Kate Mulgrew with Tim Russ as Tuvok, Janeway's closest ally

Kate Mulgrew remembers that fateful
first day on Star Trek Voyager, and anticipates the end of Janeway's
seven-year mission...

Text by Ian Spelling

Selected from Starburst #270

It was seven long years ago when she first drove through the gates of Paramount Pictures and stepped onto the set of Star Trek: Voyager to play Captain Kathryn Janeway.

Just days earlier, Genevieve Bujold, who won the job over Mulgrew and many others who’d vied for the coveted part, quit suddenly after deciding the gig was not for her. And now it was up to Mulgrew to sink or swim. All eyes were on her as the future of Voyager and quite possibly the Star Trek franchise hung in the balance. “That was a highly charged and frightening day,” Mulgrew recalls of shooting her earliest scenes for Caretaker, the series’ two-hour pilot.

Do not mess with this Captain “The stakes were unbelievably high. All of the suits from the studio and the network were down here watching. I’m sure that they were scared to death that perhaps going with a woman was a total mistake because [Bujold] only lasted a day and a half. I think that when I walked on and I actually executed the lines and did it with some authority, it comforted them a great deal. But I have a very clear recollection of it having been so high pressure a day. You really have no idea.”

Mulgrew, of course, went on to make Janeway very much her own character. She came to possess Janeway, as she often puts it. More importantly, Mulgrew – with her ramrod-straight posture and knack for at once being both forceful and compassionate – anchored the series in style.

Who is Janeway?

“People ask me, `Who is Janeway now?’ and it’s like asking `Who is Kate Mulgrew at this point?’” comments the actress as she sits in her trailer on the Paramount Pictures lot. She’s in full Janeway costume, chatting amiably in that familiar Katharine Hepburn-esque voice of hers and waiting for the knock on the door that will signal the need for her to return to the set.

“It’s a very complicated process. Kathryn Janeway is exactly who she reveals herself to be. She’s a complex woman. She’s highly driven. She’s very smart and opinionated. But she is flawed. She is human. She has made a lot of mistakes on this journey, on her journey and the ship’s journey. She’s rather fond of making those mistakes, I must say, because she can then correct them in new ways.

"She is, as I have always said, first and foremost a scientist. So even when she is revealed to herself as a flawed and pretty un-sensational human being, she still sees herself as a problem solver. She will say to herself, `I will figure out how to correct that’. And she does that both philosophically and morally. She’s a deeply human woman. What I’ve tried to show through the cracks is her passion.”

Sad day

Thus, it will be a sad, sad day for Mulgrew when she dons Janeway’s uniform for the last time on the series finale’s final day of production. “It may be the case that the last time I wear the uniform it will truly be the last time,” she says as she prepares to walk back to the set that’s been her home away from home for so long. “Will I enact this role again after the finale? I couldn’t even speculate on that. There certainly has been no conversation in that regard. Who knows if Janeway will turn up in a TV movie or one of the features? In terms of our very last day on Voyager, it will be a very messy affair. It will be the fracturing of Kate Mulgrew.

"It will be very emotional and very hard for me to say goodbye to everyone and everything, goodbye to this role. It’s been wonderful to be the first (full-time) female captain on a Star Trek show. You can imagine. There’s a great feeling of pride in that. I am the first woman. What a coup. And we’ve all just worked so hard on this show, to make it good, to make it something special. So I am sure that I will finally let my guard down in that last episode or two, both as Kate Mulgrew and Kathryn Janeway...”

Starburst #270This is just an excerpt from our Voyager
cover feature.

For the full six-page interview, read on by getting Starburst #270

Images © 20th Century Fox

Feature © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction