Robert Beltran Has Some Regrets About His Star Trek: Voyager Romance

At the start of "Star Trek: Voyager" in 1995, Robert Beltran ("Eating Raoul") played Chakotay, a Native American member of The Maquis, an anti-Federation resistance group formed when the Federation resettled their home worlds following a sketchy agreement with the Cardassian Empire. He and several compatriots were on the run from the show's titular ship when the action of the series hurled them all clear across the galaxy, landing then 70 years from Earth. The Maquis fighters had to move onto the Voyager out of necessity. In order to smooth over relations between the Starfleet officers and the Maquis, the captain made Chakotay the ship's first officer. 

Chakotay took to the role well, advising Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) if she was being reckless (she often was), and attempting to become something more of a father figure to the rest of the crew. Chakotay's position, however, made for few interpersonal relationships. "Voyager" featured a few notable bonding scenes between he and the captain, but Chakotay wasn't often seen developing any other unique one-on-one relationship with the other characters on the show. He may have served as an authority figure in the background, but the bickersome moments, the moments of intense regard, and the romances were all reserved for other characters. 

That last element — the romance — gave Chakotay a few notable pivot points. Early in the show, he had a romantic relationship with one Ensign Seska (Martha Hackett), who was revealed to be a turncoat, and then late in the show, was forced into a romance with Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). Trekkies weren't excited about the latter romance, and, as it turns out, neither was Beltran. In an interview with, Beltran talked about those regrets. 


In the interview, Beltran was asked what his favorite aspects of Chakotay were, and he was ambivalent about interpersonal moments, or lack thereof, especially as the show evolved in its later seasons: 

"I think what worked is any time you see some kind of interpersonal relationship, it was interesting. For example, you had Chakotay and the captain, Chakotay and Seska, and, the relationship that was thrown together quickly at the end with Seven of Nine. Other than those relationships, Chakotay was kind of a solitary character, at least from season four to seven. 

Beltran gave credit to the early show's strength of interpersonal connection to writer and show co-creator Jeri Taylor, a presence in the writers room of "Star Trek" since the days of "Next Generation." Taylor served as a showrunner on "Voyager" for its third and fourth seasons, taking over from Michael Piller. When she left, she handed the reins over to Brannon Braga:

"I think the first three seasons there were a lot of interesting storylines, and then I think a shift happened in the series after Jeri Taylor left. I think any time that a character has an interpersonal relationship that shows growth, and you could say that clearly about Chakotay and the captain. But after Seska left, it was only that relationship with the captain that had depth to it. Chakotay and Tuvok didn't have much. Chakotay and Paris didn't have much. Chakotay and the other characters, there wasn't much of a relationship there. I always regretted that because there was a lot to explore."

The Seven of Nine Show

The fourth season of "Voyager" saw the introduction of Seven of Nine, a comely Borg character that was brought on to fight flagging ratings. The writers — especially Braga — took to her right away, and wrote many episodes that were focused on her (Braga and Ryan were, it should be noted, romantically involved). Not only was one of the main members of the cast written off to accommodate her (the saga of Jennifer Lien's Kes is a sad one), but, Beltran feels, other characters were given the short shrift as well:

"During the Michael Piller-Jeri Taylor years, they listened intently. It was after that ... I guess when Brannon Braga took over, when the Seven of Nine character made her entrance, the focus changed. That was fine with me. That was fine with me, but I think writers have an obligation to fill out all the characters if they're regular characters on a series. I think several of the characters were diminished; Chakotay and Tuvok and Kim and Neelix. I think it was just easier for these new writers that came on to write stories about the captain and about characters that weren't really human, like Seven of Nine and the Doctor."

The Doctor (Robert Picardo) was a hologram character, an artificial intelligence who was seemingly invincible. Between him and Seven of Nine, you have what Beltran called "omnipotent" characters, which he feels aren't terribly interesting to write: 

"Those three characters were kind of all-seeing, all-knowing, omnipotent, and I think a lot of the tension and drama that was available was lost because you have to really dig hard to find tension in all-knowing, all-seeing characters. They know everything, right? They have all the answers. Or else you have a redundancy of the same scene written over and over and over again, with slight variations."

"Voyager" lasted seven seasons. Seven of Nine would eventually appear as a regular character on "Star Trek: Picard," while Chakotay would eventually become the captain of the U.S.S. Protostar, the central ship on "Star Trek: Prodigy."