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[VOY] Lynch's Spoiler Review: "Tattoo"

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Timothy W. Lynch

Nov 11, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/11/95
WARNING: The article below has spoilers for VOY's "Tattoo".
Honor the traditions of spoiler protection while reading this.

In brief: Robert Beltran gets to do some solid work for a change, but
the show itself is only so-so.

Teleplay by: Michael Piller
Story by: Larry Brody
Directed by: Alexander Singer

Brief summary: An away mission reminds Chakotay of his father and
his father's teachings, which Chakotay never embraced ... until now.

"Tattoo" was something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's one of
the very few episodes that's done something significant with
Chakotay's character, and from a character standpoint it mostly did a
reasonable job. On the other hand, it was also saddled with a horrible
"B" plot, and with a pounding in-your-face moralizing ending that
rivals some of Trek's preachiest ever.

One of the best things about the show, almost unquestionably, was
Robert Beltran's performance. Beltran, for one of the few times since
"Caretaker" ("State of Flux" last season being another example), got
to display some of the inner fire that makes Chakotay such a
potentially interesting character: his "debate" with Tuvok about going
unarmed was a splendid example of such, as was his very quiet "put
those _away_" (meaning weapons) to Tuvok et al. at the very end of
the episode. Those two scenes make an interesting pair of bookends,
in fact: early on, Chakotay's suggesting it because he thinks it's the
best way to contact the moon's inhabitants -- he's forceful, but no
more. By the end, however, once Chakotay's eyes have been
opened, so to speak, there's a strong tinge of disgust in his voice
when he gives those orders; he can't even believe Tuvok, B'Elanna
and Kes would even *think* of such a thing. Much of the credit for
that change of emphasis should go to Beltran, I think, and it's nice to
see an episode which actually lets him display a little subtlety. (His
movement from total skepticism to belief in the old stories was more
predictable, but also well done; his line "I can give you [Janeway] an
official Rubber-Tree-People theory if you like" simply dripped

Alexander Singer's direction was the other main highlight of the
show. In particular, what jumped out at me were the various
transitions between the present-day moments of the show and
Chakotay's flashbacks. Many of those, such as the hawk and the
laying down of weapons, were *excellent*, rivaling similar transitions
in TNG's "All Good Things", I think -- and that's no small praise.
Simply from the standpoint of keeping the flow of the episode intact,
Singer did a solid job almost everywhere, and that's worthy of note.

That said, however, I have some significant concerns about the rest of
the episode. On a picky level, Chakotay's home keeps jumping
around between the border colony mentioned here and Earth ("The
37's" implied that, at least). On a more significant level, though, the
application of his father's teachings seems to be coming a little bit late.
I understand the wall that came up between father and son, and I
understand why the events of this episode would remind Chakotay of
his past. I have difficulty, however, with the implication that it takes
something *this* amazingly close to Chakotay's past experience to
make him take a fresh look. Most conscious adults are able to apply
past situations without having them apply to the present point-by-
point-by-point ad nauseam; the fact that Chakotay apparently never did
so before now strikes me as unreasonable.

As is all too typical in episodes which refer to Chakotay's ancestry,
I'm also annoyed at the lack of an actual tribe being named. The more
"my tribe this" and "my tribe that" gets mentioned without putting any
distinct specifics on, the stronger the feeling becomes that no one
wants to take the time to research those specifics and remain true to
them. That's annoying, and it strikes me as the cultural equivalent of
what Trek's done with biology lately: name the buzzwords without
examining the meaning. It rubs me more wrong when it's done with
the science, simply because I'm closer to the topic, but that doesn't
mean I like it in this context either.

Other than that, my main comment on the episode is simply that it
wasn't all that interesting. Almost from the start, it was plain as day
that Chakotay was going to come to terms with his father (or at least
the memories of his father), and it was also plain that the ship wasn't
going to be destroyed in the Magic Cyclone [tm]. Given the latter, all
of the hand-wringing over what to do when Voyager was trapped
became dull as dirt (with the exception of one line: Paris's statement
about everyone becoming "stains on the back wall" if they tried to go
to warp without inertial damping working was good); and given the
former, the investigation down on the planet and the flashbacks leaned
very heavily on the execution.

Unfortunately, apart from some nice directing of and to the
flashbacks, most of the execution of the actual *plot* lacked a certain
fire. I think the writers were aware of that, and tried to cut to
flashbacks fairly often in order to cut down on the tedium, but it only
worked up to a fault. Too much of the main plot consisted of "people
walk around and things happen to them" -- and that's extremely
difficult to pull off properly.

As for the ending ... yuck. Chakotay learning a personal lesson about
his own traditions works quite well, particularly given Beltran's talent;
but the alien's history lesson was another "let's make everyone who
isn't a Native American feel guilty" lecture similar to those in TNG's
"Journey's End". Without trying to offend anyone, I think that's
hogwash: life is too full of shades of grey to make *any* group more
squeaky clean than another one. Certainly, the exploration of the
American continent had its share of atrocities committed by those
explorers; but I don't think one can unequivocally make either side
"the bad guys" without oversimplifying to the point of uselessness.
That's something of a digression, though; whether you agree with the
message or not, I think the scene itself pats itself on the back so
damned much that it's annoying regardless of the situation.

That leaves the "B" plot, that of the doctor giving himself the flu to try
to learn compassion. The only shining moment in that story was Kes
actually lowering the boom on the doctor about her having lengthened
the time of his illness without telling him; Kes isn't above being
vicious when she needs to be, and Jennifer Lien is quite good at
getting that across. Beyond that, though, this was padding.

Other short notes:

-- "I don't have a life; I have a program." Nope, I'm not gonna say it
-- too easy a shot.

-- Those effects when Chakotay ran into the cave were *horrid*. The
cyclone was good, but I've come to expect better for things like that

-- Familiar faces abounded, all from Vulcans high up in Starfleet. :-)
Henry Darrow, who played Chakotay's father (and who was quite
good, incidentally), played the Vulcan admiral, Savar, in TNG's
"Conspiracy" way back in the first season, and Richard Fancy (the
alien) played the Vulcan captain Satelk who investigated Wesley in
"The First Duty". Funny what those Vulcans get up to when you're
not looking...

-- Interesting exchange between Chakotay and Janeway: "how much
faith do you put in Adam and Eve?" Given the later evidence that
there was some *truth* to Chakotay's beliefs, I wonder if we're
meant to conclude something similar here. (I doubt it.) And on a
strictly picky line, I didn't like the claim that "science has proven"
evolution -- it's as close to proven as science can get, really, but
science can't *prove* anything outright; something's only as good as
the data backing it, and new tests can always call it into question. (On
a layman's level, one might as well say that, though; I just get picky.)

-- When Chakotay, in flashback, told his father about going to
Starfleet Academy, he mentioned that Captain *Sulu* was the one
who sponsored his application. If he meant the original Hikaru Sulu,
I'm not sure the timing works. Assuming Chakotay's in his mid-40's
(which strikes me as too old, but I'm being generous), this flashback
was 30 years ago, which still puts it almost 60 years past "Star Trek
VI". That's making Sulu somewhat old to be patrolling the
Cardassian frontier. Now, if it's a descendant (a son or grandson,
since Chakotay specified "he"), we're fine.

-- Given the cyclone that formed as Voyager tried to land, I hope I
wasn't the only one amending Paris's claim of gale-force winds to
Dorothy Gale-force winds. ;-)

That should about cover it. "Tattoo" was a mix; some good, some
bad, but mostly blah. So, wrapping up:

Writing: Good character work for Chakotay, but a fairly dull plot and
a preachy ending.
Directing: Nice transitions and reasonable work on the rest.
Acting: Darrow was good, Beltran was *great*. The rest were plot
devices. :-)

OVERALL: Let's make it a 6. Watchable, but not a repeat customer.


"Kes Me Deadly"? (Ow. Let me apologize for that one *now*...)

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"Yes, father; I hear him. I *finally* hear him."
Copyright 1995, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...
This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net
compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the
author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.

Faruq abd ul-Rafi

Nov 13, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/13/95
In <480tf2$> (Timothy W. Lynch) writes:

>WARNING: The article below has spoilers for VOY's "Tattoo".
>Honor the traditions of spoiler protection while reading this.

>On a picky level, Chakotay's home keeps jumping
>around between the border colony mentioned here and Earth ("The
>37's" implied that, at least).

The information provided in this episode seems consistent with the
comments made in "The 37's." Chakotay's home planet is in the DMZ along
the Federation-Cardassian border, but he left the planet to join Starfleet.
He apparently feels some attachment to Earth both as the place from which
his ancestors originated and more importantly as a place where he himself
has lived. Such an attachment is not incompatible with also feeling an
attachment to his home planet, though he does seem rather more attached to
Earth than to his own planet. Note that he seems to have joined the Maquis
not because of some dislike for Starfleet or some overwhelming sense of
loyalty to his home planet but in an effort to honor his dead father, from
whom he had become estranged. The estrangement from his father could also
account for Chakotay's tendency to come off as what another poster called
"The Great Sage." Chakotay has ignored his people's traditions most of his
life and is now overcompensating for it.


Faruq abd ul-Rafi (R. A. Nelson)
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Philosophy

Andrew Scott Galbraith Jr.

Nov 15, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/15/95
Timothy W. Lynch ( wrote:
: WARNING: The article below has spoilers for VOY's "Tattoo".
"Charlie Sheen, Ben Vereen, shrink to the size of a lima bean!"--The Brain,


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