Voyager rewatch – 2.25: “Resolutions”

Imagine your OTP…

“Resistance” and “Resolutions” were the episodes which made me fall in love with Janeway. As a fourteen-year-old, I thought they were equally magnificent.

I don’t want to dismiss that fourteen-year-old and her legitimate feelings, but, watching “Resolutions” twenty-three years later, it’s just possible that it’s not so much “magnificent” as “just okay”.

The last man on New Earth

What I didn’t know, watching Voyager out of order on VHS in the ’90s, was that an organic relationship had been building between Janeway and Chakotay since the series began. They’ve gone from wary, reluctant workmates to colleagues who occasionally push the boundaries of professionalism.

In theory, separating them from the need for those boundaries is a reasonable next step. “Infected by a disease which means they can never leave the planet, two characters face the prospect of spending the rest of their lives alone together” feels like a fic premise, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  I mean, one of the purposes of fic is to explore the relationships between fictional characters.

So the concept is good. But the execution no longer works for me.

This is ironic, because “Resolutions”, and the whole Janeway/Chakotay relationship, were hugely formative of my taste in fictional relationships. I unabashedly love het romance where the female partner is in a position of authority and her love interest is a dude who is super competent, incredibly loyal, but with his own separate stuff happening, and free of insecurity about taking orders from a woman.

Unfortunately, Janeway/Chakotay never quite achieved that last point. Too many people, from the showrunners to the writers to Robert Beltran, were uncomfortable seeing a male character taking orders from a woman.

So “Resolutions” is underpinned by a troubling tension: as Janeway searches for a cure, Chakotay encourages her to let go and accept their lives now, but there’s an unintentional subtext of, Why can’t she just settle down, stop doing science, and be properly domestic?

Chakotay, meanwhile, is thoroughly domesticated. He cooks! He does woodcraft! He’s planning to renovate their prefab beige house!

And this is cool, but…

Okay, a lot of the reviews of “Resolutions” back in the nineties dismissed it as “essentially a romance novel”. Because LADIES and LOVE STORIES and ICKY GIRL COOTIES, right?

I’m not into romance as a genre, so I don’t know what was happening in the field back in the day, but this comparison now strikes me as ironic, because if a white woman tried to publish a romance novel with this characterisation of the Native American love interest, she would be eviscerated. (I may not read romance novels, but I do occasionally lurk over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.)

In “Resolutions”, Chakotay feels less like a character in his own right than a foil for Janeway, and a wish fulfillment character for Jeri Taylor. And that’s before we get to the “angry warrior” story, which is super fucken racist and I can’t believe it’s 2019 and I still see it in gifsets and usernames.

Like. He accepts so easily that he’s going to spend the rest of his life on New Earth, far away from his comrades, his crewmates, his friends. Even further away from his home, including the planet he joined the Maquis to protect. Isn’t he sad? Angry, even? Does he resent Janeway for having an optimism he can’t share?

Chakotay gets to hit some beats here that we don’t see enough: he’s funny, relaxed, even sarcastic. But he doesn’t get to be complicated. The angry warrior story (so fucken racist) paints a picture of a man we’ve rarely gotten to see in Voyager. Apparently “finding true peace” means he’s just really nice and boring.

And the implication that he’s happy to spend the rest of his life alone with Janeway, serving her needs, is … uncomfortable. Both in terms of the racial dynamic, and the pressure it puts on Janeway to be the object of his affection. (I’d last six months before I took that shuttle and went on a permanent camping trip a continent away.)

As a teen, I saw that a lot of the older generation of Janeway/Chakotay shippers — the ones who had been shipping it and posting fic since season 1 — really disliked “Resolutions”. I’m beginning to understand why: this take on the relationship is bland, but not inoffensive.

And the title is, of course, ironic. Nothing is resolved here. In the end, they return to Voyager, resume their old lives as if nothing changed, but acutely aware that something is different, now. And Kathryn “denial is just optimism wearing a goatee” Janeway isn’t ready to acknowledge that.

The littlest mutineer

If the A-plot no longer works for me as well as it once did, I derived new pleasure watching the B-plot, in which Harry takes advantage of the fact that Tuvok is not very good at this whole captaining thing.

I don’t know how much I buy that Tuvok is so lacking in emotional intelligence as to miss that the crew is absolutely devastated by the abandonment of Janeway and Chakotay. He is, after all, Vulcan’s Best Dad. But maybe he’s experiencing some denial of his own — after all, at no point does he change into a command red uniform, or even add extra pips to his collar. He’s still recording the “acting captain’s log”.

Is that Voyager being half-hearted again, or intentional characterisation? Let’s pretend it’s the latter.

Maybe, if Tuvok was a bit more dedicated to Being Captainly, the rest of the crew would be coping better and, accordingly, making fewer punctuation errors.

(Let’s take a moment to appreciate B’Elanna Torres, Academy Dropout, lecturing her staff about proper report writing. I’m pretty sure B’Elanna’s reports as a student were scribbled on the back of a beer label an hour before they were due.)

On the other hand, Harry is out of line when he starts arguing with Tuvok on the bridge. Which isn’t a bad thing! This is meant to be a drama, after all, and it’s unusual — but not out of character — for Harry to push like this. You can actually see Tom thinking, “Wait, these are the sorts of shenanigans I’m known for!”

Harry and a mixed team of Maquis and Starfleet discontents (and Neelix) plotting together to undermine Tuvok and find a solution to their problem felt like a flashback to season 1 — and in a good way. Seska would be so proud! Except for the bit where Harry approaches Tuvok with the idea in private, that is far too appropriate and respectful for her taste, and I doubt she would appreciate Tuvok’s lovely PJs.

Harry’s plan to contact the Vidiians and offer B’Elanna’s DNA in exchange for a cure for the bug disease is … not great, but it’s a solid start, and he even gets B’Elanna’s consent before he starts offering her DNA around, which I’m sure she found refreshing.

Tuvok, nevertheless, is unconvinced on account of the strong probability that the Vidiians would rather just take everyone’s organs and go. He even goes so far as to refer to previous episodes, which is how you know he’s a great tactical officer who pays attention and stuff.

The crew tries emotional blackmail! It’s super effective!

They basically do what Tuvix did last week — send Kes in to intervene on their behalf.

It works because, well, Kes wants to be there, and she makes a strong argument that Tuvok needs to consider the emotional well-being of his crew. It only succeeds because, well, the plot needs it to, but it’s a nice scene. Kes talks a little about her childhood, and how her father shaped her as a person (because this is a Jeri Taylor script, and mothers are an afterthought).

As for the (low-key) confrontation on the bridge that follows — well, it’s a straight-up mutiny. Non-violent, but still.

Maybe Tuvok really wanted an excuse to go back for Janeway. Or maybe he was remembering that time in season 1 where he led the mutiny? Who knows? Again — it works because the plot needs it to, and no one ever speaks of it again.

And then we move into a fairly cheap action sequence, as the Vidiians SHOCKINGLY BETRAY them but, thanks to Denara Pel, they escape with the cure and all their body parts.

As action sequences go, this is not Voyager‘s finest

For one thing, it’s intercut with Janeway and Chakotay talking about their relationship (“defining parameters” because Kathryn Janeway is A DELIGHTFUL NERD), which is jarring.

But also because Tuvok outlines his strategy for survival in detail, and then it … goes off without a hitch. Jeri, this is not how you write a good battle scene. This is the climactic scene of an otherwise quiet episode — where is the tension?!

Costume notes

“Resolutions” takes place over a number of weeks, and features more costume changes than most episodes. Which makes it even stranger that Tuvok doesn’t change his uniform — did they blow their budget on Chakotay’s waistcoats?

Chakotay’s outfits are mostly your standard Late Nineties Trek Man Clothes, ie, billowy shirts and vests. (I have long been tempted to create Vests Of Nineties Sci Fi Dot Tumblr Dot Com.) He looks outdoorsy, but also a bit dashing, which is fitting for his role as love interest.

Janeway wears a series of short-sleeved dresses with interesting (but not plunging) necklines. And pockets! I’m always intrigued by how feminine her civilian outfits are; they feel like another artefact of the off-screen tension around having a woman in command. But I like these dresses; they feel like a better fit for her character than the silky pink nightgowns we occasionally see.

(Her pyjamas here are powder blue with a hanfu collar, which, in a classic white person error, is crossed over on the wrong side.)

My main concern about Janeway’s outfits in “Resolutions”: her shoes. She is constantly roaming the woods wearing bare legs and ballet flats! Kathryn, you’re already suffering the permanent effects of a bug bite, and now you’re risking New Earth Lyme disease too? Invest in some cute boots, girl. You deserve it.

House matters

Okay, so at the end, when they’re packing up to leave New Earth, Janeway tells the monkey she befriended, “Feel free to keep the house.”

That was a joke, right? They’re not gonna leave this ugly prefab Federation structure behind? It has a replicator! And a sonic shower! And … bedrooms which are right off the main living space, separated only by a transparent half-wall!

(I have questions.)

Let’s assume it was a joke. No other explanation makes sense.

Other observations

  • I love Tuvok’s farewell. “Captain Janeway, it was an honour serving with you and being in your magnificent presence and getting to see your remarkable hair every day. And, Commander Chakotay, you were … there.”
  • Chakotay spends his free time doing sandpainting, a traditional Navajo artform. Is he Navajo now? Let’s … not think too hard about this.
  • (Okay, but the depiction of Native American culture(s) in “Resolutions” is particularly mediocre.)
  • (So fucken racist.)
  • I’ve given Voyager a lot of crap for not dealing with continuity, so I feel obliged to acknowledge that this episode features the returns of Denara Pel and Hogan, and a reference to the events of “Deadlock” (but not the bit where Harry died).
  • Janeway is using hanging traps to capture a burrowing insect, because … I dunno. But I saw that prop at a museum exhibition when I was in my late teens, and definitely had A Shipper Moment.
  • It’s not as if she’s ever bad, but Kate Mulgrew is especially good in this episode.
  • I barely mentioned the monkey because monkeys freak me out. Their feet are hands. That’s not okay.

In conclusion

Writing these posts, I often feel like I’m in conversation with my past self, and never more than here. I find myself wondering if I’m enjoying an episode in its own right, or enjoying the feelings I remember having.

The answer, this week, is, “both”. I expected to spend “Resolutions” cringing at my terrible adolescent taste, but I found I can still understand the appeal it held for me. At the same time, I derived new enjoyment from the scenes aboard Voyager. (TUVOK IS TO COMMAND AS SAREK IS TO FATHERHOOD.)

“Resolutions” is not an essential episode, and some of its elements have aged very badly (so fucken … you know). But I still like it, almost against my better judgement. Three cute dresses out of five.

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