Fandom: Star Trek: Voyager
Spoilers: for pretty much the entire series, with particular emphasis on the classic J/C episodes
Disclaimers: There are nearly as many views of J/C as there are fans of the show, and literally thousands of fics exploring all of these aspects. Any recs I include are by definition only a fraction of what's available; it would be impossible to list them all. Therefore, I have presented only those stories and writers who had the greatest impact on me and my perception of this pairing. The motherlode of J/C stories can be found here and here. I have not listed any of my own stories in this essay but interested readers can check out my web site.
Many thanks to seemag for looking this over.
"It's an ancient legend among my people. It's a story about an angry warrior who lived in conflict with the rest of his tribe. A man who couldn't find peace--even with the help of his spirit guide. For years he struggled with his discontent, but the only satisfaction that he ever got came when he was in battle. This made him a hero among his people, but still the warrior yearned for peace within himself. One day, he and his war party were captured by a neighboring tribe, led by a woman warrior. She called on him to join her because her tribe was too small and weak to defend itself from all its enemies. The woman warrior was brave, and beautiful and very wise. The angry warrior swore to himself that he would stay by her side, doing all that he could to make her burden lighter. From that day on, her needs would come first. And, in that way, the warrior began to know the true meaning of peace."
"And I think it just might be one of the great love stories of the past century."
--Jake Sisko in "Revisionist History Chapter 3: I Am Become a Name" by Penny Proctor
He was a former Starfleet officer who resigned his commission after the Cardassians wreaked devastation on his home planet in the wake of the controversial Federation-Cardassian treaty of 2070. Within a short period of time, his Maquis activities had made him prominent enough to attract the attention of Starfleet and the Obsidian Order, both of whom planted spies in his cell. In startling contrast to a lifestyle predicated on violence, Chakotay had a deeply spiritual nature. The dichotomy weighed heavily on him; he sought balance but could see nothing but the immediate carnage, a brief struggle before a bloody end and the defeat of all his hopes.
She was a 'by the book' Starfleet officer, given command of Starfleet's newest ship and most innovative technology. Daughter of one Admiral and protegee of another, Kathryn Janeway had it ingrained in her from an early age that duty--to one's ship and crew--always came first. Nowhere was this more evident than in Janeway's private life; she rose rapidly through the ranks, first as science officer then in a command of her own, but despite a long-term relationship, never married.
Their paths crossed when Janeway and the newly-launched Voyager were sent in pursuit of the Maquis ship. Tracking Chakotay's vessel to the Badlands, Voyager was caught up in the same energy wave and transported 70,000 light years away.
It was a match made in heaven--the Delta Quadrant, to be specific.
Most people would place the beginning of J/C in the second season episode "Resolutions", when the Captain and Commander were stranded together on New Earth. The two of them alone on an idyllic planet, combined with a bathtub, a backrub and an oblique declaration of love in the form of "an ancient legend of my people, the tale of the Angry Warrior" was irresistible. But the spark between Janeway and Chakotay was apparent the very first time they met face to face, back in the pilot "Caretaker."
2. First Meeting:
Janeway contacted Chakotay, suggesting they join forces in tracking their missing crew members. Even though he was a criminal--one she'd been sent to apprehend--she treated him as an equal, with respect. It wasn't out of fear or weakness: when he beamed aboard her ship and confronted Tom Paris, she got in between them physically, and stared the Maquis Captain down, letting him know in no uncertain terms that she was in charge and wasn't going to back down. Chakotay responded to her authority, and later, to the humanity and compassion she showed in dealing with the Ocampa and the Caretaker himself. He sacrificed his ship, putting his own life on the line, to defend Voyager against the Kazon. He later supported Janeway's decision to destroy the Array--their only way home.
"Who is she to be making that decision for us?"
"She's the Captain."
--B'Elanna Torres and Chakotay, "Caretaker"
And thus their professional association was born. Chakotay's statement turned out to be prophetic; it was her position as Captain that brought them together, led her to allow him to get closer to her than anyone else on board. However, it was her rank--and Starfleet regulations that frowned upon fraternization--that ultimately drove them apart.
3. Past Romantic Affiliations:
When Voyager's journey began, Janeway had a fiance, Mark Johnson, waiting for her back home. The two of them had been involved for years; Janeway clearly cared for him very deeply. ("Sorry to bother you." "You only bother me the way I like to be bothered.") When Voyager finally made contact with the Alpha Quadrant four years later, Janeway was devastated to learn Mark had moved on with his life, even though she was later able to acknowledge she had been holding on to him as a 'safety net' to avoid other potentially disturbing and complicating romantic opportunities.
Chakotay had been involved with a Bajoran named Seska, a member in his Maquis cell. He'd broken it off with her even before ending up in the DQ, deciding it was 'not a good idea' to be involved with someone under his command. (Yet another foreshadowing of the problems that would plague J/C). He was still deeply stung to learn, in rapid succession, of Seska's Cardassian identity and her defection to the Kazon. Despite her betrayals, Seska still held emotional resonance for Chakotay, connections which would come to the forefront when he attempted to capture her single-handedly and then again on a later mission, when he set out to rescue her child, whom he mistakenly believed he had fathered.
The attraction between Janeway and Chakotay was present from the outset, but due to the emotional baggage they each carried, it would take time for their feelings to blossom into something more.
4. The Argument For J/C:
The two of them balanced each other's strengths and weaknesses almost perfectly. Chakotay represented an unconventional way of looking at and dealing with problems, provided the flexibility Janeway and the ship would need to survive so far away from home and the familiar Starfleet structure. He had the 'common touch' that Janeway lacked due to the distance she'd always been taught to cultivate between captain and crew. He could show her how to feel, that an emotional display was not a show of weakness. And most importantly, Chakotay showed her she didn't always have to go it alone, she could depend on others.
Chakotay for his part lacked her iron will, the ability to see something through despite the personal cost, the refusal to accept defeat. If Janeway had a tendency to push too hard, he had a habit of backing down. Chakotay wasn't a gambler, didn't play long shots, or believe all would work out in your favor as long as you weren't afraid to go for broke.
5. Why It Ultimately Didn't Work:
Chakotay was drawn to Janeway's strength, to her intensity, but at the same time wanted her to let him be strong for her for a change. And she couldn't do that. She also found it difficult to relinquish control. She was always afraid of failing, and the only way she knew was to be 'more Starfleet than Starfleet', to cling to the regulations as to a lifeline. Through her years as an officer, Janeway had suffered more than her share of losses even before Voyager. The journey in the Delta Quadrant was a never-ending struggle, with the Captain all too painfully aware of the enormous responsibilities riding on her shoulders. As a result, she was afraid of letting anyone get to close to her, for fear of losing them as well.
Janeway could be authoritarian and arbitrary. She would often not solicit Chakotay's opinions, or would ignore them when she did. But at the same time he had to remember that she was the Captain, and the final decision on all matters was hers. As First Officer, his job was to present her with workable, acceptable alternatives, but all too often they fell into the pattern of him simply objecting to her choices, without giving her something else to work with. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than their argument over forming an alliance with the Borg in season 3 "Scorpion" (see below).
Janeway accused Chakotay of confusing the professional with the personal, of taking her dismissal of his command advice as a personal rejection. And yet she also crossed that line, accusing him of abandoning her simply because he didn't agree with her command decisions. Ultimately, there was enough blame to go around.
6. The Early Years (pre-"Resolutions")
The majority of the first two seasons (pre-"Resolutions") showed Janeway and Chakotay progressing from building trust, to playful flirting, to more overt signs of dawning attraction. From the earliest episodes, the two often sat with their heads together on the Bridge, leaning toward each other during a briefing or while studying a console or display. Janeway touched him frequently, squeezed his shoulder, draped her hand over his arm. For his part, Chakotay often smiled a certain way at her, following her with his eyes whenever she was in the same room.
At the end of "Parallax" (the series' second episode), Chakotay asked Janeway, "If circumstances had worked out differently, would you have served under me?" He was referring to his acting as First Officer to her Captain, but the way in which he said it left it open to another interpretation, one Janeway acknowledged by her answering smile as she claimed the privilege of rank to avoid a response.
In "The Cloud" (season 1), Chakotay offered to introduce Janeway to her animal guide. "It's a date," she said, when she agreed, and it was a very intimate scene in her Ready Room as he took her hand in his, guiding it to the Akoonah and watching the expressions play across her face as she entered the sacred trance.
In "Elogium" (season 2), Janeway was referring to the problem of discouraging a large space-faring organism that was 'attracted' to Voyager when she said, "The next time I need mating advice, I'll know where to go, Commander." But once again, the statement was loaded with subtext.
Even in an episode lacking in any overt J/C such as "Emanations" (season 1), the body language between Janeway and Chakotay, the way she was constantly touching him, make it clear that their relationship was far deeper than just a commanding officer/subordinate.
Uniform by YCD (circa "Caretaker", the very first J/C story ever posted to alt.startrek.creative)
Cloudy by YCD ("The Cloud")
Talking Stick/Circle series by Macedon and Peg Robinson
Snowblind by Laura Williams
Drowning by YCD
The Cardassian Mask by L.R. Bowen
Contrition by Michele Masterson
Knocked Up by Michele Masterson (from the popular subgenre of 'babyfic')
7. Resolutions/New Earth:
"Resolutions" (late season 2) is the ultimate J/C episode, where the UST came to a head and the subtext of the past years became canon. The Captain and Commander became infected with a fatal virus during an away mission; any attempt to leave the planet would result in their death. The Doctor tried in vain to come up with a cure, even placing them in stasis while he worked. Finally, a decision was made to leave the two behind while Voyager continued on its way. For all intents and purposes, Janeway and Chakotay were going to spend the rest of their lives on this planet, completely isolated from everyone and everything they had known before. As expected when two attractive individuals of the opposite sex are marooned on an idyllic planet, with only each other to turn to, their relationship was bound to deepen and change. Call it the 'Adam and Eve' syndrome, but it's to be expected the two would come to view each other differently as time went by.
And that's exactly what occurred. Old habits die hard: at first Janeway was very resistant to the idea their sojourn was permanent. Despite the EMH's inability to cure their disease, she was insistent that with enough research, she would be able to do so. Chakotay, in keeping with his more adaptable nature, immediately set about trying to build a new life for the two of them, turning his hand to improving their living conditions and involving himself in numerous other projects. It was only after the plasma storm wrecked all of Janeway's scientific equipment that she began at last to accept the inevitable. It is no coincidence the first major change in their relationship occurred immediately afterward.
As detailed above, both Janeway and Chakotay were carrying a great deal of emotional baggage: for Janeway, the fiance she'd left behind in the Alpha Quadrant for whom she hadn't yet given up hope of ever seeing again, and Chakotay was still wounded by Seska's betrayal. It is not surprising Chakotay chose an oblique method of declaring his feelings for his former captain, the 'ancient legend' of his people.
Many J/Cers can quote the entire tale, describe in full detail how the two sat across from each other during its recitation, their hands entwined. But for me the major impact of that scene came earlier, when Janeway, bent over her work, showed signs of weariness and a neck gone stiff from many hours of research. Without a word, Chakotay got up and began rubbing it for her. The moment he smoothed her long hair off to the side, when she visibly relaxed and sighed with contentment and pleasure--that was all I needed to fall in love with this couple. And Janeway herself realized they had crossed a line from which there could be no turning back, as evidenced by her jumping up and speaking of the need to establish 'parameters.' On New Earth, of course, rank was irrelevant; Chakotay's ancient legend was meant to dispel her fears while at the same time letting her know that their present situation was merely a catalyst but not the whole basis of his feelings for her, that he had been slowly falling in love with her for a long time.
Janeway didn't respond immediately, but it was only a matter of time. The next event was the plasma storm, and Janeway's final acceptance of their situation. The very next scene showed her planting Talaxian tomatoes, symbolic of putting down roots of her own.
Perhaps inevitably, Voyager did obtain a cure and came back for them--at almost precisely that moment. Just as Janeway could acknowledge Starfleet and her life on board ship was irrevocably past, she was called to duty once more.
The final scene is one of heart-breaking simplicity. Once more in uniform, all buttoned-up and buttoned-down, the Captain and Commander beamed back to Voyager, scarcely able to look at each other, let alone voice their regrets over what nearly was and now could never be.
Shades of Blue by YCD (what if Voyager had never come back for them?)
30 Hours by YCD (the idyll is ended)
Finding Peace by Monkee (one of many 'return to New Earth' stories)
8. The Middle Years (pre-"Scorpion"):
The aftermath of New Earth was not a happy time for J/C. Janeway had made the decision for both of them, that their relationship could not continue on board the ship. It was against Starfleet regulations, but Janeway also could not see herself in a position where one member of the crew could be allowed to mean more to her than any other, to the point where she might be reluctant to order him into danger. Conversely, perhaps she wanted to prevent herself the added pain of being responsible for his death if they were involved. As the reality of their journey set in, she became ever more consumed with the idea she needed to get her ship home at any cost--even and especially to herself personally.
Following "Resolutions", there was more tension present than had been there earlier, more UST, numerous glances from one toward the other that were not fully met. But nothing was expressed obliquely. Whether he realized it or not, consciously made the decision or not, Chakotay's behavior showed he'd accepted her edict nothing could happen while on Voyager, while they had so much at stake in the journey. But the door wasn't closed entirely; both clearly expressed how they felt at moments of high stress even if the memory of it afterward made them uncomfortable, or they attempted to ignore it.
Significant episodes of the third season include "Future's End", in which Voyager traveled back to the 20th century. Off the ship, Janeway and Chakotay interacted easily, even flirted ("She's got your legs," he noted as they passed a young woman roller-skating past them on the boardwalk). In "The Q and the Grey", Chakotay was obviously jealous of Q's attempts to seduce Janeway: "I know I don't have the right, but this bothers me." "Coda", which many J/C shippers consider even more revealing than "Resolutions", gave us Chakotay crying as he held Janeway in his arms, pleading with her not to die. There is some question over whether this event actually occurred or was simply yet another hallucination from the Matrix Entity, but it at least shows us how Janeway perceived his feelings toward her. Nothing had changed--nothing important, that is. They couldn't be together right now, but there was no doubt they each wanted it, and held out hope for 'someday.'
"Unity" presents an interesting quandary. Riley Frazier represented the first time Chakotay 'strayed.' Of course, the argument can be made that his life-threatening injury made him more vulnerable and susceptible to Riley's charms (and mind control), and there is no question she and the other former Borg used him. Chakotay was certainly overcome with remorse at the end for his betrayal--of both Voyager and his captain. Janeway's reaction was very telling; in the scene in Sickbay where he pleaded Riley's case, Janeway didn't say a word, just circled around him, watching him warily for any signs all was not as it seemed. The expression on her face speaks volumes; she is obviously wondering just what occurred to make him speak so eloquently on behalf of someone he'd just met, wondering just how far his passion for Riley's cause went.
Beneath A Sky Of A Thousand Stars by Seema (an AU take on the aftermath of the events of "Coda")
Attraction by Monkee (shows the delicate balance between the professional and personal).
Once by YCD (Janeway bends the rules--off ship, of course)
Command Styles by Monkee (Janeway's hair as metaphor for J/C through the years. Trust me, it works).
9. Scorpion: Turning Point
The end of season three saw a major schism between Janeway and Chakotay. Voyager had reached the long-anticipated boundary of Borg space. Going ahead would be suicidal--except for one narrow 'corridor' that appeared to be clear of Borg activity. Only Voyager soon found out why it was so, and had their own encounter with this new and far more dangerous enemy. A decision needed to be made: to forge ahead despite the overwhelming risk, or else go back and find a nice quiet planet to settle. Not permanently, Chakotay was quick to point out, knowing Janeway's reluctance to give up the goal of one day making it back to the Alpha Quadrant, but just until the situation improved.
"Three years ago I didn't even know your name and now I can't imagine a day without you," Janeway said to Chakotay, with a smile and lingering caress, when they first reached Borg space. He assured her he would be right by her side as always to help her make the difficult choices. That they would face it together.
However, when the time came, she made the decision to continue the journey--and more importantly, to form an alliance with the Borg against Species 8472. Chakotay disagreed most vociferously, and Janeway turned the professional disagreement into something personal: "Then I guess I am alone."
What followed was Janeway's attempts to carry out her proposal, work with the Borg despite their untrustworthiness, their attempts to change the conditions of the agreement at every step. When Janeway was injured in an attack by Species 8472, she charged Chakotay to keep the alliance alive. He did not. And Janeway, upon recovering, took that as yet another betrayal.
At the end, the rift was repaired, but not quite. Lingering problems of trust remained between Janeway and Chakotay. They no longer seemed as comfortable, in fact, were not shown spending very much time together anymore outside of duty shifts. Whether it was a cause or an effect of her estrangement from Chakotay (or entirely unrelated), Janeway grew closer to Seven, who had just been separated from the Collective and arguably required the captain's main focus and attention. Janeway began spending more leisure time with Seven, and drawing away from rest of crew.
The rest of season four reflects this distance, while at the same time showing that the feelings were still present, though deeply buried. In "Year of Hell", Chakotay gave Janeway a watch loaded with symbolism. She rejected his gift and told him to recycle it. Her reaction to finding it in the wreckage of his quarters later on, as well as the way in which each behaved during their long separation showed their ongoing connection. There was heavy subtext to Janeway's interactions with Chakotay in "The Killing Game", albeit Chakotay was not himself but playing a role forced on him by the Hirogen.
In "Hunters", Janeway learned of Mark's marriage. The scene with Chakotay afterwards was edited before broadcast; originally it had been strongly J/C. As written, it had been intended to be a turning point in their relationship, with Janeway finally 'giving in' to her feelings. But TPTB chose instead to go in another direction entirely. And then "Unforgettable" showed him falling in love with another woman.
By season five, the cracks were clearly visible and growing larger all the time. In "Night" Chakotay was unable to get through to Janeway in the 'dark night of her soul', and allowed her to withdraw even more. You can't help thinking he would have reacted much differently even a year earlier. "In The Flesh" gave Chakotay yet another alien flirtation, and there is some question if his attraction to 'Valerie Archer' was solely an act in the line of duty, or something more. By "Counterpoint", it was Janeway's turn to stray--and the same question can be asked of her: did she genuinely feel something for Kashyk, or was it all a ruse?
Captain Miller's Tale by YCD (Killing Game)
We'll Always Have Ste. Claire by NODA (Killing Game)
10. Equinox: Irreparable?
Season five ended with the "Equinox Incident" and what may have been the final rift between them. In Janeway's desire to stop Ransom, she went too far. When Chakotay objected, she relieved him from duty. Ultimately, she was able to acknowledge he was justified in his actions, that he didn't let her cross the final line. But it was doubtful the breech could ever be repaired.
In "The Voyager Conspiracy", and later "Repression", Chakotay's Maquis past rose up once more to come between them. Each episode was filled with suspicion and betrayal, on both sides and on many levels.
So much for their professional relationship. What about the personal? "Fair Haven" and "Spirit Folk" saw Janeway turn to a hologram instead of allowing herself to get involved with flesh and blood crewmembers. Both because of the ever-present regulations, but also to eliminate the risk of getting hurt.
11. Whither J/C?
Every time the fans felt the show had entirely forgotten about J/C, that these two people had once cared deeply for each other and that Chakotay had sworn to always be by her side, along came an episode like "Muse." Through the medium of an alien play, we at long last got a 'J/C kiss', and heard Janeway declare her 'longing for your [Chakotay's] touch.' But it was not the 'real' Janeway or Chakotay, just stand-ins.
In "Unimatrix Zero", unlike "Scorpion", Chakotay gave Janeway's questionable plan of action his support. The final scene before she went off to confront the Borg tossed a couple of bones to the fans: the light and easy banter about getting the carpets cleaned, and the last lingering handclasp between the two of them. But there was no follow-up of any sort, not in the second half of the cliff-hanger, nor throughout Voyager's final season.
Privilege by Monkee (Muse)
Repercussion by Monkee (Unimatrix Zero)
Late In The Day, Without Grace by Penny Proctor
A Duty To The Ship by Ragpants
12. Shattered - J/C Swan Song
What gave new hope to the J/C shippers in mid-season 7 turned out to be a last hurrah. "Shattered" took us back to the beginning, in more ways than one. The chemistry between the 'early Janeway' and 'current' Chakotay was as strong as ever, as exemplified by the way she instinctively trusted him, by their body language and closeness. Not only was Chakotay traveling through time, but so were we, seeing the potential of J/C once more. And finally, the heart-breaking question and answer between the two characters, when Janeway asked if the two of them had ever gotten together and Chakotay answered, "There are some barriers we never breached."
Barriers by Djinn
13. Endgame - And The End Of Our Hopes
"Endgame" produced a relationship between Chakotay and Seven out of whole cloth, where none had existed before. Just as we were supposed to suddenly accept two characters who had barely exchanged any words other than in the line of duty were involved in such a passionate bond that Chakotay would never recover from her death, we were also supposed to forget that J/C had ever existed. There was no explanation how Chakotay was able to switch loyalties so quickly, or what if anything Janeway's reaction to the couple was. But that's not the point of this episode: the focus is clearly on Seven, and Janeway's willingness to go to any lengths to save her. And yet we do get that one scene of Admiral Janeway at Chakotay's grave, right before she went back in time; he was one of the driving factors for her decision to change the past, to spare him suffering. Clearly, she had not forgotten how much they once meant to each other even though he (and TPTB) had.
Can't Imagine A Day Without You by Monkee (the ending we all wanted)
I Will Come Again, My Love by Penny Proctor
A Place In The Universe by Monkee
13. Back in the AQ
Despite the canonicity of C/7, speculation runs rampant as to what happened after Voyager finally returned home. "Endgame" only shows us what happened in the defunct-timeline. Did Janeway and Chakotay ultimately find each other again? The die-hard shippers would like to think so, that the long-ago promise of 'someday' was finally fulfilled.
Revisionist History by Penny Proctor
Oasis by Penny Proctor
My Love Has Wings by Ragpants