‘Star Trek: Voyager’ Co-Creator Jeri Taylor On “Perfect” Kate Mulgrew Taking Over As Captain Janeway

One of the highlights of The 55-Year Mission Star Trek convention in Las Vegas this year was the rare appearance of Star Trek: Voyager co-creator Jeri Taylor. She’s retired now and doesn’t do conventions anymore, so it was a treat for fans to be able to ask her questions about her days with Star Trek.

Taylor started out on Star Trek: The Next Generation as a supervising producer in season 4, was co-executive producer in season 6, then became the showrunner on its final year. After that, she co-created Star Trek: Voyager with Rick Berman and Michael Piller, staying with the show through four seasons before handing over the reins to Brannon Braga, but was still around as a consultant. (Somewhere in the middle, she also co-wrote a few episodes of Deep Space Nine and wrote a couple of Voyager novels as well as the novelization of the TNG episode “Unification.”)

In addition to her own panel on the main stage, Taylor also made an unannounced appearance at the panel for the upcoming Voyager documentary To The JourneyWe’ve pulled together her comments from the Q&As at both.

Creating Voyager with Rick Berman and Michael Piller

Taylor didn’t remember enough about specific episodes to answer some fan questions, although she did express a particular fondness for the Voyager pilot, “Caretaker.” She did, however, remember hashing out the idea for the series itself while she was still working on TNG.

Rick and Michael did not need me to create Voyager. They knew what they were doing, they could have handled it by themselves. And I suspect that part of the thinking was that it would just be a good thing to have a woman on the team, that you’re going to have a female captain, and I am eternally grateful that they thought that and so we started getting together at lunch hours, the only time any of us would have a free hour, ordered in our lunches in Rick’s office and began hashing it out. And after many, many, often uncomfortable brutal lunches, Voyager was born.

Garrett Wang and Jeri Taylor at the 55-Year Mission convention, Las Vegas, August 2021 (Photo: TrekMovie.com)

Garrett Wang and Jeri Taylor on the To The Journey panel at the 55-Year Mission convention, Las Vegas, August 2021 (Photo: TrekMovie.com)

On Janeway

Fans at both panels wanted to know if she’d met any resistance to launching a show with a female captain, but Taylor said it was a non-issue for her:

I honestly never gave it those kinds of thoughts. And it seemed to be very natural. I was somewhat accustomed to being in a position of leadership myself. So it became an obvious next step for us. And I was frankly and thankfully unaware of that, rumblings of anger among fans or whatever they were, I suppose it was to be expected, but I didn’t hear anything about it, so I just cruised along.

It was right, and just, and what it should be.

She also made it clear that having a female captain was the plan even before she joined the team.

I have said before and I will say it again, I think Rick Berman and Michael Piller didn’t need me to create Voyager. They knew what they were doing. I suspect they perceived it would look better at least if there were a woman on the team. But these were very enlightened men, and the decision to have a female captain was made somewhere in a pay grade way above me.

Taylor may feel that the show could have been created without her, but her unique connection to Captain Janeway was spelled out when she was asked how many of her own characteristics and flaws were written into the character:

I always thought of Janeway is just me, I wrote her. I can’t say that I wrote her as me, but as I would like to be. I felt full of her. And I think she is full of me, although, in many ways, far more skilled and able than I am. But it was my fantasy that Janeway was me and I tried to approach it like that. Flaws—we all have flaws. I could name my own; I don’t know that I could name Janeway’s.

Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway - Star Trek: Voyager

Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway, Jeri Taylor’s alter ego

Pushback on Voyager 

While she didn’t feel any pushback on having a female captain, Taylor did mention one harsh critique of the show that confused her.

Voyager had a holodeck as had previous starships. And Janeway formed a relationship with da Vinci. And I got extreme negative feedback from many, many women who felt that this was completely inappropriate that she had a relationship—it should be with a person, not with a holodeck creation. And I didn’t exactly understand this, because as a Starfleet captain, it would be not good for her to have relationship with any member of her crew. And that in wanting to have a discussion with someone or develop a friend, needs we all have, that this provided the ideal situation, so I honestly did not understand the rancor that I felt from this group of people, but they were extremely set in their ways.

Leonardo da Vinci and Janeway in "Scorpion" - Star Trek: Voyager

Leonardo da Vinci (John Rhys-Davies) and Janeway in Voyager‘s “Scorpion”

Geneviève Bujold, a good actress in the wrong role

Before Kate Mulgrew stepped into the role of Kathryn Janeway, Voyager had already been filming for a few days with Geneviève Bujold as Captain Nicole Janeway. Taylor got into detail about exactly what wasn’t working and how things played out. We’ve combined her comments from the two different panels.

When Geneviève Bujold, who was an Academy Award-winning movie actress and an actress of undeniable talent, expressed interest in this role, we were thrilled, and we cast her.

I think that she made an actor’s choice, which is what actors do, about how to approach the character. And I think in her mind, she felt that she was surrounded by a crew of extremely competent people, that she did not need to be a slave driver or a whip wielder or to rise to a certain energy level in order to motivate your crew. They were motivated, they knew their jobs, and they would do it. So she preferred to be the quieter central person in on the crew and simply to let them prove do what they did best. It was a perfectly reasonable choice, and in a real-life situation would probably work extremely well.

But on television in drama, the effect was to make her seem like someone lacking in energy and authority, and you could not imagine that she would have been assigned to be the captain of a starship. The director worked with her to try to get her to infuse more energy into the part. And she was committed to her choice; this was the Janeway that she saw.

Fortunately, Bujold spared them having to fire her.

She did us a great favor. She came to us—to Rick, Michael, and me—and said that she didn’t think television was right for her that she would dearly like to be relieved of her job and her responsibility. We did not tell her how relieved we were. But we were. It would have been a much more difficult thing had we had to go to her and ask her to leave, which I suspect was in the cards.

So there we were some days, weeks into shooting with no captain, and Kate Mulgrew had read for us, not in person, but on tape. And it just had not come across in a way that that appealed to us, but we thought about her again. And we asked her to come in in person and she became the Janeway that you all know, which is the perfect Janeway.

Genevieve Bujold as Captain Janeway

Geneviève Bujold as Captain Nicole Janeway

Taylor’s influence on women on Star Trek

In another part of the panel, when someone asked if she had been responsible for the women’s characters becoming more interesting on TNG after her arrival, Taylor said she didn’t feel she could take credit for it, but then added, “I will say I was responsible for Troi getting a uniform.” After some thought, she admitted, “I don’t know that I necessarily significantly changed anything else. But I don’t know, maybe it happened without my being aware of it.”

Moderator Lolita Fatjo (a vet of TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Star Trek: First Contact, and one of the producers on the upcoming Voyager documentary To The Journey) agreed. “I think probably you did,” she told Taylor.

Jellico, Troi, and Riker in "Chain of Command" - Star Trek: The Next Generation

Deanna Troi finally in uniform (with Captain Jellico and Riker) in TNG’s “Chain of Command”

Rewriting TNG’s “Chain of Command”

A fan at the main panel asked about her rewrite of the Next Generation episode “Chain of Command” and if she remembered specifically what she had changed.

Frank Abatemarco was a very experienced writer who was on staff with us for a while, and he had done an enormous amount of research for “Chain of Command” and wrote a very authentic script—two scripts. And yes, Patrick had liked them. And when he heard that I was going to do a rewrite, he called me and he was… I had never heard Patrick argue or complain or make a demand or anything, he was such a gentlemanly person. And he said, “Please don’t rewrite this.” I think he thought because I was a woman, I was going to eviscerate it and take out some of the power of of the story, which was not my intention at all. How did I change it? I felt that characters needed to be developed more thoroughly, that the Cardassian who was the main torturer needed a backstory as well, so that he just didn’t come across as a stick figure bad guy. And so I gave him that backstory. I fleshed out what I thought were the deeper elements rather than just concentrating on torture and pain—which I didn’t lose, I don’t think, but I just tried to expand the characters so that as a story, it had a more complete feeling…

…after he read my rewrite, he called me and said he genuinely felt it was much, much better. And I thought that was just a remarkable thing for a person of his stature to do.

Taylor also mentioned that Picard was her favorite character to write for, praising Stewart as a “consummate actor” and adding,  “There’s nothing that you asked of him that he couldn’t do.”

Picard and Gul Madred in "Chain of Command, Part II" - Star Trek: The Next Generation

A captured Picard with his torturer, Gul Madred, in “Chain of Command, Part II”

Working in TV… not fun and games!

In both panels, Taylor spoke about the challenges of working in television, especially on Star Trek shows that produced 26 episodes in a single season.

I suspect that many, many people think, ‘Wouldn’t it just be heaven to work on a series like Star Trek?’ I assure you working in television is anything but heaven. It is very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, VERY difficult. Your life is not your own, you have only work. As I said, you don’t get vacations, you don’t get weekends, you don’t get holidays. It is just always right on top of you.

I have told the story before analogizing television production, a season of television, as imagine yourself standing at the top of the hill. And you start walking down the hill, and the weather begins to change slightly, and it gets colder, and a few drops of snow begin to fall, and you’re getting cold so you want to walk a little faster, so you do. And then you look behind you, and at the top of the hill, you see a teeny tiny snowball beginning to roll down the hill after you. And you start walking a little faster. And you look back, and now the snowball is getting bigger and bigger and it’s coming faster and faster. By the time you get to the bottom of the hill, which is the end of the season, you’re running as fast as you can trying to outrun the hugest snowball you’ve ever seen.

That is television production. You feel like it’s just going to swamp you and overwhelm you and crush you under it…  I seem to thrive under that kind of pressure, so I was lucky in that respect. But do not fool yourself to think that it’s lots of fun and games because it is not.

Jeri Taylor at the 55-Year Mission convention, Las Vegas, August 2021

Jeri Taylor at the 55-Year Mission convention, Las Vegas, August 2021 (Photo: TrekMovie.com)

More from Vegas

We still have some more from the con, so stay tuned to TrekMovie for updates. And don’t forget to check out the coverage we’ve already posted.

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Thank you for this article TM! Articles like this is why I’m such a devoted member to this site.

Always loved Jeri Taylor and loved reading her interviews during the TNG years. She has kind of faded away in terms of doing press and talking about TNG and VOY but so happy to see her talking about them again. I think as far as women creators goes her and D.C. Fontana gave so much influence to Star Trek and Taylor’s case not just the first woman to create a Star Trek show but also being able to create the first woman starship captain must have been a dream. But unlike Fontana, women producers just had more clout by then to be able to do those things.

Voyager wasn’t perfect but it still captured the essence of Star Trek in so many ways and I think her presence was a big part of that.

Part of my frustration with Discovery when it launched was the back slapping from producers and stories from entertainment sites, etc. about the show was how it broke ground by featuring strong women in leading roles and I was like, “Um, did you guys every actually watch DS9 or Voyager?” What stood about Janeway as the series progressed was that a woman as captain was merely incidental, not a novelty to carry the show. She was the captain. That was pretty much it.

Same!

That bothered me to no end too. And I said so in a few posts here as well. It’s great to see SMG be a POC and woman lead but she wasn’t the first in either position. That literally happened decades ago. Janeway was such a bigger symbol at the time. And I remember allll the hostility over having a woman captain which even back then was head scratching to me. Why is ANYONE upset about it? And yet people were. But I think what really made it clear of how strong Mulgrew was as an actor is that those complaints all faded away after the first year and most accepted Janeway as a captain; even if they still weren’t big on the show itself.

And that’s probably why I still love Voyager so much, because even with its flaws I just really love Janeway as a character. Just really strong and well developed.

I’m trying to like Burnham more, but yeah that character, like Discovery itself, still needs tons of work IMO.

Someone asked me, “Kirk or Picard?” the other day, and I said, “Janeway!” :-)

LOL, nice!

i’d say Sisko.

I’ve only seen the first season and a half of DS9, because my husband insisted that I wait to watch it with him, but he’s only willing to watch a couple of times a year. Drives me nuts!

That is really…bizarre. Clearly he doesn’t want to watch it if he only wants to watch a few times a year. Honestly I would just watch the show and if he gets upset tell him he has the option to watch it with you, just on your time table not his because you want to finish it before you die lol. But that’s just me. ;)

Jeri Taylor is responsible for the watered-down last two seasons of TNG (when she became showrunner) and the TNG-lite nature of Voyager (which she was co-creator and showrunner of for its first 4 seasons).

She’s not a bad writer (though she is responsible for two of the worst late-series TNG episodes– Sub Rosa and Aquiel), but she tended to be better as the teleplay writer– as she was on Unification, The Drumhead, and The Wounded.

Sub Rosa and Aquiel are 2 of my favorite episodes,. and that just shows there are fans who appreciate humanistic episodes rather than techno-science episodes , Garak .

I think fans of Sub Rosa and Aquiel are few and far between though. You folks do exist, but you’re rare and few of you admit it publicly. :-)

Thanks for the acknowledgement to our small set of fans , Thorny !

The ‘teleplay writer’ isn’t just brushing up the story. They’re taking the story, fleshing it out and carrying it over the finish line. Quite often that initial story is significantly different from that final teleplay on a series like Star Trek.

I tend to agree. TNG’s final season was a step down in quality, second only to the first season. VOY’s first two, probably three seasons were mostly lackluster, and the series managed a comeback only when she stepped down.

I remember reading Jeri Taylor’s book about Janeway’s backstory. IIRC, one of the plot points was that Janeway never conducted combat drills during her first command, and Starfleet called her out on it (with Tuvok being the lead investigator); her defense was that combat drills were unnecessary in the enlightened 24th century. C’mon. Every series has shown starships in combat. A real-world captain would be immediately relieved of duty for not conducting drills. It was hard to take Jeri Taylor seriously after that.

The final season is kind of awful but i really love All good things, i think its one of the strongest finales for a star trek series. While I’d say Turnabout Intruder was the worst. Sadly Generations kind of ruins all the goodwill of the finale. The first film was awful in the TNG movies. I like the score i guess but they way they killed Kirk was ridiculous and the nexus never made sense. And we also had the first dumb reason to blow up the Enterprise. Which the KT did as well. At least in Star Trek III it was devastating because that ship was a character, and Kirk also lost his son.

making picard a cry baby didn’t help in GEN, his tears over losing his family kind of undercut him as a captain when kirk turns up later.
we have seen him stronger in the tv show

I think that was even worse because it was just an excuse to set up the Charles Dickens scenes in the Nexus and Picard to be obsessed with having a family. He only isn’t tricked by the Nexus because of duty. Kirk on the other hand doesn’t even know about the passage of time for him he could easily be on shore leave, he doesn’t care about duty because all it ever brought him was pain. He only goes with Picard when he realizes the Nexus isn’t heaven its like a mind trick or holodeck scenario. But Picard having to convince him robs Kirk of agency. It isn’t like Kirk at all. And who the heck was Antonia shouldn’t he be imagining Edith Keeler or Carol Marcus. Also if the nexus is a time travel vehicle Kirk doesn’t even have to die, the Enterprise D doesn’t need to be destroyed. The plot is so dumb.

TNG season 7 had most of its best in the last half with ‘parallels’, ‘pegasus’ and the finale.

Well in fairness, unlike season 1 – 5 (well most of 5)the writing and production wasn’t being split into multiple projects. By TNG’s 7th season, they were missing its two biggest writers for over a full month, writers were having to had extra work to prep films development and prep earlier planning of Voyager. It’s very understandable why TNG’s quality dropped. Even the writing staff talk about how much more difficult it was trying to create during that period.

i blame braga for the shift to set piece high concept Voy, lacking proper character development.

“…ordered in our lunches in Rick’s office and began hashing it out. And after many, many, often uncomfortable brutal lunches, Voyager was born.”

And there you have it. By the time of Voyager, and even getting worse for Enterprise, Berman’s micromanagement of the eps and the writing team was getting out of control. Dude started believing his own press clippings.

Notice how of the three series that he oversaw from birth to death, that DS9 was the only series that did not have a poor season. And what a surprise to know that DS9 was the only series that he did not micromanage. Yea, that’s called a correlation!

I can only imagine how much better Voyager would have been in Jeri Taylor had been given full creative reign over the series. It’s certainly not her fault that the series ended up being mediocre.

DS9 was all bad seasons, and its clear that VOY is far more popular as stated by Netflix.

sigh

Voy borg eps are the most popular of course.
ds9 was the bomb, best of tv trek. fact.

None of the shows have been run as incompetently as the TNG films. Only 1 film out of 4 was good and watchable. It still boggles the mind, how were these the same writers and producers who produced the TNG series. Were they just tired, or worn out or out of ideas?

the movies did not have the characters arc given to the OS trio

Class act.

Thanks so much for this coverage. Really appreciate articles like this.

Hear, hear.

“And I didn’t exactly understand this, because as a Starfleet captain, it would be not good for her to have relationship with any member of her crew”

She should have had a relationship with that Gustav Mahler loving Stasi guy.

I might add: this guy was one of the best characters in Voyager. Cross my fingers we will meet him again in Prodigy. I would recast him with Josrf Hader, but that is just a matter of taste.

Counterpoint. I believe that’s Mulgrew’s favourite episode.

I always thought of Janeway is just me, I wrote her. I can’t say that I wrote her as me, but as I would like to be. I felt full of her. And I think she is full of me, although, in many ways, far more skilled and able than I am. But it was my fantasy that Janeway was me and I tried to approach it like that. Flaws—we all have flaws. I could name my own; I don’t know that I could name Janeway’s.

Did she just admit that Janeway is a Mary Sue?

It possibly depends on the vernacular here . I always thought Janeway was the all-american go-getter modern girl (and enlightened feminist) , and that the characterisation was intentional .

‘tuvix’ is not janeway’s finest hour.

Voy was at its best when Lisa klink was a writer.

Might have been mentioned elsewhere, but Chain Of Command also had the benefit of David Warner at Gul Madred, and he is also a cut above the average guest actor. Watch him in the episodes of Wallander opposite Kenneth Branagh as the title character’s Alzheimers-stricken father and you’ll see what I mean. A great British actor standing on a par with two other great British actors. For an actor like that you really need to write something other than a “stick-figure bad guy”.