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Recap / Star Trek Voyager S 2 E 9 "Tattoo"

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On an away team on an uninhabited moon looking for polyferranide, Chakotay finds a strange, spiraling symbol draw into the ground. Chakotay recognizes the symbol as "Chah-moo-see," which he found with his father during a trip in the Amazon looking for the Rubber Tree People. Chakotay didn't believe in his father's myths, which caused a rift between them, but he now reasons that the Sky Spirits took the Rubber Tree People to Earth. Torres finds a warp signature leading away from the moon, so Janeway proposes to follow it.

They reach an uninhabited planet, and an away team beams down. A storm kicks up, causing Chakotay to recall the storm he experienced with his father on their Amazon expedition. While on the surface, Chakotay continues to flash back to his father's mission and keeps seeing a face in the flashes of lightning. They find an abandoned structure that looks similar to the one his father found in the Amazon. Judging by his past experience, Chakotay suggests that the inhabitants are merely hiding, so he drops his weapons. In the past, this helped his father make contact with the Rubber Tree People. Chakotay sees an alien figure in the distance and runs after it as the storm picks up, causing the rest of the away team to beam back to the ship.

While all this is happening, Kes confronts the Doctor about his lack of sympathy for his patients, since he never experiences any pain or illness. He programs himself to experience a 29-hour flu to show how easy it is, but the symptoms gradually get worse and worse, causing him a lot of difficulty. When 30 hours pass, he panics, and Kes admits that she added two hours to his illness to teach him a lesson.

Janeway tries to land Voyager on the planet to recover Chakotay, but it gets swept up in a huge storm. Meanwhile, Chakotay finally manages to coax the aliens out. They are all wearing the same tattoo and address him in the language of his tribe, which Chakotay never learned, so they use their own universal translator. They explain that Chakotay should have an instinctive memory of them, but the face he keeps seeing is all that's left. They explain that he comes from "the Inheritors," a tribe of people the aliens found and gave a genetic bond that would help them protect each other and their land. Later, the tribe was decimated by disease and greedy invaders, so the Rubber Tree People that his father found were all that remained, still worshipping the aliens as the Sky Spirits.

The Sky Spirits end the storm just before Voyager is destroyed and offer up as much polyferranide as they can spare. Chakotay explains that he got his tattoo to honor his father, who died defending his land from new invaders (Cardassians), and the Sky Spirits approve. Before he leaves, he looks up at a flying hawk, and his father's voice ask if he hears it, echoing a question asked during their expedition. This time, Chakotay says that yes, he finally does.

This episode has the following tropes:

  • A Day in the Limelight: An episode about Chakotay.
  • Adventurer Outfit: Kolopak's 'expedition hat'.
  • Age Cut: Chakotay's memories of his father's expedition, to contemporary Chakotay copying what his father did.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: The Sky Spirits' planet is earthlike, with orchids and hawks. It's to be assumed that there was some sort of exchange of flora and fauna between them and the Inheritors.
  • Always on Duty:
    EMH: I don't have a life. I have a program.
  • Ancient Astronauts: The 'Sky Spirits' traveled to Earth long ago and met Chakotay's distant ancestors, giving them a desire for exploration that aided in their spreading across the world.
  • BBC Quarry: The episode opens with an away team poking about in a gully full of rocks.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: In the opening scene, Kes is clearly irritated by the Doctor's flippant response to Ensign Wildman's pregnancy pains. She later openly states that she altered the "symptoms" he programmed into himself to modify the time they would affect him, reasoning that he wouldn't understand illness without experiencing the uncertainty of when it would end. The Doctor acknowledges that Kes is more devious than he thought.
  • Call-Back: The phasers that Chakotay's father insists the expedition put down are from the Original Series movies (perhaps demilitarized models sold on to the civilian market). Young Chakotay says his application for Starfleet Academy has been backed by Captain Sulu (presumably a relative of Hikaru Sulu).
  • Call-Forward: Young Chakotay mentions he's befriended Starfleet officers assigned to patrol the Cardassian border.
  • Catchphrase: Despite contemplating a change from "Please state the nature of the medical emergency" the Doctor has decided to stick with it because it suits him.
  • Cultural Blending: The result of moving Chakotay's tribe of origin south of the border.
    • The Rubber Tree People worship sky spirits despite living in a jungle with little view of the sky (though you could handwave this as being a result of encountering Ancient Astronauts).
    • Kolopak says his son is contrary as a result of a breech birth. This is a belief among the Plains Indians, not the South American Indians (and it has nothing to do with being a teen rebel) as are medicine wheels ("Cathexis") and vision quests involving psychoactive drugs ("The Cloud"). However it's possible that the off-world colony Chakotay's ancestors moved to may have included other Indian tribes (which could account for some of his ancestry as well) and thus some blending of traditions may have taken place over time.
  • Continuity Nod: The Doctor is treating Samantha Wildman for her pregnancy ("Elogium").
  • Crop Circles: The away team discover a cleared circle of stones surrounding an ancient symbol that Chakotay last saw 70,000 light years away.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Chakotay's commbadge gets knocked off him, and is beamed back to the ship without Chakotay when Tuvok calls for an emergency transport.
  • Dr. Jerk: After the Doctor shows his lack of bedside manner to a pregnant woman, Kes gives him a What the Hell, Hero? speech. So Doc decides to program himself to be sick to set an example.
  • Dutch Angle: Used as the ship is diving inside a gravity well with no inertial dampeners.
  • Exact Time to Failure:
    • Harry Kim reads off the seconds before they hit the ground.
    • The Doctor programs himself with the 29-hour Levodian flu. Thirty hours later, he starts to panic.
  • Eye Scream: Neelix almost loses an eye to a hawk attack.
  • Facial Markings: The Rubber Tree People copying the Rubber-Forehead Aliens.
  • Fanservice: Chakotay strips naked!
  • First Contact: Turns out it's not the first.
  • Flash Back: To Chakotay as a teenager, reluctantly dragged along by his father on an expedition to Central America.
  • Former Teen Rebel: As a teenager, Chakotay is shown to have little patience with his father's interest in the Good Old Ways. He's more interested in a career in Starfleet.
  • Getting Sick Deliberately: It's easier when you can just program yourself to feel sick.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The Rubber Tree People have similar (albeit less-pronounced) forehead ridges to the Sky Spirits, implicitly as a result of the genetic inheritance their ancestors were given. (Chakotay and his tribe don't have them, but they have interbred with others over the centuries; the Rubber People haven't.)
  • Hidden Depths: Tuvok has an hobby in breeding orchids. Neelix is overjoyed as he likes to grow orchids as well. And stew them up.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The Sky Spirit aliens react with hostility to strange aliens who turn up saying I Come in Peace.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Chakotay admits this, but says they're working on it.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The Doctor descends into self pity once he realises the flu he infected himself with isn't ending when he expects.
    "I feel like I'm fading, fading away! You don't know what that means to a hologram!"
  • I Come in Peace: The aliens believe Voyager's message about their peaceful intentions is a Bastardly Speech, as the Inheritors told them of other races who have come with the same message, but delivered death and slavery.
  • Iconic Item: Chakotay's tattoo actually copies the one worn by his father, to honor the Sky Spirits.
  • Inertial Dampening: The inertial dampeners go off-line while Voyager is plunging into the cyclone.
    Kim: Could we go to low warp under these conditions?
    Paris: The ship might make it without inertial dampers, but we'd all just be stains on the back wall.
  • I Know You're Watching Me: Remembering the ability of the Rubber Tree People to do a Stealth Hi/Bye, Chakotay lays down his weapons (and later even his clothes) to show he has no hostile intent to anyone hiding in the jungle.
  • Juxtaposed Halves Shot: The alien and Chakotay are facing each other, so there's an Over the Shoulder shot of Chakotay, then an Over the Shoulder shot of the alien, each time showing half their face with the other half blocked by the person they're talking to.
  • Leave No Man Behind: Janeway attempts to land the ship to recover Chakotay. Unfortunately, the storm on the surface is an artificial defense mechanism strong enough to crash a starship.
  • Magical Native American: The Sky Spirits passed on "a genetic bonding so they might thrive and protect your world" to a nomadic Earth tribe they called the Inheritors, whose respect for the land and other living creatures impressed them. This genetic inheritance caused them to experience a sense of curiosity and adventure causing the Inheritors to spread across the world, profoundly affecting other species they encountered. The aliens assume the Inheritors were wiped out long ago, but Chakotay turns out to have inherited the same genetic bond.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Yes father, I finally hear him."
  • Never Tell Me the Odds!
    Computer: Warning. Approach vector is too steep. Discontinue landing sequence.
    Paris: Would somebody turn that off, please?
  • Noble Savage: Played painfully straight with Native Americans. With the twist that Chakotay's ancestors specifically copied their culture wholesale from a group of Noble Space Savages.
  • Noisy Nature: The hawk gives the usual Stock Sound Effects.
  • No Sympathy: The Doctor (until he becomes ill longer than he expected).
    Harry Kim: Doc, I don't feel so good.
    EMH: Neither do I, and you don't hear me complaining.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: When asked how seriously he takes his people's creation myth, Chakotay asks Janeway how seriously she takes Adam and Eve. While Chakotay does practice his people's religion, he has apparently taken a "broad strokes" approach, at least until this episode.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: Justified given their connection to the Rubber Tree People!
  • Series Continuity Error: Kes states that the Doctor has never experienced pain or illness before, which he admits is true. However, he did experience pain (as well as hunger) in "Projections," but pointing that out would diminish the impact of this episode's plot.
  • Science-Fiction Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Another Alpha Quadrant connection for fans to groan about. However the alien says it took over two generations to get to Earth, and they clearly haven't made contact in a while.
  • Shock and Awe: Lightning repeatedly stabs into the ground in front of a cave. Chakotay braves the lightning and passes unhurt.
  • Sick Episode: For The Doctor, as he simulates an illness for himself so he can prove to the crew he can still uphold his duties while being sick. Kes makes that part last a bit longer than he intended just to make it fair.
  • Smug Smiler: Harry has the biggest shit-eating grin when Kes reveals the trick she pulled on the Doctor.
  • Space Amish: Chakotay's tribe, and the Rubber Tree People.
  • Space "X": The Doctor creates holographic tissues and holographic towels to cope with his holographic flu. It was originally going to be the common cold, but was changed to Levodian flu.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Kolopak warns young Chakotay that if he rejects his tribe, he'll be forever caught between worlds.
  • Straw Vulcan: Tuvok insists on remaining armed on an uncharted planet until first contact has been established, in accordance with Starfleet protocol. Chakotay refuses based solely on a hunch, brushing off Tuvok's argument with "the logical course isn't always the right course", and it works out for him by blind luck.
  • That Cloud Looks Like...: Chakotay sees the face of an Inheritor in the storm clouds.
  • That's an Order!: Chakotay when Tuvok balks at laying down his phaser.
  • Toplessness from the Back: The audience gets a full-body shot of Chakotay from the rear (yes, including his rear). Unfortunately he's a body double, not Robert Beltran, as keen-eyed viewers can tell from the men's haircuts not quite matching.
  • Translator Microbes: Chakotay doesn't speak more than a few words of the 'ancient language' until the alien places a gizmo in his palm.
  • Tribal Face Paint: Chakotay's tattoo turns out to be copied from the Rubber Tree People. Which is just as well.
  • *Twang* Hello: Alarmed by the sudden appearance of the Rubber Tree People, one of the members of the expedition grabs for a phaser and nearly gets an Impaled Palm from a spear. Bonus points because of the dubbed-in bowstring sound, even though spears are thrown by hand.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Chakotay's spiritual journey is story A, while the Doctor's descent into illness is story B.
  • Weather Manipulation: The aliens use this ability in response to any act of aggression, nearly destroying Voyager until Chakotay convinces them of his peaceful intentions. Either they didn't think it through or the special effects team screwed up, since the hurricane we see should really have devastated a good chunk of the continent.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Turns out Chakotay's spiritual practices are done in memory of his father, from whom he was estranged at the time of his death.
  • White Man's Burden: In this case, white alien's burden, though to be fair, they're more of a greyish-white.