Janeway and Chakotay: The Relationship that Never Was… Or Was It? / by Trek fm

An audio version of this Captain’s Log is available.

by Charlynn Schmiedt

Troi and Riker. Paris and Torres. Worf and Dax. Janeway and Chakotay.

Wait, Janeway and Chakotay? Yes… sort of. It’s the relationship that’s been the topic of an endless stream of discussion—and fan fiction—since the mid-1990s.

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It started off innocently enough: a flirtatious comment here, a meaningful touch there. Some wrote the actions off because Janeway regularly showed affection for all of her crew with pats on the arm, shoulder, and so forth. Others saw much more to it. Then we got “Resolutions,” where a virus strands Janeway and Chakotay together on a planet. After Voyager leaves them and continues its journey to the Alpha Quadrant, Janeway quickly goes to work in search of a cure for the virus despite the fact that the Doctor had no luck prior to Voyager leaving its command team behind. Meanwhile, Chakotay takes on a more domestic role. He takes care of the cooking since Kathryn despises the task. He uses the resources at his disposal to make headboards, and even a bathtub after Kathryn tells him that a bath is her favorite way of relaxing.

You know, that is pretty romantic. How could something like that not melt the heart of someone who enjoys a hot bath?

Although Janeway does appreciate the gestures, her scientific mind is still set on finding a cure that will let them leave. She sees their stay on the planet as a temporary home, but Chakotay has already accepted the possibility that they may grow old and die there. When all of Janeway’s research equipment is destroyed during a devastating plasma storm, Janeway must finally accept the idea of spending the rest of her life planetside.

She must also acknowledge the romantic tension that’s been brewing between her and Chakotay. He tells her a thinly-veiled “ancient legend,” as he calls it, about a man who never really felt at peace with himself until he vowed to help a “woman warrior” on her mission. Janeway slides her hand into his as the tears come down her cheeks, and what happens afterward is left to the imagination.

Although there were already fans on the Internet who saw potential for a Janeway/Chakotay relationship before “Resolutions” aired, that episode was the catalyst for a major group of “relationshippers” in the Voyager fandom. Fans showed their support for the pairing with sites such as “Janeway and Chakotay in ’96!” (it was an election year in the U.S.), the JetC email group, message boards on AOL, and of course, an explosion of fan fiction on alt.startrek.creative.

Even now, nearly sixteen years since “Resolutions” aired, fans have taken it upon themselves to explore all that could have been on the Internet. On YouTube, fans share their painstaking efforts at creating music videos that feature the couple. Others show off their Photoshop talents with image manipulations that put Janeway and Chakotay in sometimes NSFW situations. And of course, there’s the fan fiction, where authors bring the two together in infinite time frames and methods. The fans do the above simply for their own enjoyment and the delight of others who also keep the movement alive.

Here are a few examples of the many Janeway+Chakotay creations…

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Wallpaper by Em-agination. Find the full-size version here.

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Wallpaper by be_lanna@LJ. Find the full-size version here.

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Another wallpaper by be_lanna@LJ. Find the full-size version here.

It should be noted that a vast majority of the fans in support of a relationship between Voyager’s captain and first officer were—and still are—women. This was not an accident, and not because Voyager had a largely female audience; the show, like all Trek series, was targeted toward males 18-25. It just so happened that a large number of the women that did watch Voyager saw potential for something they had never seen before on Star Trek: the potential for a captain to fall in love and manage her personal and professional lives without compromising either. For women in the late 20th century who were managing their own careers, children, and relationships, this idea was relatable. Janeway could have been the archetype for today’s “superwoman” who’s doing it all. And let’s not forget that men do this, too. For many people, work and family are the basic elements of a fulfilling life. That’s a human trait, not specific to either sex.

It was a golden chance for Voyager to put the reset button aside and venture into new territory, but not without risk. There was concern that letting Janeway pursue a committed relationship would turn the show into “Melrose Space” and weaken the character. This worried Kate Mulgrew to the point that she “put her foot down” in the writers’ room and insisted that they drop the prospect.

Besides what might have happened behind the scenes, there was also the issue of Janeway’s engagement to a man named Mark. Such a commitment isn’t something Janeway would take lightly, so it makes sense that she would keep him at the forefront of her thoughts no matter how long the journey home took. This is addressed in the season four episode “Hunters,” where she learns that Mark did wait for her, but recently remarried. She later discusses the “Dear John” letter with Chakotay, admitting that she used her engagement as a safety net to avoid becoming involved with anyone else. That gone, it seemed like the door was open for a long-awaited romance. (In a scene cut from the episode, Janeway and Chakotay finally discuss their relationship. The scene shows up in the UPN promo trailer below, but did not appear in the episode that aired.

However, one more obstacle stands in the way. Starfleet regulations prohibit a captain from fraternization with a subordinate officer (although that didn’t stop Picard). In truth, Janeway probably could have ignored this rule due to Voyager’s unusual circumstances of being 70,000 light years away from the Alpha Quadrant and gotten little trouble from Starfleet Command. Nevertheless, she doesn’t bend the rules and a full-blown romance never ensues.

What happens instead is a series of little moments that suggest a deeply entwined friendship. The flirtatious moments continued, as did affectionate hand-holds and chest pats. They got leid in Tom Paris’ tropical resort holodeck program. They shared champagne and a moonlight sail together on Lake George. As time passed, Janeway and Chakotay’s relationship took on more of a parental feel rather than a romantic one. They regularly got together for dinner to talk personnel matters while nurturing the connection between them.

This Janeway-Chakotay sketch was done by MadameManga. See the full-size version here and MadameManga’s other work on DeviantArt.

This Janeway-Chakotay sketch was done by MadameManga.

See the full-size version here and MadameManga’s other work on DeviantArt.

Toward the end of Voyager’s journey, Chakotay and Seven of Nine start a romance. Many fans complained that it didn’t seem plausible because the characters had little connection beforehand, and it had the feel of being thrown together at the last minute. In the non-canon Trek novels, Chakotay promptly ends his relationship with Seven shortly after returning to the Alpha Quadrant and he takes command of Voyager after Janeway is promoted to Admiral. Chakotay and Janeway do consummate their relationship, but just before Janeway’s untimely death. In the canon universe, the jury is still out. We know that Janeway was promoted to Admiral after she got Voyager home. The rest, like many things started on the show that were never brought to their full potential, is left to the imagination. And that, of course, is why we have fan fiction.