Sunday, September 4, 2016

Kathryn Janeway

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During the first season of Voyager, I remember wishing Kate Mulgrew had Jennifer Lien's voice. It's so deep and rich and velvety - and while I didn't hate Mulgrew's voice, it struck me at the time as thin and reedy and not very "captain-like," whatever that means. Plus, I was totally crushing on Lien back then. Still kinda mad she had to leave the show. But this isn't about her...

Kathryn Janeway, like many prominent female action-adventure characters, had to walk the tightrope between being distinctly feminine while not being a man with ovaries. I remember the articles written around the time of Voyager's debut that, to paraphrase  Ninotchka, made an issue of her womanhood.

It was understandable. To that point, we didn't see very many women captains in Trek history, and while he was already dead by this time, Gene Roddenberry's ideas about ladies in general had already left their mark on the franchise. He was progressive enough to originally have a woman first officer, but he was still the same guy who also wanted the female guest stars to show as much skin as the censors would allow.

I think they did right by Janeway - to a point. The nature of Voyager's situation - lost, millions of miles from home, with only themselves to rely on - necessitated her to act as a surrogate parent to the crew, in a more overt manner than her predecessors, and everyone knows not to mess with a mama bear protecting her young.

They tried to give Janeway layers: her background as a science officer, her Midwest upbringing, her interest in art - but they didn't strike me as being all that well-developed. She was given moments where she was badass, wise, or funny, and they tended to be good, but my waning interest in the show overall during the latter years made me not get to know her as well. I don't have strong feelings for her the way I do for Picard and Sisko.

Janeway was a good character, and Mulgrew did a fine job in the part. I'm glad the success she had on Voyager has led to even greater success with Orange is the New Black. I just wish Janeway had a stronger show built around her. If it had been made today, I've a feeling it would be.

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Previously:
Chris Pine's Kirk
Jonathan Archer

4 comments:

  1. As a Kate Mulgrew fan since her TV debut on "Ryan's Hope", I've felt a need to be a booster and support of Janeway. In my eyes, her performance made it easy.

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  2. I forgot she did soaps! I imagine she was pretty good there too.

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  3. It's fun to watch young fans of Orange go, "Oh my god, you guys, I just saw this old Star Trek show and Red is the captain..." and suddenly they are all shut-ins until they finish six or seven years worth of Voyager.

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  4. I'll bet! She got Emmy-nominated for ORANGE, so she must be doing good stuff there.

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