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FEB. 17-23, 1996
By Michael Logan
Batten down the hatches! Star Trek’s most stellar bad boy—the flamboyant, omnipotent Q—beams aboard UPN’s Star Trek: Voyager for the very first time on February 19. This knavish character, played by John de Lancie, has been pestering Starfleet crews for nearly a decade, appearing seven times on Star Trek: The Next Generation, including the first and last episodes. He’s also unleashed his special brand of havoc on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
“As much as we’ve wanted Q on Voyager, getting him here has been tricky, “says Rick Berman, a cocreator and executive producer of the show. “The Voyager crew is lost in space and Q has the power to bring them home. Obviously we can’t let him do that or we wouldn’t have a series. Nor did we need yet another oh-here’s-Q-being-a pain-in-the-neck story. We needed to move into new Q territory.” The episode, titled “Death Wish,” deals with several provocative topics (including assisted suicide in the Q Continuum) and features some spirited banter— and even a bedroom scene!—between Q and Kate Mulgrew’s character, Capt. Kathryn Janeway.
Mulgrew and de Lancie have enjoyed a riotous off-camera friendship for 15 years—part Nick and Nora Charles, part Ralph and Alice Kramden—but until now, they’ve never worked together on-screen. To mark this momentous occasion, TV GUIDE joined the duo for lunch in Mulgrew’s dressing room.
TV GUIDE: One difference between you is immediately obvious: Mr. de Lancie is chowing down on a mile-high deli sandwich and you, Ms. Mulgrew are picking at a skinless chicken leg.
Kate Mulgrew: It’s the costume, dear. This Starfleet uniform shows every spare ounce. Otherwise, I’d be eating my lunch and John’s.
TVG: Back in 1994, when you had just been cast as Janeway, you told TV GUIDE that you’d never seen Star Trek except for Mr. de Lancie’s episodes.
KM: Uh. ..I did?
TYG: You said you had to watch his episodes because...
KM: Ah, yes.. .because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be invited to his dinner parties.
John de Lancie: True. She either has to show up at my door and give a long dissertation on every nuance of my performance—or bring a big bottle of wine.
KM: That’s how we got to know each other—dinner parties.
JdL: Many dinner parties.
KM: We met through a mutual friend. At the time, John was newly married to his wife, Marnie, and I was also newly married. Then we had our babies at the same time. I would say he’s my closest male friend. (She cackles.) He’s certainly the only man I listen to on the phone for longer than three and a half hours!
JdL: I call her up and read her the entire script of every project I’m working on.
KM: Boy, does he! (She adopts an aristocratic accent and mimics de Lancie.) “Now tell me, Kate, and what did you think of scene 52 point 5C?” (She laughs hysterically.)
TVG: Did you discuss your Janeway auditions with him?
KM: I don’t remember. Did I?
JdL: No. You called up after the fact to gloat.
KM: Did I?
JdL: Yes, and I was a little upset about it, because I felt that if I had the right wig, I might have had a shot at the part of Janeway.
KM: Believe me, if you had the right wig you would have gotten the part.
JdL: Then I didn’t see you for a while. I went off to Tucson to do [the short-lived UPN series] Legend. I had to watch the premiere of Voyager from my hotel room.
KM: You also used that Tucson excuse for missing my 40th birthday party. Still, I have campaigned very hard to get him on Voyager. Rick Berman was very concerned about how to get Q into the Delta Quadrant. I even threw a dinner party with the Bermans and the de Lancies and we talked all night long. I said, “You’ve got to find a way.” And they did.
JdL: With a terrific script.
KM: A really terrific script. Very clever. Very literate. Classic Star Trek.
JdL: This episode is full of in-jokes. But one was so “in” it got cut. In the first draft, Q was supposed to say to Tuvok, “Without Q, you would have been the engineer on the Enterprise.” It’s known among [Trekkers] that Tim Russ, who plays Tuvok, was the runner-up for the role of the engineer Geordi [on TNG].
KM: Oh? Is it true? How come I didn’t know that?
JdL: That’s because you’re not really up on Star Trek. You’re too busy worrying about your hair. She’s the Jane Seymour of the Federation.
KM: This is turning out to be the most irritating interview.
TVG: Speaking of Trek trivia, Q’s enduring popularity is ironic given that he’s a character created with some reluctance by Gene Roddenberry. He wanted to do a one-hour pilot for The Next Generation, but when Paramount insisted on a two-hour debut, he came up with a B-story featuring Q in order to pad out the plot.
JdL: But he was glad they forced him into it. Roddenberry and Rick Berman came up to me in the middle of shooting the pilot and said, “We’d like to have you come back at least four times a year.” Then Gene came to his senses. A month later, he said, “You know, we really can’t do that—we’d lose all credibility. Once a season maybe.” And I understood. The character is—and always should be—peripheral. A little Q goes a long way! (Mulgrew, with her mouth full, laughs silently and raises her hand to second that notion.)
TVG: Well, let’s change the subject. About that scene where Q suddenly materializes in Janeway’s bed...
KM: They have a diabolical flirtation, which is great!
JdL: The Captain would probably never get into a sexual thing with this guy—she knows too much about him— but she is titillated by the possibilities.
KM: Janeway is fascinated by Q’s intelligence. His omnipotence is very... provocative.
JdL: And he finds her provocative, too.
KM: Genuinely! You put them alone in a room, confine their space, and it’s going to be very.. .very. . .(She appears on the verge of selecting a raunchy word but re considers.).. .textured. We rehearsed [the bedroom scene] for 45 minutes, which is extraordinary. Around here, rehearsals usually take six minutes and 15 seconds.
TVG: Are the fans ready to see Janeway in a romance?
KM: Oh, yes! This episode is an opportunity to explore her interior life and I’m very happy about that. We can’t have Janeway doing what everyone else on board does—have sex and stuff like that. That is a line I personally don’t want [the writers] to cross. But I’m always getting letters from ladies who say they want to see Janeway have something with Chakotay [Robert Beltran]. Something has to happen to the poor dear.
TVG: So what’s it like acting with someone you know so well? Any shocks or surprises?
JdL: (breaking into a naughty grin) Well, now, let’s see...
KM: (picking up a gift-wrapped bottle that has been sent over by the studio)
Can I bribe you with wine? Money? I have cash.
JdL: Well, Kate discovered that I can’t remember a line for longer than five minutes. Actually, five might even be stretching it.
KM: I guess this means we won’t be doing Shaw or Shakespeare together on stage.
JdL: Working with her is exactly what I would have expected. When she got the job... (He is interrupted by a ringing telephone. Mulgrew answers it.)
KM: Hello?... Whaaaat’?. . .Is this the City of Glendale? No, but sometimes I wish it were. You’ve got the wrong number.
JdL: I was right in the middle of a compliment! Sooooooo, when she got the job, I told the producers, “I’m sure Kate is delighted to be on your show, but you guys are the lucky ones.”
KM: (touched but trying to hide it) I love John and I genuinely think he’s a great actor. I have to.. .otherwise I couldn’t stand working with him. (She laughs so hard she nearly chokes on her chicken.)
TVG: You two seem excited about the script.
KM: This is what we’ve prepared all our lives for! This is writing any literate actor would be passionate about.
JdL: There is something demoralizing about being trained to play Chopin piano concertos but being asked to play jingles. Most television shows—and a lot of movies and plays—are jingles. Now this (he picks up the episode’s script) is a concerto. After reading it, I immediately called [executive producer] Michael Piller and said, “If this is the kind of stories you’ve been doing on Voyager, this show must really be top-notch.”
TYG: So you’re saying you’re not a regular viewer?
JdL: (glancing at Mulgrew) Er.. I’m just not around a television.. .hardly ever.
KM: Now the truth comes out!
JdL: Well, you didn’t watch Legend!
KM: (daring him) Oh, didn’t I?
JdL: No, you didn’t, and you know damn well you didn’t—but that was a wonderfully convincing line reading. I guess she didn’t want to come to my parties that badly.
TVG: Well, provided you two ever patch up this friendship, will we see Q and Janeway team up again?
KM: Absolutely. We just need some great ideas. I think a quarterly appearance would be a very good thing. (to deLancie) Don’t you?
JdL: Why wait? Maybe Q could just come back next week
and say, “Ooops... Forgot my hat!”