The series premiere of the animated kids series Star Trek: Prodigy arrives next week, which will include the return of Star Trek: Voyager’s Kate Mulgrew, voicing Hologram Kathryn Janeway. Speaking to TrekMovie and a handful of other outlets in a group interview during New York Comic Con, Mulgrew talked about returning to the character and gave us some insights into what’s different and what’s not so different about Hologram Janeway.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Ella Purnell [Gwyn] has said each of the characters learns something in their arc from Hologram Janeway, but does Hologram Janeway have her own arc?
Very good question, thank you. Initially, she’s there for purposes of mentorship and guidance. But you soon come to understand that she is leading them in an unexpected way. I don’t think I am allowed to tell you how that is, that is a spoiler. Suffice it to say that the hologram is very much like Captain Janeway and has many of her traits, and all of her sort of better qualities. And the kids respond to those qualities accordingly. So it’s not as if they’re responding to some sort of machine.
It’s very much a collaboration. And it’s a very felt relationship she has with these kids. Otherwise, they wouldn’t listen, right? What kid listens to an adult who’s shouting at them, or sternly reprimanding them or simply telling them what to do? A kid listens when the adult is interested in the kid. And that’s what Hologram Janeway is with all of these kids.
How much of Captain Janeway’s personality will we see with Hologram Janeway? Or is she just like educational software?
As I said a moment ago, that would be futile. To use a good Star Trek expression: she must be fully alive. She must be endowed with vitality, with heart, and with a capacity for great warmth and affection. Also discernment. She likes some better than she likes others. She responds to some more positively than she does to others, and vice versa. So there’s nothing clinical about this hologram, nor would it work if it were. It has to be alive. And she is very, very alive. It wouldn’t be interesting to me as a voice actor. Why would I do it? It has to resonate. It has to have all of our human qualities, of course.
How different will Janeway be on Prodigy, given she is a hologram?
Well, she’s animated [laughs]. It’s a distinct difference. I’m not REAL in this one. But all of the characteristics, and all of the virtues, and some of the flaws are much in evidence. The essential Janeway is there. That’s the whole point. That’s what’s so provocative, and what will prove to be so evocative about this Janeway. She embodies what was real, and she’s giving this demographic something through a genre that is not real. So it’s kind of an extraordinary sleight of hand, If you will.
You have done animation voice work before, but what is it like performing a character that you previously played in live-action?
Easy. Delightfully and refreshing easy. Which is a wonderful gift after having worked so hard for seven years to create the real Captain Janeway. To have her in my pocket like that and to have her spring out with such alacrity and such vivacity, pleases me very much. It’s a pleasure. And at this point in time—26 years later—it should be nothing short of a pleasure.
Did you have any input on the animated design of Hologram Janeway?
A wonderful question. We were in VERY close collaboration because it’s important to me that my physical features be exaggerated in just the right way. It’s easy to get that wrong. But these animators did it beautifully. So that the eyes are a little enhanced, the face itself is a little shortened, a little square, the mouth is more facile. Children need to respond to the eyes, the mouth. Every inch and step of the way, from the hair, which you know, was diabolically difficult for real Janeway. And these guys–Kevin and Dan Hageman–are just terrific to work with.
There is a genius to animation that I hadn’t given enough thought to, myself. And being a part of this is teaching me that it’s a very rare and very excellent form of art. It’s craftsmanship that I have to stand back and sort of say, “Wow.” These are men who are not only incredibly smart and very, very gifted, but who can somehow enter into the imagination of a six-year-old kid and produce the dialogue that would be in accordance to that personality. It’s wonderful to be a part of it. I’m learning.
How did it feel when they approached you about returning to the role?
I gave it a minute, even though the phone call came directly from Alex Kurtzman. And he is someone I admire very much. I like his intelligence. I like the way he thinks. I love his love of Star Trek. Because often in a producer/creator, those two things are not necessarily compatible. In him they are, very much so. But I had to sit on it for a minute because my creation of Kathryn Janeway was not only wholly invested, but I have to tell you, very defining. That was a decade of my life that never ended. It just keeps going on and on. So the significance of Janeway is very apparent to me. If I’m going to step into some recording booth and bring her to life again, I’d better understand that. So after considering that for about two days, I said, “I’d love to do it.” And it’s been great.
With Star Trek: Prodigy Captain Janeway is going to be the captain and an inspiration for a whole new young generation of fans. What does that mean to you personally?
It means the world to me, which is why I agreed to do it. And especially because it is children. In my experience with Star Trek, the targeted audience has always been sort of twenty to whatever [laughs]. To go into the minds of the young will be thrilling. And I’m so surprised Star Trek didn’t do this earlier. And I’m absolutely delighted and honored to be the one to take it in. Because who would absorb this more readily than a young mind? This kind of philosophy. The idea of Prime Directive is Kid Stuff 101. Let me be noble. Let me be fine. Let me be happy at being great. That’s what children aspire to. And that’s what we’re going to give them.
How do you feel kids are going to react to the episodes following the two-part premiere?
I think it’s only going to get better and better. It’s one thing in the booth, I don’t see all of the animatics. I watched the entire thing today for the first time–the first two episodes. And I could see distinctly the development of it. As the characters are introduced, you’ve got to hang in. You’ve got to really pay attention. That requires a certain concentration. This is this character, this is what this character will represent. And then Janeway appears at the end, suddenly, and you know that something terrific is going to happen. And indeed it does, because she is going to help them motivate that starship into life and into its proper direction. Thrilling!
ICYMI: Hologram Janeway clip
The following clip of Hologram Janeway was revealed at NYCC.
Prodigy arrives next week
The Prodigy debut will be available to stream on Paramount+ in the United States on October 28. The series is also coming to Paramount+ in Latin America, the Nordics, and Australia, and CTV Sci-Fi in Canada. It will debut in 2022 in parts of Europe with the launch of the Paramouint+ Sky partnership.
Keep up with the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.