Brannon Braga And ‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Producers Talk Janeway And “Complicated” Chakotay Relationship

One of the core elements of the animated series Star Trek: Prodigy is the character of Hologram Kathryn Janeway, and later Vice Admiral Janeway, carrying on the legacy of the character first introduced in Star Trek: Voyager and voiced by the original actor, Kate Mulgrew. During a “Producing Star Trek” panel for Trek Talks 3 (moderated by TrekMovie’s Anthony Pascale) former Star Trek: Voyager executive producer Brannon Braga had a chance to meet Prodigy executive producers and creators Dan and Kevin Hageman along with co-executive producer Aaron Walkte, and he had some nice things to say about their show. The Prodigy producers also talked about carrying on Janeway’s story from Voyager, including her relationship with Chakotay.

Braga praises Prodigy producers for their “really cool” Janeway

Trek Talks is a marathon of Star Trek panels being streamed live today on YouTube to benefit the Hollywood Food Coalition. When Producing Star Trek panel discussion turned to the use of legacy characters, Brannon Braga contrasted some of the times this was done during his time with Star Trek: The Next Generation and Voyager with what Prodigy is doing:

Brannon Braga: “Well, in my case, way back in the ‘90s, there was only one set of legacy characters and that was The Original Series. I remember the first time it happened, it was with Spock for a two-part episode called “Unification” and it was a big deal. Like, “Should we bring Spock on to the show? Are we going to be able to even get Leonard Nimoy to agree to do this? What’s the story going be?” And I should say we brought Scotty on [TNG: “Relics”] and Sulu [Voyager: “Flashback”]. We tried to get Kirk on Enterprise and came very close. Ultimately, the challenge isn’t getting the actor and paying the actor, it’s the story. And I think in some cases – and this is just my opinion – are the stories worthy of the character. And in the case of Spock, I think there was something a little drab about that two-parter, with all due respect to [TNG showrunner] Michael Piller my mentor. Did we use Spock good enough? I think you guys use Janeway in a great way. The fact that she’s a hologram when she first appears was really cool.”

Trek Talks 3 panel with Dan & Kevin Hageman, Aaron Waltke, and Brannon Braga

The Prodigy producers all talked about how and why they immediately gravitated to bringing Janeway into the series:

Kevin Hageman: “It’s all character. We knew we needed Janeway, not only hologram Janeway, but they soon later discover the real Admiral Janeway is hunting them down in the sort of The Fugitive type of scenario. We just knew that we started with her there’s Chakotay these really close relationships that Janeway had. So we never really thought of ourselves as a sequel to Voyager in any way. It was just starting with Janeway. We have a season 2 that we just finished that is not out yet. I think people will be greatly surprised to see some other legacy characters that we aren’t just married to Voyager.

Dan Hageman:There was no real debate about anybody else. I remember like [Janeway] came into the conversation at our first drafts of what the show would be. We said: A bunch of ragtag kids who know nothing, well they need they need a guru. They need a mentor. Who would it be? Well they are making a Picard show, so it can’t be Picard. And Picard with kids is not really… [laughs]”

Aaron Waltke: “As for Janeway specifically, we were like, “We need a mentor character who can shape a bunch of ragtag misfits stuck in the Delta Quadrant and find a way pointed towards Starfleet.” The proof was right in the pudding that Kate Mulgrew’s presence and specifically what she dealt with in [Voyager] season 1 of taking the Maquis and the Voyager crew and trying to mush them and find a way home, it felt like a natural fit.”

In talking about developing the character of Janeway for Voyager and what Kate Mulgrew brought to the part, Braga again had high praise for the Prodigy team...

Braga: “There was a lot of talk about Will she be called ma’am or sir? Does it mean to have a female captain? Should she be written differently? But at the end of the day again, it’s all about story and once the story’s got going, she just the captain. And enough can’t be said about the kind of symbiosis that occurs once you’ve cast an actor. We we were writing Voyager before we cast it. I was writing at least two episodes where I didn’t know who was playing Janeway. And it wasn’t until Genevieve Bujold left and Kate came in that you start to get the voice of the character. You know what it’s like? You’re sitting at your computer, doing impersonations, getting the voice, right. And so what once Kate was cast, it wasn’t that hard… I think you guys made a great choice because Kate brought a lot. She’s very commanding. She’s very clever. But she’s also kind of maternal. In the case of Voyager she had to be. This was a little family that she was trying to get home.”

Kate Mulgrew as Hologram Janeway in the Prodigy series premiere

Janeway/Chakotay relationship is “complicated”

Recently the Hagemans talked about how season 2 of Prodigy will feature a reunion of Janeway and Chakotay, but they haven’t revealed the exact nature of their relationship at the time of the new series. The Prodigy team talked about what they took away from Voyager to inform Janeway and Chakotay’s current status:

Kevin Hageman:  “We are fortunate in what we’re doing because it’s all serialized where Brannon was handcuffed to no matter almost what happens in every episode, you got to restart it in the next episode. You can only change it by an inch. So I think for us, we were just excited about what’s the next chapter between these two? We first started talking to Kate. we felt like Kate deserves to have a voice in this because she’s the one who’s been closest to this character for all this time. It’s a dance, as I’m sure Brannon knows.”

Dan Hageman: “We knew we were stinging our finger in the beehive and so we got a lot of consultants to figure out what is the best play for how this plays out.”

Kevin Hageman:Yeah, but a lot of love and respect. And we’re very careful.”

Aaron Waltke: “As for what we took away from Voyager, I think it’s unquestionable – whether it’s season 1 or season 7 – that there is a strong bond between these two. When we kind of looked at the list of people that Janeway go back to the Delta Quadrant for, Chakotay was certainly near the top of that list. You even see it in “Endgame,” that’s one of the reasons at why older, alternate future Janeway goes back and violates the Temporal Prime Directive is because Chakotay dies… So it kind of makes made sense to us that, whether those feelings are requited in a really intense way, or a personal way, or a romantic way? I think there are different moments throughout even Voyager where you where you see glimmers of all of that.

Dan Hageman: “It’s a complicated relationship. It’s more than just a relationship. It’s been through quite a bit.”

Janeway and Chakotay at the launch of the USS Protostar, from episode 11

Watch Trek Talks 3

Here is the live stream for the full event which is still going. You can scroll back to see the “Producing Star Trek” panel with Braga and the Prodigy producers.

The mission of the Hollywood Food Coalition is to feed and serve the immediate needs of the hungry every day of the year so they can build better lives. You can see some of the great work Hollywood Food Coalition is doing on their YouTube channel in videos like this one:

If you want to donate now, you can do so here:

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Get updates and learn more at trektalks.net.

Discovery seasons one through four are currently streaming exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., the U.K., Switzerland, South Korea, Latin America, Germany, France, Italy, Australia and Austria. Seasons two and three are also available on the Pluto TV “Star Trek” channel in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel.


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They can try to gloss it over as much as they want, but Chakotay was one of the most poorly thought out and boring main crew characters in Star Trek history. I wish they had put this sort of creative effort and discussion into defining this character during the run of Voyager, as this sort of after the fact reimagining of Chakotay as if this is a character a lot of fans cared about strikes me as disingenuous.

Bringing this character into Prodigy is head scratchingly unnecessary — The only thing worse than too much fan service is poorly thought out fan service.

I don’t think they are saying that he is a character that a lot of fans cared about, but a character that Janeway cared about in Voyager. That is true no matter how you slice it.

They can try to gloss it over as much as they want, but Chakotay was one of the most poorly thought out and boring main crew characters in Star Trek history. 

Completely agreed. The character was poorly thought out from the beginning. It’s as if Jeri Taylor and Berman said, “aren’t we so forward-thinking for having a Native character!” — whereupon they cast a non-Native actor to play him, wrote him as a Hollywood Indian, never even could identify his tribal membership, confused Maori tattoos with Native American customs, etc. To top it off, Beltran clearly was lukewarm about being involved with Star Trek, and it showed in his performance.

There were a couple of episodes where he overcame this reluctance (“Nemesis,” “Workforce”) but in general, this is a huge reason why I think of VOY, at least pre-Jeri Ryan VOY, as the first failed Star Trek series. To this day, I still can’t decide whether Ryan joining the cast, and Jennifer Lien leaving it, ultimately redeemed the series or came as “too little, too late.”

Quite a few of the other supporting cast were milquetoast as well, especially Garrett Wang. They would have done well, instead of giving us more Klingon and Vulcan characters, to develop another Federation species, such as the Bolians, that we had seen before but knew little about.

The thing which really undid Chakotay was how they basically neutered him after season 2 in terms of his rebelliousness and recklessness. He goes from being the guy who impulsively kamikazes his own ship, punches his crewmen to get them to behave, and steals a shuttle to go deal with Seska… to having some reasonable arguments with Janeway every other season premiere/finale. Janeway becomes the rather absurdly reckless one instead.

They could have made him loyal to Janeway but still brash and unpredictable in a cool way. That would have played to some of Beltran’s strengths.

Yes Janeway flat out went nuts after the first few seasons. She tortured crew members (Starfleet at that), Gave deadly technology freely to a deadly race, killed Tuvix, I could go an and on. She is so much better in Prodigy.

Even if there wasn’t going to be a conviction, there should have been a court martial conducted to at least investigate that deal with the devil with the Borg.

Yep I agree totally. getting your crewe of 100+ people home doesn’t condone what she did.

The punishment for her from Starfleet should have been permanently holding her rank at Captain — with no promotion to Admiral.

Yeah but he was far from the bones of his ancestors… soooo……

Yeah, and Garrett Wang kills me. He was basically a malcontent, whiner the whole time he was acting on the show, but now he’s created this fakey superfan persona where he is gravy training his pocketbook off of conventions and other Trek opportunities.

To be fair to Wang, Berman et all never did anything with his character which is even famously shown by him being a forever ensign. I would be pissed too if my company treated me like that.

Dude was listed as one of the sexiest men alive in 1997 by People Magazine, a spot he thought would boost his career and his character on VOY and the producers pretty much just made fun of him for it.

When you have characters like Jonathan Taylor Thomas or some other breakaway character that becomes a heart throb, you lean in to them, not away.

Agreed. Both Wang and Kim were a running joke on VOY because of Berman. I remember Wang wanting to direct and ep and Berman being like, I am not running a directing school here. Except he was because pretty much everyone else was given the opportunity like Robbie MacNeal and Roxanne Dawson in VOY alone.

You’ve been drinking too much of the Garrett Wang Kool-Aid. He was late to set a lot in the early years which a major issue on a TV production — and he didn’t appear in a couple of episodes because he was suspended for his tardiness. And so a year after his suspension he was asking if he could direct. That a big responsibility, and I am sure they were worried he would not deliver, so I can’t blame Berman for not wanting to take a chance on giving him an ep to direct. But here’s the thing, if he had then bided his time for another year or two and behaved (instead of complaining constantly about it), and showed some contrition, I bet he would have eventually got that chance, and I also bet his character would have been promoted.

But if you are a constant ass to Rick Berman, he’s going to stomp you — right or wrong, the dude is old school “my way”, and if you are insubordinate and a complainer, the answer is always going to be no with him.

Did not know he got a suspension for the tardiness.

If you go back and read what happened he was a total dick to the producers and serval of the other actors, and there was also a reported issue with tardiness to the set as well.

It seems like even though he was the youngest member on the set he was one of “those guys” that most of us had to deal with in our own offices — you know, that young staff member who wants to call the shots and get promoted instantly without having to pay their dues.

Well I too did not know about the tardiness or the behavior. But all I am saying is that Berman is not blameless in this either.

True, Berman was being Berman, which means it he lorded over everything.

Sure they reacted that way to him, because he was a dick and demanded stuff very quickly even though he was the youngest actor actor they had just given a significant opportunity to. He didn’t wanna pay his dues, and then when he was constantly complaining and making unrealistic demands, of course they doubled down and treated him poorly. Did Berman take it too personally and go overboard? Yeah, but I can understand why.

What I don’t understand is if that is the case, why not just kill off the character or have him marry one of those women he was with in like 5 different eps and leave the ship? I mean I get people’s most sexiest men thing but still…

It would not surprise me if Berman, who is the type to hold a grudge, just decided to continually punish him by belittling the character/actor instead of making a change. Berman was someone you didn’t F with.

But again, Wang largely put himself in that situation through his own actions.

Voy was a show gun shy about character development and serialisation which had become the norm on 90s TV.

And the premise for the show demanded that kind of writing and not the ‘re set button’ approach

Blame the writers for that not the character.
Mr beltran has been complaining for years about how things turned out

Agreed

The pairing never made sense let’s be real.

I feel the opposite regarding this choice. I feel the same about Chakotay in Voyager, and I see this as a clever rectification and a refreshing use of pre-existing resources.

Once again Braga proves he’s not very smart by knocking Unification, one of the best two parters the show ever produced. It was also a great use of Spock, playing renegade peacemaker.

I’m on the fence to this day on Unification. It was good seeing Spock on the small screen again but it seemed like they tried to make the perfect story, it was Spock, we have too make this really special. Same with Kirk in Generations, Sulu on Voyager. They hit a home run having Jimmy Doohan returning as Scotty. Really good episode especially between Levar and Jimmy.

What really irks we still to this day is that you have Mark Leonard and Nimoy both in the two parter, but you can’t get Spock and his father together? Like, are you F’ing kidding me?

Unification was disappointing. It should have been great, but it was just meh.

It was supposed to be another ‘search for Spock’, this time about him going rogue

The problem was it was more of a plodding along to find Spock

I liked the first half, which set up an intriguing mystery, a lot better than the second.

This! There’s this great scene between Mark Leonard and Patrick Stewart, and then Sarek dies after the Enterprise departs Vulcan (as noted in Picard’s log). Spock found a way to Romulus once before. After his own meld with Picard, it would have been a better payoff for the Enterprise to take him back to Vulcan to finally make his peace with his father. I think shoehorning Denise Crosby into the story was a mistake. Not only did it take away from Spock’s presence, but it cheapened the Sela character (who could have been more interesting in a follow-up episode all her own).

Yeah that ep really did cheapen Sela. I mean she had the entirety of Romulus’ planetary defenses behind her and she was still so easily defeated. Not the same person who orchestrated the Klingon Civil War at all.

And to add to that the escape itself beyond Sela was SOOOO easily accomplished. I think we would have been better served with a 3rd ep fleshing that and other aspects of Unification out more.

Spock not seeing his father was poignant to me. The last scene with the mind meld is wonderfully bittersweet because they had that distance.

While I agree, Spock and Sarek had finally put their differences beside in ST IV. And in ST VI Spock finally started embracing his human 1/2. Then in unification it seemed like both were completely undone and that made me sad.

But I do agree I loved the mind meld.

True, though I’ve found that often difficult relationships are never totally patched up by one meaningful conversation. It did feel like some of that work was backtracked, but it’s also 70 or so years later so conceivable that the Romulan issue amongst others reopened some old wounds.

Yeah, I might be wrong on this but IIRC it was something about Cardassian negotiations that Spock has openly opposed Sarek on. And Picard said he was not aware that Sarek was offended but Sarek’s new wife after Amanda was like, “I was offended, and I let Spock know it!”

Classic tale of mother in law butting into business between father and son. Maybe this comment is stepping over the line but that kind of stuff bothers m because they had been family for over 100 years but because she was irked she got to cause a rift between them?

People who don’t like Unification are just plain stupid. No I won’t even pay attention to your outraged retorts lol

I loved Relics but wanted to punch LaForge in the face in that ep.

“Unification” part 1 was outstanding. “Unification” part 2 was good, but not great. Nimoy’s performance shone, yes, but I think the plot and the resolution was too rushed. Like “Redemption,” this was a story that really needed a three-parter.

I think the problem with “Unification” was that it needed to be a three-parter at least and they needed to include Sarek and Spock together for at least a scene. As it stands it ends too quickly and too abruptly. Also I don’t think Sela was absolutely necessary for the story. I think the best usage of legacy characters in TNG was Scotty in “Relics”.

Great assessment!

McCoy in Encounter at Farpoint was good too if brief.

You’ll get some pushback on that, Unification felt contrived. The second part came right to the edge of pandering…

Yeah, missed opportunities, depressing and frequently boring. And I swear that it looks like Nimoy didn’t really have his heart in it.

One thing that always confused me is how stoic and emotionless Spock was in Unification when that same year Spock said to Valaris “Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end” I want to know what happened to him to reverse course so much in the 80 years since ST 6 and Unification.

Exactly!

Nothing happened: you just misinterpreted the character and the dialogue.

He wasn’t saying he wasn’t going to be stoic, he just wasn’t going to be obsessed with logic only. And there’s follow through IN unification but you’re too stupid to see it. He says it very specifically: he is ignoring logic to pursue peace with Romulans.

Seriously. How do you miss that?

Wow, that was too rude of a comment to deserve a genuine reply. Also, you completely misinterpreted what I said. Goodbye troll.

Yeah, that was unnecessary.

When Nimoy doesn’t have his heart in it, he doesn’t do it. Hence Generations. That he did Unification was a testament to his enthusiasm.

Of course I’ll get pushback. Because you’re an idiot.

I felt burned by Unification P1 because we got Spock for like 5 seconds literally and then half to wait like a whole summer for P2. And honestly the follow up was a let down.

The best I can say about Unification is it sort of set up Star Trek VI as well as future Romulan stories like troi’s abduction.

I don’t recall it being a summer cliffhanger. It’s mid-season so you didn’t have to wait. That said, I agree that it is not as impactful a story as I would have wanted for Spock, although I did love the concept of reunification and the idea of Spock eventually becoming a diplomat like his father.

Oh if it were mid season then maybe I had to wait through the holiday season instead? It was so long ago lol.

I did love the concept as well. Spock going all the way back to the TOS ep the Enterprise Incident seemed like he wanted some sort of relationship between the Vulcans and the Romulans again, even if the mission was one big ruse.

I seem to recall there was some kind of break?

There was no interruption. Unification was a November sweeps stunt, the episodes aired a week apart.

Oh OK. Thx

Huh, maybe it was just the week long of school that made it seem like forever LOL. Time went by much slower back then!

It not that good, flawed in plot and use of Spock

Sorry Tony you are incorrect. It’s the best use of Spock, and an excellent plot. The resolution was a little rushed and awkward but few episodes are flawless. But I’m not surprised it’s so disliked— there are a LOT dumb people in the world.

100% spot on!

Sorry have to disagree with you here. While I did really enjoy Unification I (especially Picard’s interaction with Sarek, the high point of the whole thing for myself). The 2nd part was not a strong episode, I find it fairly average. Now of course both episode did very well (as they should with being able to promote the return of Spock), but in fairness I thank TNG only did three solid (or better) 2 parters. Best of Both Worlds, Chains of Command and All Good Things. Unification, Descent, Times Arrow, Redemption and Unification all are let down by rather pedestrian conclusions. And while I like the idea of what Spock was doing and I liked the Scene with the mind Meld with Spock and Picard (those are small moments in a 45 minute episode. So 2.5 out of 5 stars for that episode.

And I give you a 1 out of 5 for insipid analysis.

Well said!

I liked Unification well enough at the time and still do. I do find it interesting that nobody picks the episode with Spock in it for their TNG top ten.

It’s been in my top 10 for years! It’s not perfect (the resolution is a little quick and awkward for a two parter with so much runtime) but it’s always been a favorite of mine. And what they did with Spock — and Nimoy’s performance — are exactly why.

Well Nimoy was brilliant in everything he ever did so that wasn’t hard to imagine lol

And the use of Spock is why I love it. They did something interesting with the character, and Nimoy elevated it further. It was a smart way of integrating TNG into the life of an iconic character, without it feeling forced.

Great episode, even if morons can’t see it.

Never been a big J/C shipper but wouldn’t mind seeing something happen between them down the line. And safe to say Chakotay and Seven are finito!

I never liked the Chakotay/Seven relationship as it felt even more forced that Worf and Troi. But since it is a thing I would like to know how they ended thing when they got home.

They just didn’t do enough to develop it despite the characters having chemistry in past stories

Agreed. Chakotay and Seven had a few good stories together like when they were stuck in the elipse and stuff. But the thing is, the relationship just came in at like the very end. Like we were too busy wrapping up the series to know or care about their relationship. For me at least,

There was never an opportunity on PIC for Seven to even casually mention how her relationship with Chakotay ended. I would appreciate a little throwaway line of dialogue when Janeway finally reaches Chakotay. Or maybe she could be discussing it with the Doctor.

Ya, 10 eps gives you no time except for the actual story. but maybe a single line to Raffi could have been put in there. Something like, I’ve had relationships with Starfleet commanders before and it never worked out. LOL

I mean season 2 definitely felt like they didn’t have enough story to fill those 10 episodes.

Few thoughts…

are the stories worthy of the character?”

Are you kidding Brannon? You were going to have Kirk’s ancestor be chef!

Alternate timeline Janeway goes back to save chakotay..

While I am sure that was part of it, she went back in time to specifically save Seven.

Chakotaý was a naff character, not helped by the fact that they hired a con artist instead of a real native American advisor. All that acoochy moya crap. Ugh.

The advisor story – so weird!!!

You would think for a project as important as “the series that launched a network” they would have done a much better job at screening SMH.

That this relationship has been handed-off in 2024, from one set of producers to the producers of a children’s show, is frankly a lot more interesting to me than the relationship itself.