Oh Captain: Kathryn Janeway

Posted by CB Droege

Ship’s captains have been an important part of genre fiction for a long time. Thusly, in our first genre feature series, we’re looking at ship’s captains. Today’s captain is Kathryn Janeway of the USS Voyager.

Being that Star Trek is all about the ship, many of the captains we’re featuring are from that illustrious franchise. Janeway is the only female protagonist from the canon portions of the universe. She is also the only one to captain a ship not called the Enterprise (Sisko doesn’t count, as he’s not a ship’s captain, he’s a station commander.)

At the beginning of her story, Janeway is the new captain of a relatively insignificant ship (compared to the flagship Enterprise, of course), which has been sent to pursue a ship belonging to a criminal organization called the Maquis, on which one of her crew was undercover.

The Maquis ship had disappeared into the dangerous Badlands, and Janeway , with the help of a convicted Maquis at the helm, ordered pursuit.

While there, both ships were mysteriously transported to a distant, mostly unexplored part of the galaxy, roughly 70 years travel time from known space.

The journey, and the following combat with hostile alien forces, damaged the Maquis vessel, and led to casualties on both crews. Janeway made the decision to put aside differences and merge the crews of the two ships, even brining on their captain as her first officer, as they would all need help to get home.

The Borg were a persistent enemy of Janeway, as they originated in the Delta Quadrant, and had claimed large swaths of space there, being an enemy of every race they encountered, with the exception of the Kazon, whom the Borg did not have the inclination to assimilate, showing that the Borg do at least have some standards of membership.

Most interesting is the de-assimilation of a captured Borg, who becomes a member of Voyager’s crew, and who, played by Jerri Ryan, is often thought to be the hottest Star Trek girl, although that’s arguable at best. Really, she just had one of the best costumes.

A big moment in Janeway’s development came when she tried her hand at galactic-scale diplomacy. The Voyager had encountered on several occasions (including their first arrival in the Delta quadrant) the Kazon species, which had been fractured into numerous sects after years of slavery under the Trabe. Janeway attempted to establish some peace by inviting the Kazon and Trabe leaders to a negotiating table. The plan failed miserably however, and in the end she had only made matters worse, causing her to doubt her abilities as a leader and a force for good in the Delta quadrant.

The crew came across tools which would allow them to return home several time throughout the series, but in every case, there was something wrong: some deal that they couldn’t bear to agree to, or some sacrifice that they couldn’t bear to make, until finally, after seven years, Janeway managed to com into contact with a future version of herself, who gave her the technology to fight the Borg and use one of their transwarp conduits to return home. Not before initiating a civil war inside the Borg collective, however.

Janeway was played by Kate Mulgrew who had done little else of great visibility since the series ended. She has been heard to lament that the role of Janeway has overshadowed her career, a common note among Star Trek actors, and feels that it has made it difficult for her to be able to take other roles outside of the stage.

Come back tomorrow when we will feature Captain Jacob Brown. If there is a Ship’s captain which you would like to see featured in this series, let us know in the comments.