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Dr. Chakwas (Mass Effect)

Doctor Karin Chakwas


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

Mass Effect was a landmark video game trilogy released from 2007 to 2012. It included multiple ties-in such as novels, comics and an animated movie. Further games will follow in 2016 and beyond, although they will form a separate storyline.

It is a science fiction story, of the starships and space aliens kind. Most of the action takes place in a military context, as an apocalyptic threat against the galaxy emerges. It’s one of my favouritest games ever.

Writeups.org offers extensive Mass Effect coverage. The core articles are setting for Mass Effect 1 and the setting for Mass Effect 2, plus the profiles for the heroine – Staff Commander Mandala Shepard.

Unless you are highly familiar with Mass Effect, we recommend reading these articles first.


  • There are S P O I L E R S in this thing.
  • This profile assumes a specific video game playthrough – see our video games writeups FAQ for more.
  • This profile features tabletop RPG mechanics about the video game’s gameplay – see our video games writeups FAQ for more.
  • This profile features non-canon hypotheses about in-game events and mechanics – see our video games writeups FAQ for more.

Background

  • Real Name: Dr. Karin Chakwas.
  • Marital Status: Unrevealed.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: Crew member on the Normandy SR1 and SR2, Systems Alliance military (detached to the Council’s STR branch during Mass Effect, on a leave of absence during Mass Effect 2).
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile aboard the Normandy SR2.
  • Height: 5’7” Weight: 130 lbs.
  • Eyes: Green Hair: Dignified grey


Powers and Abilities

Dr. Chakwas has decades of experience with triage, battlefield surgery, trauma medicine, reparative surgery and other military medical skills. She probably is among the most accomplished doctors in the Alliance military, having been selected by the elder statesman of Alliance Special Operations to look after his operatives.

It seems likely that she received basic combat training – “every Marine a rifleperson”. It also seems likely that she received military genetic enhancements helping her remain in great shape and healing quickly. She is intellectually flexible, and a good learner.

Dr. Chakwas’ rank is never mentioned. Her uniform just reads “Chief Medical Officer”. Our guess would be that she is a Staff Lieutenant.

Karin Chakwas works alone. One assumes that she uses specialised robots and virtual intelligences when operating, and VIs and knowledge bases as her pharmacologist. Her omni-tool has specialised medical systems allowing her to perform rapid full-body check-ups by waving her hand at the person, though it might require having “mapped” the patient first.

Our game stats assume that she is a competent medical technologist.

She’s a doctor, not a bricklayer ! (part 1)

Dr. Chakwas repeatedly demonstrates a superior knowledge of xenomedicine.

  • She performs check-ups on an Asari without breaking stride.
  • She is able to treat specific Drell pathologies and knows their mental techniques.
  • She provides full-on care to aliens with dextro-rotatory amino acids-based physiologies.
  • Etc..

This is odd, since aliens aren’t normally present on Human vessels and xenomedicine isn’t presumably a part of Alliance medical training. Presumably, she studied it out of personal interest.

She’s a doctor, not a bricklayer ! (part 2)

Our non-canon, non-supported hypothesis is that the Systems Alliance had her attend a medical knowledge sharing program as they joined the Council. This would explain why Shepard knew from the start that the Normandy could accommodate alien fighters and provide them with military-grade medical care. It would also explain Chakwas’ posting when Mass Effect 3 begins.

Doctor Chakwas in the Normandy's sick bay

The good doctor is adept at treating biotic persons, particularly Humans implanted with the less-than-perfect L2 psychotronic implant – such as Staff Lt. Kaidan Alenko. She also has a lot of experience with the Unity combat drug used by Spectres.

In Mass Effect 3 we learn that Dr. Chakwas is also proficient in chemistry – presumably as a biochemist. She further mentions that she has many close friends among Alliance marines and sailors, and there are few Alliance ships without at least one friend of hers.


History

It is difficult to assess Dr. Chakwas’ age. Humans in the Mass Effect future frequently live to see age 150. By 2010s standards she looks in her 50s, but she’s older than that. This means that she grew up before the Mars discovery, the Charon discovery and first contact.

From her accent, Karin Chakwas grew up in London and/or the Home Counties. She then moved to India for her studies, graduating from the prestigious University of Mumbai.

Dr. Chakwas enlisted right out of medical school – perhaps with the British military if the Systems Alliance had not been founded yet. She was driven by dreams of adventure and soulful, manly soldiers with piercing eyes. Though reality was more prosaic, Dr. Chakwas remained with the service.

Known career

The doc was at the liberation of Shanxi, in 2157 – presumably with the Second Fleet. The First Contact War marked her, and one imagines that she was among the medical teams who discovered the ravaged Human settlements after the Turians bombed them.

In 2176 she was on Elysium at the conclusion of the Skyllian Blitz, presumably providing care to the populations hit by the brief but forceful pirate raid. Thanks to the incredible exploits of Systems Alliance Special Operations officer Lt. M. Shepard, the situation was under control and relief arrived in time.

Dr. Chakwas came to serve under her compatriot Captain David Anderson at an unrevealed point. By 2183, they seemed to have worked together for several years.

Anderson being a celebrated hero of Humanity and a key Special Operations Command expert, this was a prestigious posting. Furthermore, Chakwas liked Anderson’s mix of liberality and strictness in running his ship.

2183 is when Anderson took command of the brand-new experimental frigate the SSV Normandy SR-1. He took with him several of his specialists, including Dr. Chakwas, to his new command.

Two other members of Anderson’s pack were Staff Commander Shepard, Anderson’s XO and protégée, whom the doc admired, and Jeff “Joker” Moreau. Due to a rare bones disease Moreau required constant care. Dr. Chakwas became a specialist of his condition, called Vrolik’s Syndrome.

The healing game

In unexpected and dramatic circumstances, Staff Commander Shepard was the first Human to become a Spectre – the red right hand of the galactic Council. The Normandy and her crew became a Spectre ship, resulting in a hectic operational tempo. The crazy work hours, stress and lack of leaves required close medical monitoring of the crew.

Doctor Chakwas in her office on the Normandy

Shepard also assembled a crack tactical team, which saw a daunting amount of high-intensity combat. Furthermore it was chiefly composed of aliens. The lot even included a Quarian, which meant stringent medical procedures and specific logistics even for the most routine care.

Despite this workload Dr. Chakwas held the line, keeping everybody functioning and patched up without incidents. She also made sure that the Normandy had proper supplies and accommodations for the alien crew members.

Team Shepard

Chakwas and the crew became fiercely loyal toward Shepard, especially as it became clear that the Commander was the only person who could prevent galactic extinction at the hands of the Reapers.

When it became necessary to mutiny to save the day, Chakwas and the other Normandy officers confirmed to Captain Anderson that they would follow Shepard rather than the Alliance – and they did. Though Chakwas was beleaguered to have become a mutineer, she knew that Shepard was in the right.

The Commander did save the galaxy, and the Systems Alliance swept the whole mutiny thing under the rug. By this point the Normandy crew was pretty ragged and had taken casualties, but thanks to Chakwas’ ministrations everybody was up after a detox and medicalised rest.

The Normandy remained detached to Spectre service, further protecting the crew against disciplinary retortions.

About a month after the Normandy’s crew was cleared to leave the hospital and resume service, the frigate was ambushed by a sort of cruiser. Her shields were destroyed in one shot. Shepard immediately ordered evacuation, saving most of the crew – including Dr. Chakwas. However, Shepard was killed right after getting Joker into an escape pod.

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

With Shepard gone, the Normandy survivors went back under Systems Alliance command. A priority of the Alliance was to bury the alarming but unsubstantiated revelations Shepard made about imminent, galactic-scale mass extinction. As a part of this, the Normandy survivors were dispersed far and wide.

Dr. Chakwas was promoted to a high-ranking position at the Mars Naval Medical Centre. Though this was a good job she was unhappy about it. She wanted to be on a ship, she wanted to save lives in the thick of the action, and like many Alliance soldiers she was incensed by Naval Command’s lack of respect toward the memory of the heroic Commander Shepard.

Though other Alliance officers quit in anger over this, the well-behaved Dr. Chakwas remained in the service. But she was looking for a way to return to the life.

Apparently, she remained in contact with Joker to continue treating his condition.

(In the second game, Joker is depicted as being able to walk to some extent, which he couldn’t do in the first game. While this was presumably the result of a game engine constraint, it is also possible that Chakwas made significant progress in alleviating Joker’s disease).

From the Queen of England to the hounds of Hell

Chakwas and Moreau were then approached by the Human supremacist terrorist organisation Cerberus. Cerberus — presumably represented by Miranda Lawson — presented them with proof that they were about to bring Commander Shepard back from the dead.

Though Shepard and her crew had been deadly enemies of Cerberus, Lawson made it clear that Cerberus was the only agency willing to resurrect Shepard. They would also provide the Commander with all necessary means to stop the Reapers.

Lawson further presented Joker and Chakwas with proof that tens of thousands of Human colonists were being discreetly abducted. Cerberus thought that these disappearances were connected with the Reapers.

Their morale low, aware of the gravity of the Reapers threat and the lack of Council or Alliance action about it, and suspecting they’d be sidelined for years by the Alliance, Chakwas and Joker agreed to work for Cerberus. However, they made it clear that they weren’t actually joining the organisation. They’d take orders from Shepard and no one else.

Dr. Chakwas took an extended leave of absence from the Systems Alliance to rejoin Shepard. One suspects that she had accrued a huge amount of unspent leave time during her career.

L’chaim

Cerberus did accomplish its tour de force and unprecedented medical miracle – they brought Shepard back. However, the procedure had to be cut short by a few days due to a dramatic betrayal, leaving the resurectee in a state of shock and quite dead-looking.

Dr. Chakwas’ medical skills were invaluable in physically and psychologically stabilising her once and future CO , then completing the repairs to Shepard’s rebuilt body.

(Chakwas had presumably been kept out of the resurrection project itself since she would essentially have been a spy for the Alliance documenting Cerberus’ new, extremely expensive medical research for free. This turned out to be fortunate, as the betrayal left the entire Cerberus research team dead.)

(That Cdr. Shepard returns damaged from the resurrection is an embellishment for this specific playthrough, not a part of the published game).

Doctor Chakwas toasting

With Shepard more or less recovered, Cerberus handed an upscaled replica of the Normandy over to her. Dr. Chakwas was the new ship’s chief medical officer and Joker as the helmsman. The rest of the crew were Cerberus personnel, with whom Dr. Chakwas did not feel inclined to mingle.

The doctor contacted her friend Engineer Adams, who had been the chief engineer on the original Normandy. But Adams couldn’t believe that Shepard could truly be back from the dead, and warily declined the invitation.

Back in the thick of it

Early during the mission, Commander Shepard recruited Dr. Mordin Solus, a medical doctor and bona fide genius. How Dr. Solus and Dr. Chakwas worked together is never documented in the game.

Seeing that Chakwas was a bit socially isolated, Commander Shepard made a point to visit her from time to time. When the physician confided that she had lost a bottle of particularly fine liquor in the destruction of the first Normandy, her CO bought a new one.

Dr. Chakwas and Commander Shepard started a tradition of downing a bottle of fine liquor together every year, and got happily drunk talking about the crew of the old Normandy.

The doctor eventually passed out after drinking too much, and grew concerned that she had acted unprofessionally. But Shepard assured her that she looked forward the next bottle in 12 months if they were both still alive.

Who by fire

Several weeks into its mission, the Normandy was boarded by agents of the Reapers whilst Shepard and her personal unit were away. The non-tactical crew did their best but were rapidly overwhelmed and captured, Dr. Chakwas along with them.

This proved something of a mistake. Shepard immediately came to recover her staff, armed to the teeth and with her full tactical force. After hours of pitched battle against a powerful opposition, Shepard and her pack of badasses beat impossible odds. They reached the cluster of cocoons holding the captured crew members.

The shocked crew, under the guidance of Dr. Solus, made it back to the Normandy. One assumes that Dr. Chakwas was the first to receive medical care so she could help process the crew and gauge everybody’s medical needs.

Dr. Chakwas was less shaken than the rest as she never doubted that Shepard would be there for them, even if that seemed impossible. Still, the experience was an harrowing one even for a seasoned military doctor. Howbeit she insisted that she was fine.

Between deployments

Karin Chakwas, Joker and E.D.I. were the last to leave Shepard’s side as they accompanied her to Earth where she surrendered to Human military justice. Dr. Chakwas sailed through security – her leave had been in order, and she never actually worked for Cerberus.

Though she had provided care to members of a terrorist organisation, this was an accepted part of her Hippocratic Oath. Plus, the persons she has cared for had not done anything against the Alliance. The only danger for her was if Shepard was judged a war criminal, which was not the case.

Furthermore, Dr. Chakwas was immediatly requested by Admiral Hackett to join a medical research project on the Citadel with a high security clearance.

Doctor doctor, give me the news

Six months later, Dr. Chakwas heard that Major Kaidan Alenko had just been transferred to the Huerta Memorial Hospital with severe wounds. She rushed to Huerta to see if she could help. She saw that Alenko was receiving care from the hospital’s head physician, the skilled Dr. Chloé Michel, and everything had been done right.

Shepard also came in to visit Alenko. Chakwas seized the occasion, heavily implying that she wanted to return to the Normandy and couldn’t stand working in a lab. As she needed the best shipboard doctor she could get, the Commander agreed.

Visibly relieved, Karin Chakwas grabbed her bags and boarded the Normandy to assess the state of her sick bay and the needed supplies.

Though the circumstances were dire, Dr. Chakwas could resume her true calling after 6 months of boredom – being a frontline naval doctor assigned to elite troops.


Description

Dr. Chakwas speaks with a distinct Home Counties, posh accent. One half-expects her to have been a lecturer at the Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine given her Only Proper English Accent.

She wears the usual suit for doctors, scientists and engineers in Citadel Space. Her Mass Effect 2 shoulder patches read “SR2 – Chief Medical Officer – SSV Normandy”.

The last line is interesting, since “SSV” is absolutely not Cerberus terminology but a Systems Alliance term (“Systems Alliance Space Vehicle”). Chakwas presumably kept it to mark that she is most definitely not Cerberus. She doesn’t bear a Cerberus insignia either.

It is difficult to place her age, presumably due to genetic enhancements. Her hair is clearly grey from age yet she has but the barest indication of wrinkles on her face. She’s obviously in great health. She might be 70 or so, but she’s in markedly better shape than a typical 2012 US person half her age.

Due to her accent, hair and unageing quality, Dr. Chakwas reminds many Mass Effect players of actress Dame Helen Mirren . Her voice actress is another veteran British actress, Carolyn Seymour.

Here is a video of Dr. Chakwas talking a bit about herself :

It is possible that Dr. Chakwas is also modelled after Dr. Helena Russell.


Personality

Chakwas is a proper, responsible medical doctor. She contrasts with the gung-ho temper of the much younger marines around her.

She’s not a hugely social person — and perhaps even something of a loner — but likes cultivating sincere friendships with diverse Alliance servicepersons.

She is passionate about serving on military ships. Chakwas just love the lifestyle and aesthetics, the noises, the atmosphere, the feeling when artificial gravity kicks in, the shore leaves on exotic planets, being with marines and sailors, etc.

It seems that she also likes the feeling of being the caretaker of everybody around her, and she appears to be a workaholic. She could never leave the military. It would feel like deserting and abandonning all those who need her.

Part of her attraction toward this lifestyle may stem from her age. For half her life, the notion of being on starship flying across the galaxy was sheer fantasy.

Anchors

However, Dr. Chakwas has been living this transient lifestyle for decades. Thus, she appreciates having something constant in her life despite always being somewhere else. This anchoring role is played by Jeff Moreau.

Joker needs constant treatment to cope with his brittle bones disease. Thus Dr. Chakwas has this one patient whom she’s been monitoring for years and who’s much less likely to get killed than the infantry fighters who usually frequent her medical bay. Dr. Chakwas is the only person during the first 2 games who calls Joker “Jeff”.

Being an old Normandy hand, Dr. Chakwas would unhesitatingly follow Shepard into hell itself if asked to. Chakwas and Shepard share a low-key friendship, as the doctor is concerned with looking proper and professional in her dealings with her CO even when they’re not serving in the military.

Dr. Chakwas respects Commander Shepard far too much to behave like her friend, and finds it more appropriate to remain slightly formal.

Karin Chakwas is apparently a connoisseur of high-quality liquors, enjoying the taste of small quantities of expensive alcohol. Her definition of a good bottle is something like a 900+ credits bottle of Serrice ice brandy, a particularly refined (and rather potent) Asari liquor.

Presumably the Alliance pays its senior doctors pretty well, since 900 credits is quite a sum. However, it is implied that Chakwas needed a few months to save for a bottle.


Quotes

“I sincerely hope you’re kidding, Corporal. The sort of ‘real action’ you seem to be lusting after usually ends with me patching up crew members in the infirmary.”

(As Shepard makes sure that Dr. Chakwas understands that she’s joining a near-suicide mission) “I’ve lived a full life – no regrets. As their doctor, I’d like to make sure the crew gets the same opportunity.”

“Ah, Jenkins. Soldiers like him make the Alliance great. Cerberus lacks the same… enthusiasm.”

(Somewhat drunk) “A toast. To our friends. May we never take them for granted.”

“I don’t have a family to speak of, really. I’m the last of a prestigious line of medical professionals. The Alliance is my spouse, and you’re all my children.”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Dr. Chakwas

Dex: 02 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Responsibility
Int: 04 Wil: 04 Min: 03 Occupation: Military doctor
Inf: 03 Aur: 03 Spi: 04 Resources {or Wealth}: 004
Init: 009 HP: 010

Powers:
Regeneration: 01

Skills:
Gadgetry: 04, Medicine: 07, Scientist: 04, Vehicles (Land): 02, Weaponry (Firearms): 03

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Gadgetry is limited to maintenance, repair and power user operations.
  • Gadgetry is limited to medical equipment.
  • Scientist is limited to biology, medicine and chemistry.

Advantages:
Connoisseur (Liquor), Expertise (Xenobiology/Xenomedicine), Familiarity (Military equipment and protocols, Healthcare for biotics), Rank (tentatively, Staff Lieutenant in the medical branch).

Connections:
Commander Shepard (High), Jeff “Joker” Moreau (Low), Systems Alliance marines and sailors (Low).

Drawbacks:
None demonstrated.

Equipment:

  • Dr. Chakwas doesn’t normally pack, but if she’s thrust into action she’ll probably be issued a M-8 Avenger assault rifle [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 08, Ammo: 10, Telescopic vision: 03, R#03, Advantage: Autofire].
  • Her omni tool is only briefly seen. Likely stats are : OMNI-TOOL [BODY 01, Data storage: 16, Fabricate: 01, Radio communication: 15, Superspeed: 02, Misc.: Translation database, Limitation: Fabricate is limited to Doodads (but those are permanent, and unlimited in number given enough omni-gel), Superspeed only for tasks involving processing information using the omni-tool]. This is a high-end omni-tool. Beyond these basic functions, Dr. Chakwas uses his omni-tool for the following specialised roles :
    • Regeneration: 07 (Linked with Medicine, Usable on Others, Ammo: 10).
    • Invulnerability: 07 (Linked with Medicine, Usable on Others, Ammo: 10).
    • X-Ray Vision: 05 (Only useable to perform medical scans).

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 video games. ME3 data is being gradually added.

Helper(s): Requiem_17_23.

Writeup completed on the 29th of June, 2012.

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