In Defense of Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager

I’ve been hitting my head against a wall the last couple of days trying to figure out the best introductory article I could write. I always hope for something that would awe and amaze. However, all of my ideas could be dissertations and long drawn out tangents better suited for a bar. So, for now I’ll start with something I can always talk about: Star Trek.  More specifically Voyager, because if I’m going to go on a tangent, Captain Janeway seems like a good place to start.

I’m a fan of most Trek series, but for me, my first obsessive relationship with Star Trek began with Voyager. It was the first series I was old enough to watch as it aired on television. Countless actors and writers have talked to the fact that seeing certain characters on Trek have deeply impacted their creative adult lives. The biggest example being Whoopi Goldberg and her first introduction to  Lt. Uhura of the original Star Trek series.  Uhura gave Whoopi a female black role model that existed outside positions of service help. It seemed plausible that there was a future where white people could get past racial bias and stereotypes. For a child this kind of inspiration is monumental.  When Whoopi was older, she went to Gene Roddenberry asking for a part on the The Next Generation and thus Ginan was born. She in turn inspired many more sci-fi watchers.

Seeing Captain Janeway on the screen was my Lt.. Uhura moment. As much as I love other Trek characters, there will always be a special place in my heart for the cast of Voyager. Janeway stuck with me in a way that still clings to me in adulthood. I think Trek was the first place viewers saw women who talked less about their romantic relationships and more about the dynamics of their careers and their relationships to the scientific world around them. Janeway was the ultimate role model for me. Here was a woman who was not only a Captain in charge of star-ship but first and foremost a scientist. On top of being a scientist, there was the added burden of getting her crew out of the Delta Quadrant and back home.

Watching Captain Janeway talk to Da Vinci in order to work out scientific problems made my heart giddy. While I never grew up to be a scientist, watching Janeway was the first time I felt my mind was represented in media. What I mean by this, is that while I can be a romantic, what I valued more was my creativity and my intelligence. Janeway let me know that this was okay. I finally felt it was okay to be intelligent first and something that my emotional relationships could exist in tandem with.  She taught me I didn’t have to be alone in my mind, that I could base my relationships off of intellectual interests. To this day I haven’t compromised my need to connect to people in an intellectual level.

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Janeway was constantly discussing and debating with Kess, B’elanna, and Seven of 9 in ways that were complex and dynamic and reached past romantic love. These women were her go to experts, the ones who saw her plans through. Then, there was Chakotay, a man who was okay with being second in command. He respected her power wholeheartedly as an authority and as a scientific thinker. In the seven seasons she was on air, her character was never compromised or changed to fit a mold our culture needs women to belong to. In turn, I never compromise my intelligence in order to fit in with what others expect of me. That is why Science Fiction exists, to give us a future that is socially evolved and different from our own. It is the last place where we can hold on to our optimism that says we will one day exist in a better world and in one where we are fleshed out and dynamic individuals. For some of us nerds, Science Fiction is the last home we have.

There is a reason Science Fiction doesn’t get the respect it deserves; it’s trying to articulate what other stories ignore. That there is a place for everyone, that there are people who will fight for it. These are the  stories that inspired millions to be the change the want to see in futures to come.

Voyager may be the least liked series of the franchise, but it will always remain my favorite. There, I’ve said it! Voyager is my favorite Star Trek series and I will continue to defend it until the end.  Many more tangents on the subject to come later. Till then, cheers!

written by Jené Conrad

There is one comment

  1. Danielle

    While I’m ecstatic to find another devoted fan of the great “Voyager” Captain Janeway, I’m curious and a bit peeved as to why the only female power player among all the captains had the terrible misfortune of being an avowed nun. I wonder why all the overtly sexual roles seemed to belong to men (Kirk, Riker, Paris). This seemed to unintentionally date the show for me watching the series again in my late 30’s. I wondered why she never had the personal freedom to experience more that a brief, strategic encounter of passion. Even Kate Mulgrew alluded to the oddity of her character’s role being written so severely uptight and unnecessarily chaste in the William Shatner’s directorial documentary, “The Captains.” I love the series, but I do wonder why the writers and producers steered so far away from exploring a future with a more healthy view of female sexuality. Considering Mulgrew’s powerful work in Voyager and today on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black, as a woman I would have applauded and welcomed a more 3-dimensional depiction of Janeway as a leader, an intellectual, a power figure, and a holistically healthy woman.

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