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The Women of Star Trek: Convention Report.

01/12/2001. Contributed by Sashi Alexandra German

Buy Star Trek Voyager in the USA - or Buy Star Trek Voyager in the UK

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Keynote guest Kate Mulgrew (Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek Voyager) - by Sashi Alexandra German.

In the end the long drive from Philadelphia to Cleveland and back was worth it - Kate Mulgrew was beyond stunning in her convention appearance on this day, showing elegance, style, graciousness and patience as she faced a crowd of what must have been over a thousand people in the Ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel.


Copyright Paramout Pictures 2001

Dressed in a stunning white pantsuit with black sweater and gold necklace, she enchanted the crowd from the very beginning and held everyone's attention for the over the hour time that she spoke and then signed autographs.

Kate has not done many conventions during her seven year run with Star Trek: Voyager. There have been precious few here and there and half of them have been out of the country. It was interesting to see her in her new home city of Cleveland, which delighted the local folks no end.

My understanding is that this appearance of hers was the beginning of a string of upcoming conventions she is doing around the country now that Trek is over for her - catch her now while you can.

I first saw Kate Mulgrew in Denver in 1996... one of her early appearances. And talk about how people haven't changed... she was still the same gracious, stunning and terrific person she was back in Denver. I found this rather interesting because many of my experiences of Star Trek stars have been how, when starting out with conventions, they have been nice and gracious and real people.

By the end of the run of their series they are far different, in many cases obnoxious, rude and arrogant (Michael Dorn and Gates McFadden among them). So it was really nice to see how she could be so professional on stage and off (during the autograph line) and be so nice, attentive and listening to the audience because that was what she did back in 1996.

She has obviously not forgotten who has been her bread and butter these past seven years during Voyager's run... as unfortunately many of the TNG and DS9 stars have.

What also made this convention appearance of hers interesting was almost half - and I mean HALF - the people "asking" questions at the mic were really people who were giving Kate heart-wrenching, personal testimonials on how Kate herself and\or the Janeway character had changed them in some dramatic way... in some cases saved their lives from suicide or other devastating things.

So I would have more quotes and facts in this review, except half the conversations going on with Kate with the audience members at the mic were personal testimonials which Kate listened to patiently, hugged each person, and then apparently saw many of them personally after her talk was over.

Having been going to conventions since 1980, never since Lucy Lawless (Xena) in 1997 had I ever seen a guest star get so much adulation and personal testimonials of life affirmations. It was pretty incredible to witness, although I think there people who might have wanted to ask Kate some more questions.

This being Kate's hometown now, her husband, Tim Hagen, was present, looking ever the politician. He is a major political figure in Cleveland and Ohio in general and it has been rumored for some time that he may run for Governor.

Hagan's appearance there did reek a bit of politics, standing by Kate on stage through the last part of her talk, although he did get fun comments like being called "Mr. Mulgrew" (which I personally called him in the autograph line... as he was sitting beside her the whole time).

It brought an aspect of the "real world" of politics into a place I didn't think it belonged, but Kate made it VERY clear that her priorities were now to follow Hagan and his plans because he had had to follow her career and her plans the last few years they had been married.

Toward the end of Kate's talk, while Hagan was on stage, he was asked by a fan what it was like to be married to "such a strong-willed woman?" His response was to suddenly drop to his knees on stage and bow down three times to her in supplication - got great laughs from the audience. He said he'd been in Cleveland politics for years and was rather well known in the area.

But now he was known as "Captain Janeway's husband." Kate laughed in response and called him "Mr. Mulgrew" and everyone laughed heartily.

Perhaps Hagan's presence and that of her mother-in-law (also on stage) and perhaps other family members present led to Kate being "on" so much of her talk. But it didn't matter - she was simply terrific on stage - looked it and acted like it and that was all the fans could ask for, especially considering the convention outrageous prices that were being charged by Make It So Productions.

Kate started her talk by addressing the native Cleveland residents and how wonderful it was just a few days ago to be sitting at home with her husband and stepdaughters and watching the end of "Voyager" (Endgame). She talked about how she cooked a big meal for everyone, sat down and started to cry and just couldn't stop every time one of her cast mates came on screen.

"It was a very brutal finish to something that has meant a great deal." She said when she went to bed that night she slept right into the next day and in the end was "proud, deeply proud" of what she had been a part of. She felt that since Day One on the set of Voyager she had "set a high bar for Janeway and kept that bar to the end." She felt she was able to "flesh out the skeleton for the character... giving her nuances, emotions, subtleties, emotion" and so on.

KATE ON STAR TREK:

Towards the beginning of her talk, Kate addressed all the women in the audience and thanked them "for your unfailing support over the years. That without that support, Janeway would never have been able to be what she was."

She said women were the constant source of love, comfort and joy in life and without that she wouldn't have been able to do the part. She then addressed the men in the audience: "How could you trust me to run the ship?"

She then thanked the fathers in the audience for letting their sons watch the show.

What was her favourite line of the series? "Engage." She said that in "Caretaker", brought in after former Janeway actress Genevieve Bujold has given up the part. Kate said "there were 20 suits on the set and director Rick Kolbe pulled me aside and said, 'this is your room, do it your way, Babe.'" And she said uttering that "Engage" was just a "great moment."

Did Bujold ever call her up and say, "Hey - doing a great job", etc.?

No, but Kate said that she had nothing but admiration for Bujold for turning down the part because she realized early on that "Trek wasn't for her... I am SO glad she left!" Kate said she wondered what would have happened had Bujold STAYED for 4-6 months and THEN left... it would have been a disaster for the show.

It was good that she realized the situation and left when she did. Kate mentioned that one of Bujold's priorities at the time was bringing up a young son... and that was the choice that she chose to make instead of doing Voyager.

Kate talked about how, when she was first hired to do Voyager, she was sent 10 videotapes of Trek to study. She had two days to prepare for the role before she had to go before the cameras... and she didn't want to watch the tapes.

"I had an original concept for Janeway and was glad I went with my gut."

Did Kate see Janeway running Voyager as a democracy or a dictatorship?

"I didn't rule by dictatorship, but from the high of femininity."

TV Guide left her out of the list of "Sexiest Women in Sci-Fi." Where was Kate? "I was working," she laughed.

Kate was asked if she would do a Voyager movie? "I have learned to never say die." She feels a movie would be speculation only but would seriously consider it if it were to become a reality.

Toward the final filming of "Endgame", her work hours often went to 85-hours per week because of the constant filming of double Janeways. She said every shot with the two Janeways (Admiral and Captain) had to be done three times: one shot delivering the lines, one with the double, and one with no one there.

They tried to do interesting things like the Captain passing off a coffee cup to the Admiral, "That shot took 10 hours to film."

She said the measurements of the people and objects had to exact.

She was asked yet AGAIN (at every convention appearance, just like Robert Beltran) about the whole Janeway\Chakotay relationship and why couldn't they have finally gotten together in the end.

Kate said that she simply felt it wasn't a good idea for her, at the age of 38, still of child-bearing years to be in a relationship with her first officer. She felt romance would be better... which she had with a hologram. "I needed a First Officer I could count on and that he wouldn't be thinking of something else..."

Shortly after this question, a man dressed in a command Voyager uniform and tight leather pants came up to the mic and Kate joked -- as she had him come up on stage -- that perhaps if Chakotay had worn this outfit every day than maybe things would have been different (everyone laughed).

After series creator and Executive Producer Jeri Taylor left, did she stick with what Taylor had outlined for the Janeway character? Kate said that Taylor "wrote the blueprint for Janeway but that I threw that out and rewrote it." When Taylor left Kate said she simply took off with the part with Taylor gone.

One question from a fan involved the original Star Trek series and how it was able to comment on the Vietnam War and other social issues of the 1960's. Did Kate think that Voyager had done the same in its time period?

Kate said, yes, she felt Voyager tackled many issues of the day including suicide, the Vidians problem and the episodes dealing with the Prime Directive. "I felt every topic was topical and on the mark... I feel Voyager attacked with fervor and resolution many current issues of the day."

Kate said she found it "daunting" to be considered someone who was helping bring people into the 21st century in terms of science and technology. She knew from the beginning when she learned how Trek affected science.

The dreaded "hair issue": which hair style did she like best? Kate said that actually she had no favorite hair style of the many she wore. "They drove me crazy with it. Patrick Stewart had it easy." She commented in hindsight how the suits were SO nervous about a woman in charge that they applied themselves to a symbol - her hair - and that would decide whether she would succeed or not.

About make-up on set: Kate said she didn't like people touching her all the time, "It was annoying." At this point husband Hagan came on stage and talked about how the make-up people drove HIM nuts because they would shoot 10 seconds of one scene and suddenly the make-up people would descend on Kate again and again, with touch-ups having to be done constantly.

Why didn't Harry Kim ever get promoted? "We waited until the 7th season finale - he got himself into a lot of trouble!"

A child asked her what was it like fighting the Borg? "It was fun! What did Janeway do to the Borg Queen in the end? She killed her!"

One of the very last questions was about the fun moments on the set.

"Especially after midnight with the boys. Most men between the ages of 10 and 80 after midnight turn into something their mothers would rather they didn't." With her often being the only woman there they would often overlook her... but there were spit-ball fights, people dropping their pants to moon others... weird behavior.

KATE ON OTHER THINGS:

What are her future plans? Kate said that she will not give up acting and does plan to do some theater, but right now her husband comes first in everything. "I feel I've been given a good thing with Tim."

KATE ON PERSONAL MATTERS:

She felt one negative aspect of her Trek experience was how her sons over the last seven years had mostly seen her "in the Captain's chair" and not at home.

During the early part of her talk, Kate pointed off stage to her husband, "The great love of my life... married two and half years ago." She talked about how over that time he had been visiting the set of Voyager every 10 days, getting up at 4am with her and standing with her on the set for 15-16 hour days. She felt she owed him a lot.

"There was a rumour that I married into a small family... that's a gross understatement." She said she married into a HUGE family where Hagan is the Patriarch.

Who has influenced her the most? Her acting teacher Stella Adler as well as her mother who told her she "would be a great actress." She credited those two as her biggest role models.

Kate LOVES coffee. She laughed about the people in the room who had turned into coffee addicts because of the Janeway character.

"Kiernan" is her middle name... it's her mother's maiden name.

What made her go into acting? Growing up in the cornfields of Iowa and being one of eight children. She was encouraged to be unorthodox in being brought up. She tended bar at the age of 14 to subsidize apprenticeships to prepare for leaving home at the age of 16. "Acting was all I ever wanted. It has been my salvation. Stella Adler said it would be the one thing that would always lift me up - how true."

25 years ago, where did she think she would be? (in acting, in life). "I didn't think I'd be here, certainly." She said Voyager showed how fate and serendipity were involved. "I never imagined being Captain of a ship - and a damned good place to be."

Does Kate feel there has been a prejudice against her because of her voice? She said she feels it has worked in her favour because it has an "original quality.... and no bimbo roles for me."

Hagan was asked that if he became Governor of Ohio, would he vote for more money for NASA? "What the Hell do you think my answer would be with this group??" and everyone laughed.

Two final notes:

At one point during her talk, Kate struck the famous Janeway hands-on-the-hips pose for everyone... and it brought the house down! Very popular with everyone.

At the same convention, Roxann Dawson was asked if there were any props or any part of Voyager she took home as a souvenir. In the autograph line for Kate, someone asked her the same question and Kate replied with a big smile that she took home a uniform "pips, the boots - the whole thing."

(C) Copyright 2001 Sashi Alexandra German

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