IT'S BEEN FIVE YEARS since the Starship Voyager was assigned on a rescue mission to the Badlands to investigate the disappearance of a Maquis ship. Hurled into the Delta Quadrant, far away from home, Captain Janeway was faced with a desperate situation: to maintain the morale of her crew while joining forces with the renegade terrorists. They've faced ruthless warriors, invaders, psychopaths and killers, and yet through it all Janeway has demonstrated her considerable leadership skills and humanity. She's the ship's matriarch - desperately attempting to keep together her eclectic `family' against all odds, while leading them back home to the Alpha Quadrant -and Earth.
"A lot of her is me," Kate Mulgrew tells TVZone. "I've had this broad under my belt for five years. I own her - and nobody can tell me that I don't own her."
Mulgrew joined the series under the most difficult and trying circumstances. Genevieve Bujold, who had originally been cast in the role, walked out of the studios at Paramount during the shooting of the pilot. The producers were under pressure to ensure that her replacement was a talented actress, who could take up the baton carried by William Shatner, Patrick Stewart and Avery Brooks, and carry the franchise forward into the next millennium.
Delivering the Goods
"It took me a long time to get my sea legs," she admits, "because of the pressure that I felt I was under: `Can I get this command thing to the point where everybody will be satisfied and comfortable?' You've no idea the scrutiny I was under. I had suits just staring at me every day - can she deliver? Does she have any natural authority? I spent the first two seasons establishing command, and I think I sacrificed what is very becoming to me as a person, and as an actress, which is my humour, my humanity, my levity, my depth."
In hindsight, does she feel the process would have been easier if the show had not carried the history of Star Trek?
"It's almost a moot point," she responds. "It's almost like saying, `If you could go back in Time would you change anything? The reality is we can't go back in Time. I think it was to my advantage that so much success had preceded my entrance into this franchise. I certainly knew there was a security well already in place - that's very freeing. I don't quarrel with that."
The actress recalls that it was only at the end of the second season, after two years of feeling uptight, that she finally relaxed in the role.
"It's like love," she smiles. "You're flirting, then it's infatuation, then you're in bed and pretty soon you want a commitment and the commitment is there. Now we're at this place where the absolute extent of this commitment is so clear, to both them and to me. I have been very devoted to her. I have been unshaking and unshakable in my resolve about Janeway. I have kept my promise to them about her, and they have seen that and they have honoured it."
Mulgrew is justifiably proud of her work on the series, in which she has been allowed to play a role that could not contrast more with Hollywood's predictable and tired portrayal of young, unnaturally beautiful and spineless women. Janeway is a woman of intellect and determination, and it's easy to believe that the Voyager crew would willingly follow her to the ends of the Universe.
"I love every single dimension and component of her being," Mulgrew enthuses. "Her nobility, her flawed character, her laughter, her love of the absurd, her love of the unknown, her love of science... I've loved her great heart, her formidable spirit, her guts. She has a much better mind than mine, and a gifted imagination as well, but she’s a little prickly, and certainly not without ego. She has this profound sense of humanity: she can talk to anybody and they listen.”
Coming Along Nicely
Having recently cleared the hurdle of 100 episodes, Voyager now demonstrates a clear direction and confidence that was clearly lacking during its early years. The addition of the Borg and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) certainly helped its development, a degree of conflict and urgency that had been lacking during skirmishes with the Kazon and the Phage-riddled Vidiians. Season Five has maintained the Borg while lessening the focus on Seven somewhat, and allowing each of the principal characters to come into their own.
"I'm very happy this season," Mulgrew beams. "I think Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky have taken it to new heights, there's very little question about that. Their combined intelligence, which is not only keen but very far-reaching... we're talking about edgy, provocative, compelling imaginations and personalities at work.
"They're taking it to a new plateau, and I would say very succinctly that their vision of Star Trek is the correct vision. It is a broad vision. Heretofore I think it was rather a specific audience: `Star Trek is going to have this kind of a fan base and it is going to be compelling to this kinds of people.’ Joe and Brannon realize it can be much, much broader, if in fact the ideas are broader and more far reaching. And that’s what they’ve done.
“The interpersonal relationships have evolved in shocking and wonderful ways this season. It’s been absolutely a seminal year as far as I’m concerned, and they’ve let Janeway go, because they understand the essential thing of the actress. So the marriage, which is sacrament here, is between the writers and myself. It cannot tread on my toes. Inherently, she is my possession; what they can do is help me endow her further. That’s the challenge, and that’s what made is so exciting this year.”
Season Five has certainly boasted some memorable tales, from the epic celebratory story Timeless, in which Voyager has been destroyed and Janeway is dead, to the more traditional and cerebral Nothing Human, to enjoyable romps like The Bride of Chaotica and Once Upon a Time. With the imminent demise of Deep Space Nine, it seems that Voyager may have earned its place as the sole representative of the franchise still in production.
“I have a very curious feeling about Voyager,” offers Mulgrew, “because I could not have said this a season or two ago. I think it’s taken off right now. I can feel it in my bones. I’ve been acting for 27 years and I know when something is taking off. Because I know what my own sense of relaxation is like and I feel completely free - the water off a duck’s back. When that happens the audience understands it immediately and they find it electrifying. They want to take the journey with those people.”
All the same, she firmly believes that the studio should guard against over-exploiting the Star Trek name, and cautions that an immediate replacement for Deep Space Nine could be a bad move.
The market is changing dramatically," Mulgrew reasons. "There's that little thing which is called saturation, which may or may not be imminent. We've got another season or two to see.
“I think that by the end of this season, and certainly by the middle of next, it will be well determined what the future has in store. As long as there's a market for it - it's all about numbers, it's all about money. I would hope that they'd just end it at this - I would say that quite selfishly. This is my ego speaking - it would be nice to say goodbye on this note."
With both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine having reached seven seasons, fans have assumed that there will be at least two more years of Voyager. The cast are under contract until the end of Season Six, giving them the option of not renewing for the final year - just as Terry Farrell left Deep Space Nine. Mulgrew’s admiration for the show is evident, but recent press reports have indicated that she plans to leave when her contract expires. Asked to comment on this, the actress pauses for a moment.
“I can’t tell you if I’m planning to leave or not,” she says candidly. “I have a very interesting life. I have a very rich and wonderful personal life, and at its core are my sons. I will tell you very frankly that I have missed them badly in these five years.
`I am so privileged and happy that I had this job. But what we’re talking about is a block of time I’ve missed now with them. Years when nurturing was crucial, I think to their self -esteem. The kind of nurturing that comes without conditions or contingencies. The kind of nurturing that is so simple and so basic to human nature, regarding this relationship between mother and son. We missed it.
"I asked them to grow up way before I should have asked them. I asked them to understand that their mother was a celebrity - a concept no 10-year-old should have to deal with. I asked them to accept a kind of maturity and responsibility that I think was a bit of an imposition And furthermore I asked them to applaud me: `Be proud of your mother!' I asked them to do the impossible thing. They just wanted a good meal, a slap on the butt. A mother. This has been so heart wrenching to me."
The Power of Love
A further dramatic change in her life has forced Mulgrew to re-evaluate her priorities: she has fallen in love. Five years ago, while on vacation in Ireland, she was introduced to Cleveland politician Tim Hagan by mutual friends.
The pair met on a blind date in a restaurant, and Mulgrew admits that she had expected to be confronted by an overweight and charmless bore.
"I walked in, and there was this guy, and it was instant," she says. "I'm getting married and it shook me to the core of my being, because I've always sacrificed my personal life for my career. I am absolutely not going to miss him, and I will do whatever is necessary to make this work. I am in love for the first time in 43 years and I will be damned if anybody will take that away from me."
Life After Star Trek
After Star Trek - whenever that may be - Mulgrew has already made contingency plans. She intends to leave Hollywood, her home of 16 years, and return to the more intimate atmosphere of New York.
"I never liked it here. It was never my place," she sighs. "For me, there is no community here. I have no sense of the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. Here I can't call you at four in the morning to meet me for coffee... it has no cross life, the eclecticism or the cultural pot pourri that is crucial to my happiness. I don't get it at all. And I get it less now, and what I really don't get is why the hell I've been down here for 16 years.
"I'm buying an apartment in New York and we'll be living in Cleveland. I intend to go back to the theatre - that's exactly where the next chapter opens."
At the moment, Mulgrew's future with the Star Trek franchise remains open to conjecture. Both Paramount and the actress herself have recently stated that they expect Janeway to remain with Voyager until its conclusion, leaving viewers to hope that a working agreement that suits both parties can be found.
"I'll just have to figure something out," says Mulgrew. "I think there are creative solutions. I know what works. Hell, I did Murder She Wrote four times. Angela Lansbury would come in on a Monday, she would be gone on Wednesday by four. It was her series, but you work around it if necessary. She'd put in her hours, but I don't think it's necessary to work 80 hours a week. That's what I can't do anymore.
"I would say to you at this point I'm taking it one day at a time. I have loved this. It's been the most intriguing chapter of my adult life, because I had no idea what this would mean. I walked into this thinking, `Thank God I got this job', because I needed this job so badly, and it changed my entire way of life. I never knew that such a thing could exist because I was always so proud of my independence. It was altered dramatically when I took Janeway.
"I love this company. I love them. It's genuine, after years there's not one bad apple. [It was] real luck in that chemistry."
Missing the Dance
Mulgrew may have found an intense love off-screen, but her fictional counterpart has had no such luck. Dumped long distance by the boyfriend she left behind on Earth, Janeway has become close friends with Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) - but it's a platonic relationship that looks unlikely to develop further.
"We missed that dance," says the actress. "I certainly had some input there and I didn't feel it was a good idea. I felt that it would be far more interesting and far more genuine if they had a deep and intimate and wonderful relationship and they didn't go to bed. She loses her nobility that's my problem. I said, `Janeway, would not do this!"'
lnstead, the Captain has recently had to suffice with an extremely brief, near-romantic liaison with an alien inspector sent to search the ship for telepathic refugees, in Counterpoint. However, Mulgrew admits that, in the near future, the changes in her own personal life should soon impact on her performance.
"You'll see a lot of laughter, because I think love really makes you embrace a kind of lunacy about life. A lot of tenderness.
"Ethan Phillips said something to me last night. We were laughing about a scene that we did. I said, `That was fun wasn't it?' and he said, `Yes, it was unpredictable'.
"And that's what I think there's more of."
Forget your namby-pamby “Tea, Earl Grey, hot,” this captain likes something with a little more carcinogen - coffee. Kathy has more caffeine in her bloodstream than Anthony Steward Head did in his Gold Blend days. She freely admits to not being able to get through the day without drinking three or four cups (Counterpoint), and even diverted the ship to gather fuel for the replicators to get her fix (The Cloud). Strange, after all that, that she has a lucky tea cup (Year of Hell).
Nothing or nobody can make Kathy turn the ship around, such is her determination to get home. She has taken on the entire populous of Borg Space and won (Scorpion), and even when the ship was falling apart around her (Year of Hell), she refused to veer from heading 001. She has managed to get the crew back to the Alpha Quadrant three times (Future's End, Deathwish and Timeless) but never permanently, which troubles her greatly (most notably in Night).
Including the Fifth Season, she has lost a staggering 28 shuttles, died eight times, travelled 23,000 light years of their 75,000 light year journey, had three on-screen kisses, performed The Dying Swan for the ship’s talent evening (unfortunately not on screen), been a schoolmarm, a French Resistance leader during World War II, a Klingon and Arachnia, Queen of the Spider People. She claims to do a passable impression of Picard that sounds absolutely nothing like him, and also mothered hyper-evolved Tom Paris’ reptile offspring.
And how does the good captain treat all these momentous events in her life? With a strange blasé attitude, it would seem. As she tells Harry in Deadlock “Mr Kim, we’re Star Fleet officers. Weird is part of the job.”