Star Trek: Voyager took the long-lived Star Trek franchise to new places. On screen, the crew of Voyager had to face unfamiliar territory, new alien enemies and allies, and conflict between the two stranded crews that combined on the ship out of necessity.
Off screen, Star Trek was breaking into new territory by casting a female captain to lead the series. Writers and producers also had to start from scratch on the characters and places featured in Voyager‘s adventures without relying on many of the standbys built in previous series.
These new developments came with their fair share of conflict, arduous work, creative struggles, and behind-the-scenes drama. From the beginning, the creators were prepared for resistance to the idea of a female captain, and casting the right lead actress was more difficult than expected.
Creative decisions for the series caused several issues. Some writing decisions failed miserably, while others took off despite resistance from cast and crew behind the scenes. Actors, producers, and writers got into long-lasting disputes over the direction of the series.
In the end, Voyager ran for seven successful seasons and created many beloved characters like Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine, but the journey to get there was far from easy.
Here are the 15 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets About Star Trek: Voyager.
15. Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan didn’t get along
Janeway and Seven of Nine were one of the defining relationships of the series, but it was a rocky relationship behind the scenes. Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan did not get along. Jeri Ryan related that she got sick with anxiety when she had to perform scenes with Mulgrew and other cast members confirmed that their working relationship was strained in the first few years.
Mulgrew had been pushing to desexualize Star Trek and its female characters, and she was not happy with the introduction of the Seven of Nine. Mulgrew explained, “That moment stands out for me when Jeri Ryan arrived.”
“That was an interesting moment because – there’s been a lot of controversy about it generated by me – again unfortunate. When you’re the first female captain you hope against hope that that’s going to be sufficient until the day it wasn’t,” she said.
Mulgrew stated that Seven of Nine was brought in after she resisted a sexualized Janeway, adding, “I said you’re just going to have to go somewhere else for it, so they got this very beautiful girl to come in. She played a wonderful character.”
14. Robert Beltran blames Brannon Braga for ruining characters’ potential
Robert Beltran has never shied away from criticizing how Chakotay was underutilized on the show, and he thought the problem with his and other neglected characters started when Brannon Braga took over running the show.
“I guess when Brannon Braga took over, when the Seven of Nine character made her entrance, the focus changed,” Beltran related. “That was fine with me, but I think writers have an obligation to fill out all the characters if they’re regular characters on a series. I think several of the characters were diminished – Chakotay and Tuvok and Kim and Neelix.”
He continued, “I think it was just easier for these new writers that came on to write stories about the captain and about characters that weren’t really human, like Seven of Nine and the Doctor.”
“Those three characters were kind of all-seeing, all-knowing, omnipotent, and I think a lot of the tension and drama that was available was lost because you have to really dig hard to find tension in all-knowing, all-seeing characters,” he said.
13. Jeri Ryan was miserable her first two years on the show
After her late introduction to the series in season three, Jeri Ryan had a miserable time on set for the first couple of years. Ryan explained, “It was really, really tough the first couple of years and there were many days when I was nauseous before going into work because it was that miserable. Just unnecessarily, intentionally unpleasant.”
Much of the unpleasantness on the set revolved around her antagonistic relationship with Kate Mulgrew, a frequent source of anxiety since most of her scenes were with Mulgrew.
Ryan added, “But yeah, it was unnecessarily unpleasant for a couple of years — basically, until I started dating [Brannon Braga]. Once I was dating the boss, funny how things suddenly cleaned up!”
The cast conflict was not her only issue with the character, though. Her initial Borg suit was so tight that she blacked out a few times before the problem was fixed. She hated her famous catsuit, as well, relating, “They didn’t let me keep the cat suit. I would have loved to have burned it; not so much the cat suit as the corset that was under it. But, no, they didn’t let me have that.”
12. Writer Ron D. Moore quit after Braga excluded him
Veteran Star Trek writer Ron D. Moore joined Voyager‘s writing team after the end of Deep Space Nine, but Moore did not stay for long. He left the show after only a few weeks and just two episodes because Brannon Braga excluded him from writing decisions.
Moore explained, “I have very hurt feelings about Brannon… It was a breakdown of trust. I would have quit any show where I was not allowed to participate in the process like that. I wasn’t allowed to participate in the process, and I wasn’t part of the show. I felt like I was freelancing my own show.”
After writing for The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Generations, and First Contact, Moore departed the Star Trek franchise for good (so far), moving on to projects like Roswell, Battlestar Galactica, and Outlander.
11. The showrunners were prepared to have a male captain
It was never entirely certain that Captain Janeway would be the franchise’s first female series lead. Producers were prepared for the possibility that Paramount would back out of the idea of a female captain. They read several male actors for the role of Captain Janeway to have a backup in case the studio decided against a female lead.
It was not always an easy decision for Paramount, as the studio faced some backlash over a female starship captain. Garrett Wang later spoke about the “various death and bomb threats that were sent to the Voyager production offices at Paramount Studios over the decision to have a woman in command of a starship.”
10. The Kazon were so hated they were written out
Star Trek: Voyager took a few creative missteps in its first seasons, and one of the biggest issues was the Kazon. The Kazon were written to model Los Angeles street gangs, with infighting between the alien gangs.
Voyager invested heavily in the story of the Kazon through the second season after introducing them in the first, and the decision was not well-received. Many viewers considered them weak imitations of the Klingons and the ratings reflected the disinterest.
Jeri Taylor ultimately decided to write out the Kazon at the end of the second season, and most of the cast and crew agreed that the Kazon had overstayed their usefulness on the series. Kazon-centric plotlines were quickly tied up. The original ending for the second season finale killed off Seska’s baby instead of Seska herself, leaving an opening for Seska to return, but this was later reversed.
9. Jeri Ryan turned down the role of Seven of Nine four times
Seven of Nine’s sexualized portrayal on the series was the root of a lot of drama behind the scenes, especially in Jeri Ryan’s strained relationship with Kate Mulgrew.
However, Jeri Ryan had her own concerns about how the character would be developed on the show. She turned down the role of Seven of Nine four times. She finally accepted the role after repeated persuasion from producer Jeri Taylor, reportedly convincing her that her character would not just be an “intergalactic Barbie.”
Seven of Nine was developed in a complex arc throughout the series, exploring her inner turmoil about being human and her dark past with the Borg. Unfortunately, that was not the only thing attracting attention about her character, with a lot of the coverage about her introduction being devoted to her form-fitting catsuit and obvious physical attributes.
8. The male actors would try to trip up Kate Mulgrew
As Kate Mulgrew tried to get through her many scenes in the series, the men on set would reportedly try to trip her up as she was filming, and Mulgrew confirmed the reports. She said, “Yes. [the Voyager boys would] drop trou, spit ball, hurl the combadge. Oh, it was a ball at three o’clock in the morning.”
Mulgrew related, “So I would say we are easily in our 20th hour and I am telling some alien about some vortex or some black hole and it has to be impeccable and it’s five straight minutes and ‘ffffft’ [mimics being hit in the head with spit ball] ‘who did that?’ Not only did they not answer, they were stark naked.”
This didn’t seem to sour her on her male coworkers, though. She stated, “Loved all of my scenes with all of those boys. Of course they are all completely naughty. I think there is very little of those seven years I didn’t love, very little.”
7. Beltran expressed many complaints about the show
Robert Beltran has been openly critical of how Voyager was handled, at times seeming to express hatred for the show’s writing, the producers, his character’s development, and several other aspects of the series.
His extremely honest comments about the show have occasionally gotten him in trouble with the crew and fans, but he was not worried about any consequences for his role on the show.
He explained, “For me it was like, ‘OK, you can fire me if you want to. Go ahead, and I’ll leave.’ That gave me a certain amount of freedom… I felt like I was telling the truth, and if people can’t take the truth, that’s fine with me, but I’m not going to be stifled by the prospect of being fired.”
6. Garrett Wang and Rick Berman had an antagonistic relationship
Robert Beltran was not the only one pushing for better development on the show. Garrett Wang wanted Harry Kim to be promoted from Ensign, but Rick Berman and Brannon Braga refused the request. Wang also requested to direct an episode, and Berman denied this request too. Wang was the first cast member in the history of the franchise to have a request to direct refused.
According to Wang, it was a vague public criticism of Rick Berman that caused the antagonism. When talking to a TV Guide reporter, Wang expressed dissatisfaction about Berman’s creative decisions.
He explained, “My wording to him at the time was, ‘I think the producers of Voyager did not take the risks to make the show as good as it could be.’ Even though I wasn’t really specific about what the issue was, that printed comment alone sealed the death of my ambitions to direct an episode of Star Trek.”
5. Garrett Wang was almost fired after the third season
After the third season, rumors began that Harry Kim was going to be written out of the series. In the end, he was kept on the show, but Kes was written out at the beginning of the fourth season. Garrett Wang was not entirely sure why the producers chose to keep him on the show, but he had some suspicions.
“In terms of what happened during that span of time, I’m not even going to ask,” Wang said. “Demographic-wise, Kim plays to an audience that other people don’t play to. You’re also getting into a little sticky area with the ethnic issue.”
“On top of that, it was a coup that I got into People Magazine [as one of the world’s 50 most beautiful people]. I think Patrick Stewart was the only other person from the Star Trek world to get in. The timing of that, right during our hiatus, certainly couldn’t have hurt me in terms of them keeping me on the show,” he said.
4. The original Janeway quit after one day of filming
Before Kate Mulgrew took on her iconic role, producers chose French-Canadian film actress Geneviève Bujold to lead the series as Captain Nicole Janeway. Voyager started filming with Bujold, but the casting choice fell apart quickly. Bujold quit the series after only a day and half of filming. Public releases said that she was not accustomed to the rigorous pace of television.
Producer Rick Berman stated, “It was immediately obvious that it was not a good fit.” He related that she had issues with memorizing seven pages of dialogue each day, having her hair touched up by the hairdressers, and working with directors she did not know.
After Bujold’s departure, producers hired Kate Mulgrew, an actress already used to the pace of filming television, and changed Janeway’s name to Kathryn on Mulgrew’s advice. Although many other actresses were considered for the part, it is hard to picture Janeway as anyone other than Kate Mulgrew.
3. Producer Rick Berman told actors to underplay human characters
Voyager‘s human characters have a tendency to fade into the background, but apparently this was an intentional decision by producer Rick Berman. Garrett Wang recalled, “He told us that we were to underplay our human characters. He wanted our line delivery to be as military — and subsequently devoid of emotion — as possible, since this, in his opinion, was the only way to make the aliens look real.”
“During the entire first year filming Voyager, actors were required to re-shoot certain scenes because of excessive emotion.” Wang described. “I personally had to re-shoot only a couple of scenes, since I learned my lesson early that crossing the writer/producers was an unwise decision.”
“Kate Mulgrew held the record for the most re-shoots, numbering in the double digits. It is a little-known fact that during the first season, Mulgrew’s Janeway had a teary eye on more than one occasion, only to be vetoed by the producers and covered up with a re-shoot,” he said.
2. Jeri Ryan was annoyed by Seven and Chakotay’s relationship
The romance between Seven of Nine and Chakotay was a confusing element of the series finale, especially since many fans felt that the relationship appeared out of nowhere. Behind the scenes, Jeri Ryan had similar problems with the relationship.
Ryan explained, “My problem with that relationship was that it came out of the blue. They had started the set-up of the relationship a few episodes earlier, in the episode where Seven was experimenting with her humanity on the holodeck… The next episode that we shot after that, Seven and Chakotay were stranded on some planet together.”
“We specifically asked the producers — Robert and I — ‘Now, are we going to play this? Is this going to go somewhere? Because, obviously, we’d need to carry something over from…’ And they said, ‘No, no, no, no! Absolutely not. Don’t play any of that. Nothing’s going to happen,'” she continued.
“So, after that one episode we never played any sort of attraction or anything between the two characters,” Ryan added, “And then, out of the blue, all of a sudden, they’re dating. That was a little annoying, especially when you’ve specifically asked about it and they said, ‘No, absolutely not.’ Then, suddenly they’re in love.”
1. Kate Mulgrew refused ideas that would sexualize Janeway
Kate Mulgrew took her place in the franchise seriously, maintaining influence on how Captain Janeway was developed in the series. She held a strong opinion that Janeway should not be sexualized on the series and refused ideas that would portray her in the light.
She was adamant that Janeway would not start a relationship with Chakotay. Her decision also avoided the controversy of the first female captain also being the first captain to get involved with a subordinate crew member.
She also objected to the various hair and wardrobe troubles they put her through. Mulgrew explained, “Endlessly stupid hijinks with my hair! Not only my hair. My hair, my breasts, my feet, my waist. There was a woman in the captain’s chair and they didn’t know what to do.”
“So it was all physicalized… I finally said to them at the end of the first season. Take this [mocks removing corset] thing they had in here. Take that. Take bobby pins. Take the boots off. Give me some shoes I can walk in and let me be Janeway,” she said.
Partly thanks to Mulgrew’s influence, Janeway became a ’90s feminist icon and one of the most beloved characters of the franchise.
Can you think of any other dark secrets about Star Trek: Voyager? Let us know in the comments!
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