Mon
Aug 27 2012 3:00pm
Janeway Doesn’t Deserve This Shit

Janeway Doesn’t Deserve This Shit

Star Trek: Voyager is my favorite Star Trek series. Prompted in part by my own recent rewatch of the series and in part by this great piece on Princess Leia, I’d like to take a moment to talk about Captain Kathryn Janeway.

Janeway is my favorite Star Trek captain. And while I would typically content myself with liking what I like quietly and leaving each to their own, in this particular case I feel the opinion needs defending. I think fandom should give Janeway a break. 

Criticism of Voyager and of Janeway herself ranges from Tor.com staff writer Ryan Britt’s relatively mild declaration that it is “the SECOND most hated Star Trek show of them all” to claims that Janeway “destroyed Star Trek.” On fan sites, Janeway consistently tops polls of the worst Star Trek captain (here are some quick examples, with plenty of criticism as you scroll on down). Even Google’s caught on: one of the related searches for “worst star trek captain” is “captain janeway worst.” Thankfully the news isn’t all bad, though ocasionally things written in defense of Janeway use her as more of a joke than a leader.

On the whole, reactions to Janeway tend to be skeptical and dismissive, with much of the criticism headed into territory that is vitriolic or downright sexist.

Perhaps my “favorite” (snark quotes) piece of criticism of her, at the moment:

“What they needed was a take charge, dynamic female Captain, what they gave us was a moralizing, overly-liberal pushover all too willing to throw her crew’s life away for no reason at all if it made her seem superior and at least as interested in prancing around in frilly dresses on the holodeck as she is in leading her crew.” (source)

Wait, Janeway wears frilly dresses? Wait, you mean Janeway was a girl under that uniform? Well hold the presses, folks, we didn’t realize that there was a danger of a vagina-afflicted person being in charge around here.

This level of negativity in criticism makes me wonder if we even watched the same show. I saw a complicated, capable, gutsy leader who made hard decisions for seven seasons. What did you see?

Voyager originally aired when I was 12 and ran through the year I graduated from high school. Which means, in essence, that I grew up watching it. More than any other regularly scheduled media, Voyager defined what I loved and knew in television as a young adult. 

Over and over again in my recent rewatch, I stopped to admire Janeway. I find myself deeply grateful that I grew up with her character in my life, and somewhat surprised that I had forgotten how fantastic she is.

Janeway is a strong female character to rock all strong female characters: A leader who is female-gendered, in touch with her sense of gender, and yet invested with a non-gendered position of highest responsibility which she executes with capability and compassion.

And in the entire series of Voyager, her ability to lead because she is female is literally questioned twice. Once by Q, whom we expect to be a gigantic space-jerk as a matter of course, and again by the Kazon, an alien species painted for the most part as unadvanced and savage. Her gender is never an issue with her crew, and is basically ignored by the show as completely irrelevant in regards to her capability as a leader.

This is why I think Voyager is fantastic, and why I think Janeway is an amazing character; because the show chooses to deal with the question of a female captain by not making it a question.

That is radical. Radical, and rare. Can anyone name another show with a female lead who is first in command, extremely capable, not defined by her gender, and does not need to defend her abilities or prove herself because she happens to be a woman?

I cannot think of another female character in sc-fi/fantasy television who accomplishes this. Can you? This is a serious question; I haven’t seen everything there is to see, and I’d love it if I could put another unquestioned, badass female (or a gender other than male) leader on my list. Zoe Washburne, Buffy Summer,s and Laura Roslin, sadly, do not make this cut; Zoe is second-in-command, Buffy and Laura both deal with gendered criticism constantly. (By the way, for a fantastic analysis of these characters, Janeway’s gender and the ways in which Janeway is unique as a female leader, I highly recommend you read Anita Sarkesian’s thesis.) As per the Princess Leia link above, delving into movies and other media makes this a slightly easier question...but only slightly.

So why doesn’t Janeway get a place on every top 10 list for great female characters? Is it because she’s a Star Trek captain? Because she’s weighed down as a character by flaws in the show itself?

Janeway Doesn’t Deserve This Shit

My experience within Star Trek fandom is that we have a tendency to consider each series primarily through the character of its captain, rendering the remaining characters, the plot and the premise secondary to the personality in the big chair. Voyager as a show undeniably has issues: its premise confines it to repetition, it often covers ground that was touched upon in TNG rather than breaking into new territory, and it has its fair share of episodes that are spectacularly bad. But it would be difficult to argue that TOS and TNG were not also repetitive and occasionally terrible, and while Voyager does rely heavily upon the shows that came before it, it also breaks ground into new ideas. More critically, it doesn’t make much sense to hang the burdens of occasionally poor show writing on Janeway’s shoulders.

As I said, Janeway is rare. Perhaps one of a kind. Her uniqueness as a representation of leadership is more important to me than the nuances of comparing her actions meticulously, episode by episode, to the men who have held similar roles. I struggle to come up with another fictional female character in my life who is so precisely what I would want to be, the type of character I’m glad my parents showed me, and the type of character I would encourage my hypothetical daughter to love.

Here’s what I’m saying. It’s not that I think you should necessarily agree with me that Janeway is the best Star Trek captain. I am not interested in convincing others to fall in line with my particular form of nerd evangelism. I know Picard is a badass and that in a blow-by-blow analysis of their leadership abilities we’d probably all talk ourselves hoarse, or maybe overload from rampant fandom particles.

It is also not that I think the character of Janeway is above criticism. No character is above criticism. Janeway has her share of ridiculous moments, short-sighted decision making, and poor choices in leadership, just as Kirk, for example, has his share of ridiculous moments, short-sighted decision making, and poor choices in leadership.

It is that to break down, dismiss or belittle the character of Janeway is not simply to break down a character. It is to break down, dismiss or belittle a woman in a radical leadership role. And maybe, just maybe, it is more important to support strong female characters than it is to rank Star Trek captains.

It is that to say Voyager is the second worst Star Trek series is to ignore that, from a feminist perspective, Voyager is by far the best Star Trek series.

It seems that many of my communities are paying particular attention to gender right now, and the ways in which women are treated badly as a matter of course. So perhaps this is a good time to think about fictional worlds that don’t have sexism baked in. Perhaps it is also a good time to point out that casual criticisms of female characters, especially criticisms concerning emotions, decision-making, leadership ability, and work/life balance (ugh) always come with the hint of “because she’s a woman” tacked on the end. But if that tone is making you feel a little sick and tired, hey, you could always watch some Voyager.

Janeway Doesn’t Deserve This Shit

Personally, I don’t particularly want Amazonian warriors or supermodels with gadgets and leather catsuits as role models for women and girls like myself in sci-fi media. I want women, who just happen to be women, who do the exact same job a man would do in their place, and who don’t have to constantly defend their choices or techniques because of their gender—because nobody in their world gives a damn about their gender.


Sara Eileen Hames tells stories, organizes people, and runs a magazine. She thinks B’Elanna Torres and Seven of Nine were pretty great too.

104 comments
aggie
1. aggie
"It is that to break down, dismiss or belittle the character of Janeway
is not simply to break down a character. It is to break down, dismiss or
belittle a woman in a radical leadership role."

Baloney. She was a lousy captain. If a man had made the same decisions she did, he would have been a lousy captain as well. It has absolutely nothing to do with her being a woman. This type of argument is just another way of avoiding the real issue: that the character was woefully weak, badly drawn, and temporizing. Unlike the other captains who all had moments of this sort of thing, it was a constant with Janeway.

The idea that Voyager is the "most feminist" simply because it has a female captain is ridiculous. I doubt the show did feminism any favors. Had Janeway been more competent, perhaps it would have.
Jenny Thrash
2. Sihaya
"It is that to say Voyager is the second worst Star Trek series is to ignore that, from a feminist perspective, Voyager is by far the best Star Trek series."

No. A bad show is bad from any perspective. If it is a bad show with a good feminist character, it does nothing for feminism, because no one watches or listens.
aggie
3. Uncle Mikey
My personal dislike for Voyager (and it's not uniform dislike -- some of Voyager I actually enjoy, but as a series it's not one I go back to regularly) stems not from Janeway. Actually, exactly the opposite: I agree with you that Janeway -- and Kate Mulgrew -- was fantastic. I may not have agreed with every stance and decision the writers created for the character, but I thought she was, in fact, forceful and decisive. The fact that some members of the audience disagree with her decisions doesn't change that.

My problems with Voyager, and the reason it's actually my least favourite (yes, I even prefer Enterprise) stem entirely from the approach that was taken, and from the quality of the writing of many of the stories. In my opinion, Voyager called for an even stronger arc-style storytelling model than DS9 managed, a clear sense of progression toward a final goal. Instead, we got an episodic starship show that was rarely different, in that regard, from TOS or TNG, and hence brought nothing really new to the table. Not nearly enough was made of the Starfleet/Maquis split, of the hardships of being damaged and far away from home, and there was rarely a clear sense of progress toward the goal of getting home.

Add to that some dreadfully embarrassing clunkers, one of which qualifies for the Worst Star Trek Story EVER ("Threshold" aka "The Writers Turned Us Into Newts (but we got better!") and I just gave up. Eventually, I took advantage of Netflix and went through and selectively watched things that looked like they'd actually be good and entertaining to watch and sure enough, they were, starting with the pilot, "Caretaker", which I thought was really well crafted. Well enough that the subsequent failure to maintain that kind of quality is an even bigger disappointment than if it had merely been meh, or actually bad like "Encounter at Farpoint"!

So, as a series, Voyager is always going to be my least favourite, but as a character, Janeway remains one of my most favourite.
Scot Taylor
4. flapdragon
I don't think Janeway herself is the show's weakest link as much as the "been there, done that" (low) quality of the stories. I "grew up" on TOS reruns and was always identified much more closely with Spock than with Kirk. TNG started my sophomore year of college and I fell head-over-heels in man-love with Picard. In fact, it was the cliffhanger-to-end-all-cliffhangers end of season three ("The Best of Both Worlds" part 1) that kept me from acting on a VERY bad depression that I got the summer after graduating from college. Maybe it's "the captain you grew up with" thing, but for me there will never be another Trek captain even CLOSE to JLP and Sir Patrick.
aggie
5. Tesh
"It is that to break down, dismiss or belittle the character of Janeway is not simply to break down a character. It is to break down, dismiss or belittle a woman in a radical leadership role. And maybe, just maybe, it is more important to support strong female characters than it is to rank Star Trekcaptains."

Doesn't that sort of run contrary to the idea that she's just The Captain, regardless of her gender? I think she's a bad captain, and that has nothing to do with her plumbing. She has some great moments, definitely, but she has more bad moments than the other captains... except maybe Archer.
aggie
6. avt
Sorry, Voyager was lame, with its anomaly-of-the-week, stereotype aliens, and ridiculous character interactions (or non-interactions). It had a few good moments over several years, but the Star Trek franchise would have been better if they'd just skipped it. It's not second-worst, it's worst period. Enterprise improved greatly in its last couple of seasons, which did not happen with Voyager.

Janeway was the worst Star Trek captain, not because she was a woman but just because the whole situation was uninteresting. But this isn't a condemnation at all; given the limitations of the milieu, she was great, she just wasn't quite super-awesome the way Kirk, Picard, or Sisko were.

From a feminist perspective, having a woman leader isn't exactly ground-breaking in the 21st century, and the stunted and exaggerated roles that B'elanna Torres and Seven of Nine were squeezed into (not to mention Seven's costume) were hardly progressive landmarks.

Hopefully some future version of Star Trek will show a strong female leader dealing with credible and interesting challenges. Voyager and Janeway didn't do it.
aggie
7. Kimi
I have not so much a problem with Janeway as I do with how she was written. I found that the writers sisn't seem to have a clear grasp on her character and so she came off as really fracctured: one minute being decisisive the next letting everyone else have their way etc...

When the writing was on Janeway was great, able to keep the ship together and focused in the face of long odds. But when they weren't sure if she should be bold, or motherly or sexy or all of those at the same time... well that just ruins everything doesn't it.
aggie
8. LFB3
"It is that to break down, dismiss or belittle the character of Janeway is not simply to break down a character. It is to break down, dismiss or belittle a woman in a radical leadership role. And maybe, just maybe, it is more important to support strong female characters than it is to rank Star Trek captains."

One of the reasons that I don't like Voyager is because I don't like Janeway. It has nothing to do with her being a woman. I don't like Archer or Sisko either. I watch, or don't watch shows like Voyager for enjoyment and because I like the characters and/or plots, not because I am trying to make a statement. Since we are talking about entertainment I am pretty sure that it is more important to me to "rank Star Trek" captains as opposed to supporting "strong female characters."
aggie
9. Rai_gun
She wasn't in charge until Atlantis, but Sam Carter on Stargate: SG-1. She is singled out as a "she" in the 3rd episode, and that's it. She is incredibly strong, smart, and badass, and often overlooked in these sorts of discussions.
Lee VanDyke
10. Cloric
It is funny to me that the first thing I want to comment on is RE: Laura Roslin. I never remembered her being taken as less because she was a woman. Because she was Secretary of Education and "a glorified schoolteacher", yes, but not because she was a woman. Well, that and her health issues. But we have real world examples of men questioned for that same reason.

Second, I don't exactly mind that she liked to put on frilly dresses and play holo-novels, although to me the choice of role seemed slightly out of character for her. I always figured her for more of the "Dragonlady of Pern" kind of pretty lady role rather than the Jane Eyre type.
aggie
11. Neenie
Thank you!

I, too, am part of the third generation of Star Trek fans. I was a toddler when TNG premiered, and was in college when Enterprise went off air. I am so sick of all the Janeway hate, especially since the major problems with Voyager had nothing to do with Janeway and everything to do with the massive behind the scenes clusterf*cks, and the writing room's unhealthy obsession with Seven. Voyager contains some of the best episodes of Trek and some of its worst. It also contained a lot of very competent, brilliant, and powerful women, from regulars like Janeway and B'Elanna Torres to minor characters like the Wildmans.

I'm going to quote myself from the comments of another Janeway article, because I really can't put Janeway's importance to me in any better words:

" At a time when most media and the world was sending me really damaging messages about what a proper woman was, Kathryn Janeway was there.
Captain Janeway taught me that I could be nerdy, strong, feminine, and stubborn. I could stand my ground against others, not giving in, and still be a woman. She taught me it it was okay to battle depression and okay to fall in love, even if I lost the guy. When everyone else was telling me I was wrong, I knew Janeway would have stood with me and told them I was right.
Voyager was so cool because it had such a wide variety of awesome female characters that had such different personalities, yet they were all strong women. Even when it wasn’t at its best, it was a really empowering show to grow up with."
Amy Palmer
12. wayfaringpanda
I'm going to join you in your love of Janeway and ST:V! We must be about the same age, because I remember eagerly sitting in front of the TV in middle school watching new episodes every week. I loved this series from the bottom of my heart, even when it disappointed me greatly (argh Seven and Chakotay), and no character garnered my adoration moreso than Janeway.

I don't understand why people think she was a bad captain. She was human, and did the best in quite possibly the worst situation imaginable. At times tyrannical, at times a total softie, she was undeniably as fleshed out of a character as was possible in the "event of the week" type show that was written. I've read and reread Mosaic countless times, and absolutely adore it. I stopped reading the books when they killed her off, because it broke my heart. That's money they'll never get from me now.

Janeway remains one of my alltime favorite characters ever created. I name video game avatars and characters in stories after her. I want to be someone worthy of her respect, and that's the highest honor I can give to a fictional character.
aggie
13. dreamysusan
Voyager was my favorite Star Trek and Janeway remains my favorite captain. :)
William Carter
14. wcarter
I'm sorry afraid dissa...nevermind. Look, the fact of the matter is I didn't like Star Trek Voyager.

There was simply too little to distinguish it from what had already come before. Was it the fault of Janeway as a character? No, but some of the writing was weak there too.

Also, to say a show wasn't weak member of a franchise because it supported feminism is lacking in justification. Good writing is good writing and bad writing is bad writing.

Strong feminine characters have been absent in altogether too many series in multiple forms of media in large part because the content providers fear they won't be a commercial succes in genre markets that are traditionally male dominated (YES I know that there are a lot of female fans. Producers are a bit slower about catching onto that though).

Shows that suffer to the extent that Voyager has in minds of much of the Trek community will not successfully champion the cause of gender parity. They will at best be looked over and at worst, reafirm in the mind of producers the myth that women as leaders are not what the consumer wants--regardless of the real reason(s) those shows fail.

Edited to fix a typo.
aggie
15. sld
Agreed! Thanks for defending my favorite Captain.
Evan Langlinais
16. Skwid
Hyper-evolved Space Salamanders?

I think we're done, here.
nicole rich
17. nrich
I'm sort of noticing a trend in the comments thus far and I'm beginning to think this might be sort of an age-gap issue. A lot of the comments poopooing Voyager tend to tack on comparisons to earlier spinoffs of the franchise, while those who grew with Voyager seem to really like it. I grew up with Janeway (although I caught all of the other versions in reruns around the same time) and she has always been my all time favorite Captain. It genuinely never even occured to me that people would hate her because I just liked the show sooo much. Even the worst episoded of the show never bothered me, mostly because I expected a certain level of campiness and dreck. Come on! It's a space opera. It's not supposed to be that great anyways.
aggie
18. StrongDreams
I think it's difficult to evaluate Janeway as a fully-formed feminist/powerful woman/leading holding their own regardless of gender--whatever--because too many of the dilemmas she was thrust into were rubbish as written.
aggie
20. Alex Hernandez
I didn't have a probalem with Janeway as a character (except that maybe she was a little bland) but I did have a problem with Voyager as a whole. It was just bad and it never got any better. My favorite Star Trek, DS9, started out terrible, but after about season three it really started kicking ass. Voyager never found its niche in the Trek Universe. And, in my opinion they had the best set up, deeper into the frontier than the the crew of the Enterprise and not land-locked like DS9, but they didn't do anything with it. Farscape did.

The best thing about the show was the Doctor.
Craig Ranapia
21. CMRanapia
It is that to break down, dismiss or belittle the character of Janeway is not simply to break down a character. It is to break down, dismiss or belittle a woman in a radical leadership role. And maybe, just maybe, it is more important to support strong female characters than it is to rank Star Trek captains.
And I don't see it as a zero-sum game. Does Game of Thrones (both the books and the TV adaptation) have many "strong female characters" AND still manage a massively problematic treatment of sexual and physical abuse of women. Oh, and the all-male executive producers and majority-male writers and directors still relying on gratuitous and objectifying "sexposition" in the show. Hell, yes. (All, IMHO and YMMV of course.) Like life, if my Geekdom had a Facebook profile the relationship status would be "it's complicated" (and full of ambiguities and contradictions).

And if I was the kind of sexist geek who feels all emasculated at the sight of women in positions of power and authority, then I'd have to ask why the heck my favourite Trek show is DS9 -- where the strong, well-written women might not have been in the captain's seat but there sure seemed to be every where else. Perhaps that's a big part of my issues with Voyager -- not that the captain was a woman, but because after a show that so brilliantly shook up the cliches and tired tropes of TV Trek, ST:V reverted to business as usual.
Michael Grosberg
22. Michael_GR
Let's expand the discussion a bit. Sure, From a feminist perspective, if you limit yourself to Star trek shows, and only look at the captains, you could say that Voyager presented the most important chatracter. But that's not much of a competition! there are other shows and there are roles other than captain. My choice of best female ST character has to be Kira Nerys. And outside the ST universe you've got Ivanova, Laura Roslin, and Devon Adair (from Earth 2) in leading roles (or command ranks) in space-based shows.
Compared to those characters, Janeway simply pales. She's just not that interesting. How can one love a character with no distinguishing traits? Kira was volatile, Ivanova witty, Devon was passionate and I could connect wiht her plight emotionally (her ill son was strangly connected to an alien race - long story). They are not perfect, which makes them more human and more real. What was Janeway? She was just... there.
john mullen
23. johntheirishmongol
If I was to rank the shows, I would have them like this:
ST:TOS
DS9
ST:TNG
STV
Enterprise

Only Kirk has really seemed comfortable in the role. Picard always seemed to me to be too pompous. I didn't really like Sisco that much either for the same reason. Janeway was actually more comfortable in the role but the stories were awful. As for Enterprise..omg what a wuss.
aggie
24. Cain S. Latrani
This is a difficult one for me. As far as Star Trek goes, I want Voyager to be my favorite show. It had Robert Picardo for crying out loud. How can you not want to love a show with Robert Picardo in it?

However, as many have said, Voyager failed to be what it should ahve been. This is not the shows fault. It's the writers fault. Personally, I blame Rick Berman for playing it safe all the time and never really getting out of the box and doing BSG before BSG did itself.

Imagine if they had.

That aside, I do love Kate Mulgrew. I hated the way the writers never seemed to be consistant with her character, because I adore Janeway. Not because she's a woman, or anything, but because she's her. She was just so snarky. Not like Kirk, Picard or Sisko. She had a sense of humor that was often sarcastic, and I loved that about her.

The fault here is not with either the actress, or the character, or even the show. It was with the network, trying to turn Star Trek into family viewing, the writers for not being bold, and Berman for being a coward.

People should really direct their virtole to where it belongs. Voyager will always remain the Star Trek I wished was my favorite, for what it could have been.
aggie
25. Jeff R.
For me, it all comes down to Symbiogenesis. Once Janeway has become a stone cold murderer, there's no going back to contention as anything other than the worst Captain to have a show.

It doesn't help that that episode stands near the beginning of a long trend, stretching through the rest of Voyager and into Enterprise, of nearly every time there is an 'interesting moral dilemna' episode having the cast pick the most wrong alternative available. (Which reaches it's highest, or rather lowest, point when Janeway declares that the entire endeavour of space exploration isn't worthwhile if anyone should die attempting it.)

And there are certainly many interesting ways that a show could have gone from that point that I don't doubt Mulgrew could have acted the hell out of, but they're all things that belong on a better show than Voyager ever was or even tried to be.
aggie
26. David A
I am glad to see Janeway getting some much deserved love. My favorite captain is Patrick Stewart's Picard, but Kate Mulgrew's Janeway is a close second. No other captains make the list (and I was in high school when TOS aired.)

To the larger issue of which Star Trek series is best, I like Voyager better than both TOS and DS9, but really this question just doesn't even make sense to me. Every Star Trek series had good shows, bad shows, lots of real stinkers and a small handful of great shows.
aggie
27. Lsana
The issue I had with Janeway wasn't really the fault of the character but rather with what the format of the show forced the character into. Voyager was a prime example of Status Quo is God, and Janeway's actions had to be based around maintaining the status quo even if she has to jettison principles that were held absolutely sacred in the last episode. For example, if by holding to the Prime Directive to letter the crew might be able to get home (as in the Pilot), then the Prime Directive is less important than following a higher purpose. If a technical violation of the PD would get them home sooner, then the the PD is sacred and any violation no matter how small is unacceptable. As a result, no matter how much she might say otherwise, the only constant in Janeway as a character was a determination to keep the ship in the Delta Quadrant.

As for her "prancing around in frilly dresses on the holodeck," the problem was less that she liked dresses and gothic stories than that they showed way more of the story than was necessary. Far too much of the early seasons was taken up with scenes from a cheap Jane Eyre knockoff that neither advanced the plot of the episode nor really even gave us much insight into Janeway.

All in all, Janeway is something of a microcosom of the show itself: had great potential, but squandered by terrible writing.
Bill Siegel
28. ubxs113
I just watched Voyager for the first time since original airing and it was great! I loved Janway and agree completely.
Alan Brown
29. AlanBrown
Could it be, just like everyone prefers their first Doctor, Trek fans prefer their first Captain?
An effect also known as "The Golden Age of SF is 12."
aggie
30. Tom Farrell
"Can anyone name another show with a female lead who is first in command, extremely capable, not defined by her gender, and does not need to defend her abilities or prove herself because she happens to be a woman?"

Babylon 5 had several.
Michael Grosberg
31. Michael_GR
And why is "not defined by her gender" such a good thing?
Laura Roslin's first command decision in Battlestar galactica was that instead of mounting some suicide attack on the cylons, they should run away as far as they can and start making babies. You could say this is "feminine" thinking - some would call it cowardly - but it's also the correct decision; a cold, rational calculation that would ensure the long term survival of the colonists rather than fulfill some testosterone-induced hopeless revenge fantasy that would have goten all of them killed.
Laura Roslin, in a way, WAS defined to some extent by her gender and was all the better for it.
aggie
32. whatsername
Oh man, I have lots of feelings about this.

I was just saying last night in a conversation with fellow Trek fans that I have zero patience with Janeway haters because she was cool and the hating on her always seems to rely on vaguely when not overtly sexist nonsense. I'm usually all good with conversations but honestly fucking with Janeway is just a "stfu" for me. That said...

I do want to respond to you AlanBrown because while I think that's a good hypothesis, and maybe is true for some, I don't necessarily think that's what's going on here. For me, Picard was my first Captain and while I love him as I've aged I've come to see all these shows in a different light.

When I was a teenager my favorite show was Voyager. I grew up on TNG and loved it, dismissed DS9 as irrelevant (because HOW INTERESTING CAN A SPACE STATION BE) and was bored to tears by both TOS and Enterprise. But there was something in the characters of Voyager that kept me coming back and kept me very emotionally involved from start to finish. Partly it was B'lanna Torres. I identify(ied) hard with "the angry daughter" (starting with Ro Laren) and I loved her mixed race-ness and quick temper and insecurity because I saw a lot of myself in her. And I was in love with Tom Paris so there you are. I also aspired to be like Janeway, because I always saw her as super capable, disciplined and dedicated to her politics. And sometimes this led to decisions I didn't like and storylines I didn't care for and naivety...but I still love it. I sort of even rebelliously love the naivety ... but that's for another thread or my own post or something.

The point is, I was really disappointed when I rewatched Voyager because it just did not stand up to my memory. I still loved the characters, mostly, but the writing was not great more often than I noticed as a teen and that was really disappointing.

On the other hand, as part of my re/watch of all things Star Trek I watched DS9 and was blown away. Personally, I think it was overall the best series of them all. Which brings me to my one disagreement with the original post: I do not think Voyager is the best show from a feminist perspective AT ALL. I definitely think that award goes to DS9 hands down. Kira Nerys and Jadzia Dax are, IMO the most well rounded, bad ass, capable women in the whole Star Trek universe. Now I'll agree that Janeway goes along with them, and I would argue for B'lanna too, BUT the characterization of all of the Voyager women are...less consistent than with Kira and Dax. There's more depth to Kira and Dax while Janeway, Torres, Kes and Seven often come off as shallow-ly developed A LOT. To me, that depth produces a more feminist result.

That said, both Voyager and DS9 are huge leaps forward for women characters when compared to TNG (much less TOS). And yes, Enterprise is totally left out of my analysis for a reason: I hated it. I wasn't impressed with the episodes I saw when it came out and when I finished re/watching the other series I tried to take it up and turned it off in disgust after the first episode.

TL;DR: I guess the point is... while I don't totally agree with you on the feminist point, I am really glad you wrote this post, and totally agree that Janeway haters should just sit down and stfu. (And while we're at it: the Sisko haters can go right along with them, because where there are a lot of sexist under/overtones to Janeway hate there are a lot of racist under/overtones to the Sisko hate and I'm over it)
aggie
33. Erik Dercf
My favorite female captain would be Michelle Forbes who played Admiral Cain. Miss Forbes plays a woman who feels like a cut throat female CEO of today. Cain is driven and placed in a dramatic situation and reacts as a woman might in a male dominated work place. Janeways is an iconic character and Mrs. Mulgrew played her well but for me a few seconds of Cain making decisions are more interesting than the lines created for Janeway's character.
Chris Long
34. radynski
My problem with Voyager was never Janeway. It was always the horrible, abyssmally awful writing. I mean, all the Trek shows had some stupid plots, but Voyager's dialogue was so consistently terrible that I couldn't get through whole episodes unless I spent my time making fun of it.
aggie
35. TBGH
What I liked about both DS9 and Voyager is that for once we had in depth characters that weren't officers. I grew up on TNG, (which might be why Picard is my favorite captain) but in that one all the main characters are variations on the same theme; noble, bright, officers that will always try to do the right thing, be somewhat naieve and optimistic, and put others before themselves.

DS9 took the most advantage of having characters with real negative personalities if you will. Voyager less so as they quickly "assimilated" (pardon the pun) all the Maquis and aliens they picked up to the Star Fleet Academy way of thinking, but still more than TNG had.

Voyager was not as good as it could have been. Of the modern series I think it is closest to the original, but there's a reason they changed the style of show from back then. Voyager is bad Star Trek behind its time, but that still puts it in the top echelon of science fiction TV as a whole.

And yes, Janeway rocks, and no, nothing in this discussion has or should have anything to do with feminism.
Christopher Turkel
36. Applekey
Janeway was a terrible captain. Inconsistent, inane and had moments of pure and utter idiocy. The writing on the show was terrible and the way Kate Mulgrew handled her character made it even worse.
aggie
37. laotsekung
In the light of its time a female lead was a radical choice, and it seems is still too radical for some. As an exercise, simply replace Kathryn Janeway with Karl Janeway. Suddenly a lot of those choices appear in a different light...
Jenny Thrash
39. Sihaya
I'll go a little further. Picture Janeway as played by William Atherton. He becomes a bad 80's corporate bad guy stereotype pretty easily. Or Steve Carrell. If he was Janeway, I'd find him sometimes sympathetic (as I find Mulgrew - her performance really lifted the script), but I would think, "Man, he really likes his coffee, he's an idiot, and they're all going to die."

*Edited to add Carrell, who popped into my head in a funny visual.
aggie
40. sympatico73
Star Trek Voyager actually renewed my interest in the Star Trek series, thanks in part, no - most part - because of Janeway. And because she is a different than Kirk, different than Picard, one of the Federation's many reputable captains, who happens to man one of the most advance Federation ships, who happens to be on her own unique situation in the Delta Quadrant, and who has her own way of dealing with things. And yes, because she is a female captain in that world setting, which interests me more simply because I want to see something different for a change. Kate Mulgrew worked her way to be my favourite (surprisingly because I didn't expect the actress to be able to pull off a Picard or someone other than Picard, for that matter), eventhough I was used to Picard and Sisco during that time. Like each captain, each series or story has its charm and flaws. So what's the point of discriminating?
aggie
41. Cybersnark
"Can anyone name another show with a female lead who is first in command, extremely capable, not defined by her gender, and does not need to defend her abilities or prove herself because she happens to be a woman?"

It might stretch the definition of "show" (*), but there's a bunch of them in Robotech --which was my "growing up" series, and when I first realized that girls kick ass:

Lisa Hayes goes from Captain/Admiral Gloval's first mate to captain of the SDF-3 (SDF-2 was destroyed before it could launch), and ends up as fleet Admiral in the (off-screen) Sentinels campaign. The only time her sex is an issue is when it's pointed out that being an Admiral will mean she outranks her husband (he later ends up an Admiral too, but she still has seniority).

Then there's the Zentraedi's Quadrono Battallion, which is gendered only to point out that the Zentraedi are segregated (the Quadrono are female-only, the Botoru are the male equivalent ), and is more notable for being the best-of-the-best. The main Quadrono flight leader is Miriya, who ends up getting married and birthing a daughter, while still remaining one of the top fighter aces in the universe --in Sentinels, she is explicitly the co-leader of Skull Squadron, not second-in-command.

Said daughter ends up (in the "Second generation") commanding her own tank division. While there are some people who comment on her gender, the bigger complaint tends to be that she's way too young and hot-headed for command (which she is, admittedly).

(* Robotech is technically a TV series, but it also has a series of novelizations that greatly expand on the on-screen material, including an entire subline describing the Sentinels Saga.)

(** Robotech is also the first time I heard about homosexuality, with Miriya herself noting in one of the books that such relationships were perfectly normal among the Zentraedi, where people might never even see anyone of the opposite sex.)
aggie
42. N. Mamatas
Voyager works lots better when you decide that all the crewmembers are insane from isolation and cosmic loneliness.
aggie
43. Max Jones
I agree with you. I think Janeway was a very good Captain. She had to combine two crews on the opposite sides of a war. She was on a smallish ship very far from home. Lets be honest here. If you don't like all the Treks and all the Captains then you aren't really a fan. They were all good. All of the.
Michael Burke
44. Ludon
I know you're focusing on lead - Command characters, but 43 comments and no discussion of Starbuck? Now, there was a strong leading character who was usually not in Command but had command of the situation. Even in Leoben's 'Doll House' she remained strong and defiant.

@31 Michael-GR
Laura Roslin made an earlier command decision - Deciding that it was in Humanity's best interest for the ships with FTL to depart that gathering ASAP after that Cylon patrol spotted them.
aggie
45. Purvis
You don't know what you're talking about. The role of Janeway was p0oorly written and series was pointless. I find the claim she was a good example of a strong female lead to be laughable and without merit.
aggie
46. koddabear
I LIKED the show. Yes! And I liked Janeway. Some of the shows were poorly written and yes there was a lot of rehashing of previeous Startreks.
But I agree that she was a strong good role model for then. How many other women did you see taking on a leadership role? Not many. I grew up with the original Star Trek and have been a fan ever since. I loved when they put a woman at the helm. A little better writing and I think this show would not be ranked where it is.
aggie
47. Talice
Janeway is by far the best captain. She has the guts and recklessness of Kirk, but the moral compas and thoughfulness of Picard, and a sense of humor. She was in absolute comand of that ship but remained a woman. And would do anything to save her ship and a memeber of her crew.
Gregory Watters
48. Zorak
Regarding the article... Ditto

"Voyager" is different "Trek". It is a unique universe and unique situation. It started as a mission and became a family lost in space. The characters were humanly flawed and relied upon each other not only for survival but emotional support. They had to adapt to the belief that Voyager was to be their family and home for the rest of their lives. The show and writing reflected this. From Tom and B'Elanna spats to jousting for the favors of Delaney sisters, their slice of humanity was limited to the microcosm that was the crew. In this reality, Janeway was Captain, matriarch and a woman.

She was a tough, smart and commanding leader but at the same time she had to be the head of an extended family unit. I think she did both very well. One scene she would engage the Borg unimatrix and the next help Seven with her adolescent development. In this regard Janeway had to be all things to all people.

No insult intended, but I feel Voyager's special appeal was to people who loved and respected family. It was for adults. Sadly, most of the audience just wasn't interested in this dynamic. They wanted more of the same generic, brainless shoot-em'-up fare that has become popular with the great unwashed of fandom. Plus, sadly, a lot of people just could not handle a female Captain. As with all Trek, there were good and bad stories. I respect and enjoyed the unique directions the story explored. It deserves a high place in the Trek pantheon.

Yes, it was different, and yes, it was good Trek.

(Now to quote the Cylon Imperious Leader... "Let the attack begin!")
aggie
49. Rjay
The biggest problem with Voyageur certainly wasn't Janeway I originally liked her as a captain, and the show held tremendous potential.

Unfortunately the writers took all that great potential and threw it away. They literally forgot that this was supposed to be a ship "lost in space" with no way to possibly get home and no way to properly repair itself.

While all the other shows suffered a lot from the miraculous repair from disaster one week from the next, Voyageur's repairs and restorations were even worse, scars should have been permanent, alien repairs or replacements should have appeared obvious and problematic. Whole episodes/seasons could have been written with just that.

Each episode was almost treated as a new episode, regardless of what happenned before with no continuity at all for the ships ongoing condition and fate.

It was too much and we stopped watching it... but it wasn't because of Janeway.

There were two shows that signaled the end of the Trek Franchise, Voyageur and DS9. Both suffered from terrible writing and continuity, DS9 for character continuity and Voyageur for ship/crew continuity...

As for the worst Captain? That fate falls to that angst driven, subliminaly seething/tortutred Cisco who in any real military or paramilitary organization should have been relieved of command. They focused way too much on his character and not enough on the story.
aggie
50. kaysielynn
I, too, grew up watching Voyager. It's my favorite of all the series, despite all the wrongs people can - and do - find with it. Of all the captains, Janeway is my favorite because I find her the most relatable. I only hope I can write characters that are half as awesome as she is.
aggie
51. mmcintyre
@Rai_gun: Yes! I totally agree. There's also the original leader of Atlantis, Dr. Weir. She was calm, well-loved by her subordinates, and kept absolutely everyone calm despite some overwhelming challenges. She not only effectively held and defended Atlantis during several sieges, but also lead the charge against the Replicators, negotiated perfectly with the Genii, and gave her life to save her crew. That's amazingly courageous, and badass. Like Janeway, she was never challenged for being a woman: she was looked upon as a leader, and loved for her courage and character. Which is how things should be, I agree.

Now Teyla's outfits? A little TOS for me, as well as Sheppard's occasional habit of Kirking. But no series is perfect.

As to Janeway, I really looked up to her when I was young, but the show itself seems to disappoint me when I rewatch it, because of the writing. If you ask me, she's not the worst captain. Yes, it's fair to try and rank captains, but it will always be subjective (albeit fun to debate).
aggie
52. General Vagueness
What you said is all good and well, but Janeway's significance or uniqueness as far as gender equality doesn't really have anything to do with what kind of character she is. If it's good the show ignored she's a woman, why should we hold her in higher regard or go easier on her because she's a woman? I clicked on a link to this expecting a defense of the character with the kind of deep or well-reasoned thought that articles usually show on here, not someone going on about their role model. (For the record,I think being male or female really is irrelevant to almost everything that matters in life, and I like Voyager and Janeway and I don't get most of the criticism.)
Craig Barnett
53. Ommadawn
My problem with Voyager wasn't Janeway (or any of the characters, actually), but with the writing. I got so sick of the new "particle of the week" and ridiculous tech-jargon that seemed to be invented on the fly seemingly every episode. These are the strongest memories I have of the series, and it stops me from ever wanting to re-watch them. Janeway was a decent captain, doing the best she could in the circumstances.
Jonathan Petrovsky
54. crazedgamer24
I completely agree. Voyager is the best Star Trek series and Janeway is pure win.
John Hardy
55. screwtape
"Can anyone name another show with a female lead who is first in command, extremely capable, not defined by her gender, and does not need to defend her abilities or prove herself because she happens to be a woman?"

Uhm, from 1979 to 1981, "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" aired. That was 15 years before Capt Janeway took to the spaceways. Col. Wilma Deering was not just an ace pilot, she was the commander of the entire Earth Defense Directorate spacefighter force - which incidentally had other crack female pilots in it too. And nobody on the show ever, in a single episode, questioned her command ability on the basis of her gender. (Actually, nobody's ability to do any job was ever questioned on grounds of gender in that show.)

That's particularly impressive when you consider that, in the real world at that time, the US military didn't believe that women either could or should fly, particularly in combat.

Over the years, I have read a lot of comments by women saying what a strong role model Col. Wilma Deering was for them.
Arie King
56. Arieh
I'm 24 now and about 10-15 years ago Voyager was the only show I could follow every week. When recently the S1 bluray of TNG came out and I had seen it, I decided to re-watch Voyager as well. I'm going to watch everything of TNG and DS9 as well, I have only seen a few episodes throughout all seasons.

But I must say I really love Voyager. I've skipped a few episodes I didn't really like that much, but for the most part I enjoyed it. I think it was getting better as the series developed. An earlier episode which I think was quite good was the first half of Worse Case Scenario, which seemed like the latest holonovel, but turned out to be Tuvoks simulation. The second half was very typical and disappointing (Seska had modified the program and became a trap).

But these episodes where there was something else then another anomaly or away mission, were really good. Take Author, Author, mentioned as well in the linked article. The Doctor had made a holonovel about the USS Vortex, and Mr. Paris who also came with the USS Voyeur. It was hilarious. And Robert Picardo in general throughout the show. Just loved his his presentations and how optimistic he could walk around with a medical tray, his lessons with Seven, fight for his holo righs - and his singing! :)

I'm not too sure about the feminism, I haven't thought about it too much. I do remember some parts where it was an active subject, like a Hirogen saying something like: So this female is your new Alpha now?
aggie
57. Mercuie
Poor Janeway. I think she is the best captain, and as an actor had the hardest job of any of the other actors who played the past captains. She was given a show that Paramount didn't really know what to do with. With a revolving door of writers and executive ideas that forced the show into what it was. A fractured mess.

Kate carried that show to the very end. Janeway was one of the smartest captains (she used to be a science officer). She had the stress of 2 crews on her shoulders and could never really take a break. She had to become more than a captain, and in fact become very mothering of the crew, while still remaining in charge. They gave her mostly boring characters to act against. She was smart, brave, and clever. She could easily hold her own if all the Captains were put on a show like Survivor :P In fact she is a pretty good mix of the 3 before her. Tactical smarts of Sisko, somewhat decent at diplomacy like Picard, and Clever and a risk taker like Kirk. She wasn’t afraid to go head to head with anyone, and she didn’t always have to ask the crew to come up with a plan (Picard spent most of his time asking the crew for ideas rather than coming up with his own.)

Clearly some of the choices she made were a little iffy, but that’s more on Paramounts side for bad writing and forcing Voyager to stay in the Delta Quadrant until the end of the show.

I think if you pull the character out of the show and throw her into DS9’s world of great writers, you would have been able to see Janeway for what Kate really tried to portray her as, rather than the mess the Voyager writers had put together. And not to forget that she was incredibly funny and witty and always down for a good time. I think her and Kirk and Sisko would have been great friends, and would have had a great working relationship with Picard.

Rewatching Voyager on Netflix reminded me of how good she actually was. You just gotta watch it with respect for the actor and the knowledge that Paramount just didn’t know what to do with Voyager.
aggie
58. Captain Proton
A very well-written article, thank you for writing down what I've often tried to tell people. I can't believe people on here are STILL trying to argue that she was a bad captain or wasn't a strong female character. Janeway, to me, has ALWAYS been a strong female character and a great character and leader. Yes, it's true, there were a few issues here or there with the story or an episode, but her character remained great. If I had to pick a captain to be serve under it would be Janeway (or Picard, either of them would make me happy).

Thanks again and keep fighting the good fight! :)
aggie
59. LFB3
Sara, I just thought of another lady in Star Trek who was first in command. I didn't read all of the other comments so somebody might have mentioned her already. Not a major character but I think she rocked. Azetbur the daughter of the Klingon chancellor in Star Trek VI, played by Rosanna DeSoto. By the end of the movie she had become the chancellor for the Klingon empire. I know she wasn't a major character, but I don't recall anybody challenging her on the basis of her gender.
Tony Linde
60. tonylinde
I agree with @TBGH and the general trend of this article. I loved Voyager and Janeway. I don't have a favourite captain but, if pushed, would go for Sisko; well, today anyway. And I grew up with the original and watched each new series as it came out (except Enterprise: where can I get the DVD set cheap).

Janeway rocks.
Rikka Cordin
61. Rikka
Loved her. Was unaware that she was so maligned. Am prepared to champion her whenever necessary. Will bring my phaz0rs.
aggie
62. Mr_Skyfish
For years I've always thought TNG was my all time favorite of the
series but thanks to Netflix I've changed my mind! I now believe my
favorite captain is Janeway! I have to say the same for the show itself!
This truly is my favorite Star Trek TV series ever without a doubt! I
truly love this TV show and the characters in it. The only regret I
have about the show was it should have been on longer, I felt that 7
seasons wasn't enough! It would have been nice to see 3 more after the
seventh!
aggie
63. Courtmartial
Just to throw my 2 cents in.... I loved Kate Mulgrew and I thought her performance was constantly above and beyond. That said, Captain Janeway was the worst Captain I'm aware of (I didn't watch enough ENT to judge).

When the material is there, Mulgrew was a JOY to watch on screen and she brought a real "in charge" personality to Janeway that gave her the real air of a captain. The issue of course is the writing. Its not something you'd notice in any single episode of course but in the age of DVDs I really think the quality of the character is how well their "personal arc" plays out over 7 years. For some REALLY fantastic personal arcs see Kira (who starts and ends as a terrorist for totally different reasons, coming full circle from a different perspective as a fully realized person, having shedded her hate and fear and really grown up) and Data (who in his quest to become truly human really does get as close to there as her can).

So let's take a look at Janeway's arc, shall we?

Season 1
Janeway makes the call for everyone on the ship to not put themselves ahead of the Ocampa. She sites the prime directive and the fact that they are already involved as a reason to undo the damage that is about to happen. (Caretaker)

Season 2
Ensign Kim (the most homesick one) even begins to accept that Voyager is his family and sacrifices a chance to return home to avoid breaking up his family (he recognizes that life on Voyager is where they all belong and gives up Libby to restore that Timeline and put himself and Tom back where he belongs). (Non Sequitur)
Tom, B'Elanna, Chakotay all seem to feel that this is where they belong, that life was good to them by stranding them together. Nobody wanted to start a new life in the 37s. And yet they've started a slow undercurrent of Janeway being obsessed with getting home in a perhaps unhealthy way. Resolutions shows her fighting her fate with every fiber of her being while Chakotay tries to build a life for them.

Season 3
The Alpha Quadrant is her whale and Janeway has become Ahab. As the crew makes a home and a family for itself onboard Voyager, even welcoming the first newborn member of their crew....

JANEWAY: You're suggesting we turn around.
CHAKOTAY: Yes. We should get out of harm's way. Let them fight it out. In the meantime, there's still plenty of Delta Quadrant left to explore. We may find another way home.
JANEWAY: Or we may find something else. Six months, a year down the road, after Species 8472 gets through with the Borg, we could find ourselves back in the line of fire, and we'll have missed the window of opportunity that exists right here, right now.
CHAKOTAY: How much is our safety worth?
JANEWAY: What do you mean?
CHAKOTAY: We'd be giving an advantage to a race guilty of murdering billions. We'd be helping the Borg assimilate yet another species just to get ourselves back home. It's wrong!
JANEWAY: Tell that to Harry Kim. He's barely alive thanks to that species. Maybe helping to assimilate them isn't such a bad idea. We could be doing the Delta Quadrant a favour.

Compare that to 3 years earlier in Caretaker
JANEWAY: I'm aware everyone has families and loved ones at homes they want to get back to. So do I. But I'm not willing to trade the lives of the Ocampa for our convenience. We'll have to find another way home.

Shes not even a glimmer of the same person.... how can she be your favorite captain.... I ask you WHICH Janeway is your favorite captain? The explorer? The scientist? The mother hen of this family? The psychopath?

Season 4
Confronted with her own arrogance she is unapologetic

ARTURIS: In your colourful language, yes. Species eight four seven two. Did it ever occur to you that some of us in the Delta quadrant had a vested interest in that war? Victory would have meant the annihilation of the Borg, but you couldn't see beyond the bow of your own ship!
JANEWAY: In my estimation, Species eight four seven two posed a greater threat than the Borg.
ARTURIS: Who are you to make that decision? A stranger to this Quadrant.
JANEWAY: There wasn't exactly time to take a poll. I had to act quickly.
(Hope And Fear)

The prime directive is a tool for her to use when it fits her viewpoint and to hide behind her back when it doesn't. Her fanatical point of view will finally come to a head in the next episode though....

Season 5
In the premier, Night, as Janeway hides in her room when her crew needs her feeling sorry for herself, shes come to the conclusion that she was wrong back in Caretaker. At least shes getting to be consistent now. All of the different Janeways was her struggle to decide what was the right way to get home. And now shes depressed because shes decided she was wrong. Funny enough.... the rest of the crew, even those who would have disagreed in Caretaker would tell her she was right now.

JANEWAY: I made an error in judgment, Chakotay. It was short-sighted and it was selfish, and now all of us are paying for my mistake. So if you don't mind, Commander, I'll pass on that little game and I'll leave shipboard morale in your capable hands. If the crew asks for me tell them the Captain sends her regards.

Her depression passes, but her newfound point of view sticks. And deepens. Shes no longer the passionate explorer, she has become the antithesis of everything she once believed. In 11:59 she realizes an ancestor she looked up to wasn't what she thought.

SEVEN: Her life captured your imagination. Historical details are irrelevant.
TUVOK: I concur with that analysis.
CHAKOTAY: If it weren't for O'Donnell, you never would have joined Starfleet.
JANEWAY: Yeah, and I would have never have got you all stuck here in the Delta quadrant.
TORRES: It gave us all time to get to know each other.
EMH: Time for a family portrait of our own. Everyone, gather around the Captain please. Face the camera.
JANEWAY: To family.
ALL: To family.

Still obsessing over "getting them stuck" in the Delta Quadrant, we have just one more blow to her psyche. One more strike against the idea that she should be exploring or even have joined Starfleet....

Season 6
JANEWAY: I appreciate your candour. Now let me be just as blunt. You're right, I am angry. I'm damned angry. He's a Starfleet Captain, and he's decided to abandon everything this uniform stands for. He's out there right now…torturing and murdering innocent life-forms just to get home a little quicker. I'm not going to stand for it. I'm going to hunt him down no matter how long it takes, no matter what the cost. If you want to call that a vendetta, go right ahead.

In Equinox Janeway comes across the path not taken. A captain even more psychotically driven to get home than she is to the point where mass murder isn't an obstacle to get home. Chakotay postulates that

CHAKOTAY: You've been known to hold a grudge. This man betrayed Starfleet, he broke the Prime Directive, dishonoured everything you believe in, and threw Voyager to the wolves.

as the reason shes holding such a terrible grudge. I beg to differ. I think she hates Ransom because looking at him is a little too close to looking in the mirror and seeing where shes going.... hell, in the SAME EPISODE she nearly commits murder to get what she wants

CHAKOTAY: You almost killed that man today.
JANEWAY: It was a calculated risk and I took it.
CHAKOTAY: It was a bad call.
JANEWAY: I'll note your objection in my log.
CHAKOTAY: I don't give a damn about your log! This isn't about rules and regulations. It's about right and wrong, and I'm warning you, I won't let you cross that line again.
JANEWAY: Then you leave me no choice. You are hereby relieved of duty until further notice.
CHAKOTAY: What's happened to you, Kathryn?

Maybe Ransom isn't so far away from Captain Janeway after all? This has gotten quite large, so I'll wrap it up....

Season 7
JANEWAY: I think about our ancestors. Thousands of years wondering if they were alone in the universe, finally discovering they weren't. You can't blame them for wanting to reach out, see how many other species were out there asking the same questions.
CHAKOTAY: The urge to explore is pretty powerful.
JANEWAY: But it can't justify the loss of lives, whether it's millions or just one.
(Friendship One)

Wow..... what a powerful statement. 4 episodes before the end and we have a woman defeated. The risk of exploration no longer justifies the means. Everything in her life is wrong. It all leads up to a grand finale where she ERASES SIXTEEN YEARS of Voyager's journey to save Chakotay, Seven and Tuvok... even as a mentally ill Tuvok fights to stop her. Nevermind the people they might have helped over the course of sixteen years, the children that were born and the relationships that blossomed. Nevermind all what would have happened, the people SHE cared about didn't make it home. The woman who wouldn't sacrifice one species to get home in the pilot erased sixteen years of good Voyager did on its journey for her own selfish reasons. At best shes a depressed, fanatical mentally ill person and at worst shes literally pure evil.

I like Mulgrew and I'm sorry to say it all, but the only rooting for Janeway I do when I watch Voyager is the hope that she might die.
aggie
64. The Geek Anthropologist
Fascinating post and comments! I loved Janeway even if she was a bit of a square, and it was about time that a women be in the captain's chair when Voyager came out. It's not my favorite series, but some of the episodes were good. I don't think Janeway could be described as having killed Star Trek: if she ever did wrong, it was because of the authors...
aggie
65. Courtmartial
@Anthropologist - Of course it was the authors fault. I'd never dream of blaming Mulgrew, she constantly elevated the material. But Janeway (like all characters) is the product of the actress AND the writers.
aggie
66. rob konrad
Captain Janeway isn't, in my opinion, an even remotely good or competent Starfleet Captain. Not because she was a woman. I hate that I even have to dignify that with that response but there are some people that are SO caught up in gender, race, and any victim group they would like to perpetuate whether it has any legitamacy in reality or not. No, she is just woefully incompetant and a horrible decision maker, highly erratic in that decision making, and if that weren't bad enough she, it almost seems, intentionally puts her crew in mortal danger for the stupidest and inane reasons, usually self-justified by the prime directive, but ONLY when it suits her mood and/or premade irrational/illogical decision no matter how addamantly her first officer or fellow senior officers attempt to make her see the error in her logic. Maybe it is the writers fault or her imput as an actor. but she comes off as if she has multiple personality disorder. Swingly unpredictably from "By the book starfleet Captain", to Matriarch of the Voyager "family" as she seems to sometimes feel, or just outright arrogant sociopath with no regard for her crew and only her self-righteous feelings and decisions. In any case that makes for a BAD captain. Man OR woman. I am a fan of all the Star trek series (esp. T.N.G.). I have just started watching Voyager on netflix and on season 4 and like it as well. However, seeing Capt. Janeway make absurd, life threatening decisions that CONSTANTLY,not only put her life in mortal danger, but more importantly that of her crew is becoming MORE than annoying. Her logic and reasoning is beyond dumb increasingly often. For instance, Picard of TNG, he put the Prime Directive 1st almost ALL the time. When he tweaked it it was ONLY when the life of his crew was in imminent mortal danger or a couple morally sound times as with Data's "child" in the ep. "Offspring". Now when Capt, Janeway disregards the P.D. it in MOST times puts her crew and ship in mortal danger or the destruction of a way back home and usually for some silly self-righteous psuedo-moral reason. (admittedly the P.D. may not be not as applicable 65,000 light years from the alpha quadrant when your primary mission is getting home which is nearly impossible in their lifetimes but she seems to only use it to justify stupid illogical decisions!) For instance I JUST watched S.4 ep 16, "Prey" when she refused to release species #8472 to the Hirogens (both highly predatory and BOTH very nearly successfully tried to destroy voyager several times and would again in a second w/o remorse!). Yet she decides NOT to release the dying and trapped 8472 alien cut off from it's galaxy (who breached, broke, and INVADED their ship!), not to mention cut off when in an attempt to EXTIGUISH ALL life in OUR galaxy, to the Hirogens who want to kill it. Now I understand the moral and ethical reasoning for not "wanting" to hand it over but this is all while the Hirogens have 6 MUCH more heavily armored AND much more advanced highly shielded warships trained on them. All the Hirogens requested was the 8742 alien and they would leave her AND her crew unharmed. That seems like a no brainer!! Certain death or turning over an evil predatory alien to another evil predatory species and live on to get home? Now if it was just HER who wants to sacrifice her life for this killer alien then that is between her moral guidelines and God. BUT to make that decision for her entire crew is beyond contempt as well as immoral itself! Then she has the nerve to reprimand and punish 7 of 9 for doing what she should have done?!?! MY GOD! And she does this type of crap ALL the time. That may not be a prime directive issue but when she does go against it it seems to only be if it will be most likely detrimental to the lives of her crew and vessel. And I am not even going to start on PURPOSELY destroying the crews almost 4 chances of returning to the Alpha quadrant which is their MAIN MISSION! (not to mention getting stuck there to begin with, which IMO, broke the Prime directive by destroying the array in an of itself! The voyager interfered by upsetting the inevitable power shift that would have inevitably benefited the Kazon species. The prime directive disallows her to make that decision to blow up the array simply because she feels bad for the Ocampa. The Prime Directive is there for a GOOD reason. She is behaving more like a Q than a starfleet Captain!) And she does this type of stuff ALL THE TIME. In a realistic (futuretype) reality I can't IMAGINE any crew tolerating bad decision after bad decision. Not only is she almost always choosing the path that puts them in most danger...but will make it virtually impossible to get home! If ANY ship called for a mutiny it is to get her literally "out of the way". Personally my choice for Captain. would be Tuvok and keeping starfleet rules and regs. for their OWN welfare. (plus I LOVE the flatout logical and reasonably moral leadership potential of 7 of 9 although that would not be plausible due her newer arrival AND her Borg upbringing. See, the problem is Janeway not her being female. 7 of 9 exudes femenity and sexuality as well but in addition to that makes good desions and would be well respected among the crew of ANY starfleet vessel provided she had a longer starfleet record and was never Borg!)

I feel your admiration for her as a leader is rather alarming. I have no problem with a female captain. But not her. I think you are intentionally blinding yourself to the truth and the overwhelming flaws she had as a leader either due to 12 y/0 nostalgia of the show or you just simply don't WANT to see a woman captain disparaged in ANY way despite her obvious lack of proper decision making abilities.
I LOVE the series. That said if they cast a man who made the SAME EXACT leadership desions over and over I would have the same view of him. Picard was better not because he was a man but because he was a better LEADER and desion maker. Period. If you want to blame ANYONE blame the writers of her character. There WERE ways of the show being exciting and almost virtually with the same episodes, plots, and everything WITHOUT it always seeming like it was Janeway's fault for making the decisions that put them in whatever situation all the time (plus the arrogance by season 4 in regard to her decisions almost makes the viewer think maybe they are trying to make her seem like she is becoming unwound on the verge of a type of pressure breakdown. IF I had been watching it back then I might have thought they were setting the stage for a mutiny, death, and possible replacement as Captain by Tuvak, Chakotay, the Maquis or even 7 of 9; ALL of whom (with the exception of the Maquis) would have made great captains given their character....not gender) They COULD have written better character for her....but they didn't. Giving her a penis, a haircut, and a man's name would not have made HIM (with the same charater as Janeway) ANY better a captain. In your heart of hearts I believe you realize that unless it is indeed just nostalgia. Rewatch it and maybe reevaluate your high opinion of Janeway as a great or even better than average Starfleet Captain or leader.
aggie
69. Courteny
Janeway was a mother to the crew of voyager. I don't care what anyone says. My and my fiancé always exchange glances when "mom gets mad!" Meaning Janeway was making her moral views, changing the lives of all the misfits. There's was even an episode that shows Admiral Paris' son, Tom Paris and Harry Kim are transported under strange time and space conditions. In the episode it shows Tom to be a rude, untrusting, drunk. Because the past had been changed and he never got onto Voyager. He sacrifices himself to save Harry and send him to the real time to where he was a stand up guy, thanks in most part to- Captain Janeway. She saved Tom from going to prison on episode 1. B'Elanna Torres became chief of engineering, she was part of the maquis. She had an episode where an alien that was over come by a phage disease, splits her in to two separate people. One human. And one Klingon. The episode shows the inner battle that a lot of people go threw. I'm not going to keep going on and on... Because I could. I will say, to conclude my thoughts, Voyager was the first Star Trek I ever watched. I thought it had more of a point then the other series. They get flung 75,000 lightyears away from home, a 75 year journey, that they over come in 7 years. 8 if you count "The Year Of Hell". Voyager is by far my favorite. And I've seen all the series at least 3 times over.. Voyager like 7-8. The only show I've seen almost as much as Voyager is X-files, and I've only seen it 4-5 times threw.....
aggie
70. themarknessmonster
In response to your request for another strong female lead role that isn't questioned because she is a female, might I submit Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider series.

While you may or may not know much about her, she happens to be a millionairess heiress of the Croft Estate and Research Foundation. Likewise, as a child, she learned the skills she uses in her adventures under the tutelage of the famed archaeologist Verner VonCroy, who ends up rivaling her in a later game. Throughout the first five games for the PSX/PSOne, she encounters several strong male and female characters, but none of them question her ability to do what she does.

Not only that, but typically the male roles, other than her butler, Verner from her childhood, and another male role that periodically helps her out whose name escapes me at the moment, are all enemies of hers she trounces or kills or lures to their death at one point or another. That being said, she is the perfect femme fatale role for an "Indiana Jones" type character.

Anyway, I really do agree with the rest of your assessment on Janeway's character, and how her gender never comes into question regarding her ability to lead her crew, other than the two times you mentioned.

While Picard remains my favorite captain for my own reasons, Janeway is certainly a person I can relate to(though I am male). She has resolve, she's headstrong, fearless but tactful and logical, and she always knows how to scam some coffee...very important, might I add.

The Delta Quadrant is explored, thanks to that special bean.
aggie
71. Libera
For me, your arguement fell to pieces here:
“What they needed was a take charge, dynamic female Captain, what they gave us was a moralizing, overly-liberal pushover all too willing to throw her crew’s life away for no reason at all if it made her seem superior and at least as interested in prancing around in frilly dresses on the holodeck as she is in leading her crew.” (source)
Wait, Janeway wears frilly dresses? Wait, you mean Janeway was a girl under that uniform? Well hold the presses, folks, we didn’t realize that there was a danger of a vagina-afflicted person being in charge around here.
You latched on to the mention of frilly dresses and completely ignore the rest of the statement. Your sarcastic reply certainly doesn't do you any favors.

How would you have replied if the original article simply said "...and at least as interested in prancing around on the holodeck as she is in leading her crew."?
aggie
72. Pakeha
Look people, if you want to judge Janeway's character for poor decision making, hold on a sec and remember that she and her entire crew were LOST IN SPACE and as such were faced with a unique set of challenges never before confronted in a Star Trek series. Where other captains could have drawn from a plethora of precedents for whatever decision they were making, Janeway's challenges were unique, brand new, and inevitably led to a heap of mistakes alongside a similarly large pile of successes.

I wanted to be Janeway when I was growing up and still try to emulate her in the way I live my life. Vive la Janeway, Bless this post.
aggie
73. regeya
"She has some great moments, definitely, but she has more bad moments than the other captains... except maybe Archer."

Good God. I'm trying to watch Enterprise now, made it up to Season 4, and about once every other episode I'd like to jettison him out the airlock. I think they cast the show by putting headshots on a wall and throwing darts at them.
aggie
74. Everett K. Hurst
Thank you for this. I love Voyager as well, and for me it is tied with "The Next Generation" as my favorite series. Janeway is a fantastic character, and I was happy to read your article. Great stuff.
aggie
75. Steep Gradient
Thanks for this article. Janeway and Voyager are my very favorite.
aggie
76. DiamonDad
I recently re-watched all of the Voyager seasons, and I wish to say that the moment I felt most for Janeway was in an episode where she interacted with her dad (albeit a simulted version of him). He said he taught her (and I'm paraphrasing) to be resilient and to get back up again when she fell. That is exactly the kind of dad I was, and my daughter has a very strong character as a result, something of which I'm very proud. And if it made her more like Janeway, all the better. Kudos on the artic le.
aggie
77. Uwe Grassmé
I am anything but a feminist and I don't care if a starfleet captain is male or female. Voyager is great and Janeway is great. (Most) VOY stories and dialogues are good from the beginning and get perfect from season 4. Though I like Pikard as well, TNG has awful stories and dialogues in season 1 and 2 and only season 6 and 7 are really very good.
Yes: Janeway is different from Pikard and Sikso. So are the basic ideas in TNG,DS9 and VOY. Still they belong together and I like them all
aggie
78. Gkarens
Hey, Capt. Janeway has plenty of fans on other sites and pro-KJ groups, too. You'd be surprised how many people do like her and also Voyager. I still remember when Voyager was first announced, and before the proposed female captain was even cast, some Trekkers howled that a Trek captain had to be male (am not kidding). Not very forward thinking I thought then, and still do. So I kind of take Janeway big detractors w/ a grain of salt, but not everyone has to like her. Don't love all the Trek captains myself. To each his/her own, just be fair, please. In MHO as a long-time Trek fan Janeway was a fine captain, not perfect, but well, who is, and sometimes the Voyager writers did mess up some, lol. (So did other Trek writers, it happens.)
Maiane Bakroeva
79. Isilel
It is not true that everybody prefers their first Trek series! Personally, I encountered TNG first, then watched TOS, DS9 and Voyager. I have seen a couple of episodes of Enterprise too, but couldn't get into it.

Anyway, DS9 ended up being my favorite with TOS in second place. DS9 because of story arcs, consistent evolution of characters, more realistic approach to various dilemmas and the whole cast being interesting (whereas TNG was all about Picard, Data and Worf, with everybody else being bland, not to mention quite offensive stereotyping of female cast) and TOS, which among all it's silliness and archaism had that unmatched chemistry between Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

I was very glad to get female captain in Janeway and thought that the premise of Voyager was great and would have allowed for the radical refreshment of the many stale Star Trek tropes and helped to avoid too many contrivances.
I wanted to see continuation of DS9 evolving story-arc format, enhanced by isolation, Starfleet/Maquis conflict, technological decay of the ship and vital importance of obtaining resources.
As has been so astutely mentioned, BSG before there was a BSG.

Unfortunately, all that potential was completely squandered. And all the endless fake chances to go home made it even worse. It was like early TNG seasons with Wesley going (but not really) to Academy and Riker and captainship ditto. So, I really wanted to like Voyager, but couldn't. I stuck it out into the third season, but couldn't take it anymore.

It is awful that Voyager failures are somehow attributed to Janeway and/or to having a female lead in general, though.

Enteprise was even worse, IMHO - yet again they threw away all chances for freshness, uncontrived problems and dangers... What was the point? Why set it earlier in the timeline if you still want your transporters and temporal wars? Blergh.
aggie
80. pacey2
hi sara,

i love your article!

first: my english got a bit rusty over time, but i try my very best.
i also grew up with jean-luc and janeway and for me they are my unchellenged first.
one reason is for sure that it simply was fascinating for me as a teen watching these stories about people in space with all that starships and "aliens". i always liked the idea of science fiction and picard and janeway simply opened me that door, because they were present at that moment.
but the more important reason is that kathryn and picard seemed to have learned from the past. they tried to act ethical and well considered, not doing all this bullshit again and again. refinement of the humans. this is why i was fascinated of star trek and the federation.
at the same time this is the reason, why i dont like kirk. there is, amongst others, one big point missing: the proactive women. sure... phenomenon of that time. but it just gives nothing to me.

the hatred of janeway can imho just have one reason:
sexism.
because: you can say, you dont like the story, as other people did here. thats ok. if you can substantiate it, its ok.
but HATE, in that connection, can only have one reason: an extremist stance.

these poeple are not really fans of "my" science fiction. and they are wrong with watching star trek. because this is progress, at all levels. its not for outdated people.


many greetz from germany
aggie
81. Yohan
Janeway >>>> all other Star Trek captains. Point blank period.
Bryan McMillan
82. bmcmolo
Hear hear!

Well, I've got nothing against leather catsuits. But I don't like Janeway because of what she/ Voyager says or doesn't say about feminism; I like her because she's a strong leader, intelligent, fair, and pleasant. The kind of Captain anyone in his or her right mind would want to follow.

Well-put and thanks for it!
aggie
83. John Pickering
I never had a problem with Captain Janeway persae. My problem was that whilst Voyager had a great premise the writing team failed massively to deliver quality, original stories. I actaully preferred pre-seven of nine Voyager. 7of9 was used as a sex symbol to boost ratings, the character did nothing to improve the quality of the show, if anything she contributed to softening of the Borg which was a huge mistake. Had the DS9 writers and creative team been hired for Voyager i imagine i might have enjoyed the series more. Whilst im having a dig my other biggest problem was with the generic bland charachters of Harry Kim and Chakotay (no charachter development, boring charachters), Neelix was Voyagers equivalent of Jar Jar binks. If you want to discuss interesting aliens look no further than the likes of Garak and Quark.......My point made
aggie
84. delia ruhe
Janeway is the most human of all the captains. She makes the kinds of mistakes that Trek writers could never have written for the high-minded (and often boring) Pickard, because writers always had to be careful of his white masculine dignity. Janeway, by contrast, is often morally ambiguous -- much like real people in the real world. She makes unforgivable mistakes, as one might expect from the captain of a ship lost in space and free of the overbearing gaze of Starfleet headquarters, but we nevertheless cheer her on when she achieves something courageous or even just useful. She's at her best when in conflict with the cyborg members of her crew -- Seven or the Doctor -- and she loses. She makes no self-serving excuses; she just grits her teeth and gets on with the thankless job of command.

Kate Mulgrew -- never the greatest actor on the planet -- had a bitch of a time with some of the worst scripts ever written for Star Trek. She was the victim of writers who didn't have a clue how to write for a captain who happens to be female. But she stuck with it, toughing it out until finally the writers figured out that there are far more similarities between male and female captains than there are differences. Once they got used to the idea that she doesn't have a dick, around which the entire galaxy revolves, the scripts got better. Toward the end of the seven years, Mulgrew took a lot of risks with her character, rising to the challenge of convincing us that Janeway is every bit as authoritative, arrogant, opinionated, and worthy of respect as her male counterparts.
Jenny Thrash
85. Sihaya
#84: "She makes the kinds of mistakes that Trek writers could never have written for the high-minded (and often boring) Pickard, because writers always had to be careful of his white masculine dignity." Picard was always high minded because that was Rodenberry's vision of Starfleet and humanity, not because he was a white male. When Rodenberry died, producers started phasing his writing rules out. They made no bones about that fact as soon as DS9 hit the scenes.
Jenny Thrash
86. Sihaya
#84 (addendum): Though I should add that I agree with your larger point about the writers vs. Kate Mulgrew.
aggie
87. delia ruhe
#85 Sihaya: Who else but a dignified European male could possibly represent Roddenberry's Enlightenment Humanist ideal?
Jenny Thrash
88. Sihaya
#87 delia ruhe: Yes, but I think you're missing a point - Picard was created by Roddenberry; Janeway was not. Or maybe it's more accurate to say that you get the point, but the point makes an important distinction.

If Rodenberry had helmed the show during the creation of a female commander (oh wait, he did in the pilot of TOS, and for the awesome Enterprise C he made an awesome captain), he would have made her Rodenberrian. The Voyager guys were so focused on being 'not Rodenberry' sometimes that they chucked out the baby with the bathwater. It's like you said - they said, "OMG Gene hasn't made a female Captain. She has a name, but to the press we will call her Female Captain! And we will make sure that she is everything Picard and Kirk were not! What is it that women are like in TV land? That will be sooooooo progressive. " And so Janeway wound up being this amorphous jumble that didn't make sense. Sisko had a deeply intricate back story on DS9, one that was part of his present storyline as much as his past; Janeway had a crappy ex-boyfriend, a love of competition, and a desire to be anywhere but the Gamma Quadrant. I'd say that she was an idea rather than a character for a long time, but I don't know if one can create a cohesive idea from a set of negatives and a label.

If I were to point to an awesome woman in a command position on that show, it would be Torres. She was a much more cohesive character, and she became a very powerful woman. She was an interesting person, too.
aggie
89. mickey D
I thought the writers did a poor job on Janeway. Moralistic, hated suicide, but was willing to self destruct the ship at the drop of a hat.

In the end, all the problems with the show come down to poor writing. Lazy writing. Atrributing stupidity to all the characters.

My goodness, a character defects, and nobody bothers to change any important access codes she might have had access too? And lets get this straight, the Maquis was fighting the cardacians. One of the crew turns out to be a cardacian. The Maquis were fighting them because they hated them, hated them with all their heart and soul. Hated them so much they fought the federation too. So what happens, a Mackee winds up defecting over to the once undercover cardacian that had defected to the Kazon. Meanwhile the cardacian is carrying Chakota's baby, but telling the Kazon leader the baby is his. They have warp drive but not DNA testing? Really?

It's absurdity piled on absurdity piled on stupidity. The writers should have been slapped silly. Every week.

Janeway was never consistent. Plus she was touchy feely, which I just don't seeing a starship captain being, especailly when you can't touch the captain. So the captain wouldn't be walking around touching others. It's a lonely job, but tough cookies. That's life.
aggie
90. mickey d
I agree with everything Rob Konrad said. But hey Rob, how about a little more white space in your writing? Please?
aggie
91. Dimitrios
I also agree with Rob Konrad. I just saw the episode he was referring to called "Prey". Janeway would have destroyed the ship if it hadn't been for 7 of 9 going against her orders.

So how is it sexism if the same people criticising one female character are also praising another for saving the ship?

Of course, the blog author will not want to mention or discuss this episode as doing so would destroy her arguments.
aggie
92. Sixheadeddog
First off, pretty fantastic that you've written a piece that is still getting conversation nearly a year after-the-fact. And not all of it is trolling, either! I think you are to be commended for this.

That having been said, I disagree. In pretty strong terms. I think, in large part, your rhetoric in this piece is conflicted due to the obvious strong sentiment you attach to your subject matter. You seem to want to have it both ways: on the one hand, you state pretty clearly that you do not intend to evangelize or debate the point; but, on the other, you create a rather uncomfortable dichotomy for those that would disagree with you and suggest that to dislike Voyager, or to dislike Janeway, is to be, essentially, a sexist. (leaving aside that this proposition entirely dismisses the possibility that there might be female fans who also dislike Janeway -- or, perhaps these fans are sexist as well?...) You also laud Janeway, and Voyager, for creating a show where the leader of the crew is someone for whom gender is not a defining attribute, or upon whose gender the show doesn't ever linger or draw attention to or raise up as a point for contention; and then, in spite of this, the *entirety* of your argument for Janeway depends completely on her being a woman -- the exact opposite of that which you ascribe to the show as a virtue.

I didn't grow up with Voyager; I was in high school when the show first came on the air, and by that time I'd had decent exposure to TNG and DS9 and the original Star Trek movies. I don't think I'd have even classified myself as a trekkie back then: my affection for Star Trek was more of a casual thing, which has, oddly, increased in recent years with the expansion of my DVD collections. It wasn't until the last year or so that I'd made it through a complete viewing of all of TNG and DS9's episodes. In the last month, I've begun picking up seasons of Voyager and watching through them -- because I recall my friends talking about it, and I sort of needed a new Trek fix.

While a lot of what my friends said, when talking about Voyager, was disparaging, I tried very hard not to let this color my estimation of the show. I even started to question myself when my gut reaction to some of what I was seeing was decidedly negative. (really? they're *landing* the Voyager on a planet?!?) But this was unnecessary: I am now partway into Season 3, and I think that my assessment is pretty fair. There are a lot of things I like about the show, but these are vastly outnumbered by the things that are so very, very wrong with it. And at the top of my "don't like" list is Janeway herself.

This does not make me sexist. In fact, to presume that my dislike for Janeway is a result of some latent sexism may, itself, be somewhat sexist: after all, I haven't, to this point, even revealed my own gender. (I won't hide behind this for long, though: I'm a dude) That said, I also haven't said why it is that I dislike Janeway. I shall attempt to explain.

I did a little research before endeavoring to craft this response; part of this research involved, inevitably, the Kathryn Janeway article on the Memory Alpha wiki. Under the heading "Background," it talks about the original actress who was to play Janeway in the pilot: Quebecoise actress Genevieve Bujold. It says of her portrayal that her style of portraying the character was "quiet" and "nuanced," and that these were things that, it was believed, would not have suited the medium, the character or the storyline. Which is funny, because I think one of my central complaints about Janeway is that exactly nothing about her is quiet or nuanced.

I am very much a Picard kinda guy. I like my captains thoughtful, brilliant, empathetic, principled, and humble, but with the ability to loom larger than life when the situation calls for it. Janeway is the opposite of this. She is not thoughtful: typically, she will listen to all of the advice presented to her, and then just happen to always agree with whatever the last person who said anything suggested. Admittedly, this is probably more an issue with episode writing than with the character herself; but regardless, Janeway never really appears to deliberate or struggle with any of the problems she's presented with. And if she does struggle, this will usually involve holding stubbornly to a principle for 30-35 minutes of an episode before, without warning, completely reversing her position for no apparent reason whatsoever.

I also don't find her to be particularly brilliant. She keeps insisting that she's a scientist, yet we never see her display any particular gift or passion for the sciences (except for when she declares that she's a scientist), and she never seems to stand out in the area of regurgitating the science fantasy techno-babble that is a staple of the show -- she does this no more or less proficiently than any of the other characters (even those who don't profess to being scientists).

Janeway does show a good amount of empathy -- but then, this doesn't say much, because she'd be a terrible leader and an entirely unsympathetic character if she displayed exactly none of this trait. But even so, I'd only give her, at best, a D- on this score, because she *constantly* over-explains her empathy and why she is feeling empathy and how she really really wants to find a mutually beneficial solution, but until then she really sincerely empathizes.

Janeway isn't exactly principled -- but then, no one on Voyager really is. The show and all of the characters keep waffling back and forth about what principle even means to them anymore: on the one hand, when confronted with one situation, Janeway's all like "NO, we are STARFLEET, we do not do this!" And then, when confronted with another situation (which may or may not be similar to the first situation), she's like "Well, we're a bajillion space miles from home, so maybe we can fudge this just a li'l bit." Being fair: Janeway is not alone in this; the entire crew does this, sometimes taking up opposing positions on the same question in the same episode. A Voyager apologist might defend this as being the central conflict of the show, and any perceived inconsistencies in characters' positions with respect to the principles of Starfleet are just due to everyone being essentially human (even the aliens) and having moments of weakness and temptation from being a bajillion space miles from home. Since I'm not a Voyager apologist, my estimation of this tendency within the show is that it is either a poor attempt to present this aforementioned conflict, or that it's just sloppy writing. Or possibly a little of both.

Do I even need to mention how completely not-humble Janeway is? Allow me to refer to an episode I watched not long ago: Tuvok is having some weird brain-attacks because of a repressed memory, and for some reason Janeway is the only person who can help him through mind melding (by the way: Tuvok really sort of beats that mind-meld horse to death, doesn't he? It's his answer to almost everything. "Hey, Tuvok, I lost my car keys. Can you help me look for them?" "I would be glad to render you this assistance. Let us mind meld."). After they defeat the evil psychic brain virus (with mind melding), Janeway and Tuvok reminisce about how cool it was that Tuvok used to hang out with George Takei and Commander Yeoman Rand. And then Janeway immediately makes it all about her, and has the chutzpa to say something to the effect of: "Well, now I feel like I was totally there, too! Wasn't it great that I got to do that?" Ugh. So, even in an episode focused on Tuvok, Janeway totally pulls a Shatner.

Speaking of which, is it terribly sexist of me to suggest that I dislike Janeway for many of the same reasons that exist to dislike Kirk? They're both extremely arrogant, they both have this self-satisfied smirk that they wear a good 85-90% of the time, they LOVE to get a good monologue in whenever the opportunity arises.

I appear to have gotten a little off-topic, here: this rant was supposed to be about Janeway, and then somehow Jim Kirk leapt in and totally pulled a Shatner. I'll leave you with this: I feel it is unfortunate that you've hung your feminist hat entirely upon Captain Janeway and her Voyager. Because it really, truly is among the worst of the pre-2009 Star Trek offerings. There are so many other, better, more feminist-friendly characters in Star Trek lore that you can go to: Uhura, Dr. Marcus, Dr. Crusher, Dr. Pulaski -- hell, even Commander Shelby. Can I confess that, in watching Voyager, I've often wondered how much better this show might have been if, instead of Janeway, they'd brought in Shelby instead.

... Actually, wait. Do I really wish that they'd dragged that character through the mud like that? Hmm. Probably not.
aggie
93. Darth Michelle
Janeway and Voyager bashing is more about jumping on a bandwagon than anything else. This is not to say that she show was amazing, it constantly left me confused on writing decisions and yet I kept going back to it. Mostly, because when ST:V and Janeway are good they are bloody good. Problem is the show isn't made up of great episodes like Timeless, Counterpoint or Year of Hell.

Which is incredibly disappointing. The show set itself up with an amazing concept to work with. The journey home, was a continuity dream. Exploring the changes in characters, setting-up soul crushing deaths, living with decisions beyond a single episode.... Janeway (and the rest of the crew) could have been truly incredible.

Maybe because I watched Laura Roslin (who freaking does count btw) in BSG before ST:V, but I can't help making comparisons. Both were feminist statements it was just Roslin was written with more care and fines, while the brilliance that could have been Janeway only leaked out when the writing was good or Mulgrew seemed to get more creative freedom over her characters development. Ron Moore in charge of ST:V, if time travel is invented I might make that so.

Janeway was a great character nonetheless. She (along with Sam Carter, and Dana Scully) taught a teenage me to stand up for myself and the things I deemed important. That honour and camaraderie are valuable. That you can own combat boots and high heels. Janeway is accepting, hardworking, kind, driven and would (more than anyone else in ST did) die for her crew. Starfleet ideals do seem to have a holier-than-thou feel to them, but I thought that was the point.

I think it is easy to slag off Janeway, because lets face it she lead a show that does kind of sometimes deserve it. I do enjoy earlier episodes more though, as any positive feminist feeling re: a strong lady captain are expertly undone by the overly emphasised presence of the unfeeling, perfect TandA brandishing BorgBarbie.
aggie
94. Jezthesiren
"I struggle to come up with another fictional female character in my life who is so precisely what I would want to be, the type of character I’m glad my parents showed me, and the type of character I would encourage my hypothetical daughter to love."
This completely expresses my views on Janeway. I was eight when the series first aired and watched it religiously from the first episode on. As a young girl, starved for strong female characters that I felt I could aspire to, Janeway more than fulfilled that role. Voyager is flawed (as are ALL the Trek series), but it's my favorite in large part because of it's cast of characters - with Janeway being top on my list.
aggie
95. danyc
I ran into another one of these 'Voyager is the worst/best' posts and it got me to some thinking and episode re-watching, and I can't help but come down on the '2nd worst' side.

This isn't a statement that the show was totally horrible; just as someone last to be last, someone has to be second to last, and I feel that TOS (for its originality), TNG (for the most polished implementation of the original model) and DS9 (for its deep plot continuity and character development) all manage to come out ahead. Voyager is a show in the same style as TOS and TNG but so much of it is rehash that it's hard not to give it a place behind them.

Tuvoc was a rehash Spock who added nothing to the Vulcan lore (he only seemed to be there to mind-meld everyone), B'ellana was a watered down 'Klingon out of water' who lost most of the impact Worf had because she would never meet another Klingon (where his actions constantly put him at odds with his people, had repercusions for his House and family, etc). She was well acted but it was still all rehash. Kim and Paris were pretty generic (likeable, but not really interesting), and Neelix and Kes always seemed like afterthoughts. And Chakotay, sadly, was like a block of wood (with a tattoo - oooh, how ethinc). The Doctor stood far above everyone else, but it wasn't enough to pull the show up with him, and Seven I fluctuated on loving and hating (her acting was great, and she was interesting as another 'weird' character in the same way as Data and the Doctor, but she was also walking Deus Ex Machina, and her borg stuff overwhelmed the rest of the story).

And then we get to Janeway. I didn't think she was bad, but in the same way as the show as a whole seemed a mediocre reflection of things before, so too did she in comparison to the other captains (or even just to prior female officers, I think Kira blows her out of the water). Kirk was strong. Picard was cerebral, cultured and principled. Sisko was a parent (a pretty big deal among all the detatched officers) and a spiritual person (eventually). I'm not sure what she was. She shared assertiveness and occasional boldness with other Captains (but still fell short of Kirk or Sisko), seemed a bit of a dunce compared to Picard, and was wishy washy on the Prime Directive (and just not consistently written as a character). Even on empathy, I feel like Picard and Sisko cared more genuinely for their crews (and Sisko, for an entire race of people increasingly adopted as his own). I can't for the life of me think what she added to the captain tradition, or what was different about her, other than having ladyparts.

Which she did have, and it was great that they weren't made issue of. Just as no one made an issue of Sisko being black (and a stable single father), or Kirk kissing Uhura, or Dax kissing a woman (well, it was tabboo, but not for THAT reason), or any of the interracial (or interrspecies) romances and characters (well, ok, the interspecies characters faced discrimination, but never from the crew and always to show how awful those bigots were). The show has ALWAYS stood for equality and tolerance, and that is one of the reasons it's such a great cultural touchstone.

And in that spirit, it would be nice if people could unhook the two issues and suffer Janeway criticism without assuming it to be sexist.
aggie
96. Llama
It is that to break down, dismiss or belittle the character of Janeway is not simply to break down a character. It is to break down, dismiss or belittle a woman in a radical leadership role. And maybe, just maybe, it is more important to support strong female characters than it is to rank Star Trek captains.It is that to say Voyager is the second worst Star Trek series is to ignore that, from a feminist perspective, Voyager is by far the best Star Trek series
Do you honestly not see the double think here? Women are equal and this is a good show because it illustrates that and doesn't make gender an issue of competence, but you can't criticise this show or this character because women are special and delicate and can't be subjected to the same scrutiny as men. You can't question her competence or you're sexist because it's all about her gender. We have to 'support' female characters regardless of whether we like them because women are women first and characters second. That is what you're saying there and it is bullshit.


Voyager was on when I was a kid and I grew up watching it (also, I am a girl, for the record), so there is tremendous affection in my heart for it and for Janeway, but people are not wrong to rip it, or her, apart. It had a brilliant premise with limitless potential for incredibly tense, dramatic stories and it's the same old same old. It has a unique cast with a unique dynamic that could have made it unlike any other Trek and also the most clear demonstration of Trek's values about working together in spite of differences, but the tension between the crews dissipates almost instantly and nothing interesting is ever done with it. It had some truly fantastic actors playing some potentially amazing characters and it was often flat as cardboard. Janeway could have been a great Captain and KM certainly has the gravitas and air of command to pull off being the abolute authority of the series, but she is written totally inconsistently and makes choices that just cannot be seen as admirable by any stretch.

Your simple-minded assertion that Voyager is the best Trek 'from a feminist perspective' shows you're thinking about this far too shallowly. Just because Janeway is a female Captain does not make her a feminist character or a good female role model: it does not make the show a feminist show. 7of9 is an incredible character played by a brilliant actress, but she's poured into a ridiculous skintight catsuit and constantly used by the show as cheap titillation instead of treated as a character first and a pair second. Janeway is bipolar and borderline psychotic if you break her decisions down, tossed wildly by her emotions and making stupidly impulsive choices. How does this reflect a 'feminist perspective'? It seems like 'female hysteria' of old and exactly the kind of thing chauvinists would expect from a female commanding officer.

I have not seen more than brief moments of DS9, so I can't comment on it, but for the shows I have seen, TOS is honestly the one that is most radical and impactful on gender issues. It is a product of its time and it shows in the writing, but between the original Number One, Uhura ("I'll save you fair maiden!" "Sorry, neither."), Rand, and the fact that Kirk -the character, in universe- is not sexist and calls people on it when they are, it is still a step ahead of TNG and Voyager. TNG has Counselor Useless, the Touchiest of Feelies and Doctor Mummy. Pulaski is pretty awesome, but she's transparently just a carbon copy of McCoy rather than her own character. There are one-off characters that fare better, but the regular cast isn't doing much for women in STEM fields. Voyager has even more problems, though at least it also has more female characters.

Anyway. It's pretty insulting that you try to say no one can dislike Janeway because she's a woman. I like her because she can be so awesome and KM is a perfect choice to play a Trek Captain, but the bad writing on the show really let her down and I think people are probably justified in dismissing the character as a whole based on the crap they have her pull. If we're looking at her in-universe, as a fictional person, she is pretty terrible.
aggie
97. christinemb
From the perspective of a woman serving in today's Navy who has served under the command of several woman (including in combat), it is my experience that Captain Janeway represents well women in militaristic leadership roles. She is no worse than any female I served under, although in some cases she is better. I think this fictional character realistically portrays, for the most part, women in military leadership roles.

I appreciated the fact that the writers didn't make a big deal out of the fact that The Captain was A Woman. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen often in real life, so it was refreshing to see a show about characters and stories instead of about whether or not a woman can command.
aggie
98. Nekona
Oh my god thank you for this article! I have taken so much teasing for loving Voyager. (Like you I grew up watching it.) Janeway is really such a rarity.
aggie
99. Connie Douglas
Thank you for the article. I love Janeway and she will always be one of my highest ranked favs for any strong role man or woman. She is the main reason I have continued to watch the series ... multiple times. I loved the show. I think the writing was very good in most cases with of course some filler episodes which is pretty normal for most shows. However, regardless of how well the episodes or the show as a whole was written, if you don't have good characters, viewers aren't gonna hang around to see it. The most important thing I think are strong characters that you come to know and love. Janeway did this for me.

Also, I have seen comments about Kate's acting and this maddens me. No one and I mean no one could have played Janeway but Kate Mulgrew. She nailed it. I also love the Doctor, another great character and actor. I enjoyed all of the characters and I am also a fan of the other Star Trek series. My favorites are Voyager and TNG.
Hearts out for Janeway and Voyager! Cheers and trek on!
aggie
100. Connie Douglas
BTW, there were many many strong characters and story-lines in Voyager!!! If you haven't watched for than a beginners amount of episodes, give it a real chance and I think you will come to love them too.
aggie
101. lightningbarer
No, Voyager itself sucked and by contrast with that, Janeway sucked.
The original intent for VOY was to show a harsher and more edgy show than DS9 was doing, having two crews in the delta quadrant trying to work together but being polar opposites of each other, but then certain people(we all know who) sterilized the show and removed ANY internal conflict.
Then there's the problem of the horrible and recycled external conflicts from beginning to end, none of which made any of the characters out to be anything special.
And finally, as many have undoubtedly mentioned above, the fact that the writers wrote EVERY character as being so hard lined about their views, Janeway is a by-the-books starfleet officer, Chakotay is a spiritualist, Torres is an irrational, quick to anger type, Paris is the slacker, Seven/Doctor are the Fish out of water.

Keeping things stagnent is a bad thing and why I was sick of VOY and Trek at the end, those people I didn't mention above drove Trek into an early grave, if they hadn't done the abysmal job they did with VOY, Trek fans would have happily marked the continued airing of the 35th anniversary of Trek on TV, like we Dr Who fans are doing in less then two weeks for it's 50th.
aggie
102. Mark Duke
I liked Voyager a lot, and Janeway was a great character. Yes, Janeway made some weird decisions, and the show had some spectacularly bad episodes. But if anyone can watch Scorpion or Year of Hell and still say the show sucked, it must be because they have a bias against the show. I wonder what that bias could be based on. Hmmm.......
aggie
103. J.D.
"This is why I think Voyager is fantastic, and why I think Janeway is an amazing character; because the show chooses to deal with the question of a female captain by not making it a question."

So really, it's the lack of other characters constantly making a big deal that she's a woman that makes her a strong character? Forgive me, but that is a low bar to clear. To be sure, by not making Janeway's gender an issue, the writers on Voyager made the right choice. But Janeway consistently made choices that placed her people in more danger than was reasonable. Beyond that, # 96, above, says it all.
aggie
104. Aislingqwerty
I loved Voyager, I think some Trekkies are snobs who like to act like kids on the school playground. They pick on a series that might have some bad episodes here and there but overall was watchable and good fun. Not everything has to be complicAted. They like to feel superior about their knowledge of ALL Star Trek series and view themselves as critics. . While I agree in some instances, like lack of continuity at times I found it nice that each episode was different and you never really had to make sure you so the last one. That's what was great about it. I always thought except for a few episodes it was well written. I think janeway was great. The acting got Better as the series progressed and the only problem I ever had wit ph voyager was at times Neelix. I don't know why he got under my skin. As well I found that Kim was a waste for a character. And as much as I loved chakotay he could be very boring. Too nice or something. They could have made him a little bit more manly at times. He did seem like Janeways lapdog. It might have been cool if he were the captain and a headstrong janeway second in command. Interesting to see them fight over different things, actually that would have been great. Anyone agree?
aggie
105. Nero Willingly
yeah,

i hated janeway. not because she was a woman, but because she's a criminal, a bigot and worst of all she constantly contradicts herself in the worst possible ways. it always seemed as though she had a set of rules for herself and a different set for everyone else in the universe.

She's allowed to condemn people to death, to violate peoples spiritual beliefs and physical bodies under the guise of protecting her crew... even to people who have no affiliation to her apparently, but the very next episode she's willing to let that same entire crew be killed to prove her moral superiority to a race she's only just encountered.

Not to mention her use of biological warfare. even Khan Noonnian Singh never used Biological or chemical warfare against enemies. but what's janeways answer to a completely alien species from a different dimension attacking her ship? "Join the borg, help them create a deadly biological weapon".

Sorry, but no matter how you slice it, you dont walk away from using chemical/biological warefare without being branded a war criminal.

She claims to respect other cultures and beliefs, she doesnt, what she does is foster an atmosphere of subtle racism and hostility amongst her crew as demonstrated by her constant "itemization" of seven of nine, with the entire crew referring behind closed doors to seven more often then not as "our borg drone" as opposed to the name that she herself encouraged seven to choose. Anytime B'elanna or Tuvok or one of the alien crew has a personal, cultural or spiritual objection or issue, she's entirely dismissive and condescending often telling people what cultural aspects she will allow on her ship.

When was the last time you saw b'elanna do ANYTHING Klingon in public, season 1 because janeway made it abundantly clear that klingons were not "her kind" of alien, sure, tuvok's quiet and meditates also she finds the fact that he's willing to MIND-RAPE people at the drop of a hat is handy so she wont say anything more racist than an ear comment, but if b'elanna wants to explore her culture its "off limits behaviour"

Sounds like biggoted, supremist behaviour to me ladies and gentlemen.

And my final point, self-contradiction and "moral superiority", Voyager encounters the second starfleet vessel the Equinox in Delta qudrant and janeway immidiately does everything in her power to assume control in the chain of command entirely. Quoting regulations almost gleefully that the ship with "tactical superiorty" is in charge in any battle scenario, which is fair enough, no-one really has a problem except that she finds out Equinox has been killing aliens to travel faster, somehow.... ok, so aside from that being weapons grade bolognium... janeway turns around and confronts the other captain, this time regulations work against her since in an emergency situation the prime directive is apparently suspended and "captains judgement" regarding the welfare and safety of the crew is considered by starfleet to be top priority.

Janeway doesnt like this at all, and decides she just gonna arrest them all, strip tand cannibalise this other ship for resourced and do whatever she pleases since she's got the bigger crew and more weapons, she does a total 180 on EVERYTHING star trek stands and she herself has stood for. and then she goes nuts when the other ship gets away from her and she risks her own ship and crew on something like 4 separate occasions in the span of a single episode to hunt down the other captain, and then attempts torture/murder/manslaughter of a member of the equinox crew (however you want to define it) in hopes of coercing an innocent guy into betraying his captain and the rest of his friends. just so that janeway can satisfy her personal "vandetta" against someone of EQUAL rank and STATUS whom she has no legal, moral or societal grounds to judge. but no, janeway is the self actualised "queen" of the delta quadrant and the universe MUST conform to her wishes or suffer the consequences.

Any starfleet Admiral worth their salt would have had her sentenced to consequtive life sentences with no hope of release or parole for her personal conduct alone IMO. but she uses the Delta quadrant as a convenient cloak to do what she pleases, constantly giving away and trading starfleet technology, a MAJOR violation of the prime directive BTW's possibly the BIGGEST one there is.

Starfleets non-interferance policy strictly adheres to the restriced nature of technological dispersal where any culture that hasnt yet advanced to the level where they can design and build the relevant technology themselves i.e. replicators, warp cores, sensor tech, phasers, it cant be shared with them. Janeway CONSTANTLY gives away replicator tech, warp tech, sensor tech, etc to anyone and everyone she meets. seriously, that is the biggest violation anyone from starfleet can make. replicators are capable of producing anything stored in the date banks and she's just handing them out.

"Computer, i require a sample of weaponised ebola 946"

"Specify quantity of sample"

"oh... i dunno... 40 kilolitres ought to take care of them all i think..."

and i guarentee that if she came across some one doing that in the alpha quadrant she'd see them in prison for life. ironic right?

What an absolute bitch.
aggie
106. able
Janeway was a terrible captain,, breaking the Prime Directive almost every chance she got... the first episode is a good example
1) allowing EVIL aliens to live and continue there evil, like the species which takes organs from living people and let them die horrible deaths, but at the end of the episode does she kill those she has captured? no she accepts there help and lets them go to keep cutting organs out of innocent people,...

they meet aliens who kidnap people from ships, space stations, colony's etc, they take them put them in to fake habitats, again at the end of the episode, Janeway lets them go on with there business, (they would have started doing what they do again with out doubt) so Janeway thinks species like this should be allowed to live....

2), how many times does she risk the ship for 7 of 9.... but then she says in the omega derivative episode that she won't risk her crews life... She cared more for her Holo boyfriend, Michele, the Irish guy, then two of her crew....

3) she tells 7 of 9 that she is human and has the right to choose, but then refuse to accept any of 7's choices that go against her wants...

4) in the episode where Harry Kim take charge of an alien ship, 7 tells him that a good captain doesn't do everything and allows the crew to do jobs, pity she never said that to Janeway,

Janeway always has the answers/solution to all the problems, from cleaning up incoming messages, to shield harmonics, to weapon settings, was the chief transporter, and lead holo designer and even tells the doctor what treatment is needed for patients...He has star fleets medical database on tap, but she knows more.... Honestly why did she keep the rest of the crew, none of them were needed at all, she was master of every aspect of the ship, and all they did was disagree with her, steal her food, water, air and power...

5) delivered lines like "I see candle light on the wall" when asked by Da vinci to use her imagination and tell him what she sees...

6) not a point against her, but in the episode where the crew are made from the silver blood, it shows exactly who she is, though she knows that earth is not there home, she refuse to turn around, thus killing her crew..

and no I have no proble with women with power, I think there sexy, even Janeway, I like the fact she didn't need to dress like a whore to be noticed and think if only more women today were like that

. I LIKE the show, and have watched every ep at least 3 times... it should have been great.... the best of all the treks in my opinion but Janeway ruins it,
sure bad plots/stories didn't help, but if Janeway was more Jon-luc, i.e. not always the main focus, then this show would have worked, watch episodes and everytime Janeway does anything ask yourself, what would Jon-Luc have done, and you will see that there are many times Janeway is a good/great captian, just more times she is not...
aggie
107. Waldo
My problems with Janeway only stem from my problems with Voyager as a whole. When it came to getting out of tight situations, scripts always seemed to have an over-reliance on deus ex machina, particularly with Janeway, to get out of it. I get that Janeway was a science officer before switching to command, but it became tiring when Janeway could recall, at a moment's notice, experience with this obscure technique or that experimental engineeering procedure or some other random thing because she had studied it at the Academy or whatever.

In a way, this really broke the mold of the Starfleet captain. You rarely saw Kirk or Picard get fairly hands on with overly technical solutions to problems - they relied on their crews. Sisko did it some, but not to the degree that he looked like a jack of all trades like Janeway. I get where the writers were coming from - they wanted her to be less like a CEO - but she really just came across as aloof to me.

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