KATE MULGREW has absolutely no doubt that Star Trek: Voyager's fourth season will be remembered as the season in which the once-troubled Space Opera finally proved its worth. "It's going to be the watershed year," the actress promises. "I feel this very strongly and I feel it primitively - in my bones, if you will. I feel that it's taken a long time to find the trust factor: the marriage between writing, actor [and] person. We finally are there and it's taking wing.
"Sometimes it takes as long as three seasons to liberate yourself from the clay of a franchise of this kind of importance," she continues. "And we started that at the end of last season. I did, certainly. Mulgrew sort of came into possession of Janeway. It was a very happy union. The writing staff, I think, perceived this, so they began to give me my voice. And I've just had so much fun."
Kate doesn't seem all that far removed from Captain Janeway. A commanding and captivating presence, the actress instantly fills the room with her eloquence, intelligence and wit, as well as a highly infectious enthusiasm for all things Trek.
Despite her obvious passion for her work, however, Kate remains completely candid about Voyager's past disappointments and failings. In fact, she even goes as far as to admit that she herself didn't feel completely comfortable in the role of Captain Janeway until surprisingly recently.
"I think it was as late as last season - the latter part of last season," she explains. "I was so busy, I was so myopic in my approach to Janeway... Just getting her and executing this performance every week was such a challenge that it took almost that long to be able to relax and to see what was actually going on around me. And to realize that there were other responsibilities: that Janeway was a role model; that there was a phenomenon out there and it was called Star Trek."
Voyager's fourth season certainly provides Kate with plenty of scope to refine and develop her portrayal of the good Captain. The new season continues to explore Janeway's growing obsession with reaching the Alpha Quadrant and presents her with a number of surprises, one of which is a new sparring partner, in the shapely form of Seven of Nine, played by Jeri Ryan.
"Seven of Nine is a human being who has been intensely Borgified through the last 18 years," Kate elaborates. "I find her on a Borg cube and, for various reasons, the Borg cube is destroyed and I save her life. Or rather, I elect to take her with me back to my ship. Therefore, I assume the mantle of responsibility for this creature.
"This introduces the element of tension, unpredictability, surprise and terror onto Voyager, which I think is [the writers'] intention and I think it's a good one. There's a delicate balance here. If Seven resorts to her Borg nature, she threatens to annihilate us. However, if I, as her mentor, can prove to be compelling enough a human teacher to seduce her back into the bosom of humanity, as it were, she could very well lend herself and her extreme intelligence to the enhancement of Voyager.
"So at every juncture, it's a toss of the dice with Seven of Nine," the actress grins. "And I think that's what we need. What's she going to do this week? How is she going to get along with this character? What is this relationship going to do versus that relationship. So we have that to play with all season."
Kate Mulgrew explains more about why the new series of Voyager is anything but a season of hell in the new issue of Cult Times (June 1998, #33), available now.
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