Like most other Star Trek shows, Star Trek: Voyager carried a large ensemble cast of regulars, and also featured a revolving door of highly recognizable guest stars. The premise of the show -- a Starfleet ship traveling out of an area of space as opposed to bouncing around familiar territory -- lent itself well to different people popping in and out every week.
This meant that casting on Star Trek: Voyager was of the utmost importance. That's not to say it isn't on any other given show-- Star Trek or otherwise-- but when you're constantly dealing with Aliens of the Week in addition to your large group of series regulars, who plays whom becomes even more important.
Much of the time, Star Trek: Voyager's casting hit it out of the park, and we got stellar characters, whose performers elevated the writing in unexpected and unforgettable ways. But that wasn't always the case and sometimes audiences had to sit through hours (or seasons) of an actor who simply didn't fit the bill.
This list houses 22 casting decisions-- some are those that deserve the spotlight for being amazing and others are those that must be called out for being a little misguided. Sometimes it comes down to how well an actor's actual performance actually lands, sometimes it comes down to how their interpretation of the writing served the overall story, and at other times it's simply a disconnect between conception and character.
Here are 7 Casting Decisions That Hurt Star Trek: Voyager (And 18 That Saved It).
22 SAVED: ROXANN DAWSON (B’ELANNA TORRES)
Chief Engineer B’Elanna Torres was half-klingon and half-human. Her experience served as a metaphor for women of color and needed to be handled with care. Roxann Dawson spent seven seasons showcasing the nuances of Torres’ volatile nature.
She was as times furious, sad, vulnerable, and sweet.
The character could’ve easily become a two-dimensional, hot-headed cliché, but Dawson brought considerable depth to her characterization and made Torres’ evolution one of Voyager’s best ongoing storylines.
Looking at B’Elanna’s transformation from season 1 to season 7, it’s easy to see how much ground Dawson covered in her seven years as the character.
21 HURT: DWAYNE JOHNSON (PENDARI)
It feels like blasphemy to claim casting Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in anything hurt a show, but in Voyager's case it did. The Rock guest-starred in an episode titled “Tsunkatse” that saw Seven of Nine forced into a gladiatorial competition against him.
The whole thing was blatant stunt casting designed to capitalize on UPN’s other major property, the WWE, of which The Rock was the biggest star. The episode was terrible-- though it was admittedly cool to see Jeri Ryan flex her action muscle/ Dwayne Johnson only appeared long enough to raise his signature brow, and seemingly hold back from yelling “Can you smell what the Rock is cooking?”
20 SAVED: KATE MULGREW (CAPTAIN KATHRYN JANEWAY)
It’s hard to gauge the kind of impact the first female captain in Star Trek had on popular culture, but it’s not hard to imagine just how big the failure would’ve been if the show had cast the wrong actress. And they did, at first.
Tape of Paramount’s original choice Genevieve Bujold exists and it paints an underwhelming picture of what Voyager would’ve been like without Kate Mulgrew.
Mulgrew took on the Herculean task set before her and knocked it out of the part.
She created an iconic figure for scientific-minded women-- and men-- everywhere
19 SAVED: SUSANNA THOMPSON (THE BORG QUEEN)
Star Trek has always been fond of reusing its guest stars and Susanna Thompson was no exception. Not only did she appear in two episodes of TNG and one episode of DS9, she actually auditioned for the role of the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact. The role eventually went to Alice Krige, but Thompson got another chance to play the villain on Voyager.
Her portrayal of the Borg Queen was one of the bright spots of the eventually overused Borg.
While her existence contrasts the idea of what the Borg actually are, that didn’t diminish the impact of her arc with Seven of Nine or the efficacy of Thompson’s chilling performance.
18 HURT: JENNIFER LIEN (KES)
While Kes was an interesting character on paper, the show never allowed her to become very compelling. The reality of her seven year lifespan was never fully explored, her telepathic abilities only matured the minute she was written off, and most of her storyline revolved around her romantic relationships.
Jennifer Lien did her best with what she was given, but she never succeeded at making Kes very dynamic.
It’s possible that would’ve changed if she’d been allowed to stay on the show longer, but Jeri Ryan replaced her before the character could’ve been explored further.
17 SAVED: ROBERT DUNCAN MCNEILL (TOM PARIS)
Part of what makes Robert Duncan McNeill’s casting as Tom Paris perfect was that he’d essentially played the character before on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
“The First Duty” introduced Locarno as an elite pilot who forced the other members of his squadron to participate in a cover-up after one of their teammates was expelled, and he was eventually expelled as well. Voyager’s showrunners initially wanted to bring Locarno to the new series, but they didn’t have rights to the character. So, they created Tom Paris, a character with virtually the same history and the rest is history.
McNeill’s casting made for a nice bit of continuity and semi-redeemed the compelling Locarno.
16 SAVED: ROBERT PICARDO (THE DOCTOR)
Voyager’s crusty, fastidious, nameless CMO quickly became one of the show’s most popular characters.
His put-upon nature hearkened back to Leonard “Bones” McCoy of The Original Series, but he had a childlike, petulant nature that evoked Data and made the hologram’s exploration of his own existence very, very compelling. He got a bit overused in the final seasons, but Robert Picardo breathed such wonderful life into this character that we didn’t really mind too much.
In the hands of a lesser actor, this character easily could’ve become annoying and one-note, but Picardo lent him necessary depth and complexity.
15 HURT: ETHAN PHILLIPS (NEELIX)
Ethan Phillips is a phenomenal actor, but like Kes, Neelix wasn’t done a whole lot of favors by Voyager's writing. His presence on the ship never made a whole lot of sense.
Sure, it might have been nice to have a chef on board who could cook Delta Quadrant ingredients, but was it necessary? A morale officer certainly wasn’t, not when there were more than enough crewmembers on board who could’ve taken up that duty.
If Neelix had had a darker nature and manipulated his way onto the ship, maybe he would’ve been a little more compelling, but Ethan Phillips' eternal cheeriness made for a grating presence.
14 SAVED: GARRETT WANG (HARRY KIM)
Ensign Harry Kim served the softer side of Starfleet. If the Doctor’s central journey was to explore his own unique version of humanity, then Harry Kim’s was a coming-of-age story of a dedicated, but very, very green officer.
His naivete, optimism, and dedication to the rulebook made his friendship with Tom Paris one of the most compelling relationships on the show.
Watching him develop into a seasoned officer was a phenomenal journey and Garrett Wang played it beautifully.
He allowed the character to mature, but never lost the sensitivity that was an essential part of Kim’s personality.
13 SAVED: JERI RYAN (SEVEN OF NINE)
It’s an understatement to say a lot was riding on the success of Seven of Nine. Her addition came at a time when Voyager was struggling for ratings and many viewed the decision to cast a beautiful woman in a shallow attempt to pander to young male viewers.
Luckily for the integrity of the show, Jeri Ryan is a talented actress who elevated the character far beyond her appearance.
Ryan took Seven’s complex history and conveyed it with delicacy and precision.
It was no easy feat to tackle a woman who had to develop individuality before our very eyes, and Ryan drew her beautifully.
12 HURT: ROBERT BELTRAN (CHAKOTAY)
Robert Beltran’s Chakotay started out as one of the series’ more amorphous characters. Janeway was sent to bring in the Maquis commander, but he joined her crew with little protest after she stranded them all in the Delta Quadrant.
While he and Janeway certainly had their struggles throughout the years, his character never seemed particularly consistent. Aside from that, Robert Beltran expressed his public displeasure with the show’s writing on more than one occasion.
All of those elements combined to rob Chakotay of the greater significance he could’ve had.
11 SAVED: TIM RUSS (TUVOK)
Tuvok represented the first time a Vulcan had been a series regular since The Original Series and Tim Russ nailed it.
At times he appeared almost crystalline in his portrayal of the centuries old officer, but he also pulled off the task of conveying muted versions of the volatile emotions that run deep underneath all Vulcan logic. It’s not easy to portray deep relationships when expressing emotion is basically forbidden, but Tim Russ managed to do it.
His attachments to Janeway, Kes, Seven and his own distant wife and children felt real, despite the fact that he was never spectacularly effusive.
10 SAVED: ANTHONY DELONGIS (MAJE CULLUH)
Anthony DeLongis played one of season 2’s primary antagonists, the power-hungry leader of the Kazon Nistrim. His hatred of Captain Janeway was matched only for his desire for Voyager’s technology. With Seska’s assistance, he actually managed to commandeer the ship at the end of “Basics Pt. 1.”
The cat-and-mouse game Janeway and Culluh played with each represented some of Voyager’s best storytelling and that was in no small part due to Anthony DeLongis’ sneering performance.
Fun fact: the actor is also a weapons expert and taught Michelle Pfeiffer how to use a bullwhip for her role as Catwoman in Batman Returns.
9 HURT: ED BEGLEY JR. (HENRY STARLING)
Henry Starling got very, very lucky when he picked his campsite. The hippie just so happened to settle in for the night right next to the very spot that Captain Braxton’s timeship crash landed. He poached the tech and used it to become some weird combination of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs that would eventually perish because he didn’t understand what he’d stolen.
Unfortunately, Ed Begley Jr.’s just not the villain Starling needed to be.
We never took him as seriously as we needed to and he ended up being hammy instead of scary.
8 SAVED: MARK HARELIK (INSPECTOR KASHYK)
Kate Mulgrew felt the captain realistically wouldn’t have time for a relationship and did not want that to be a focus of the character.
Mark Harelik played one of her two major romantic partners throughout the series, and while he only got one episode, he made it count. His villainous Inspector Kashyk had everyone – except Janeway – fooled into thinking he had honorable intentions, until he ultimately betrayed Voyager and her captain.
This was a great opportunity to show that Janeway could have feelings, yet not be blinded by them.
7 SAVED: KURTWOOD SMITH (ANNORAX)
“Year of Hell” remains one of Voyager's better two-parters. It represented the first time we saw Voyager and its crew so desperate and endangered. Voyager’s trials surrounded the maniacal Annorax; a single-minded Krenim commander so focused on changing the timeline to get his departed wife back he sacrificed the lives of anyone who got in his way.
Annorax was driven by grief, not megalomania, and that made him ultimately sympathetic and far more interesting.
Kurtwood Smith was able to convey Annorax’s callous nature and season it with vulnerability.
He gave us one of the show’s better villains.
6 HURT: LORI PETTY (NOSS)
Love interests for Vulcans always make for complicated terrain to navigate, and “Gravity” was no exception. Lori Petty played Noss, a woman who’d been trapped on a planet that was blocked by a gravity well for “14 seasons” (a long time).
When Tuvok and Paris crash-landed there, she nursed Tuvok back to health and fell head over heels for him. When he rebuffed her because a) he was married and b) literally had no feelings for her, she was very upset.
Eventually they worked it out with the help of a mind-meld, but this silly story, plus Petty’s clunky delivery, made Noss really hard to swallow.
5 SAVED: MARTHA HACKETT (SESKA)
One of Voyager’s best villains was Seska, the Cardassian secret agent posing as a Barjoran. When her secret was uncovered in season 1, she beamed to a nearby Kazon Nistrim ship and cemented her alliance and affair with their leader, Maje Cullih.
Despite the advances she was able to make to their systems given her Cardassian expertise, she and Maje Culluh spent most of season 2 trying to commandeer Voyager for their own purposes. They eventually succeeded in “Basics Pt. 1,” but not for long.
Martha Hackett played her to the hilt and was so popular she came back from beyond the grave in “Worst Case Scenario” and “Shattered".
4 SAVED: SARAH SILVERMAN (RAIN ROBINSON)
Sarah Silverman guest-starred on a memorable Voyager two-parter called “Future’s End”. The ship gets sent back to 20th century Earth and astronomer Rain Robinson gets entangled in their attempts to return to the 24th century.
Having a smart-mouthed sidekick tag along on Tom Paris and Tuvok’s ill-fated way mission provided some phenomenal comedic moments. The episodes remain some of the series’ most fun. That’s in large part due to Silverman’s performance as the astonished, but intrigued space enthusiast.
Her romance with Tom Paris was a little unnecessary, but Robinson sending him back to his “spaceship” at the end of their departure is camp at its best.
3 HURT: JASON ALEXANDER (KURROS)
Just because a villain’s distasteful doesn’t mean he can’t be entertaining – see: Harry Mudd. But Jason Alexander’s portrayal of think-tank member Kurros in the episode of the same name made us want to hurl our remotes at the TV.
Kurros was ultimately a sympathetic character, given he’d essentially been sold to the think tank as a child, but Alexander played him as a sneering, arrogant jerk and little else.
His two-dimensional presence was more annoying than it was compelling.
It ultimately felt like another round of stunt casting when the character could’ve been something far more interesting.
2 SAVED: SUZIE PLAKSON (Female Q)
Even if you’re not the biggest Voyager fan, there’s no denying they fleshed out the Q Continuum better than any other Trek show. The addition of Q’s scorned significant other added hilarious layers to the Continuum as well as Q’s own characterization.
Veteran Star Trek actress Suzie Plakson was the perfect choice to portray Q’s partner and it was easy to see why they’d be paired together-- as well as eventually split over and over and over again. They were well-matched and bad for each other at the same time.
Plakson played Q’s conflicting feelings for her partner as well as her own arrogance so well that we were disappointed when she didn’t return to Voyager.
1 SAVED: BRAD DOURIF (LON SUDER)
Oscar-nominee and Golden Globe winner Brad Dourif was the second One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest alum to play a villain on Star Trek-- the first being Louise Fletcher who played Kai Winn on DS9.
Dourif created a truly disturbing character in Lon Suder’s mad Maquis Betazoid.
The concept of having a serial predator on board a ship as small as Voyager was frightening on its own, but Dourif lent an air of psychosis to Suder that turned out to be really frightening.
Who's your favorite actor on Star Trek: Voyager? Let us know in the comments!