FIRST WORLD: (“TATTOO”) TREATMENT
Chakotay and B’Elenna are leading an Away Team looking for dilithium or other useful minerals on one of the moons circling an earthlike planet. Following his tricorder readings, Chakotay moves past a rocky outcropping–and finds a small, abandoned campsite. Someone has been here before!
Curious, Chakotay investigates the site, and makes another, more astounding discovery. Scratched into the ground is a circular symbol showing a series of lines radiating out to the edge from a central hub, like the spokes of a wheel: Chakotay stares. He knows this symbol. It’s the Medicine Wheel, one of the sacred signs of his planet, representing healing and peace. What could it be doing out here, in the Gamma Quadrant, where none of his people has ever been? Back on Voyager, Chakotay and B’Elenna make their report. The moon has minerals in abundance, so abundant, in fact, that it has been mined many times in the past by whoever left that camp behind. Of more interest to Chakotay, though, is the symbol, and Janeway too is fascinated when Tuvok reports that the symbol isn’t unique to Chakotay’s planet. It’s actually an ancient Mayan pictograph, from an Earth civilization that died out almost a thousand years ago.
The mystery deepens as Kim discovers great energy emanating from a place they can’t pinpoint on the planet beyond the moon. There are no observable signs of intelligent life, but there’s definitely a man-made power supply there somewhere. Chakotay’s people (and virtually all Native Americans on Earth) have a legend about “Sky Spirits” coming down to the planet. Could this be the Sky Spirit’s home?
Janeway decides to send an Away Team to the planet to make contact with its inhabitants. She doesn’t want to start mining someone else’s minerals without at least discussing it with them first–and if they have any capability for traveling back to Federation space, well, she definitely wants to know about that too.
Like most Indians, Chakotay has always felt alienated, a member of a very private culture. Now, faced with the prospect of finding others like him, he goes through his things, takes out a pendant in the shape of his planet’s version of the Medicine Wheel. He thinks back to his childhood, to the times spent with at the campfire with the old Storyteller whose responsibility was to educate the children in their duty to be the “keepers of the land,” and live in harmony with all other creatures. Paris comments on the situation ironically, but that doesn’t keep Chakotay from doing what feels so right–and wearing the pendant as he and the rest of the party beam down.
Also on the Away Team is Kim, as well as Neelix and Kes. Kes’ adventuresome spirit and eagerness have touched Janeway, and Neelix insists he has to go along with her because he’s such a fine “diplomat,” although he’s really concerned more with protecting the woman he loves. When they arrive on the planet, it proves to be like a great prairie, its fields separated by mountain ranges–a separation that occurs at very precise intervals, as though somehow the landscape was artificially created. Plant and animal life abound, but there’s no sign of any people.
The search for the civilization is just getting underway when a wind storm blows up out of nowhere. The Away team’s camp is destroyed, and when the winds die down, as suddenly as they started, Kes is missing. On Voyager, Tuvok notes that energy readings from the unknown source rose greatly during the storm, and wonders if it could have been a deliberate creation. But how? And, more importantly: Why?
On the planet, Neelix is frantic, and Chakotay leads a search for Kes. They find her in a protected valley, exhausted but unhurt. She has collapsed in the center of another Mayan Medicine Wheel, carefully dug into the ground. Neelix shivers. The symbol is spooking him. But Kes finds it, and this place, very peaceful, urges Chakotay to make it a temporary camp. That night, as he sleeps, Chakotay dreams of horses, running wild and free. In the dream, the Storyteller appears, telling Chakotay’s younger self about the “daily life of our people: The dreams you had last night, the visions you have today, and which animals talk to you and what they say.” As the dream progresses, the Storyteller’s appearance starts to change, almost morphing into something more stylized, more–well, more Mayan, as a matter of fact.
In the morning, Chakotay awakens to the sound of a shriek, and circling in the sky overhead is a hawk, or maybe an eagle. When his eyes make contact with those of the proud bird, Chakotay suddenly feels as though he’s seeing himself–as though he’s the hawk and not the man. In his mind, the hawk seems to speak to him: “Come with me. Forget the others. Come.” Chakotay doesn’t trust the feeling, shakes it off. Besides, he has a responsibility to the team. The hawk flies off, and Chakotay and the others break camp, moving on, trying to track some trace emanations and get to the source of the power.
On the ship, meanwhile, Tuvok is doing his “homework,” reports to Janeway that there are those who believe the Mayan civilization actually stretched all the way north to Colorado, where it was called “Anasazi.” He points out that the Anasazi were cliff dwellers, building their homes into the sides of mountains, for, as he puts it, “no practical reason whatsoever. Unless–”
“Unless they were hiding–from something that otherwise would come at them, from above.”
Janeway grows worried. As Paris points out: “To whoever’s on that planet, we’re the ones coming at them from above.”
On the planet, Chakotay and the Away Team are starting to get somewhere. They’ve found an abandoned cliff dwelling. For the most part, it’s very primitive–but when Neelix joyfully searches the trash he finds some items (broken communications gear? something very computer-like but with no purpose we can discern?) that prove this was, or is, a society that could indeed mine that moon.
Up above, the hawk again circles, “calls out” to Chakotay. Again, he rejects it, and, with the bird soars away–just as an earthquake shakes the mountain! On Voyager, Tuvok gets more readings indicating a great expenditure of power, proving that it’s no coincidence. Someone is causing these “natural” calamities!
When the quake is over, the ruin has been sealed off. Kim and the others are shaken but healthy–but Chakotay is gone, trapped inside. Chakotay tries to communicate with the Away Team, but something is blocking it both ways. Looking around, he finds a narrow passage, has no choice but to crawl through it, hoping to find a way out of the mountain.
Instead, he seems to be going in deeper, as the passage twists and turns. Hungry and thirsty, Chakotay thinks back to his childhood again, when the Storyteller explained why it was important to know the old ways of survival, of the independence and strength such knowledge contained. Again, the Storyteller’s appearance changes. He is almost entirely Mayan now. But his teachings pay off: Chakotay is able to find water condensing on the cold rock, and to eat by scraping off moss.
Then, suddenly, there’s daylight ahead, and Chakotay emerges from the passage to find himself in a blind canyon. At the top of the canyon, calmly looking down at him, perches the hawk. “Now will you come with me, my brother?” it asks, and this time all Chakotay can say is, “How do I get to you?”
The horse circles, and Chakotay realizes he’s got to climb. Deliberately, fighting for every hand-and-toehold, he starts up the cliff, and now he has the third component of traditional “daily life,” a vision in which he relives how it felt to leave his planet and go to Starfleet Academy, to say good-bye to those he loved, including the Storyteller, who now, in his thoughts, resembles no one he has ever really seen before. The Mayan figure of the Storyteller tells Chakotay he must suffer to prove he can be trusted. To prove he is worthy–but of what?
As Chakotay climbs, Janeway has the rest of the Away Team beamed back aboard Voyager. The situation has grown too dangerous, and she intends to send down another party. Led by Paris, this one will be more heavily armed and prepared to break through mountains if that’s what it takes to find Chakotay–and stay safe along the way. As the new Away team is preparing, however, Tuvok reports that the power from the planet is increasing–and an energy storm radiates up from the planet and rocks the ship, so that all Voyager’s power is needed to keep up the shields. Now no one can beam up or down.
On the planet, Chakotay reaches the top of the cliff, finds not only the hawk, but also Aiya, a young woman who looks just the way Mayans have always been pictured. She welcomes Chakotay formally, tells him to come with her, and they make their way across a narrow ledge to another cliff dwelling.
This one is definitely being used, by Mayan-seeming people who live close to nature and yet have complicated shielding and cloaking devices to keep themselves undetected. When we see them with Chakotay, we know we’re seeing close relatives, culturally and genetically. The Mayan who appeared as the Storyteller stops forward. His name is Ehecotl (or perhaps it’s a title passed down through generations; Chakotay can’t tell), and he’s the leader of this society, which calls itself the “Netoltec,” or New Mayans.
Ehecotl explains that he used his people’s sophisticated technology to send out the dreams and images Chakotay received, as well as the hawk, and to cause the windstorm and earthquake. It was done to find, and then separate, a visitor to their planet who would be sympathetic to them.
When Chakotay still is puzzled, Ehecotl goes on to tell him the Netoltec are descended from a group taken from its home planet–which they call “First World”–many generations ago by those his people call the “sky spirits.” The alien sky spirits brought its human cargo to various planets like this one, and left the people there. Why this was done, Ehecotl and his ancestors have never known. But they do know that families were torn asunder, and that the flight itself caused many deaths, and because of that they’ve lived in constant fear that the sky spirits would return someday and once more take them away.
Chakotay realizes First World must have been Earth, and that Ehecotl and the others believe the crew of Voyager to be the sky spirits they fear. He tries to assure them this isn’t so, but Ehecotl is adamant. Since Chakotay has shown himself to be a kindred soul, he will be allowed to live on here, but the ship and those on it must be destroyed. In order to stay safe, the Netoltecs have confined their own travels to within their solar system, and even if those on Voyager aren’t the feared sky spirits, they still may encounter the Netoltecs’ old tormentors in their further travels, and cause them to return.
In another part of the cliff dwelling, powerful generators increase their output, and the space storm gets worse. On the ship, Janeway makes the painful decision to leave the system, and Chakotay–only to find out she can’t. The ship is caught as though in a vise. As the only one in contact with the Netoltecs, Chakotay knows he’s the key to saving Voyager. It may take a rousing speech about how people must stand up for themselves, and how terrible it is to live in fear, or it may take a battle of champions to make the Mayans see the light. If it’s a battle, it’s a mystical one, technically augmented by Ehecotl’s people. To begin it, both Chakotay and the Netoltec champion–Aiya?–perform a ritual dance, and from them come the holographic images of the two hawks, Chakotay’s and another. The hawks fly at each other and fight, whirling and swooping, until Aiya’s flies away, proving that what’s right for the Netoltecs is to learn to hold their heads high and take their chances in the universe–no matter what.
After the battle, Ehecotl relents, and he stops the storm that’s tearing Voyager apart, letting Chakotay contact the ship and then beam up to it. There, Chakotay reunites with the rest of the crew, bringing with him Ehecotl’s permission to mine the moon. The Netoltecs now are convinced more than ever that Chakotay is a representative of the sky spirits–but not of the ones who took away their ancestors.
No, they believe he was sent by spirits much older and more powerful than any alien race, true spirits who used Chakotay to get them to face life like men, and it’s Tuvok who actually wonders, “Could they be right?”
Chakotay doesn’t know. What’s important to him is that he has met distant brothers. No matter how they have felt in the past, he and his people, both on Earth and his home planet, truly are not alone…
Back to STAR TREK