Sometimes I think about alternate timelines. About my own alternate timelines specifically. I almost pursued advanced degrees in anthropology. I had a knack for it. I had the drive. I even had a bachelor's level ethnographic study under my belt. I could've done it. I almost did it. And what might my life have been like if I had? I thought a lot about this as I watched Resolutions.
Sit Rep: Janeway and Chakotay have contracted an incurable disease and have been left (by a very reluctant Captain Tuvok and Voyager crew) on an M-Class planet devoid of humanoids where they will live together in a quaint Starfleet cabin until the day they die.
You know, this seems like the kind of episode I normally wouldn't like. There's very little in the way of intrigue, action, fun or big ethical questions. This one is strictly personal and, in the end, that's why I think I love it. Two intelligent, lovely people who've known each other for a couple years are pulled out of their restrictions and limitations and thrust into a new life together--one where they'll be each other's only source of human warmth and companionship. Basically this episode asks the very important question, "Do they get it on?"
The answer is, "Maybe/Probably." I don't know. There's a lot of filtered, soft light and hand holding and then we cut away. In my mind, there was definitely some intimacy on Planet Chaneway.
Aside from the obvious carnal stuff though, what interests me most about this one is how these characters evolve once they're out of uniform--once they're just regular humans without all the Starfleet rigamarole clogging up their brains. Janeway is, at first, completely consumed with finding a cure for their disease but pretty much as soon as Chakotay steps on the grass he turns into Pa Ingalls. And this totally makes sense. Chakotay was in Starfleet which didn't suit him. He was a Maquis which was fine but you don't get the sense that he was going to do it forever. Once Voyager kicks up he's in Starfleet again. Wearing a uniform. Commanding things. But every chance he gets it's all, "My people" this and "eagle spirit" that.
I've never hated Chakotay and I think Robert Beltran does a great job with what he's given... I just don't think the Chakotay character ever really crystalized in the way the series creators had hoped. He's often only in the scene to mention his people or to ask a question about the technobabble or to moan about his weird ex-relationship with Seska. As the series progresses, he gets even less to do. And, really, I think that's a shame because Beltran (as evidenced here and a few other places) actually has a lot to offer. Maybe he just doesn't have a lot to offer Chakotay as we know him. But, as Alternate Timeline Chakotay?
On planet Chaneway, this Brawny Paper Towel Man version of Chakotay is instantly deeper, more believable and more endearing than Starfleet/Maquis/Starfleet Chakotay. He settles right in to the frontier man lifestyle. He's carving things and hanging up curtains and, honest-to-god, if there were cows he'd be up at 5AM to milk them. He loves this life. In another timeline, if the Cardassians hadn't invaded his colony, or if he had never pursued a career with Starfleet or a second, more exciting career with the Maquis, this is the life he would have lived. This is the Chakotay he was meant to be. Here, the interjections about his people aren't trite but homey. Among the trees and blue skies, all his reverence for nature isn't tired; it's resonant. His earnestness and quiet sensitivity are clearly more suited for Walden than the Delta Quadrant. I look at this version of Chakotay and feel like this is where he belongs.
But Janeway doesn't really get into Planet Chaneway. She bucks the lifestyle, the meditative quiet of nature, the hand-carved headboards, the idea of longterm settlement. This isn't the life Janeway was meant to live. Eventually, finally, she begins to enjoy herself but then Voyager calls and by the time Tuvok has hung up the phone she's pinning on her pips.
I don't feel sad for Janeway going back to her ship in the same way I don't feel sad about not pursuing Anthropology as a career. Like Janeway, I know I've selected the appropriate path, that I'm in the correct timeline. Whenever my life gets derailed I claw my way back to it with Janeway-esque determination. But Chakotay? I do feel sort of sad for him. For the next five years he's going to put on a uniform instead of the dandy leather vest he made himself. For the next five years he's going to hang around as native-themed set dressing rather waking up to fresh air and the sound of the creek nearby. For the next five years he's going to see his role on the ship diminish and wonder what might've happened, what could've been, on Planet Chaneway.
Oh, but then he marries Seven of Nine so... I guess I shouldn't feel too sad for him...