9.07.2011

Star Trek: Commander Chakotay

As with Garrett Wang, I have boundless respect for "Latindio" actor Robert Beltran for the BS he put up with while starring on Star Trek: Voyager.  If you Google his name, along with the usual options you get "Robert Beltran Hates Star Trek" and "Robert Beltran Hates Voyager".

"Certain" Trek fans haven't been pleased with how candid Beltran's been about his displeasure with Star Trek; some even go so far as to talk about the "big chip on his shoulder" (gee...where have we heard that one before?). We at the Narrative, however, totally understand why he's mad.

Character Pros

1) Commander Chakotay was the first Native American we saw regularly serve as bridge officer.

2) Chakotay was also the first POC that audiences saw regularly serve as First Officer to a Captain.

3) Chakotay was a real Maquis, i.e., his home and his people were threatened when the Federation just handed their planet over to the Cardassians.

4) Because Chakotay was the Commander, the writers couldn't constantly pull an Ensign Kim with him.  He was the Captain's right arm, and there was no getting around that.  He commanded many missions and made many crucial decisions.  He was blunt with his Captain and he never ran scared from anyone.

5) We actually did get to learn quite a bit about Chakotay in terms of family, interests (anthropology, boxing), and culture.  We learned he was a man of principle, with the ability to empathize with and understand other people (or at least try).

6) Chakotay was sexual (in the beginning, anyway); we saw him out of his clothes (very nice) and we saw him in some (but not nearly enough) romantic entanglements.

Character Cons

*rubs temples*

1) Though the writers technically couldn't pull an Ensign Kim with Chakotay, this doesn't mean they didn't try.  There were times when Chakotay's presence actually caught the audience by surprise.  It was like, "Oh...forgot you were there.  And supposed to be in charge."

2) Because we sometimes forgot Chakotay existed, by the third season we also forgot all those wonderful things we'd learned about him personally.  By season six or seven, Chakotay literally had to remind the audience he was anthropologist; it would just randomly and repetitively pop up in dialogue.  Dude hadn't been an anthropologist for about five years, but near the end of the show he [read: the writers] suddenly remembered he was. 

3) Which reminds me...after about season three or so, the writers also forgot that Chakotay was a Native American with a strong sense of identity.  This most likely happened after that god awful episode in which Chakotay basically met his "alien ancestors" because apparently, the only way ancient POC evolved was through the intervention of aliens. - Catastrophic fail.

4) As a member of the Maquis, Chakotay wasn't written as being very competent.  He let Lt. Paris into the fold - that was a bust.  He let in Lt. Cmdr. Tuvok, who spied for the Federation.  He let in Suder, a sociopathic Betazoid who murdered people simply because they looked at him the wrong way (seriously).  And he let in Seska, a Cardassian spy pretending to be a Bajoran woman (whom he also slept with and was deeply humiliated by).  So when he was made Commander of Voyager, the audience had to pause and wonder if he was, in fact, the best choice for the job.  This is highly contradictory writing, because the audience was also "told" of how experienced and seasoned Chakotay was.  Well?  Which was it?

5) Despite being sexually active, Chakotay's luck with women was on the same level as Ensign Kim's...except Kim got more play.  Quick recap for Chakotay: there was the woman who betrayed, violated, and humiliated him, the Captain he couldn't have, the woman he was "programmed" to forget when she left, and then there was that random, last-minute, WTF-were-they-thinking "romance" with Seven of Nine, an ex-Borg drone whose body comprised several deadened and artificial parts - ewww much? - Like...Apocalyptic fail.

Final Verdict

Hell, no.  Yet another gorgeous, talented actor of color got screwed over heinously after being cast in a role with immense potential.  Beltran's wrath is more than justified.  The character Chakotay generated more WTF moments than I can count.  By the end of the series I just had to ask, "Why did you people even bother?"

6 comments:

  1. Jeez, what a babe! YUM!

    No wonder he left. I would have bailed too after all that bull.

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  2. He actually stuck out the whole seven years. But his interviews since have been quite blunt.

    And yes...he was one hell of a babe.

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  3. Thank you for setting the record straight about Beltran. I never kept up with Voyager and kept hearing repeated reports about how he was a primadonna, was difficult to work with and had a chip on his shoulder and all this other ish.

    I'm glad to find out what was REALLY going on.

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  4. @ Neo-Prodigy

    I always raise an eyebrow whenever an actor of color from a predominantly non-POC cast gets shit on by "certain" fans. They tend to have a very skewed perspective about this things, completely incapable of stepping into POC shoes and seeing things from a POC perspective.

    I've noticed how whenever POC actors from the Star Trek franchise voice anything resembling criticism of the writing, immediately certain fans start singing the "chip on the shoulder" song. They're suddenly "ungrateful", having played the "worst" character ever, and so on and so forth.

    But that's Hollywhite and its minions for you.

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  5. he was a gentleman and well-liked by the cast and crew. every review i have read of his theatre performances mention his extraordinary talent and charisma on-stage.

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