out of the spotlight

My dad shot Super 8 films of us when I was a kid. I can still feel the abrupt cold dullness of the world that came back once he’d turned off the hot, bright light he used to get a good exposure. That shocking fall back into reality meant the fun was over. I had lost his attention. The camera, which had focused his interest in me, was powered down. no longer looking in my direction. The world lost its bright intensity, its breathless anticipation of magic and I longed for the photography to begin again.

I imagine Kate Mulgrew, Voyager’s Kathryn Janeway and Star Trek’s first female captain, felt a similar shock when Seven of Nine arrived (see Troubled Production), almost midway through the series.


photo courtesy of Trekkie Feminist
Ethan Phillips, Jeri Ryan, Kate Mulgrew, Roxann Dawson at Star Trek Voyager Reunion Panel, Las Vegas, 2015

The focus of the show’s writers, directors and publicity department shifted away from her as the leader of her ship, to the new kid on the block. Jeri Ryan, young, blonde and beautiful, played the half-human, half-Borg astrometrics officer. Her purpose was to stop the ratings slide. The show had been losing its audience, and the powers that be decided a sexy new character would fix it. They didn’t want to increase cast numbers, so one of the existing crew had to be fired. Garrett Wang (Ensign Harry Kim) came under consideration. However, it was elfin Kes (Jennifer Lien) who was forced out, creating an extremely tense working environment.

Kate Mulgrew seems to have vented some of her formidable rage directly at Jeri Ryan. As an example, Jeri tells of how hair and makeup artists couldn’t get in to do final touch ups before the camera rolled because Kate was holding the door against them. Garrett, in tears at a convention twenty years later, speaks of how painful it was, saying it felt like watching his closest female relatives fighting. And poor Jennifer Lien. Outcast then, not part of the 20th anniversary panel in 2015 later, and now facing personal difficulties. The stress of that casting change on the Voyager set must have been enormous.

Isn’t it interesting that the males of the Voyager crew still socialize once or twice a year, but not the women? It looks like the female relationships were just too awkward to survive in the real world. The scripted ‘nurturing’ between Janeway and Seven or Janeway and Torres never took hold in real life.  In one sense, why should it? Fiction shows us worlds we can aspire to, and acting is a skill. Being touched by a story is a measure of the skill of the creators. But as a fan, I still wish all the actors, female and male, could live together happily ever after.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s