April 18, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Weekend Trek “Initiations”

Chakotay ruins a young Kazon's initiation ritual by surviving an attack and then saving the boy's life.

The late Aron Eisenberg, Nog over on Deep Space Nine, pops up here as a Kazon youth going through his initiation into adulthood in his violent, unstable society.  He does a good job here, but I expect as much from the guy, and there’s nothing of Nog in Kar.  You know, aside from the actor himself.

The basic premise is this:  Chakotay is off by himself in a shuttlecraft to perform a ceremony in honor of the anniversary of his father’s death.  However, he is unknowingly in Kazon territory, and a boy named Kar is out to earn his name by killing an enemy in battle.  Chakotay’s just being there makes him an enemy, and when Kar attacks, he tries to talk his way out, then uses his shuttlecraft to disable Kar’s engines before beaming the boy to the shuttle before the Kazon ship explodes.  That, it turns out, is the one way Kar can fail his test.  If he kills his enemy, he wins out and gets a name.  If he dies in battle, well, he still died in battle.  If he does neither and the enemy spares his life…well, that’s just bad, and when the Kazon mothership shows up to scoop up the shuttle.  The Kazon onboard don’t seem to know what to do with either Chakotay or Kar, but it does seem clear they’re going to kill both of them eventually.

OK, the rest of the episode more or less plays out as expected.  Janeway learns Chakotay is late and goes off to look for her first officer.  Chakotay, with Kar’s help, then escapes to the planet where the Kazon train their boys (with lethal training sessions), and Voyager does manage to catch up.  Heck, Neelix even proves his worth by correctly reading the situation with the Kazon when they confront Voyager.  Chakotay keeps up with his general spiritual near-pacifist beliefs, and he learns through Kar about Kazon culture, how basically it’s a kill-or-be-killed society that only within the last two decades or so has fought itself free from another alien race.  The number of Kazon’s groups and the extent of their territory changes by the day.  They see treating people with gentleness as a sign of weakness, and killing an enemy, even an unwitting one, is the the height of manhood.

Like I said, it’s not exactly a surprising episode.  Chakotay even offers to let Kar kill him with the understanding that the Doctor can just revive him.  Sure, Kar instead kills his Kazon superior, his true enemy, and that works out to everyone’s satisfaction, but there’s a part of me that thinks any character on the ship would have done something very similar because, well, this is a Star Trek episode.  But part of Chakotay’s utility as a character here is that he, and he alone, is a spiritual man on the ship.  Would any of the other characters have told the Kazon that they had no beef with them?  Sure.  But this is something of an atheistic universe, so having anyone with any religion (even if Chakotay’s exact religion is a bit vague in part because I don’t think the series ever said what his tribe is and that might count for something as far as his spiritual beliefs are concerned) would make everything different.  Chakotay sounds fairly close to a pacifist here.

I’m gonna ignore how he was part of the Maquis militia group when I say that because, well, they had a different idea on violence as a tool.

But could another character do it?  Sure, but not the same way.  Tuvok would use Vulcan logic, and Janeway might fall back on her general air of authority.  Paris would be a bit smarmy about the whole thing while Kim would be more clumsy as a rookie.  The Doctor couldn’t unless everything took place in sickbay.  Kes seems even more of a pacifist than Chakotay but lacks his general spirituality as a character.  Neelix is a bit of a wildcard as is Torres if her Klingon temper gets the better of her.  Ultimately, the end result would be the same, but Chakotay is probably the best character to use in this scenario.

Even if it might be a little…troublesome that the Native American member of the crew is the spiritual one on the ship.

Anyway, it’s a good showcase for Chakotay as a character because even though it might work with any characters among the main cast, it probably works best with him.