Kate Mulgrew on being Star Trek's first female captain as a series regular: ''It's a huge challenge''

By: H&I Staff     Posted: December 12, 2023, 3:28PM Tags: Tags: ALLSTARTREK, All Star Trek, Star Trek Voyager

What are the qualities of a true captain? It varies, but there are some qualities that all captains must have: lead by example, be able to enforce core values, work hard, etc... In the Star Trek universe, all captains, especially Kathryn Janeway, embodied what it took to have that honor.

In fact, Janeway was a character that made history; she was the first female captain as a series regular (in a leading TV role) in the franchise. The role fit Kate Mulgrew perfectly, although a different actress was initially chosen. This was a big deal for the franchise, fans and Mulgrew, and she knew it.

"It's a huge challenge," the actress told The Los Angeles Times in 1995. "The captain has to have very clearly delineated characteristics that perhaps I wouldn't have had even three or four years ago."

Mulgrew continued, "She has to have an emotional center, an intellectual center, a power, a presence, a calm. Full thrusters, you know? This is a great woman."

The veteran actress brought life to Janeway in a way no one could, but it was a completely different journey than her prior work. It took a lot of dedication. After two years of "tremendous rejection" from other projects and a second Star Trek: Voyager audition (on the same day the original Janeway actress was chosen), Mulgrew's time had finally come. 

To ensure Mulgrew knew what was ahead and to impede another setback, Star Trek: Voyager producers let the actress know that the role was no easy job. "She has proven to be a remarkably accurate choice," executive producer Jeri Taylor said.

Fun fact: Madge Sinclair was actually Star Trek's first female captain seen on-screen in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. According to ScreenRant, Sinclair was the unnamed Captain of the USS Saratoga, which faced the Whale Probe attacking Earth that Kirk (William Shatner) and his crew appeased by traveling back in time and bringing humpback whales to the 23rd Century. Sinclair also held the honor of being the franchise's first Black captain. 

This was nine years before Kate Mulgrew and Captain Janeway took over television.

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