With the renaissance Star Trek has had over the last few years, we have seen many actors from the old series revisit their roles. Picard, Guinan, Seven of Nine, Riker (in live-action and animated form), so perhaps we should not have been surprised to find Kate Mulgrew, the actor behind Star Trek Voyager’s Captain Kathryn Janeway, return in the new, kid-orientated and animated Star Trek series, Star Trek: Prodigy.
“It’s like riding a bicycle!” Mulgrew tells Den of Geek. “So much so that I had to laugh. I said my God she must live inside me on a vital level at all times. She’s just very quiet, waiting for her moment to come out. She’s deeply instilled, and every aspect of her is there and I have only to ask and she comes.”
But while Mulgrew is playing a character called Janeway, there is still some ambiguity over the character’s precise identity. Because unlike the Captain of the USS Voyager NCC-74656, this Janeway is a hologram, activated by the rest of Prodigy’s characters when they steal the USS Protostar, and rather than being a Captain, she’s playing teacher.
“She’s programmed to teach, to mentor, and to let [the other characters] fall on their own swords if they need to – which is something Captain Janeway was rather hesitant to do with her compliment because the stakes were very high in the Delta Quadrant,” Mulgrew tells us.
So, if there are differences between Captain Janeway and Holo Janeway, are they different people? Put another way, is Hologram Janeway the result of some kind of Black Mirror–esque brain scan to upload a copy of Janeway’s mind onto the Protostar’s hard drive? Or is this Janeway a computer’s attempt at simulating the real Janeway, like Voyager’s holodeck gave the real Janeway a simulated version of Leonardo DaVinci?
“She is a computer simulation, she’s programmed, she’s a hologram, but she is very much based on the authentic Janeway,” Mulgrew days. “Those are the attributes I am bringing to the vocal quality of Hologram Janeway.”
Aaron Waltke, co-executive producer and head writer of Star Trek: Prodigy goes into a bit more detail; “As we’ve seen in both Voyager and Deep Space Nine, many of the specialized holograms that might be employed aboard a ship are often based on a real person — but with other personality engrams added. The Doctor was based on Zimmerman, but their personalities evolved to be distinct even if they are similar. In the Deep Space Nine episode ‘Doctor Bashir, I Presume’, we see more specifics in how the process works — namely, a combination of neural pattern replication, intense bio scans and a long series of biographical interviews with the subject and their close colleagues and family.”
A Lighter Janeway? (In Every Sense)
While Mulgrew is definitely delivering “the authentic Janeway”, she also says there are differences between this version and the flesh-and-blood Janeway who commanded Voyager. This Janeway, Mulgrew says, has perhaps a levity the original could not afford.
“She’s witty, she’s warm, she has emotion but more than anything else she really wants [the crew] to learn how to need each other in the right way,” Mulgrew says.
“Hologram Janeway has many of the personality traits and biographical memories of Janeway and is based on her historical counterpart, but some elements — her empathy, her willingness to teach and train even the most stubborn of crews, etc. — were enhanced for the purposes of an emergency training subroutine,” Waltke adds. “Like The Doctor, this unique amalgam of humanistic neural patterns and adaptive programming allows her abilities and cognizance to expand far beyond their original boundaries. In effect, she can become her own person.”
It is a version of Janeway that Mulgrew believes is perfectly suited to this more child-friendly take on Star Trek, appealing to an audience just beginning their process of socialization, primed to learn how to deal with their friends.
“I hope they will take from Prodigy this idea we must work together, talk to each other openly,” she says. “That we must be honest with one another, and I think more than anything else, vulnerable. I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful series.”
And while playing Janeway, any Janeway, again, might be like riding a bike, Mulgrew has also found playing the part for Prodigy a very different experience from Voyager.
“Voyager was live action, this is a cartoon. They can’t be compared,” she tells us. “The end game is the same, the goal is the same, which is excellence. But I find I have a certain lightness in the booth, a certain joy in the booth. A liberty, a freedom. It’s me, the producers and director are on Zoom, the engineer’s through the glass and it’s really amazing to be able to tell you within the confines of that small booth with my headset on I can go anywhere I want, and ask for, even demand as many retakes as I want. I find things even in my own vocal scope that surprise me, nuances and strange subtleties. For instance, I find as a hologram I can bring to the voice, a vulnerability that is no less real simply because it’s hologrammatic or suggested.”
Star Trek: Prodigy is available to stream now in the UK on Paramount+