Star Trek: 

The Magazine

October 2000

“She’s very brave, but she’s very human…

Kate Mulgrew shares her views on Captain Kathryn Janeway after six years in the Delta Quadrant, and her hopes for Star Trek: Voyager’s final season.

Season Five’s cliffhanger and sixth-season opener. ‘Equinox, Parts I and II,’ saw the captain of the U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656 on the edge of taking the life of another Starfleet captain. It was a situation that disturbed many viewers, as well as first officer Chakotay, but Kate relished the show. “I loved it,” she says. “Loved playing it, loved the whole idea: loved betrayal what that would evoke in Janeway.” Wasn’t she wary of seeing the character virtually seeking vengeance on a fellow officer? “Oh, not a bit! I thought that quite compelling. I think after years of being lost in the Delta Quadrant she’s hard pressed to be completely emotionally disciplined all the time, and this issue particularly would be incendiary to her since her trademark is commitment to Starfleet.”
Holographic affair
Another major Janeway show ‘Fair Haven’ was also controversial. “My love affair with the hologram!” says Kate. “I found that a bit dubious at first, and then I decided to commit myself to it. You know, one always struggles with one’s own humanity in this regard: after six years of this woman toeing the line in a rather solitary fashion, I had hoped that her first romance of any significance would be with a person. I think the writers also weighed that with great seriousness, and decided that it would probably be more provocative to this particular audience to go with the science fiction slant. It’s quite understandable that she just allows her fantasy to take over. She feels that it’s rather benign initially, and then, true to human nature, it catches up with her. I thought, ‘Well, this is an intriguing idea; let’s go for it,’ and I just threw myself into it.”
The time is past
One of the enduring issues on the show has been Janeway’s relationship with Chakotay, and many fans continue to be disappointed that things haven’t gone further between the two of them. Kate doesn’t think it ever will come to anything. “I think it’s a bit late in the day for that,” she says. “But they‘re full of surprises, these people; they may approach it, but if they do it would be, I think, terribly bittersweet since we don’t really have the time to fully investigate that. I think it leaves the door open to a wonderfully poignant goodbye. Maybe even an element of tragedy  - ships truly passing, what could have happened.” Or their future relationship may revolve around a Starfleet follow-up on the Maquis members of Voyager’s  crew, as hinted in ‘Lifeline.’ “I think there will be a struggle because of Chakotay’s Maquis background,” Kate says. “Janeway will fight for him; he may fight for Janeway. I think it’s better that way.”
Emotional dilemmas
Romance and its disappointments aside, Kate has said before that she’s not wild about superhero action shows. “I prefer the human dilemma, and I love it particularly when it throws Janeway and she has to regain her equilibrium; when she has to truly examine her own morality, her conscience, and her flaws, which are numerous.
Janeway’s humanity
“It is her examination of her flaws, and her determination to not make any excuses for herself, that I love best.  She’s very brave, but she’s very human, and that I think really is the key to Janeway; that allows her to do business with aliens of every check. I think a captain of another stripe might be hard pressed to negotiate the way Janeway negotiates, which she does generally speaking by instinct and also from her heart. And I think that her opponents or, in the end, her partners are aware of that: her humanity.”

As we’ve seen in episodes such as ‘The Haunting of Deck 12,’ Janeway excels at thinking on the run when she faces those aliens. “I enjoyed that one enormously. Enormously,” she says. “Sometimes when I get the scripts they read a bit bizarrely, but when I commit to them fully they in fact play out. It is after all a different universe, isn’t it. It’s a different imagination that we’re applying ourselves to. I get quite excited when I have something good to do: excited, and propelled.”
Family life
Kate liked last season’s shows. “I thought Season Six was good,” she says. “Six was kind of a wild ride.” However, her recent marriage to Ohio-based consultant Tim Hagan reinforced her desire to have more time for her family, and the producers managed to accommodate her. “It worked out, with the utmost graciousness on their part and diplomacy on mine. This has been a wonderful job; I’ve known that from the get-go. And my producers have been very respectful, I think, of me, and I of them.”

Discussions with the producers have always extended to the character herself something Kate says has paid off handsomely. “I think they understand that my commitment to Janeway is singular, and that this relationship has evolved into something very personal to me. As good writers, they not only recognize that they have to give me that kind of autonomy; I think they understand that the dance is now really in place. I’ve been in the trenches with this broad for six years. I know her.”

Kate may understand Janeway very well, but she doesn’t think her own personality has impinged too heavily. “Not so much that it’s ever overwhelmed the essence of the character. Janeway is not Mulgrew, but I hope that she’s been enhanced by Mulgrew. And I again would return to the note of humanity, which to me was going to be her strong suit, even above and beyond the authority of her captaincy. I thought if I could really find the nobility in her nature and reveal it through a kind of brokenness as well as nobility, then I would have succeeded.”
Hidden traits
Kate is fairly confident that most of Janeway’s potential is being explored, but acknowledges that we don’t see every side of the character. “I think that there are always aspects that aren’t covered, as there are in all of us as human beings; we are unendingly interesting. It’s a very difficult process for the writers to put that on the page. Also they have a particular discipline to exercise with Janeway. She is the captain; she cannot risk shaming herself or her ship. It’s a delicate matter, I think, to write it.

“Janeway’s heroism is now so well established that I’m always asking them to, you know, rock the boat a little bit. I’d like to take some personal risks with her. It seems that when we do that, though, it’s controversial. ‘Night’ [the Season Five opener] got really mixed reviews because people get uncomfortable watching a captain’s depression, but I thought it was just such a wonderful thing to explore. Six years of this loneliness, of this absolute solitariness: how would she feel at this point, how would she manifest this great sadness? But people really want to see the captain punch through, so it’s a double-edged sword most of the time, and I try to play it like that.

“I think the only thing she’s perfect in is, as I’ve said, her complete commitment: to the ship and the crew. And I think it’s ever deepening as far as the crew are concerned - Janeway has really fallen in love.” ‘Good Shepherd,’ where Janeway led a bunch of misfits on an away mission, really showed the captain’s concern for those serving under her. “I loved that show,” says Kate. “You could put a big asterisk on that one; that was my favorite. I loved ‘Equinox, Parts I and II’ for the sheer power and principle of what it was trying to share, but ‘Good Shepherd’ was really Janeway at her best. That’s exactly what I mean when I talk about brokenness. She just tries. She keeps trying. She never gives up her heart in any situation, and she is always prepared to go down first.”

In the show Janeway was an inspiration to her reluctant team members, and we saw some very moving scenes. “I loved those scenes,” Kate says. “Especially with the girl; that was heartbreaking. I want to move people always, because I’m an actress, so that’s always my essential compulsion; but beyond that I think they’ve really let Janeway do it more than any of the other captains. I think they’ve learned to trust that I can get away with it, and that I will still maintain absolute command.”

Does Kate think the writers have come up with storylines that would only have worked with a female captain? “Well, there are certain things that we’re culturally predisposed to accept more readily with a woman. Women are emotionally empowered over and above men in this culture, and the fact that I can exercise that through a model of authority is great, great fun to play”
Lasting relationships
If she could look into Janeway’s future, Kate thinks some friendships forged aboard Voyager  will endure through the years. “I think she would always seek out Chakotay,” she says. “And Tom Paris, and her beloved Neelix, and B’Elanna.” What about Seven of Nine, whom Janeway has nurtured from Borgdom toward humanity? “I think that could continue to evolve very nicely in a sort of student-mentor way” she says. “Seven will have so many difficulties in Federation space, I think. She’ll need to find a different kind of sea legs, and an even more provocative way to show her humanity will be when this ship finally lands: who will Seven be when she has to finally and quite deliberately confront her humanity?”

Right now Kate would like to see a little more of the captain with B’Elanna Torres a twosome that created a real spark when the series began. “They’re wonderfully juxtaposed personalities,” she says. “First of all, I adore Roxann Dawson; she’s a dear friend of mine. I don’t know why they don’t put us together more often. I suppose they think that we each have so much intensity that they need to spread it around more carefully.”

Kate will face the ending of the series with mixed emotions. “I’m very much looking forward to closing this chapter, all the while knowing very well that it will have reverberations for me of probably epic proportions for a long time to come. The sheer energy, the sheer intimacy, the secret world that I have shared with those people for so long: it will be devastating to have it withdrawn so abruptly
Home stretch
“It’s going to be awful, those last 10 shows; I know it. It’s going to be unbearable for me. When you’re in the trenches with people this long, it’s hard to say goodbye. But it’s very crucial that I get back to my life, and get back to the theater. I adore my children, and I’m crazy about my husband. He’s made huge sacrifices to accommodate my schedule, and it’s time for me to turn the light on him. He does all the commuting, so that’s going to have to change a bit. We’re building a house in Cleveland, getting my boys through the rest of high school, and trying to relax a little bit. I think it’s going to be hard for me to relearn that.”
Final adventures
Meanwhile, the Season Six cliffhanger left the intrepid captain assimilated aboard a Borg vessel, along with B’Elanna and Tuvok; the story plays out in October’s season opener. Asked about what she thinks the audience can expect for Voyager and its crew as the series draws to its close, Kate says: “I think that the writers will be very clever; I think that they will be extremely astute; they will be romantic; they will be dangerous. They will take the Maquis, the Borg, the Klingons they will take every matter in hand. Everything will have to be reckoned with at the end. And it’s going to be extremely poignant.”

Copyright © 2000 Star Trek: The Magazine

Photos Copyright © Paramount Pictures