Beloved Star Trek Series Removes Problematic Reference

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

star trek voyager

Star Trek: Voyager is a beloved show, but it had more than a few problematic references courtesy of relying on a Native American cultural advisor that turned out to be a complete fraud. That’s the main reason why every other Chakotay scene is filled with hokey vision quests guaranteed to make your eyes roll. Because of this, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the episode “Eye of the Needle” cut out a scene from the shooting script in which Neelix was compared to Sacajawea.

Eye Of The Needle

Star Trek Voyager eye of the needle

To understand this wild scene that was never filmed, you may need a refresher on what “Eye of the Needle” was all about. This is the episode where the Voyager uses a wormhole to make contact with a Romulan back in the Alpha Quadrant. The crew gets excited about having the alien deliver messages back to Starfleet and to their families, but those hopes become significantly muted by the revelation that this wormhole through time and they have been speaking to a Romulan living 20 years in the past.

The Scene That Never Was

star trek religion

The problematic “Eye of the Needle” scene from the shooting script was only indirectly connected to the show’s main plot. Instead, it featured Kes and Neelix hanging out in his kitchen and talking shop about their new lives on the ship. Kes eventually begins discussing how Voyager’s holographic Doctor needs to be treated better, but before that, the conversation is mostly Neelix telling his partner about conversations with Captain Janeway.

Part of the hot Janeway gossip is that she had considered giving Neelix both a field commission and a Starfleet uniform. We have mixed feelings on this idea…on the one hand, it’s hard to imagine Neelix rocking a prim and proper uniform throughout the series. On the other hand, even the rattiest Starfleet uniform would have been an improvement over Neelix’s typical clothing, which always looked like they were stitched from our great-grandmother’s ugliest curtains.

The Sacajawea Comparison

In this unused “Eye of the Needle” scene, Neelix casually mentions that Janeway compared him to Sacajawea, the Native American icon famous for helping the Lewis and Clark Expedition as they navigated through the Louisiana Territory. The fact that Neelix is a local alien helping Voyager navigate through the Delta Quadrant is almost certainly why this comparison was written into the episode. It may not seem offensive on the face of it, but in retrospect, we’re glad the show avoided overtly comparing Neelix to this famous historical figure.

“Jamake Highwater” Taking Liberties With Chakotay

Star Trek Voyager Chakotay

You see, if this “Eye of the Needle” scene was written in a vacuum, this reference wouldn’t have been so bad, but from the beginning, Voyager relied on “Jamake Highwater” (born Jackie Marks) as a Native American advisor. The guy was a complete fraud who lied about his heritage, but Paramount hired him even after he got exposed in the ‘80s. This guy almost single-handedly ruined Chakotay’s character by offering advice about Native culture and rituals that invariably angered actual Natives thanks to his constant inaccuracies.

Dodged A Bullet By Cutting The Scene

Star Trek Voyager Neelix

In other words, there is nothing inherently wrong with the “Eye of the Needle” shooting script comparing Neelix to Sacajawea, but we’re glad the scene wasn’t filmed because who knows how weird Highwater could have made this scene through his advice.

Honestly, we wouldn’t have been surprised if he helped turn this scene into a vision quest where Neelix found out that a bowl of leola root stew is his spirit animal. That may sound extremely silly, but we’d expect nothing less from the fraud who helped make Chakotay’s catchphrase, “ah-koo-chee-moya.”

Star Trek Newsletter

Subscribe For Bold

Star Trek News

Expect a confirmation email if you "Engage!"