Star Trek is often credited with breaking boundaries. The Original Series showed a future where people of all races, nationalities, and genders would work alongside each other in harmony. Gene Roddenberry’s dream of peaceful coexistence continued on into The Next Generation era.
While Star Trek deserves a lot of credit for how inclusive it was, there is no denying that it was a struggle to get there. No one has experienced this more than Kate Mulgrew, who played Captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager.
Her casting and performance were scrutinized like no other Star Trek actor before her, for no reason other than the fact that she is a woman.
We are here today to look at the life of the Captain that managed to save her crew from the Delta Quadrant, as well as the craziness surrounding her creation.
From the version of Voyager that was staffed by the Crane family to the original actress who took the role of Janeway and quit after only two days, here are the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Captain Janeway.
15. Kate Mulgrew Was Invited To The White House
It took a lot of hard work on the part of the Voyager crew to help bring a female Captain to Star Trek and make her the lead of the show.
Kate Mulgrew deserves the most credit of all, as she withstood intense scrutiny from the executives at Paramount and improved the material that the Voyager writers were creating for her every week. It can’t have been easy to have lived under such pressure, especially with the vocal backlash concerning Voyager from the die-hard Star Trek fans.
Hillary Clinton invited Kate Mulgrew to visit the White House in 1995 and speak at a function for women who held prominent scientific roles. Chelsea Clinton was a huge fan of the show and of Captain Janeway, which helped to make the meeting happen.
Mulgrew was asked to speak in front of an assembled group of some of the most brilliant women in America at the Kennedy Center, even though she was only an actress in a science fiction TV show.
14. Captain Janeway Commanded The Cast Of Frasier
The first episode of Star Trek was broadcast over fifty years ago. Paramount and CBS have celebrated each of the anniversaries of Star Trek in different ways.
The worst of these happened during a TV special called Star Trek: 30 Years and Beyond, which involved the most bizarre crossover of all time between Star Trek: Voyager and Frasier.
There have been many actors who have appeared in both Cheers/Frasier and the Star Trek franchise. That still doesn’t explain why anyone thought that a sketch involving Captain Janeway leading a crew made up of the cast of Frasier would be funny. The jokes in this sketch are woeful and are not indicative of the level of humor you would see in Frasier.
13. Kate Mulgrew & Jeri Ryan Didn’t Get Along On The Set
The relationship between Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine became one of the most intriguing parts of Voyager. Seven’s introduction to the show helped to revive interest in Voyager and gave it the push it needed to make it through to the end of its run.
Things weren’t so happy behind the scenes of Voyager. Jeri Ryan has stated on numerous occasions that she didn’t get along with Kate Mulgrew, to the point where she dreaded walking on to the set.
She believes that Mulgrew wasn’t happy with a new actress becoming the focal point of the show, especially as she was mainly doing it through her sexual appeal. It wasn’t until Jeri Ryan started dating Brannon Braga (the executive producer of the show) that the issues between the two were resolved.
12. Janeway Died Many Times In Voyager
Death is cheap in the Star Trek franchise unless your name happens to be Tasha Yar. The popularity of the character is what defines how long they will stay dead for.
Spock couldn’t even stay dead throughout the credits of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, as the final scene of the movie was already hinting at his return. Kirk wasn’t even dead for ten minutes before Bones brought him back to life in the worst plot device ever in Star Trek Into Darkness.
The Voyager crew followed in Spock and Kirk’s footsteps by repeatedly dying and being brought back to life. Captain Janeway was killed on over fifteen different occasions throughout Voyager if you include things like clones and alternate timelines.
It seems that the writers really had it in for Janeway, yet they knew that they couldn’t make a permanent fatality stick. The prominent Star Trek characters should all ask for frequent flyer miles and parking validation from the Grim Reaper.
11. She Is Still Alive In Star Trek Online
The Star Trek reboot movies begin with an event that seemingly wiped all of the post-Enterprise shows out of continuity. A Romulan vessel travels into the past and causes the death of James Kirk’s father. This starts a chain of events that creates a whole new timeline.
The original timeline that includes The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager was continued in an MMO, called Star Trek Online. This is a game that builds on the events of the reboot, which includes the destruction of the planet Romulus and the upcoming conflict between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.
Kathryn Janeway is still alive in Star Trek Online and has reached the rank of Admiral. Janeway is still active in her duties, despite being her in late-seventies.
10. A Large Portion Of The Voyager Pilot Had To Be Filmed Again Because Of Janeway’s Hair
The pilot episode of Voyager had numerous problems, any of which could have ended the show before it began.
The main problem was the amount of money spent on the pilot, as “Caretaker” cost over twenty-three million dollars to make– this single episode cost more than some of the Star Trek movies.
One of the most unusual problems associated with “Caretaker” involved Captain Janeway’s hair. It turned out to be so problematic that parts of the pilot needed to be reshot, which likely inflated the budget even further.
Kate Mulgrew first played Janeway with her regular hairstyle, which is kept long and straight. When the producers checked the footage, they noticed that the studio lights made Mulgrew’s hair seem like it was see-through.
9. Linda Hamilton Was Considered For The Role Of Kathryn Janeway
The post-Original Series iterations of Star Trek all required an extensive auditioning process for each role. This is especially important for whoever plays the Captain (or Commander, in Sisko’s case), as they are essentially the face of the show.
When the role of Janeway was being cast, there was still some opposition to the idea of having a female Captain in Star Trek. As such, there were a few men who were allowed to audition for the role, on the off chance that someone especially great was found.
Three actresses made it to the final round of the audition process for Janeway: Kate Mulgrew, Karen Austin, and Geneviève Bujold. There were also some other actresses considered for the role, such as Patty Duke and Chelsea Field.
Linda Hamilton was also reported to have been considered for the role. She is no stranger to science fiction or action films, as she played the role of Sarah Connor in the first two Terminator movies. Hamilton would likely have made for an awesome Captain Janeway.
8. Kate Mulgrew Almost Walked Off The Show Due To The Grueling Schedule
Working on a TV show involves grueling hours and a tight production schedule that leaves little room for error.
This can be even harder if you are stuck working in hot weather all day (like the cast of The Walking Dead) or in freezing cold locations (like the poor Night’s Watch guys in Game of Thrones). Producing enough hours of television to make up a season is a ton of work that can be both mentally and physically draining.
This was the excuse given by Kate Mulgrew when she talked about walking out on Star Trek: Voyager in 1999. The main reason that Mulgrew wanted to leave was because of her two young children that she never had time to see.
One of the main conditions of her returning to the show was that she be given a shorter work week in order to spend more time with her family. The executives at Paramount agreed, and Captain Janeway returned to her post.
7. Seven Of Nine Was Brought In To Be The Sexy Character On The Show
The harmonious future of the Federation happens to be limited by the strict standards of American broadcasting. This is why a disease-free future that exists without prejudice is so sterile when it comes to sexuality.
Starfleet comes across as a Mormon compound at times. Patrick Stewart had to ask the producers to give Picard some sexier storylines, which led to episodes like “Captain’s Holiday”.
Kate Mulgrew refused to sexualize the character of Kathryn Janeway. She felt that it would diminish the respect that the audience had for her if she went around sleeping with the officers under her command (which never stopped Kirk).
Mulgrew has stated publically that the reason she believes Seven of Nine was introduced to the show was that the producers felt that Voyager needed a sexy female character who could engage in romantic relationships with her comrades without it getting weird.
6. Kate Mulgrew Fought Hard For A Gay Character To Be On Voyager
Star Trek: The Original Series managed to include a multiracial cast and female characters in a position of authority, at a time when those things almost never happened and were considered to be taboo in certain markets.
Gene Roddenberry and the crew of the show were passionate about the diversity aboard the Enterprise, which is why they worked so hard to keep it.
The same cannot be said for sexuality in Star Trek, as many of the prominent actors & producers have gone toe-to-toe with the executives at Paramount over the inclusion of a gay character in the show, and have been defeated at every turn.
Kate Mulgrew was one such advocate for a homosexual or bisexual character to appear in Voyager. She has even stated that she would have played the role herself if that was what it took to make it happen.
5. The Scientific Method Acting
The premise of the Voyager episode called “Scientific Method” involves a group of aliens who are messing with the crew of the ship. This involves making Chakotay age rapidly and forcing Neelix to change into a different species.
Captain Janeway is portrayed as particularly irritable during this episode, as she often gets angry and overreacts to slight misfortune. It is revealed that the reason she feels this way is because aliens are experimenting on her, which include sticking spikes into her head.
Kate Mulgrew actually had a very easy time playing the angry and irritable Janeway, as “Scientific Method” was filmed at around the same time that she had given up smoking.
She has since claimed that this acted as a form of method acting, considering she was already pretty cranky from nicotine withdrawals. These feelings continued on throughout the season, which helped Mulgrew play a Janeway who was starting to feel the pressure of her situation.
4. Captain Janeway Became A Lesbian Sex Symbol
While the writers of Star Trek couldn’t officially out any of the characters as gay, they had an entire fan base that was willing to do it for them.
Star Trek was the series that birthed fan fiction as we know it, which was helped by the growing convention scene, which allowed fans to share their stories during the period before the Internet was created.
The idea that Kirk and Spock were gay had been embraced by the fans for a long time. When Janeway took the helm of Voyager, she inspired admiration from a different part of the fan base. It didn’t take long for the Janeway role to propel Kate Mulgrew to the status of a sex symbol among lesbian viewers of the show.
Kate Mulgrew has been aware of this affection for a long time, especially as it has been rekindled by her role in Orange is the New Black. She has spoken about how proud she is of helping to inspire such desire for a woman, due to her personality and presence, rather than just for her beauty.
3. Janeway’s Name Was Changed Due To Legal Reasons
The decision to go with a female Captain in Voyager was met with some resistance by the executives at Paramount. They insisted that the audition process include both sexes, which led to actors like Rene Rivera trying out for the role of Janeway. These male actors weren’t seriously considered for the role by the producers, which is why the final three candidates were all women.
When Captain Janeway was first being developed, her name in the scripts was written as Elizabeth Janeway. When the role of Janeway was first cast, it was decided that her name should be changed.
The reason for this was because there was already a famous Elizabeth Janeway, who was a feminist author. Paramount wanted to avoid any potential legal issues going forward, so the name was changed to Nicole Janeway before the name of Kathryn Janeway was decided upon. This name was a reference to Kate Mulgrew’s own first name, which is Katherine.
2. Kate Mulgrew Has Said That She Would Reprise The Role Of Janeway
One of the questions that every Star Trek actor has been asked at conventions is “Would you reprise your role if asked?”
There are some Star Trek actors who are dead against the idea of reprising the role for anything other than voice overs. Brent Spiner has said that he doesn’t want to play an older version of Data and would rather someone else take over the role.
Patrick Stewart also doesn’t want to reprise the role of Picard, even though he looks the same as he did when The Next Generation ended. There are some Star Trek actors who would absolutely reprise their role and have even pitched ideas to Paramount about starring in spin-offs, like a Captain Worf TV show or one following the Rikers aboard the Titan.
Kate Mulgrew has stated that she would love to reprise the role of Janeway if she was asked. She would love to play the Admiral version of Janeway, who gets to be one of the truly powerful people in the Federation.
1. Captain Janeway Was Played By A Different Actress For Two Days
It’s hard to imagine anyone playing Captain Janeway other than Kate Mulgrew. This almost happened, as she was actually the second choice to play the role of Janeway. The first person who played Captain Janeway in the Voyager pilot was Geneviève Bujold.
Geneviève Bujold is best known as a movie actress and was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Anne Boleyn. She won the audition to play Captain Janeway and was invited to film the pilot for Voyager.
It seems that the rigorous production and promotion schedule was too much for Bujold, as she was used to working on film sets. She also had difficulty learning the various scientific terms that a Star Trek actor would have to say. Rick Berman has confirmed that the stresses of working on Voyager caused Bujold to quit the production after only two days of filming.
The quick exit of Geneviève Bujold from the show turned out to be a blessing, as Kate Mulgrew was quickly brought up to speed and helped to make Voyager what it became. If Bujold had waited any longer and then walked off the show, then Paramount likely would have killed the pilot, as they wouldn’t have been willing to fund all of the reshoots.
Kate Mulgrew quickly made the role of Janeway her own and it is hard to think of anyone but her sitting in the Captain’s seat.
Can you think of any other interesting facts about Star Trek‘s Captain Janeway? Let us know in the comments!
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