Star Trek: Voyager’s Kate Mulgrew was at Denver Comic Con this weekend and during her nearly hour-long panel on Saturday she had a lot to say about the challenges of being the first woman to captain a starship, the reasons for bringing on Jeri Ryan, and she even took time to reveal some behind-the-scenes hijinks. We have summarized some of the highlights along with the full video below.
How refusing to sexualize Janeway led to the casting of Jeri Ryan
Mulgrew was asked by a young woman in the audience dressed as Seven of Nine what the moments were in Voyager that really stood out. This prompted a fairly unfiltered and honest line of thought.
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. Because men like – as they should, as all of you should and I love and adore every one of you – they love sex. And they need it. And I said “No” to all of that going in.
I said I’m not going to sleep with Chakotay, it’s not going to happen … lending a whole new meaning to the “ready room.” 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. And yes, I was unsettled by it because I had hoped – as I’m sure Hillary Clinton hoped. We all hope. Hope springs eternal that we can do it by ourselves but we still need sex. So that one stands out.
First season obsession over Janeway’s hair and look
When later prompted on what was the most difficult episode to shoot, Mulgrew called out the pilot and again discussed the issues that came with being the first female captain in the franchise.
Most difficult? Probably the first two, “Caretaker.” Indoctrination, tough. That bloody thing with my hair. 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. How many times did they change my hairdo in the first six months? Ten? Who has a hairdo like that [mimics high hair bun] in outer space? I used to touch the nub for good luck.
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. I can’t be Captain Picard.
Of course I know it was a numbers game and their demographic was men from 20 to 35. I get all of that. But men are not stupid. The last thing they want is a false captain, an impersonator. They want the real deal. So once they let me be me, the men came on board as they are wont to do.
Facing scrutiny as the first female captain
When asked about how she was underestimated, Mulgrew gave more detail on the kind of scrutiny she was under at the beginning.
First of all you do know it went to another actress first – Genevieve Bujold – the wonderful French-Canadian actress. She lasted one day!
As a result of that strange dance for the first six months at least ten guys from administration – Paramount, UPN – stood on the lip of the stage arms crossed like this and just watched me. They just watched. It was sort of unbelievably unnerving. But I took it as the gauntlet that it was. And I said to myself, “You want to play that game? Then I am going to play it with you and we will see wins this. And it’s going to be me.”
Something in me rose up at the very thought that after Miss Bujold defected, that I would fail and then they would bring back another man. I thought, “No, no, no we can’t have this. We simply cannot, we must go forward.” And so we did. And guess who had me to the White House after the end of the first season? A woman by the name of Hillary Clinton.
Janeway’s passion and arc
Responding to a question about how she related to Janeway’s passion for science, Mulgrew tied it to her own passion.
I could relate to her passion. Not that I was passionate about science, but that Janeway had a singular passion. And it was probably neck and neck with command in her list of priorities. But it was science that was constantly compelling her to explore, to try, to transcend.
Going deeper, she revealed that it was her idea to bring in the recurring character of holodeck Leonardo da Vinci.
It was my idea to get [Leonardo] da Vinci in there because I said “I think she is getting a little stiff.” She is not dry, Janeway. This is a woman that is full of life. She is full of that kind of wonderful texture and we have to make sure that we layer her. So give me somebody that will round her out. Give me somebody creative, unexpected. Give me an artist. How about Leonardo da Vinci? I thought that was great. I thought that was a terrific thing to do to humanize her and also her loneliness, I wanted that to humanize.
When asked about her favorite episode, at first she said it was difficult to pick, then noted that she was impressed with how “Death Wish” impacted the arc of Janeway.
That is hard…we did that for seven years, we did 26 a year, so it is very hard to distinguish. I know I have favorites that have resonated over the years, “Death Wish” being one of them. That was a terrific philosophical conundrum for Janeway who loves life as a scientist, but certainly as a captain I love life. And Q’s nephew comes to me and says “I am going to inherit the Continuum and I don’t want to live forever. Is it not my right to end this cycle? It is it not my right to come to an end?” So it was so elegantly posed that Janeway changes her entire philosophy in the course of those two episodes and I vote for him to end his life. Because eternity would be too hard.
Friendships and spitballs on the Voyager set
Mulgrew also took some time to reminisce about the warmer and more fun moments on stage. When talking about standout moments, she highlighted her friendships with the other actors.
Every scene I did with John de Lancie, whom I adore. And the friendships that grew. Bob Picardo became my great, great friend and I cherish him to this day. Robbie McNeill the same. Loved all of my scenes with Tuvok. Loved all of my scenes with all of those boys. Of course they are all completely naughty. I think there is very little of that seven years I didn’t love, very little.
And later when asked if it was true, Mulgrew confirmed reports that the ‘boys’ in the cast would go out of their way to try to trip her up.
Yes. [the Voyager boys would] drop trou, spit ball, hurl the combadge. [sarcastic] Oh it was a ball at three o’clock in the morning. You know invariably they left it to me because they knew that I would deliver. 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.
Watch the video
You can see her full panel online below (courtesy of Denver Comic Con):
Why is this the 1st I have heard about Hil liking trek?
And speaking as a male, I never noticed her hair style changing.
Click the link and DON’T LITTER!
Bill Clinton has long been known to be a fan.
His 1992 convention speech asked us to “join me on a bold new adventure.” Remember that this was during the height of TNG’s popularity. The line cannot have been a coincidence.
More recently, Hillary opened one of her debates (IIRC, during the primaries) with “may the force be with you.” I kind of wish they had played up this angle a tad more; it would have humanized her.
…“may the force be with you.” I kind of wish they had played up this angle a tad more; i
Exactly, Political consultant. It would have humanized her.
Believe it or not, I REMEMBER when she went to the White House. I read it in some sci fi magazine at the time. I even remember Hillary’s quote (or close to it): “Star Trek is always on in this house.” Or something like that. Yeah, its always amazing to hear when the First family are Trek fans. I know the Obama family was as well. Haven’t heard about Trump.
Even as a guy I didn’t think we needed the sex aspect of Seven. I don’t watch Trek and I think real fans don’t watch Trek just for a babe to drool over. I was very happy with the character of Seven because of her struggle with her humanity, her character. They did great casting Jeri Ryan in the part, but we didn’t need put her in the skintight outfit.
As a teen boy watching Trek I probably did my share of fantasizing Seven, though I would have watched no matter what.
I was thirteen when the character of Seven was introced and… yes, Seven DID do stuff to a 13-year-old boy’s mind.
However, by the time ENT (and T’Pol plus decon chamber scenes) came around I had certainly matured enough to say: “Oh please… REALLY?!”
“Relativity,” where she wore a proper uniform, was better. Exactly the same thing as with Troi.
Seven definitely had borg implants.
What’s sad is that the publicity elicited by that costume gave Star Trek its last noticeable sustained boost in viewership. Every other retooling or event never had the same kind of impact. Jeri Ryan and that insane catsuit lifted UPN’s year-to-year ratings average for weeks. I’m glad she is a gifted actress playing a knockout character, but it had to have been a hard thing for Mulgrew to take, and she reacted naturally.
I agree mostly, even though I was a teenager when Voyager was airing. I always did find her beautiful, but she began the ‘Ice Queen in a Catsuit’ model. These shows are supposed to be in a future where gender-equality and respect should rule the day.
I remember watching Seven in the silver outfit and I just started laughing and saying “this is too much” out loud. It just seemed over the top. Not that it stopped me from watching the show.
I agree the over sexualization of Seven of Nine and later T’Pol on Enterprise was over the top. It was a misguided an attempt to pander to a younger male generation. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be sexy moments but it was ridiculous.
@David — you can thank Branon Braga for that ..
Its subjective. Seven was a sexualised character if you LOOK FOR IT. I thought Jeri Ryan did a very good job with the character, and if she had good looks to go with that, thats all the better! She acted well, very much a female version of Data from Next Generation, another of my favourite characters in Star Trek.
Data did not wear a catsuit. Seven did.
But the characters are similar in how they struggle to be more human.
Data did worse. He wore a floatation device.
Re: Data did not wear a catsuit
that’s not how Data’s owner, Spot, saw it.
“Its subjective. Seven was a sexualised character if you LOOK FOR IT.”
I’m sorry, but that’s insane. Jeri Ryan was a tall, statuesque blonde lady in a leotard so tight you could practically count the pores in her skin. “Sexualized if you look for it?” You’d have to have your eyes firmly closed not to see it.
You’d have to look hard NOT to see it. Her costume was fitted so that each breast was individually outlined. She offers to have sex with Kim within 4 episodes. UPN ran ads for “Think Tank” suggesting Jason Alexander’s character wanted her for her body. She’s amazing, but the sex appeal was put out there about as subtly as an open bear trap with a sandwich sitting in it.
I do find if funny for all the talk of her being sexulized, which is obviously true, I don’t think we ever saw her have actual sex with anyone. I could be wrong but I don’t remember her having any relationships until the very end when her and Chakotay end up together.
The romance between her and Chakotay didn’t last , Tiger2 . Because of events , Janeway rejected a closer relationship , and Chakotay moved onto the physically/psychologically damaged 7of9 . The stories are continued in the post-Voyager novels .
Janeway was a great role model in the show , but as a man I hoped for a deep romance for her , not on the holodeck as the sexist stalker she became , but with one of the most upright and decent officers on the show that being Chakotay ! But alas as it happened , she became a career spinster !
“Career spinster”? Seriously? She was engaged at the start of the series, and she had her flings, but she was captain first and foremost. She was trying to get her crew home, and pursuing a relationship with a member of the crew would not help that. This was clearly illustrated with Picard and Kirk and was a reoccurring point, and they weren’t even in the situation that she was. So why the negative connotation with Janeway?
“Career spinster?” Would you also call the male captains (other than Sisko, who got married before he took off) the same thing? Isn’t that part of the whole “being a captain” thing?
Wow really? Then can’t you say the same about Kirk, Picard and Archer? IIRC they were all Captains that never married, never had kids and just focused being the Captain. What’s the difference? Oh, she’s a woman, she should be barefoot and pregnant at some point I guess.
Even 20 years later, being a woman Captain seems to still have their double standards it seems. We’re still a long way from the 24th century.
Re: Then can’t you say the same about Kirk…
No, becsuse of his wife, Miramanee. And I believe her episode leaves it open to interpretation whether the stoning caused her and the baby to die while in the initial stages of a trauma-induced childbirth.
Off duty , Chakotay was intensely practising basketball and exercycling in the gym , as well as plenty of showers , Guys !
I can honestly say that I never had any desire for any sort of sex appeal from Kate Mulgrew as Janeway. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that the producers of VOY really wanted to pursue that angle. But, I’ll take her word for it. And it’s a good thing that she said no, and that they brought in Jeri Ryan. Not just for the sex appeal, but because her character was compellingly written, well acted, and improved the second half of the series.
Agreed. Good thing she had the sense not to do it no matter the reasoning. That would have been a misstep.
I know plenty of people loved 7 of 9, but the whole idea of a big breasted, sexualised blonde to ogle over seemed flat out offensive to me – and I was a 20 year old male myself at the time so within the demographic in question. It was at that point that I felt Berman Trek had turned the corner from the consistent highs it enjoyed in the mid 90s to the start of it’s over-saturation and gradual decline. It felt like Braga & Co simply did not have the talent to generate great scripts and develop the existing characters they had, making them more interesting and with more depth, instead going for the easy option of sexy blondes in tight clothes for easy ratings. Hell, even if they did want to bring in such a character, there was no need to put her into a skin tight suit and have her all dolled up (which I always found a bit silly given the body horror she’d supposedly been through from childhood). It was not only insulting to Mulgrew, but Ryan herself, whose talents weren’t deemed enough for her to have scars and be in a Starfleet uniform. Her breasts and backside were apparently just as important.
I found it gratuitous and pandering, but I’ll never apologize for being a heterosexual male with a healthy libido. Hot women dressed to look hot will never offend me.
The only issue was that Braga and co -could- still write great scripts. Post-Seven you had Year of Hell, Living Witness, Counterpoint, Timeless, Blink of an Eye, Drone, One Small Step, Bride of Chaotica!, Workforce, Pathfinder, Message in a Bottle, One, Dark Frontier and IMO the best Seven of Nine story, Someone to Watch Over Me. Braga wrote most of Seven’s dialogue, which was memorable and fresh. It’s what makes that outfit so frustrating. It’s fascinating and sexy yet also ridiculous and undermines a character who is so good on paper and as played by Ryan.
How does Seven’s outfit undermine the character? It’s openly acknowledged amongst the crew that she’s very attractive, and the fact that she’s so attractive is written into some of the sub-plots. The episode where Seven overwhelms Ensign Kim comes to mind. If anything, Seven’s attractiveness gives her power, and her clothing obviously accentuates her attractiveness. On the one hand, I realize that I’m being pandered to as a healthy heterosexual male by Seven’s outfit. But, on the other hand, I’m having a hard time seeing why I should really be bothered by it.
I suppose you mean that so much attention drawn to Seven’s stunning appearance makes it more difficult to focus on and appreciate the content of her character. I suppose that’s a fair point, but we’ll never know whether we’d have appreciated her character development more if she’d been more conservatively dressed. My intuition about it is that, after a certain number of episodes, I grew accustomed to Seven’s appearance such that it did not distract me from appreciating the dynamics of her character any more than the attractiveness of a musician distracts me from the music that they’re playing. On the contrary, a musician being visually attractive or interesting only enhances the whole experience of the musical performance. For me, anyway.
Objectifying women so blatantly is a problem. On paper, Seven is severe, indifferent, cold, super-intelligent, scientific and efficient. It does undermine her character to put her in a skintight catsuit and heels which accentuate every curve, right down to fitting around each breast individually. The costume is actually quite stunning, but it makes zero sense for her character. It’s slinky and sexual, clearly uncomfortable and ill-suited for daily tasks or even a brisk walk. Why would she voluntarily keep wearing it until the end? It highlights the male gaze which the producers wanted to be ogling her, and that’s an enormous distraction. Having Jeri Taylor approve it might soften the blow, but it is an uncomfortable commentary on women’s equality and treatment in entertainment. Star Trek Into Darkness fails the Bechdel Test, Marvel Universe movie posters pose only their women characters so their butts face the camera invitingly, Seven of Nine the scientist wears a catsuit so tight you could probably tell the sex of her unborn children. None of this is the end of the world, but the problem is out there and deserves to be addressed and recognized.
Male Borg wear form-fitting outfits, so why shouldn’t female Borg do likewise? I can see possible advantages to an absence of loose bits of cloth or other material hanging off of a drone. Form-fitting clothing could be more efficient generally and more effective in combat situations. But, I typically don’t ascribe much if any validity to accusations of “objectifying” women. Or men, for that matter. Though, there’s obviously a double-standard when it comes to this accusation (I can’t recall people ever becoming upset over male models, mimbos, hunks, or other sorts of attractive men being featured in clothing that enhanced their figure). In any case, it’s pretty much all nonsense. If I or any other heterosexual man regarded Jeri Ryan as an “object,” we wouldn’t likely find that object any more attractive than a plastic blow-up sex doll. Because objects aren’t sexually attractive—-people are.
P.S. I should clarify. It is possible to find attractive an object that fashioned to look like a person, but in that case what you’re doing is personifying the object. Unless you’re really sick. And even people who are attractive to extremely submissive people whom they can dominate (and there are both men and women that fall into this category, without question) would not be so attracted to an object, simply because an object lacks the capability to be submissive. Hence dominating an object would provide no particular satisfaction. So, you see, claims about “objectifying” women pretty much boil down to nonsense when you examine them with any degree of rational scrutiny. Now, if the allegation were about men wanting to dominate women, that would be more logical. But, being that Seven is such a domineering character, charges of her having been written too submissive don’t stand to reason, either.
Correction: *And even people who are attracted to extremely submissive people…*
Just give it some… thought!
That’s so cool that Hilary invited her to the White House!
Strong Women , Corylea !
Watched some Voyager the other day & had forgotten how boring the show actually was, a pretty wooden crew
@Spud — perhaps, but the DS9 crew made them seem frenetic. DS9 is the only Trek, besides TMP, that I’ve ever fallen asleep during.
blasphemie. DS9 is best Trek so far. Sisko will remain best captain forever.
Hey, TMP was pure Trek! 🙁
DS9 was probably the only Trek I was bored of IN the beginning. But by season 3 I couldn’t turn away. By the end of its run I was so hooked, I wanted the episodes to be longer lol.
Classy Lady. Voyager was a great crew – too bad it couldn’t really take off ala Battlestar Galactica, man that would have been a Great ST series!
I didn’t really like the minimal darker cinematography of BSG , and I wouldn’t like to see an ST series like that , but the writing and drama of BSG was good , Dave R !
Kate Mulgrew was Voyager. She was the whole show. I love seeing her here. What an artist.
Very much this. She, Jeri Ryan, and Robert Picardo were the saving grace of what was otherwise a lackluster cast. They clearly gave so much more thought to casting DS9 and ENT (and now probably DSC) than they did the supporting cast in VOY.
@PC — ENT Is probably the worst cast ever assembled for any series that ran more than a season, they might as well have thrown darts at a wall full of headshots. I completely disagree. Sisko is likely the worst casting choice for a lead in any series.
I think Avery Brooks was a fascinating choice. Make some odd acting decisions sometimes, but his rage, tenderness and playfulness were huge assets.
As for Enterprise… I’m grateful that it gave exposure to Connor Trinneer, he was by far the standout who came out of nowhere. No one else besides perhaps Billingsley really made an impression. Bakula seemed out of his depth, Blalock certainly was, Park was under-utilized and Keating and Montgomery gave no impression that they had hidden depths as actors. Still, even with Billingsley, it’s got to be the fittest Trek cast we’ve ever had.
I loved Tim Russ! Thought he was great as Tuvok.
Agreed. I just love the way she speaks. So eloquently but down to earth. She really made Janeway a great character even if people disagree with some of her tactics as Captain. But I agree she really did command that show.
Hate to be the stereotypical man, but I wanted Janeway from day one. I guarantee she would be a-maz-ing. Seven was just icing.
She was indeed an attractive woman , but overall too stern for me !
Ah, that might just add to the fun.
My question the one of the show is when U and chokta got sick and U guys had to leave the ship Robert Beltram I like him very much very sexy Anne lemar
A warm , intelligent and handsome Officer of the show , Anne Lemar !