore that? Can't they just make him interesting person on his own?

"If idealizing our ancestors, accurately or not, helps preserve the environment I'm all for it. I think if we don't start to take care shortly, then we may start looking on that past that some others above have criticized so lightly with much kinder eyes."

Because nothing helps your cause more than using lies and reducing entire culture of people to bunch of stereotypical bullshit.
inline79
Wed, Sep 25, 2013, 3:40pm (UTC -6)
To distract from the politics above, what numbnuts designed the transporters on Voyager? These things never work!


Anyways, One scene that hit home was when Chakotay couldn't speak the ancient language. How many of us North Americans are carrying names from ancestors whom we wouldn't be able to communicate with if they appeared today? Be it German, Chinese, Ukrainian, Hebrew, etc, etc... I know I'm one.
Caine
Sun, Oct 13, 2013, 8:22am (UTC -6)
So ... one of your ancestors was called Inline?

;)
Ric
Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 4:21am (UTC -6)
Once again, the transport beam is not working. What is a direct proof that writers' creativity wasn't either.

Another example is the main plot. As Jammer has said, it is just another episode of Trek telling us about alien background of ancient cultures in Earth. The first, second or third times it may sound smart, fresh, amazing. At this point it is just predictable and sort of boring.

And what about minor flaws like Kes suddenly knowing how to reprogram a holo-experiment? Blah. And what about the universal translator missing precisely when Chakotay encounters new aliens? Pfff

Sure, the character development here is nice and welcome. Sure the B plot with The Doctor is amazing. Funny and touching at the same time, as usual. I also enjoyed the nice thouch of the "that's the way human conquerors often introduce themselves".

Still, the show seems a bit tired at this point and I hope it got better later.
Vylora
Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 12:16am (UTC -6)
Admittedly, there's some decent effort given to this episode. However I have a feeling that the writers, at times, delve into story ideas without really thinking them through. The Chakotay story here was admirable enough but some of it didn't feel quite right. It didn't help that too many contrivances were involved. The parts involving the Doctor, though, were fantastic.

2.5 stars.
Skeptical
Fri, Nov 21, 2014, 10:55pm (UTC -6)
The smug sanctimoniousness of first season TNG meets the smug sanctimoniousness of Pocahantas. There's a combination I didn't need. Yeah, I'm with the "this is ridiculously racist" crowd. Combine that with lame flashbacks to a backstory that provided absolutely zero surprises and provided zero drama, and this is probably the worst episode of Voyager so far.

And besides how insulting the plot is, just how stupid is the Voyager crew? So everytime they try to beam down or take a shuttle down, a storm appears, and they never suspect hostile intentions? Any particular reason why Tuvok missed that little logical step? After all, it never happened before, so to claim the transporter is causing the storm is completely absurd. An alien presence watching them is just as logical. Why did it not enter their mind? I guess for the same reason a hawk randomly attacked Neelix. Durn the details, full speed ahead! Who cares if the plot makes sense?

I don't even want to talk about the main plot. I was surprised to see a few people cheer the Doctor subplot. I mean, yes, he's a joy to watch as usual. But didn't everyone see exactly what was going to happen with that plot as soon as it started? It was about as derivative as possible. Of course he would start arrogant about his ability to cope at the beginning. Of course it would get worse over time. Of course by the end he would learn his lesson and be a massive complainer at the end. And of course his friend would be the one to provide a little twist. I mean, as a subplot, it's ok, but I'm not sure why it's so praiseworthy.

On the plus side, I'm starting to get the feeling that Heroes and Demons last year was an aberration. I complained then that the Doctor seemed way too sentient and human in that episode, far more than he should have been. Since then, though, his character has been toned down and feels a lot more like just a program. This is as it should be. I like him feeling like he is fine the way he is, that he isn't human and doesn't feel the need to grow, and has to be pulled into it by Kes. I'm glad to see I was a bit wrong about my rant in H & D.
Zeldark
Sat, May 16, 2015, 8:20pm (UTC -6)
So we can all agree no one likes Space Indians? They seem so forced, boring and out of place.

Also as far as the doctor goes, there are bits of his coding that I'd like to think would be encrypted and read-only. This is the EMERGENCY MEDICAL hologram. The crew's last line of defense for protecting and restoring the lives of personnel. It annoys me that the writers would have this character of making itself sick on a whim, or by a crew mate. Things go wrong on starships all the time. A thousand anomalies can happen that prevent the EMERGENCY medical hologram from returning to a fully functioning status.

Another example is his interaction with the blond warrior woman from the Heroes and Demons episode, or that French lady in Paris' pool hall. EMH programmers would have had to go out of their way to write code that he gets nervous around pretty ladies flirting with him. Can you imagine AI breaking procedure during triage because he falls in love, or failing to remember treatments because he was so distracted by pretty alien guest of the day? He should have absolutely no emotion at all. But I guess that's boring to watch when you consider that's like Data but without the charming intrigue constantly wondering about humanoid culture, and expertise limited to medical knowledge as a role.
Deborah
Thu, Jun 4, 2015, 3:36am (UTC -6)
I know this episode is old already, but I was watching it again tonight and you what bothered me the most? The alien native chief's makeup. His eyes were all blackened and he had on so much white makeup on his face. It looked gross and certainly didn't look like he was "living right"! In addition to the way it made him look "sick" it was kinda weird that he was a "white guy". They couldn't find an actor of "color"?
Despite all of that, I like Chakotay as well as the whole Star Trek Voyager series! It is too easy to pick about movies and shows on TV, just too easy.😊
Yanks
Thu, Aug 6, 2015, 10:47am (UTC -6)
3 stars Jammer?

Uggggg... stereotype of the American Indian meet the environmentalist whacko... We need frakin voo-doo, stupid spirits and some rain dances here!! I was fine with the Animal Guide thing, but this is nuts.

Didn't we lose another shuttle craft here? I think they have now officially lost more than they started with :-)

I remember wanting to jack slap the kid...

At least we got Naomi in this episode... Kes, the Doc and Harry at least make that enjoyable. doc giving himself the flu was a riot.

It wasn't even Beltran's butt :-) He used a "butt-double" :-)

1.5 stars
TJ
Sat, Nov 28, 2015, 10:37am (UTC -6)
Another chuckles-centric ep. Yawn. Didn't find it interesting in the least. Still thought the tattoo looked better in S4's Living Witness.

Best part of this ep was the always-reliable Robert Picardo's performance as the Doctor. Here Kes gives him a lesson in empathy. One that I'm sure his adaptive programming algorithms quickly took to heart.

1 star is all I could muster for it. And only because of that silly but entertaining subplot.
MartinB
Sun, Dec 20, 2015, 6:24pm (UTC -6)
As sfdebris put it, this episode basically says "Native American Indians were a primitive
backward people until white people from outer space helped them". Oops.

Best part of the episode was Neelix getting attacked by the crow. I laugh everytime!

And is Chakotays tattoo an actual tattoo then or is like marker pen or something? Cos when he goes undercover he doesn't always have it so does he wash it off or does the Doctor have to dermal regenerate or plastic surgery over it everytime?
Diamond Dave
Sun, Jan 10, 2016, 9:56am (UTC -6)
File this under worthy but dull. The insight into Chakotay's back story is interesting, and the flashback sequences well integrated, but the plot seems insanely implausible. And again, we have another contrivance to block the transporters. It's just all so slow.

Even the Doctor can't save this one in a less than successful b-story. Best bit by a mile - Neelix's assault by hawk. 2 stars.
Justus
Tue, Mar 15, 2016, 9:58pm (UTC -6)
In this episode, Kess tells the doctor that he has never experienced pain, but he experienced it just a few episodes prior in Projections.
JC
Tue, Mar 15, 2016, 11:33pm (UTC -6)
I couldnt stop giggling every time Chakotay said "rubber people".

I guess Chakotay finally found Gumby.
JC
Tue, Mar 15, 2016, 11:34pm (UTC -6)
I do wish there wouldve been some closure to the doctors story line though.
George Monet
Tue, Aug 16, 2016, 5:05pm (UTC -6)
"I don't even want to talk about the main plot. I was surprised to see a few people cheer the Doctor subplot. I mean, yes, he's a joy to watch as usual. But didn't everyone see exactly what was going to happen with that plot as soon as it started? It was about as derivative as possible. Of course he would start arrogant about his ability to cope at the beginning. Of course it would get worse over time. Of course by the end he would learn his lesson and be a massive complainer at the end. And of course his friend would be the one to provide a little twist. I mean, as a subplot, it's ok, but I'm not sure why it's so praiseworthy."

That's what made it good. As noted by Aristotle in the Poetics: "[i]n the characters too, exactly as in the structure of the incidents, [the author] ought always to seek what is either necessary or probable, so that it is either necessary or probable that a person of such-and-such a sort say or do things of the same sort, and it is either necessary or probable that this [incident] happen after that one. It is obvious that the solutions of plots too should come about as a result of the plot itself, and not from a contrivance." So the Doctor's story playing out as we expected it to play out based on the nature of the characters and the events which occurred prior to it made it a good story.
Peter G.
Tue, Aug 16, 2016, 6:58pm (UTC -6)
@ George Monet,

Since you're quoting Aristotle I've got to jump all over this. Aristotle doesn't mean what you are trying to mean in your reply to Skeptical. Aristotle means simply that the plot should be logical and flow naturally from the given circumstances, typically also obeying the unities. He does not mean that the plot should be simplistic and predictable. Indeed, a great example of a plot of the type Aristotle describes can be found in Sophocles' "Oedipus the King", where the end is a foregone conclusion right from the start, and yet there's zero chance a first-time reader/viewer would be able to guess it. It is supposed to come as a shocker to end all shockers, even though there is literally no other way it could end. That's what Aristotle means about good craftsmanship.

Skeptical, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be saying that the story is *illogical* (which Aristotle wouldn't like) but rather facile and without any surprise or revelation. Revelation doesn't have to come as a result of a surprise, like "Oedipus" has, but it does at least have to come as a result of not knowing what you're going to learn while watching the material. In Aeschylus' "Agamemon", for instance, the plot is a given but the part the audience wouldn't be ready for is the poetry linking that story with suffering and death in life in general, showing how the audience partakes in the same strife as the great heros do. Being able to practically guess what's coming next in the script and what will be said is basically dramatic death.
mephyve
Thu, Aug 18, 2016, 1:20am (UTC -6)
blah blah blah..... bleeccchhhh
mephyve
Thu, Aug 18, 2016, 1:27am (UTC -6)
Always love when I write my review then read others and find that they share my sentiments lol
AA
Mon, Aug 22, 2016, 12:59pm (UTC -6)
I don't see 3 stars for this one. It's way too cheesy. All this "spirits of our ancestors" generic Native American stuff.
And I don't buy the Aliens infused their DNA storyline. Infused how? Voodoo? And how is it nobody on Earth ever notices that some of their population has anomalous DNA?
The only part I liked is how Chakotay decided to set down arms and change clothes to get through to these people. It shows how he's an effective leader, because he can go off protocol and use creative approaches depending on what he's learned.
Ivanov
Wed, Aug 31, 2016, 11:10am (UTC -6)
Ah yes more Chakotay is every native american stuff. poor Robert Beltran the only episodes they ever write for him are about how he's a native american who's tribe lived in central america but holds north american values and cultural traits.

No wonder he bitches about the voyager staff all the time they made his character from a Guerrilla fighter trying to protect his home to, my people believe you can't own land now I must go on a spirit journey and play the song of my people Pan flutes. Doesn't help that for all but a half dozen episodes he was janeway's bitch who rarely voiced his opinion and just did what ever the captain said.

I do find it amusing that the voyager writers actually wrote that native Americans were so uncivilized with little more than fire and stone tools that they needed aliens to genetically alter them in order to thrive and build civilizations.
Tidesfromnebula
Mon, Oct 31, 2016, 2:45pm (UTC -6)
RANDOM OBSERVATION:

The guy that plays the alien Chieftain is Richard Chaves - he played Poncho in the classic film Predator!

Never noticed that before until my 3rd time watching all the episodes again!
JLPsquared
Wed, Jan 4, 2017, 8:26am (UTC -6)
So why is this episode racist? I get the idea that they were primitives until white aliens fixed them, but why do people get so upset whenever "cultures" are represented on Star Trek? With this episode, many commenters here have used the word "stereotype", yet all of the practices shown in this episode WERE used by American Indians? So why is it racist? That reminds me of the episode "code of Honor". The episode sucks, BUT, all of the "steretypes" shown in the episode DO EXIST in even modern African cultures? Why is it racist to show things as they really are?
Skeptical
Wed, Jan 4, 2017, 6:35pm (UTC -6)
JLP. you're missing the point about the racist part. Do you know why Guinan exists? It's because Whoopi Goldberg was so inspired by the character of Uhura, being on the bridge and treated as just another person, another equal by the white guys, that she begged to be added to the show in order to honor that idea. Well, turns out she was wrong. It is official Star Trek canon that Africans are an inferior race. As are Europeans and Asians for that matter... According to this episode, MLK's dream of being judged not by the color of his skin is dead. The belief that all races are equal is dead. This episode states that Amerindians are the master race (yes, I chose those words deliberately). Amerindians are, according to Star Trek, functionally superior to Africans, to Asians, to Europeans. They are better.

How is that not racist?

Imagine if someone pitched a story idea that ancient aliens, upon visiting Earth, discovered the primitive blond haired, blue eyed people to be far better at reasoning and innovation compared to the other groups of ancient humans, and decided to reveal themselves only to the proto-Europeans. That pitch would be yanked faster than you could say Nazi. So why is the parallel premise, which is this episode, allowed? Why is it awful to say Aryans are a superior race but just peachy to say Amerindians are a superior race?

I ain't buying that. It's insulting to everyone and should never have been filmed. All of Star Trek's goodwill towards showing a color-blind future, and they throw it away in an ill-conceived display of white guilt and fetishizing a people they don't even understand.
Peremensoe
Wed, Jan 4, 2017, 7:18pm (UTC -6)
Does it actually say that Native Americans were inherently superior (yet still locked in the Stone Age), *before* the alien intervention, and chosen for this reason?

Or does it say that a benefit was conferred on the people that the aliens intervened with, who happened to be Native Americans?

It sounds like a weak ep either way, but the latter concept doesn't carry the racism that some are marking.
Skeptical
Wed, Jan 4, 2017, 9:30pm (UTC -6)
From Memory Alpha:

"45,000 years previously, the alien's people visited Earth and ran across a small group of primitive nomadic hunters, who had no spoken language and no culture other than fire and stone tools. Deeply impressed by their respect for the land and other living creatures, the beings gifted the people with an inheritance, a genetic bonding, in the exact same way that the alien is touching Chakotay now, so the hunters might thrive and protect their world."

That "deeply impressed by their respect for the land and other living creatures" part - especially given the tree-hugging stereotype of Amerindians - does strike me as the episode insinuating that they believe this tribe is superior. Also, the aliens give the gift so that this tribe will thrive and protect the world, indicating a role of leadership (superiority), and as the aliens visited over time they cared only about this particular tribe (indicating how special it is). There's no doubt the message is one of superiority.
geekios
Sun, Feb 19, 2017, 4:17pm (UTC -6)
I see a couple of missed opportunities by the writers.
The natives back on 24th century earth have standard aliwn ridges on their foreheads, but are somehow Chakotay's ancestors. They could have written so that the tatoos marked on the forehead be a way for this culture to mimic and remember the sky spirits. This could have been used to enhance the storyline, and give sense to that distict Iron Mike marking by the ship's commander.

SteveRage
Sat, Mar 4, 2017, 9:22am (UTC -6)
Utter crap

I have no idea how Jammer can score this higher than the previous episode Persistance of Vision boggles the mind. Whereas that episode what about genuinely interesting and exciting science fiction this was hokey quasi-religious nonsense. Good job one of only possibly 3 humans left alive who could possibly recognise the symbols and culture manages to bump into the planet of the cloaked and incredibly well-hidden Sky Spirits 70,000 light years away at the opposite end of a enormously large, so large in fact your brain can't possibly comprehend how impossibly big it actually is, galaxy.

A turd of an episode - 1 star (and that's for the Doctor being ill B-story saving it from being a zero)
Markus
Tue, Jul 4, 2017, 1:48am (UTC -6)
Terrible, bland, and probably insulting. I hate when Star Trek attempts to explain spirituality with science. Especially when the characters continue treating it in a spiritual manner. If they understood the science behind it, they'd leave behind the mumbo jumbo.

I only finished this one out of a sense of completionism, and it wasn't easy. 1 star.
Planet of Hats
Mon, Jul 10, 2017, 9:22pm (UTC -6)
In its own way, I found this episode worse than Threshold. Threshold, at least, was pure weapons-grade crap science and stupid storytelling.

This one's up there with TNG: Code of Honor in terms of incredibly bad subtext. Here we have an episode where Chakotay's people get their culture from magical white hippies from the sky. It's so patronizing that it almost makes me want to blow chunks just watching it.
Startrekwatcher
Tue, Jul 25, 2017, 12:11pm (UTC -6)
2 stars. This episode just wasn't that interesting. Simple as that
William B
Thu, Sep 7, 2017, 11:41am (UTC -6)
Oh boy.

Well.

So okay, background: while the "aliens interceded in human evolution as gods" trope isn't really my favourite, it does have precedent in Trek. Obviously TOS has frikking Apollo show up, TNG has its own origin myth in The Chase (which I like), and DS9 (season 7 spoiler) has its own particular instance of an alien "god" altering an individual's birth/history with the Sarah Sisko material, in addition to the various weird alien backstories for individuals (like Jack the Ripper, or the various people Flint apparently was in Requiem for Methuselah, or the influences that are suggested in Death Wish by the Q, or the way Amelia Earhart was actually abducted by aliens). Whereas in TOS, "Apollo" and the other Greek gods are clearly meant to be no longer worshipped, and are, to some extent, identified with the past of the *whole* of the crew, most of whom featured in the episode are European-descended, and further Who Mourns for Adonais? episode specifically "argues" that Apollo is not a real god and should no longer be worshiped by 24th century humans, who can see through him. This episode presents the Sky Spirits as being plausibly, if not divine, at least meaningful and supports the religious beliefs of Chakotay's ancestors in a particular way which is pretty un-Trek, at least with *human* (as opposed to Bajoran or whatever) religions. And as indicated by the above commenters, the problem ends up being something like Piller et al. *both* contorting the usual Trek "rules" out of exaggerated deference to a particular group, AND ends up being incredibly patronizing to said group. I was trying to think after rewwatching the episode what it was that the whole "aliens met friendly prehistoric hominid, modified them genetically" backstory reminded me of, and I realized it matches up fairly well with the Vorta origin story as laid out by Weyoun in Treachery, Faith and the Great River, but of course we (and Odo) rightly regard that tale with suspicion, since it ends with the Vorta deferential to totalitarian overlords they regard as gods and for whom they'll commit atrocities. As people pointed out above, the implication is that Chakotay's ancestors' ability to bond with the land and so on is because aliens made them smarter, and so undermines the attempt to raise up something as being *within* his ancestors that made them special in the first place. It also does this weird, consistent thing which the show does when it comes to Chakotay, wherein it sort of imagines a kind of pan-Native American culture and suggests that somehow Chakotay can stand in for whole peoples which are different from each other, and in this particular case that this "sky spirit" origin story somehow says something special about all indigenous peoples, maybe? The end result seems confused, dated, and counterproductive.

And that's a shame for various reasons, but one of the big ones is that I do think that the core isn't totally ill-intentioned. Chakotay rebelled against his father and wanted to join Starfleet and the modern world. Then his father died, and Chakotay then tried to learn what it was that his father knew and believed, but still could only really guess at it in some ways. The basic idea here is that his father and his father's culture end up having some "truth" to it. And that's a general story that is not out of place. In some senses it's not that different in theme than something like TNG's Family, where Robert represents Picard's father and Picard reluctantly has to come to find some sort of peace within the "backwards," facing-toward-the-past family traditions after his own exploratory, future-facing life has suddenly led to his being shockingly traumatized in the encounter with the hyper-modern Borg. I don't think celebrating an indigenous Central American people and its descendants is any less appropriate than celebrating a family tradition, if handled with a little subtlety and grace, which is mostly lacking in this episode as is. Still, I don't hate the episode the way many other commenters do and sort of appreciate what it was trying to do for Chakotay, whose emotional arc in this episode more or less makes sense to me. I might come back and elaborate. If nothing else, this is an episode I actually kind of want to revisit -- not because I think it's good (I don't) but because it's clearly attempting to do something, which is something that the last several episodes largely haven't frankly. I'm going to go with 2 stars provisionally for now.
William B
Thu, Sep 7, 2017, 1:36pm (UTC -6)
Just to expand a bit, I think the particular virtues Chakotay associates with his people -- patience, oneness with nature, respect for life in general -- are sometimes dismissed as retrograde or whatever but I think have value. Most cultures, including non-dominant ones, have good and bad aspects to them, and to have Chakotay as a teen reject his culture and then find he understands its good points better as an adult, and, indeed, only being able to understand his "home" when he's on the other side of the galaxy and his father is dead, is a story that I find moving in the abstract, and there are some moments that work okay in practice. It just pushes too hard, and pushes too hard on a made up, non-specific Hollywood mishmash of different Native American cultures which is somehow meant to represent all such cultures and as a result kind of fails to represent any.
Skavvle
Wed, Sep 27, 2017, 6:58pm (UTC -6)
This episode is too farfetched for me. Chakotay just happens to be next to his alien ancestor's planet, which also happens to have exactly the mineral they were searching for at the time. Whatever. Not that the rest of it makes any sense either.

If these are his ancestors why doesn't he have the forehead ridges? The tribe in Central America had them in the present day, why not Chakotay? And they say there were hundreds of thousands of the 'rubber people' (lol) before 'new people' came and killed most of them. Noone noticed hundreds of thousands of alien/human hybrids? Really?

Then Chakotay and his father find the ones hiding out, and can see that they are clearly aliens, but don't mention it at all. Or tell anyone else about it? Or study them or get a genetic sample or investigates? That would be one of the greatest anthropological finds in human history.

And when Chakotay enters the village on the alien planet, he strips down naked. wtf? He didn't find the clothes until after he did that. He was going to run around nude to show these unknown aliens he wasn't a threat? wut? Why not do that everytime they meet a new species? Quick! Everyone strip!

And why do the aliens there live in a jungle in huts or whatever they are? Like Chakotay says 'With warp technology, they wouldn't be living like this. Captain.' Exactly.

Also these aliens have visited Earth multiple times. How? It's going to take Voyager 75 years one way. So a round trip would be 150 years. They seriously took a 150 year long trip multiple times? To check on some random planet they found 45,000 years ago? And why were they there in the first place? Were they looking for primitive humanoids to 'genetically bond' with?


And one thing I don't think anyone mentioned yet is this:

CHAKOTAY: It's an ancient myth. Sky Spirits from above created the first Rubber People in their own image and led the way to a sacred land where the Rubber People would live for eternity.
JANEWAY: You obviously don't put a great deal of faith in this explanation.
CHAKOTAY: How much faith do you put in Adam and Eve? Hasn't science proved that all humans developed from a single evolutionary process?

So Christianity is proven wrong, but all the beliefs of Sky Spirits and Rubber People are proven right. Adam and Eve, just make believe. Vision quests and animal guides and a medicine wheel, all real.

^ I made a rhyme :P

This episode is somewhat racist, but it's much more anti-Christian than anything else. Those ignorant Christians (whose religion is totally wrong) came and killed all the enlightened Rubber People (whose religion is totally right).

The Doc stuff was hokey and predictable. And what was the point of it? He never acted any differently after this. He wasn't suddenly all understanding and compassionate.

bad episode. 1 star.
TB
Mon, Oct 30, 2017, 10:43am (UTC -6)
0 stars. Honestly, ridiculous

There was a warp capable alien tribe living in jungles on earth since the dawn of man and nobody noticed?

That's not my main issue with the episode though. Why does Chakotay's irrational spiritualism get treated with such undue respect? We saw it in previous episodes with his "spirit guide". It's the 24th century and nobody says "What the hell are you talking about? You talk to an imaginary eagle? Please report to sickbay." In context, if he was spouting off about Jesus instead of "spirits" it (rightfully) wouldn't have been in the show or would have been handled as "*roll eyes*, he's talking abut jesus again". Why do equally irrational native american beliefs get a free pass? The white guilt in this and most other Chakotay episodes is cringeworthy.

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