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When Star Trek: Voyager aired in 1995, it was unique amongst the Star Trek universe. Firstly, it was the first series to feature a starring Native American character (Commander Chakotay,) the first half-human/half-Klingon (B'Elanna Torres,) but most importantly, it was the first to feature a starring female captain.
Kathryn Janeway was a science officer, made captain with warm heart and nerves of steel. When her vessel, the USS Voyager was teleported across space to the mostly unexplored Delta Quadrant (70 years from home,) Janeway made it her mission to deliver her ship and crew safely home, at whatever cost. Some crewmembers were lost along the way, but there are casualties in any mission.
In the third season finale, Captain Janeway was forced to ally with the ruthless Borg to defeat Species 8472, and while working together, she freed Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01 from the Collective—against her will. As the Borg woman fought against her returning humanity, some of the crew suggested sending her back to the Borg, but Janeway was determined the save the woman, known as Annika Hanssen previously. Seven eventually accepted her humanity, and became a valued member of the Voyager crew. This was the not the first time that a Borg had been attempted to be rehabilited (Jean-Luc Piccard tried on Star Trek: the Next Generation,) it was, however, the first time it was successful and that a Borg character became a series regular.
Kathryn Janeway was one step in moving the series in the right direction. The previous series of Star Trek, Deep Space Nine, was the first to feature a black captain. Now, with a POC and a woman at the helm, the show was moving away from the traditional white male leader tropes that plagued the show in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Kate Mulgrew, the actress that portrayed Janeway for all seven seasons, as well as her cameo in Star Trek: Nemesis, and the game Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force, was well aware of the importance of her character. When the writers wanted to have Janeway sleep with her first officer, Chakotay, Mulgrew refused. She wanted the character to be a captain by merit, to not be unnecessarily sexualized. Of her time on the show, the actress is quoted as saying: "I'm proud of me. I was difficult; it was hard work. I'm proud of the work because I think I made some minor difference in women in science. I grew to really love Star Trek: Voyager, and out of a cast of nine, I've made three friends, I managed to raise two children. I think, 'It's good. I used others well,' as well as reminiscing that, 'The best thing was simply the privilege and the challenge of being able to take a shot at the first female captain, transcending stereotypes that I was very familiar with. I was able to do that in front of millions of viewers. That was a remarkable experience—and it continues to resonate. The downside of that is also that it continues to resonate, and threatens to eclipse all else in one's long career if one does not up the ante and stay at it, in a way that may not ordinarily be necessary. I have to work at changing and constantly reinventing myself in a way that probably would not have happened had Star Trek not come along. I knew that going in, and I think that all of the perks attached to this journey have been really inexpressively great. So the negatives are small.'"
However, Mulgrew was not the first actress cast in the role. Mulgrew auditioned, but the role ultimately went to veteran Canadian actress Geneviéve Bujold, who requested that the character be named Nicole Janeway, instead of the orginal Elizabeth Janeway. Primarily a film actress, Bujold was not used to the strict filming schedule of a series, and was unwilling to do press interviews. She resigned from the role on the second day of filming. A clip of one of her intact scenes as Janeway is available on Youtube.
Mulgrew was asked to take on the role, and in honor of her, they renamed the character Kathryn, using the traditional spelling of the name.
In the fourth season two-parter "Year of Hell" Voyager entered Zahl space, and got embroiled in a feud between the Zahl and Krenim. A temporal energy wave struck the three ships, decimating the Zahl ship and wiping them from existence. Over the course of the next two months, Voyager battled the Krenim, taking massive damage and several casualties. Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) devised a weapons shield for the ship from an unexploded Kremin chroniton torpedo. The shield drew the attention of Krenim "time ship" that vowed to destroy Voyager to prevent the temporal distortions being caused by their new shields. After escaping, Janeway sent all of the crew except for the senior staff to safety and stayed aboard Voyager. determined to rescue Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) and Lt. Commander Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill,) who had been captured by the time ship.
In part two of that epic, formed an alliance with two species known as the Mawasi and Niydron. Sending the rest of the staff with them, she stays on Voyager alone. Paris and Chakotay were able to free themselves from their captors and beam onto an allied ship. Voyager was badly damaged when a time ship crashed into it. Janeway surmised that time would be restored to normal if the Krenim ship were to be destroyed by its own weapon, she flew Voyager into the time ship, killing herself.
In the new timeline, Voyager enters Krenim space and the crew is advised to surpass it, as the area is under dispute. Voyager leaves peacefully.
After seven seasons, the show came to an explosive end when it is revealed that the Voyager crew did make it safely back to Earth—23 years later—but without Seven of Nine, who perished some time after marrying Chakotay. It was revealed in that time, that Ensign Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) had become the captain of the USS Rhode Island, Tuvok was suffering from a degenerative disease that could only be cured by a mind-meld with a blood relation, the Doctor—the Emergency Medical Hologram —had gotten married to a human female, and had decided to name himself Joe, and that Captain Janeway had been promoted to Admiral. Admiral Janeway procured a chrono deflector, and used it transport herself back in time to the Delta Quadrant in 2378. She told her younger self to fire a anti-tachyon pulse that retracted the temporal distortion, barring the Klingons from following her. She tells Captain Janeway to set a course for the Borg infested nebula that the ship had passed a few days earlier, and supplies them with advanced technology, which allowed Voyager to circumvent the Borg palisade, and to enter a transwarp corridor. After destroying several Borg Cubes, the ship came upon a Borg transwarp hub, which would accelerate their journey home by sixteen years.
The two Janeways debated over what to do with the transwarp corridor. Admiral Janeway wanted to use it to get the crew home, while Captain Janeway wanted to destroy it. Admiral Janeway confessed that if they didn't use it to get home, Seven of Nine, as well as twenty-two crewmen would perish on the journey home, convincing Captain Janeway to give it some thought. Captain Janeway discussed it with the crew, but they agreed that destroying the corridor was the better option, given that by destroying it, they would hinder the Borg from getting to Earth. The crew's self-abnegation touched Admiral Janeway, and she theorized away to both destroy the corridor and to get the crew home.
Admiral Janeway flew through the hub, arriving at the home of the Borg Queen, the Unicomplex. Once their, she entered the Borg Queen's mind, convincing her that she wanted Voyager towed back to the Alpha Quadrant, although her younger self was not in agreement. She offered up her advanced technology as a trade.
Before the Borg could be fooled, her ship was detected, and Admiral Janeway was beamed aboard the Cube, to be assimilited.
Once assimilition had begun, Admiral Janeway discharged a neurolytic pathogen from her bloodstream, dismantling the Borg Queen, and doing damage to the Hive. Without the Queen, the Unicomplex experienced a cascade failure. The Cube detonated—with Admiral Janeway inside.
Simultaneously, Voyager had entered the transwarp corridor and started attacking the vulnerable manifolds, followed by a stray Cube that had been able to adapt Janeway's futuristic technology as well as overcome her pathogen.
Voyager was unable to fight back, and entered the spere. It arrived one light year from Earth, and unleashed a torpedo, which imploded the Sphere.
Back home, Voyager was met with Federation ships. Janeway's final line was "Set a course...for home."
In Star Trek: Nemesis, Janeway had a cameo appearence, where it was revealed that she had been promoted to Admiral upon her return to Earth.
Kathryn Janeway is my absolute favorite Star Trek captain. To be honest, I've never been much of a Trekkie. I'd seen the newer movies and enjoyed them, but I found the original series to be extremely dated. What drew me to the show, coincidentally was Seven of Nine. I'd found a novel where Seven was transported back in time and has to join forces with the original cast. I did my research, and discovered that Seven did not join the cast until season four. Still, I decided to give the show a try, as it was on Netflix. By the end of the first episode, I was absolutely hooked. I found Janeway to be a fascinating, resilient character.
I have always been a fan of strong female characters, but I find that it's not uncommon in developing one, that the writers tend to make her cold and bitchy. The genius behind Janeway—to me—was that she was strong and could definitely be a bitch when the occasion called for it, but she was so warm hearted and selfless as well. She sacrificed herself more than to get her crew home! She accomplished so much: forming an alliance with the Maquis, safely returned her crew home, restored Seven of Nine's humanity—even after Seven betrayed them to get back to the Collective—and recognized the Doctor as a sentient being; she also gave Tom Paris a chance to redeem himself. She even won the respect and admiration of B'Elanna Torres, the fiery half-Klingon Maquis, who became Voyager's chief of engineering.
To this day, Janeway stands out amongst the myriad of feminist icons as one of the strongest, most relevant incarnations.
Personally, I love the fact that Mulgrew refused to have Janeway become sexually involved with Chakotay, keeping her pure, in a sense. She didn't have to use her feminine wiles to accomplish anything, what she accomplished, she accomplished through being badass and getting shit done. She is everything that strong female should be.