Roxann Dawson followed the proud tradition of Star Trek actors who found their calling in directing, beginning when she was playing B’Elanna Torres on Star Trek: Voyager in the 1990s. With new Star Trek series being produced for Paramount+, many fans have asked about the possibility of her returning to the franchise as a director. Dawson’s own words explain why her creative projects will likely take her in a different direction.
After a Breakthrough, Dawson finds a new Foundation
Having worked as a director on dozens of TV shows across a wide variety of genres from crime procedurals to horror and even superheroes, Roxann Dawson consistently sought new challenges in new material. With each passing year, seeking new creative frontiers took her further and further away from her beginnings on the final frontier. In order for Dawson to return to science fiction, she was going to have to find the right project. Apple TV’s Foundation was it. When offering Dawson a spot directing the show, creator David Goyer piqued her interest by insisting that Foundation would be a considerable departure from her work on Star Trek. In a recent /Film interview, Dawson describes what brought her back to science fiction:
And I remember, I probably shouldn’t say this, but one of the first things [David Goyer] said to me, he goes, ‘You know, we’re not going to be shooting ‘Trek’ here. This is not ‘Star Trek.’ I went, ‘Yes, I understand. I understand.’
Goyer’s words struck Dawson, who despite not working on Star Trek for many years, continues to have great respect for what CBS is currently producing. Her work on Foundation was done with the understanding that it was going in a direction different from Star Trek—new or old. She continues:
And I was kind of like, ‘Well, have you really seen ‘Star Trek?” The current versions of ‘Star Trek’ I think are wonderful. I’ve seen ‘Discovery,’ I’ve seen ‘Picard.’ I think there’s such wonderful and modern work being done there right now that we really can’t categorize it in the way that we might have in the ’90s. But no, I haven’t really wanted to go back. I feel like I’ve been there and I’ve done that, and I love moving on to other things. So that’s where I am at with it.
Dawson has directed four episodes of Foundation, including the penultimate episode of season 2.
Could this return to science fiction with Foundation signal a possible future return to Star Trek? According to Dawson, conversations have been had, but the projects that Star Trek offered aren’t a next step for someone already steeped in science fiction. As she told /Film:
I have thought about it, and they have kindly also come to me about a few of the shows, but I think at the time they were starting to come out, I hadn’t done science fiction in a while and I was trying to move away from that — I didn’t feel a need to go back. And then this science fiction show [Foundation] came up, so this was the first science fiction that I’d done in a while.
The final frontier was just the beginning
Roxann Dawson’s reluctance to return continues to surprise some fans due to her initial success with the Star Trek franchise. While a cast member on Star Trek: Voyager, Dawson had the opportunity to direct “Riddles” in season 6 and “Workforce, Part II” in season 7. She also directed at least one episode in each season of Enterprise, often more than one. Her transition into directing Trek was a product of the extremely supportive atmosphere she found with Paramount. Speaking at a June 2014 event organized by the DGA Latino Committee, Dawson looked back at her beginnings with much gratitude:
I am the luckiest director out there because I began a directing career with people who didn’t want me to fail, that wanted me to succeed. […] Paramount became my school. You learn so much from watching other directors tackle problems.
Dawson’s directing experience with Star Trek quickly carried over into other shows. Following Voyager, she worked on dozens of other series. She found a great deal of value in directing TV show episodes. Talking with Director’s Guild of America podcast The Directors Cut, Dawson elaborated:
That’s the wonderful thing about being an episodic director. If you do several shows in a season, and they’re all different, I mean you get to just jump into all these different ways of shooting and study them and get good at them and embrace them. And I think that is the gift of being an episodic director… and also the obligation: to really take that seriously and to learn and study every show that you’re going into and make sure that you understand their visual language and make it happen with your own twist.
It was the move to feature film which gave Dawson the opportunity to elevate her craft even more. Her directorial debut, Breakthrough, was released in 2019. It dramatized the real-life story of a St. Louis teen revived after a drowning accident. Being at the helm of her own production, Dawson enjoyed the creative freedom that came with not needing to answer to a television showrunner, but it was the script itself that excited her about the project. “I was really doing something I believed in.” Dawson told The Director’s Cut. Breakthrough went on to become the first movie released by Fox following its purchase by Disney.
While her comments do not completely preclude a return to Star Trek, Roxann Dawson has explained that what would bring her back would be a chance to grow creatively, and she doesn’t see that coming from returning to her former home.
Keep up with news about the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.