September 2001
With her work on Star Trek: Voyager now behind her, and with the benefit of a little distance from Captain Kathryn Janeway, Kate Mulgrew finds herself in an interesting new position from which to comment on her former character, and on the show in general. Ian Spelling catches up with Mulgrew at her home in California, and gets her thoughts on life without Janeway.
Yes, there is life after Star Trek. That’s the great discovery Kate Mulgrew has made, and she’s relishing every millisecond of it. Not that life after Star Trek is exactly relaxing “Strangely enough, my life is even more full than it was before, “Mulgrew says during a rare day at home, a day that follows a raucous birthday party for one of her sons and precedes a two-week family getaway. “I think I’m making up for lost time.

“What’s strange to me is that before, I at least had a very rigid structure to my schedule, “she continues. “I knew that I had to be at the studio every day, that I needed to deal with certain promotional responsibilities and that I had to make time for my family as well. Now it’s kind of a free-for-all – kind of a free-fall free-for-fall, I would say. There’s just so much to do. I’m all over the place. 

“In the past two weeks I was in New York, I was in Cleveland and I’ve been back here at home in California. My husband [politician Tim Hagan] is looking at the gubernatorial race in Ohio and he’s got two daughters who I’m very fond of. I’ve got my sons here. I’m working on a play that I’m going to do in New York City, which is based on the life of Katharine Hepburn and was written expressly for me. It’s a one woman play [titled Tea at Five] that will open in Hartford, Connecticut, in February and we’ll then try to bring it into New York [and Broadway] in the spring of 2002.

“With all of that going on it’s been quite a breathless period,”she emphasises. “And it’s funny, because I’m getting itchy to work. I would say that the rumblings are already asserting themselves. We’ll do a reading of the play in the summer, but I’m looking at January as the time when I really get back into work, when I really get back into the theatre. I must say that I went into a Broadway play while I was in New York just recently and it was quite daunting. I’m a bit nervous and musty, but also very excited. If something delicious were to come along before January, of course I’d consider it very carefully and seriously, but I think my family and my husband’s political asperations are the priority right now.”

Eager as she is to work, loud as those rumblings may be, Mulgrew acknowledges that she doesn’t long for Kathryn Janeway’s chair, that she doesn’t pine for the dulcet tones of Chakotay (Robert Beltran) or Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) or the Doctor (Robert Picardo). Star Trek, to mix metaphors, is already a long time ago in a place far, far away.

“I don’t miss it yet, “says the actress, who had dinner with Roxann Dawson when they both attended a recent convention, exchanged phone calls with Robert Duncan McNeill and hoped to see Ethan Phillips in the Los Angeles production of the stage show Side Man (which was directed by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine alumnus Andrew Robinson). “I’m a little surprised, but I’ve just been so busy and so immersed in the lives of the people that I’ve missed for so long that I’ve really not had much time to think about Voyager.

“I do run into people all the time who tell me that they miss Captain Janeway and miss the show, “ she comments. “It happens all the time. And they are full of wonderful accolades. It makes me feel that Voyager has really been enjoyed and supported by a certain fraction of the television audience.

“I have to tell you that it’s interesting, getting noticed on the street, having people come up to me to talk about Star Trek. I don’t think of myself as a celebrity. I don’t think of myself as Captain Janeway. I think of myself as Kate Mulgrew. I think of myself as a person. Because we did reach only that faction of the television audience. I enjoy a kind of anonymity and peace that I quite like, to tell you the truth. It’s nice to be recognized and it’s also nice to not be recognized too much. “

Mulgrew’s trek concluded in May in the US with the airing of the two-hour series finale, Endgame [Spoiler Alert] the U.S.S. Voyager crew made it home, of course, and several other key storylines were resolved. Tom Paris (McNeill) and B’Elanna Torres (Dawson) welcomed their child into the world. Seven of Nine and Chakotay fell in love. The Borg Queen (Alice Krige) once again battled Captain Janeway and lost, thanks in huge part to the steely presence of 70-something Admiral Janeway (Mulgrew), who beamed in from the future in order to change… the future.

“I saw the finale,” Mulgrew notes. “I watched it on television with my husband and my stepdaughters the night it aired. I was very moved and I understood that night that I was having a cathartic moment. I had tears and all that because I realised that I was saying goodbye for the first time in a genuine and emotional way.

“So my viewing of the finale was colored by that every time somebody came on the screen. I was experiencing the realisation that I wouldn’t see Tim (Russ – Tuvok) and Robbie (McNeill) and Bob (Picardo-the Doctor) again for a while and possibly forever. This a very fickle business and when a show ends, people scatter to the far ends of the earth. At the same time I liked Endgame and was very proud of it.

“Speaking for myself, Admiral Janeway really worked, Mulgrew notes. “I was really quite impressed with what we managed to do with her. The special effects made it work. You really thought Captain Janeway was there with Admiral Janeway, and I thought the relationship between the two of them was very effective. I thought the Seven of Nine/Chakotay thing worked, even though it was very fast.

“I understand that there may have been some feeling of anti-climax at the very end, but I loved the simplicity of it. That’s how we began seven years ago and I thought pretty strongly that that’s how we should end. [Spoiler Alert] We knew they had to get home one way or another, so why doll it up? It was pretty big as it was, right? Some people may have wanted a big Voyager gets home scene with fireworks and confetti, but I didn’t think that would have been right considering that we’d experienced for seven years, I thought the ending was very fitting. It was not only fitting, but also smart. This is life. This is science fiction. And the finale was true to the spirits of both life and science fiction.”

The finale also gave Mulgrew a rare opportunity to see herself as she might look about 30 years from now, to act and to speak as she may act and speak three decades hence. “I was very moved by Admiral and, though this may sound a little odd, I could distance myself from her in such a way as to admire her performance, whereas I’m very critical of the captain. I had no such feelings about the admiral. There was a real abandon and confidence in her that I had and really enjoyed.”

Just as Mulgrew is moving on with her post Star Trek life and career, the Star Trek franchise is moving on with out Kate Mulgrew, Production began recently on Enterprise, the next Star Trek series, which will debut on UPN in the US in the autumn. Mulgrew laughs when asked what advice she might offer the Enterprise cast.

“I wouldn’t give any advice to the cast,” she decides. “I especially feel that I don’t have to give any advice to Scott Bakula. He obviously knows this game better than I do. He drove a hard bargain with the studio, he knows what he wanted and he’s a veteran. Plus, he’d done a sci-fi show (Quantum Leap) before. So he knows what he’s doing. I just wish them all luck.

As the conversation draws to a close, Mulgrew jumps through time and space to point out the best of Captain Janeway. That is to say that the actress obliges a request to guide viewers – long time fans and newcomers as well – to those episodes that she feels most represent either the character’s finest moments and/or her own best bits of performance.

‘I’d say the pilot, Caretaker, then also Death Wish, Counterpoint and the finale, “she offers. “I could also put Workforce, Part I and II in there too, because I thought those were excellent episodes and very important for Janeway, but I won’t.
“Each one of them had a seminal moment in there, transitionally, for Janeway and for myself as an actress. Death Wish broke me open. I gained new confidence, new wings in Death Wish. Of course I was so supported by my friend John de Lancie ( as Q) and the script was wonderful. The arguments about suicide were very compelling.

“Counterpoint was a theatrical dance the likes of which one seldom sees in science fiction. I was utterly at ease, and experienced that episode with great pleasure from beginning to end as an actress.”

“The pilot started it all and the finale embraced everything, “she says finally. “I can see the through-line between the pilot and the finale. She was the same woman, but more mature and more experienced by the finale. She survived life’s hard earned lessons, and that’s why I think it was so moving. Janeway never lost her heart.”

Many Thanks! to a Totally Kate contributor for the magazine!