star trek: voy­ager

the trek spin- off turns 20 this year. Luke Dormehl takes a trip back to the DeLta Quad­rant

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents -

Janeway her­self on the ’ 90s Trek spin- off.

his year marks two decades since the fourth Trek show warped onto TV screens around the world. Ul­ti­mately run­ning for seven years and 172 episodes,

Star Trek: Voy­ager in­tro­duced a fresh cast of char­ac­ters aboard an all- new star­ship.

“I can’t be­lieve it’s been 20 years,” says ac­tress Kate Mul­grew, who played

Voy­ager’s Cap­tain Kathryn Janeway. “It was such a big part of my life. It was a big part of all our lives.” Voy­ager had its ori­gins in the early 1990s.

Star Trek: The Next Gen­er­a­tion was wind­ing down as a TV se­ries and while plans called for the crew of the En­ter­prise- D to con­tinue life on the big screen, tele­vi­sion ex­ec­u­tives wanted a sec­ond Trek to ac­com­pany re­cently launched spin- off Deep Space Nine.

Much like the well- re­ceived DS9, Voy­ager ap­peared on pa­per to be a very dif­fer­ent beast to the Treks cre­ated un­der the watch of Gene Rod­den­berry, the fran­chise’s cre­ator, who had passed away in 1991. Un­like the orig­i­nal Star

Trek and The Next Gen­er­a­tion, Voy­ager wasn’t set on an En­ter­prise- sized star­ship, but rather a smaller 130- per­son Intrepid- class ves­sel. In a twist which took a note from the Lost

In Space play­book ( iron­i­cally a show of­ten con­sid­ered a ri­val of the orig­i­nal Star Trek),

Voy­ager also hurled its un­wit­ting crew to the far reaches of the gal­axy. Work­ing ti­tles for the se­ries in­cluded Outer Bounds and Gal­axy’s

End. The pi­lot episode saw an energy wave hit Voy­ager as it pur­sued a ship of Maquis rebels through the galac­tic Bad­lands, pulling it to the un­ex­plored Delta quad­rant. At max­i­mum warp speed, it would take the crew of Voy­ager 75 years to reach home again…

Dif­fer­ent Set-up

This premise sought to cre­ate a sense of ur­gency and peril that went be­yond Star Trek’s tra­di­tional mis­sion to seek out new life­forms. It also es­tab­lished an in­trigu­ing dy­namic: with Voy­ager stranded light years from home, it was nec­es­sary for Starfleet’s of­fi­cers to form an al­liance with the Maquis, sev­eral of whom be­came prom­i­nent mem­bers of the Voy­ager crew. In con­trast to the eter­nal pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the En­ter­prise ships, Voy­ager was staffed by the likes of hot­headed ( by Starfleet stan­dards) Tom Paris, halfhu­man, half- Klin­gon chief engi­neer B’Elanna Tor­res, rookie Harry Kim and as­sorted oth­ers who surely would have been weeded out un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances. In some ways,

Voy­ager played less like Star Trek and more like The Break­fast Club.

But the most head­line- grab­bing dif­fer­ence be­tween Voy­ager and the Treks that had pre­ceded it was the pres­ence of Cap­tain Janeway, the first ma­jor fe­male Starfleet cap­tain in Star Trek history. She wasn’t the first ever woman we’d seen com­mand­ing a star­ship – an un­named fe­male cap­tain briefly ap­pears in 1986’ s Star Trek IV: The Voy­age

Home – but she was the first to be given a name and char­ac­ter.

Janeway was played by Kate Mul­grew, a vet­eran TV ac­tress cur­rently ap­pear­ing in the Net­flix se­ries Or­ange Is The New Black. “It’s al­ways re­mark­able to be the first of any­thing,” she tells SFX. “To be the first fe­male Star Trek cap­tain was both ex­cit­ing and hum­bling. I re­alised that this was a rare op­por­tu­nity in my life that would never come again.”

“Voy­ager ar­guably sig­nalled the end to clas­sic star trek, and ce­mented the need for the fran­chise to rein­vent it­self”

Mul­grew was 39 years old when she was first ap­proached about the role. It was a tu­mul­tuous time in her life as she was just in the process of go­ing through a di­vorce from her first hus­band. The dis­trac­tion meant that her first au­di­tion was sub­par, and led to Geneviève Bu­jold ini­tially be­ing hired to play Janeway — only to quit af­ter two days of shoot­ing for rea­sons never fully ex­plained. Mul­grew was se­lected as the re­place­ment. At her sug­ges­tion, Cap­tain Janeway’s first name was changed from Ni­cole to the stronger­sound­ing Kathryn.

Mul­grew may not have been a fan of Star Trek, but she was in­trigued by the char­ac­ter of Janeway. “I deeply cared about her,” Mul­grew says. “I tried to make her as mul­ti­di­men­sional as pos­si­ble. As a per­son she was both in­cred­i­bly lonely and fully alive. The char­ac­ter fas­ci­nated me.”

At first Mul­grew strug­gled with the techno- bab­ble that per­me­ated ev­ery episode of Voy­ager. “It was har­row­ing,” she re­calls. “For the first sea­son, it was just the most ter­ri­fy­ing thing you can imag­ine. So much of it I didn’t un­der­stand, and I didn’t have time to un­der­stand. To un­der­stand some­thing you have to read about it and di­gest it. But when I spoke the lines they had to come out flu­ently. It was mur­der.”

The con­sum­mate pro­fes­sional, Mul­grew quickly de­cided that she needed to delve more deeply into the world she was in­hab­it­ing. De­spite the pres­sures of bal­anc­ing de­mand­ing 16- hour work­days with a young fam­ily, she spent her free time read­ing up on science and Star Trek lore.

When she did, a strange thing hap­pened: she dis­cov­ered that she liked it.

“I had no idea just how cap­ti­vated I would be with science and par­tic­u­larly with physics,” Mul­grew says. “It was some­thing I found as beau­ti­ful as any­thing I’d ever come across in my life. I also be­came to­tally swept away by the en­tire science fic­tion canon. It was at that point that I be­gan to truly ap­pre­ci­ate the world of Star Trek and how far- reach­ing and ex­tra­or­di­nary it was.”

On- screen, Janeway’s char­ac­ter arc was Mul­grew’s ex­pe­ri­ence in re­verse. “Janeway was sci­en­tific to a fault,” she ex­plains. “It was her great strength, but also her weak­ness. She could be lack­ing in imag­i­na­tion. That’s why she spent so much time on the holodeck with [ a sim­u­la­tion of ] Leonardo da Vinci, who be­comes some­thing of a men­tor to her. That was an idea I pitched to [ ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer] Rick Ber­man, which he liked enough to run with. It was meant as a way for her to ac­knowl­edge her own de­fi­cien­cies. She needed to open up her heart and her mind to achieve a greater way of see­ing.”

New Woman

As a fe­male Star Trek cap­tain, Mul­grew gar­nered a lot of at­ten­tion. Fol­low­ing the show’s first sea­son she re­calls be­ing in­vited to the White House to talk about the im­por­tance of help­ing women en­ter STEM fields. De­spite Star Trek’s over­whelm­ingly male fan­base, Janeway won plau­dits with that au­di­ence, too.

“There was a great deal of dis­cus­sion about whether Janeway should have a re­la­tion­ship dur­ing Voy­ager,” Mul­grew says. “I thought about that ques­tion a great deal, but I nixed the whole thing. I knew that – par­tic­u­larly if I

wanted to win over the young male de­mo­graphic – I had to ap­peal to them as a com­man­der first and fore­most, and as a sex­ual woman a very dis­tant sec­ond.”

As with Star Trek: TNG, Voy­ager hit its stride mid­way into its run. A com­mon early crit­i­cism among fans is that the se­ries rushed to smooth out the rough edges of its crew; bring­ing both Maquis rebels and Starfleet of­fi­cials un­der one ban­ner to make them a happy Fed­er­a­tion fam­ily. Later Voy­ager learned from these mis­takes by build­ing around the more in­trigu­ing char­ac­ters who didn’t fit so easily into Starfleet- ap­proved boxes. From sea­son three on­wards, Robert Pi­cardo’s holo­graphic Doc­tor took his right­ful place as a prom­i­nent cast mem­ber. With his abra­sive wit and con­stant ques­tion­ing of what it meant to be hu­man ( one com­pelling sto­ry­line dealt with his re­sponse to find­ing out that his mind had been wiped by the Voy­ager crew as if he was a faulty piece of ma­chin­ery) the Doc­tor was an in­trigu­ing cross be­tween Hugh Lau­rie’s Dr House and The Next Gen­er­a­tion’s Data.

Another fan- favourite char­ac­ter who came to dom­i­nate the show was Seven of Nine, a fe­male for­mer Borg drone whose pres­ence on the show al­lowed the writ­ers to up the sex ap­peal con­tent with­out com­pro­mis­ing Janeway’s au­thor­ity as cap­tain. The Borg’s ar­rival on Voy­ager was no great sur­prise given the suc­cess of the then- cur­rent movie Star

Trek: First Con­tact, but Seven’s sta­tus as the first Borg to be as­sim­i­lated into a Starfleet crew added a new twist.

By the time Voy­ager drew to a close with the 2001 episode “Endgame” ( SPOILER: The crew re­turns home), it sig­nalled not just the end of the show, but to a key phase in Star Trek history. The 1990s was swamped with three dif­fer­ent over­lap­ping Star Trek shows, as well as four movies. Voy­ager ar­guably sig­nalled the end to clas­sic Trek, and ce­mented the need for the fran­chise to rein­vent it­self. When Trek did reap­pear on screens with the se­ries En­ter­prise and the JJ Abrams movies it was now a pre­quel to it­self, free of many of the con­straints of the show’s in­tri­cately- wo­ven uni­verse.

“I’m im­mensely proud of what we achieved with Voy­ager,” Kate Mul­grew con­cludes. “We had seven won­der­ful years mak­ing it. Speak­ing per­son­ally, I’m very happy look­ing back at it. When it comes to Cap­tain Janeway, I’d ar­gue that not only did she sur­vive, but she thrived. She proved it was her right­ful place on that ship, com­mand­ing that crew. It was a real priv­i­lege.”

These red­shirts were hardier than the orig­i­nals… Not a look ev­ery­one can pull off. Holodeck episode “He­roes And De­mons” is one of the most fun. The Borg made fre­quent ap­pear­ances in Voy­ager. “Only another mile and we’ve done the 10K!”

Janeway had a life be­yond Voy­ager in nu­mer­ous Trek

nov­els and comics.

seven of Nine, born An­nika Hansen. The Doc­tor will see you now – what­ever you are.

Let’s have a disco! A trio that can get us all safely home. Lt Com­man­der Tu­vok was Chief of se­cu­rity.

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