One of Mulgrew’s qualities which is always and immediately apparent in any interview is the affection and protection she extends to her fellow cast members, and any conversation with the actress will find her loudly extolling their accomplishments. So it’s no surprise when she relates her enthusiasm for an episode that deals chiefly with a character other than her own — in this case the recently aired exploration of Klingon Hell entitled Barge of the Dead. “Roxann, when she’s allowed to go, when she’s allowed to feel her full impulse as a Klingon, is always extraordinary to me,” Mulgrew enthuses. “She has such a vibrancy and an intensity. As you can hear in my voice, she too is a very close friend of mine. The whole episode is gorgeous. They really broke the bank for this one. The sets were out of this world. We’re on this Klingon barge of the dead, and all of [B’Elanna’s] transitions are rife with feeling and danger.
“This is the splendid thing about the two women I have on my ship,” Mulgrew reveals. “I think B’Elanna has a vulnerability equal to Seven of Nine, but it is expressed in an entirely different way. Her vulnerability is often accessed through her ferocity, which is very compelling to me, and essentially who Torres is, so again it is the investigation into the soul of the individual, the exploration of the individual’s personal hell.”
But in a broader sense, how does Mulgrew feel about the injection of Hell into Star Trek, given that the franchise traditionally steers clear of religion? “I like it, because I think that’s who we are,” she responds. “I think that we live between the parallels of Hell and Heaven. We create them all the time on a daily basis. We enclose them in our souls, and we live minute to minute in a continual expression of one or the other — or simply in the in-between, which is a combination of both, and so I think you have to have that juxtaposition. It’s very, very crucial to good drama, and particularly when we’re talking about somebody [B’Elanna] who has felt threatened all her life by her hybrid position. Can you imagine not really understanding who you are or why you are what you are? I think she lives in a constant state of trepidation and uneasiness — a restlessness with self. I love Torres. She’s a wonderful character.”
Not missing the opportunity to praise her fellow actress, Kate segues into Roxann Dawson’s recent directing stint, a role she assumed for a Neelix script entitled Riddles. “Suffice to say she did an absolutely brilliant job first time directing,” Mulgrew acknowledges. “I was amazed watching her temperament adjust and assert itself in this other sense. She’s a very subjective and very passionate actress, and all of that changed when she took the reigns. Her spatial sense is remarkable in a woman who hasn’t done this before. Rick Berman called me yesterday and said, ‘She just did a knock-out job,’ which I felt at the time. So that will be an interesting episode. She should be highly lauded for it.”
Kate recently completed filming on Pathfinder, an eagerly-awaited episode which sees Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Marina Sirtis and Dwight Schultz making an appearance on Star Trek: Voyager. “Dwight Schultz is so lovely, isn’t he?” she says. “I haven’t had a great deal to do with them. I think Bob Picardo had to do more with Dwight. It’s a harrowing story about the Federation contacting Voyager. Dwight Schultz is responsible for this. He plays Barclay. We have Admiral Paris stepping in there. We do in fact make contact in a heartbreaking and marvellous scene on the bridge, but it’s mostly Barclay in San Francisco trying very hard to convince his superiors that he can make contact with our ship. He’s obsessed with Voyager, and not only its existence but its survival. I always have an immediate sense of the value of any given script, and I felt very good about this one. It’s Ken Biller, who is very sharp, and Pathfinder was directed by Mike Vejar, who has wonderful skills.”
The biggest news thus far, of course, is that after five seasons lost in space, Captain Janeway is finally going to have some real romance in her life. So how does Mulgrew feel about this upcoming romance? “I was just doing my homework on it, and they told me to go and get Waking Ned Devine, because evidently the guy who is playing my love interest starred in that film.
“This is a story in which Tom Paris has created a hologram of a small and charming Irish village around the turn of the century. And in it is a publican. His name will change, so I don’t want to give you eight million names, but as it stands, it’s Michael. I walk in to get them to come to the bridge for some business, and I find him very engaging. And I return, and before I know it, I’m finding him more than just engaging, to the extent that I go into the hologrid and recreate him or fix him to my absolute specifications. It’s a gamble to have Janeway romantically engaged with a hologram, but it’s probably sensible.”
Sensible or not, it reinforces Mulgrew’s previous thoughts relating to the Internet (see last issue), and the exploration of virtual personalities and realities. “It ties in with our conversation,” Kate agrees. “I struggled with this initially, because I thought, ‘God, can’t she get a man? Let’s at least find a man.’ It’s hard to articulate this every way that we’ve looked at it. She can’t have a romance with anybody on the ship, she can’t have a romance with an alien, because of course there wouldn’t be room on the ship to accommodate that alien, we’d have to keep travelling. So the heartbreak would be inherent in that package.
“So perhaps, out of a sense of carefreeness, she decides to engage in a little fun for herself, and the fun gets a bit out of hand, meaning that it deepens quickly for her, that her needs are surprisingly complex and rich. Talk about vulnerability! All of my feminine vulnerability is brought to bear, and I play this out, and there is no real end to it. I’m not going to say anything else to you.”
At this point in the conversation, the journalist expresses his concern over the way Star Trek: Voyager sometimes plays fast and loose with the notion of whether holograms are alive. For instance, he once asked Jeri Taylor if the doctor were alive, and received a resounding “Of course,” while the same question put to Brannon Braga received a “Definitely not!”
“Well, they don’t work together anymore,” laughs Kate, but then admits that, “There are so many grey areas. If you were to ask me about the doctor, I would say that he was endowed with sentience, but that he certainly wasn’t programmed to be sentient. He was programmed to be a holographic doctor, but by virtue of his programming and the allegiance his Human colleges feel towards him, he has been endowed with a sentience that is very aware in a hologram. Janeway’s approach is altogether different. Janeway’s approach is going to the movies. Why shouldn’t she have a day at the movies? But this day at the movies becomes a very provocative day at the movies, and she doesn’t want it to end.
“Of course, she’s painfully aware of the fact, more so than anybody else could be, that this is a holographic world,” Mulgrew admits, “and that there’s not only a fine line but a treacherously fine line. So I’m curious to see where they go. I’m going to really be on top of this with them. They went ahead and did this without too much conversation with me, but they had to go ahead and give it a shot. They found this splendid actor, or so they say, and Brannon and Joe are at work on the script, and all I can do is launch myself into it.
“I just intend to really push the envelope subjectively,” Mulgrew promises. “All I can do is give it one hundred per cent. It never works when you walk into an episode with trepidation. I have to commit to it, and I’m going to commit to it completely. I don’t have any options. I can’t say, ‘Get a real man in there.’ It’s too late. The thing has been written. It’s very, very provocative, but it’s well within the conventions of science fiction as we know it.”
It’s almost within modern conventions as well. Janeway may be a denizen of the 24th Century, but finding love in cyberspace is a totally Nineties kind of romance. “I think we always have to be cognizant of that,” Mulgrew agrees. “I think that any viewers who for some reason feel strongly that Janeway shouldn’t go there should review their science fiction and remind themselves that I am here as a conduit; I am here as a vehicle, and my job is to be completely immersed in whatever I’m doing and committed to it, so that’s where I’m going to go.”
Last season, Mulgrew stated that she wanted to get away from episodes that focused chiefly on her self and Seven of Nine and return to developing the ensemble as a whole. Now, a year later, does she feel that goal has been met? “I do indeed,” she acknowledges. “I think this season the proof is in the pudding. It’s very ensemble-oriented this season. Everybody’s in there. Every episode features someone in a story, but the interactions are integral to each story, and the intimacies and the nuances of these relationships, their importance, has grown, and you see it play in every scene of every episode. People no longer stand alone. We’re all we have after six years, the nine of us, and that has been more gratifying to me than any other single element.”
Mulgrew feels that one of Brannon Braga’s contributions as executive producer has been to play up the science fiction angle of the show. “Brannon is a real science fiction aficionado, and the stamp of science fiction on each of our episodes is greater than it’s perhaps been before,” she says. Still, her individual pursuit of knowledge has given her the desire to push for an increased exploration of cutting-edge scientific fact. “I think that maybe we should grab the superstring theory,” she declares. “I’d love to do a more concise episode, a more concentrated episode on the exploration of the big bang theory. Now, of course, there’s a controversy about the age of the universe, which I think is electrifying. Are we 20 billion, 15 billion or 12 billion years old?
“I’d like to get into neurosurgery on the ship, the study of the brain,” she muses. “I think that that’s where we’re going now in the world, and I think we should do a few episodes on the controversy which is now in the scientific field about the essence of the brain — is the brain consciousness or are the brain and the mind two separate things? That’s very compelling stuff. I’ve got two years left on this show. Let’s be provocative. Let’s posit some of the ideas of the great physicists and scientists alive today in their respective fields.”
The television star concludes by promising to talk at length to Brannon about real world science, with the stipulation that “You know I’m newly married, and it’s hard for me to think two thoughts without going back to my absolute adoration of this creature, besides raising two teenage sons, who are equally divided between adoring me and loathing me!”
Given Kate Mulgrew’s real-world distractions, this journalist feels that they have done a pretty good job in covering ground. But when he relates his joy at having included so much discussion of actual science, the television star assuredly says, “It is all about science in the end, isn’t it?”
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