JANEWAY/CHAKOTAY (YES, THAT WAY)
The following was written as an editorial comment in response to an article that ran in Now Voyager. The article -- the first coherent piece we ran about J/C, in the "Kathryn Janeway, Feminist Heroine" column -- was written by a passing P/C fan (for the uninitiated, that's Picard/Crusher--Beverly, not Wesley--as in "they got married and lived happily ever after") who realized she wasn't the only one keeping a Touchy-Feely Count of how often Janeway got her paws on Chakotay and how often Chakotay got a goofy grin on his face when he looked at Janeway. She cited the winking in "Parallax," the animal guide scene in "The Cloud," the naked chest rub in "Cathexis" and the subtext all over "The 37s" as proof. Here are my reactions.
Kate Mulgrew's comment on the subject was, "Janeway's not going to cross that line, ever." I almost ran this letter along with the innuendo on the Funny Pages, but then I started to think about how often the powers that be at Paramount have disregarded what female viewers want to see, out of concern for that all-important young male demographic, and I couldn't bring myself to do the same. I'm torn between the urge to refute it so the producers don't throw Chakotay into the arms of the first available alien bimbo -- that's what Tom Paris is for! -- versus the desire to point out that if she weren't on to something, there wouldn't be an entire message board on this topic on America Online. And just look at those "37s" reviews.
The reasons for agreeing with Kate are simple: we've never had a female regular on Star Trek who really had independent sexuality, separate from all the guys with power over her. Uhura had Kirk, Chapel had Spock, Crusher had Picard, Troi had Riker, Kira had Bareil, and both Kira and Dax had Sisko in at least one universe. So if J/C would bring about a diminished Janeway who's going to fall victim to accusations that she's too sentimental and can't hack it alone, I vote against pursuing the relationship on the show. I also have little faith in the ability of many viewers of our own century to respect a man taking orders from a woman he's involved with, and that is obviously a necessary prerequisite.
On the other hand, I keep coming back to something else Kate said when I interviewed her --"The greatest privilege we know is love, and the only way to supplement that is with something about which you are so passionate that you must do it" -- and I can't help but wonder if she really wants to see Janeway maintain some abstract ideal of career decorum, even if Janeway loves the work, at the cost of emotional intimacy for the rest of her life. It's not a fair trade, for the captain of Voyager or for any of us.
I don't think it's a victory for feminism to suggest that women -- or men -- are better off living and dying alone just to demonstrate their independence and self-possession. The old Trek guys all had women to lean on, and I've never heard anyone question their ability to command as a result. Kirk and Picard's inability to deal with relationships got grotesque -- in Generations it was downright misogynistic--and if Trek is ever going to give us a long-term relationship between lead characters, it makes sense that it would be on Voyager, since they're out there for 70 years. And it also makes sense for Janeway. She's not Picard, she's a people person. As we've all noted, she's warm, she touches people, she knows when to let down the decorum, she's capable of being affectionate -- even flirting -- without losing any of her authority.
I don't know that I agree that we first get the urge to consider this during "Parallax." I think a lot of people got it in "Caretaker" when Chakotay said "She's the captain" (possibly the sexiest three words ever uttered on network television). I also think it's remarkable that Chakotay has not disagreed with a single command decision that Janeway has made -- he backed her completely when she blew up the Array, we didn't hear a peep from him on Sikarius. It's odd enough that they don't quibble more about the little things, but really astounding how readily he's conceded the big issues to her without even asking questions. He's more Starfleet than a lot of Starfleeters -- Tuvok and Carey have been less loyal than Chakotay. He's seemed to deal better with being stranded in the Delta Quadrant than almost anyone else, didn't say a word in "Eye of the Needle" about how anxious he was to get home, didn't fight much for it in "Prime Factors" -- and he got over Seska awfully fast. Either he has no personality whatsoever (blame the writers), he's taking heavy doses of valium, or he'd rather sit next to Janeway on that bridge for the rest of his life than be anywhere else.
Sure, protocol's a problem, and they might have a big brouhaha if they actually get back to Federation space. But from their present perspectives, they're likely to be out there for the rest of their lives. No one is going to expect the commanding officers to remain in command mode 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for 70 years, not if they want them to continue to function adequately. It's not that I think Janeway can't hack it alone; it's that I don't want her to have to, based on some ridiculous protocol. And Chakotay's a dream guy for a feminist heroine -- forgetting that he's smart and strong and good-looking, he's a natural leader who's nonetheless willing to cede his authority over his own crew for the common good, even to work for an organization he disavowed. No macho crap there, no fierce Maquis warrior baggage. Just self-possession and confidence.
I've heard complaints that Janeway's not military enough, because she touches people and cries in front of subordinates and asks for second opinions. Maybe that doesn't wash now in the U.S. armed forces, but there's no reason to believe that our values about decorum and leadership won't alter by the 24th century the same way Trek assumes that we'll have eradicated racism, sexism, and speciesism. Can't we assume that our values about love will alter as well -- that abuse, homophobia, and harrassment will become things of the past, that behavior like Kirk's and Riker's will be acceptable precisely because it's not common and therefore not terribly threatening to women?
I look at Janeway and Chakotay and think, these people respect each other, they like each other, they're friends, they trusted each other instinctively from the start, they agree on the important issues. And the chemistry is, well, hard not to notice; surely people on their ship gossip as much as some of us have. Is there any stronger basis for a relationship? We have no role models to depict love between true equals; I suspect none of us have ever seen such a partnership thrive in the public and private spheres with equal success. But that doesn't mean we can't hope. Isn't dreaming a better future what Star Trek is about?