One of the small positives of 2020 has been the year-long celebration of the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: Voyager. The series debuted Jan. 16, 1995, and gave us seven years of stellar storytelling and characters, including the Trek universe's first female starship captain, Janeway (Kate Mulgrew). Coinciding with all the reflection and love is Star Trek: Voyager: A Celebration from Hero Collector Books. Written by Ben Robinson and Mark Wright, the new tome features 247 pages of new cast and crew interviews, episode deep-dives, and official photography from the series.
"[The year] 2020 was supposed to be the year when there were countless conventions celebrating the show’s 25th anniversary," Robinson tells SYFY WIRE about the impetus for the book. "I wanted to get in on the act and do the greatest possible convention in book form. Even the best convention wouldn’t have everybody, and we could. We’ve got all the principle cast members, all the writers and producers and heads of department. It’s a pretty impressive roster. Between us, Mark and I did over 30 interviews, covering every aspect of the show. I think also Voyager has never really had a big, substantial book that’s been able to look at the series as a whole. There’s a lot to say about it and it’s good to be able to fill that gap. In the end, because of COVID, there weren’t really any conventions, so we have become rather important."
All year, actress Kate Mulgrew has cemented her place in Trek history talking about the legacy of her Janeway character, and even confirming she will reprise the role for Nickelodeon's upcoming animated series, Star Trek: Prodigy. As is fitting, SYFY WIRE has the exclusive reveal of Janeway's chapter in Star Trek: Voyager: A Celebration:
"It literally takes a village to make a TV show and no one person owns the whole process," Robinson says. "To give an example, we talked to Kate Mulgrew about what she wanted to bring to her audition for Janeway, but then we also got to talk to [writer/producer] Jeri Taylor about what it was like watching her audition. That’s all in the chapter about Janeway, along with [writer/producer] Brannon Braga saying that he started doing Kate Mulgrew impressions when he was writing the scripts."
He continues, "I hope the book will give you some real insight into what it meant to have Star Trek’s first female series lead. Kate talks about how much pressure came with the job. Pressure, which I might add, only made her thrive. [Writer/producer] Jeri Taylor says that she wants to be Janeway when she grows up and talks about how Kate fulfilled the character that she, [Michael] Piller and [Rick] Berman created. Brannon, Bryan (Fuller) and the other writers talk about the effect being stranded so far away from home had on Janeway, and how she developed situational ethics but always retained a fundamental decency. Brannon also talks about how Seven was created because of the effect she would have on Janeway."
Star Trek: Voyager A Celebration is broken up into chapters that focus on characters, key episodes, behind the scenes departments, and mythology. It even clears up some history. "The other significant thing is that for the first time – at least in an official publication – we’ve been able to talk about what really happened with Jennifer Lien," Robinson says about the actress who played Kes. "It’s a very sad story. There’s been a lot of avoiding the subject and repeating an official line over the years, but, essentially, she was very troubled and became unreliable, which led to them ending her contract. Everyone was very thoughtful and considerate about what is obviously a very sensitive subject, and it feels right that we’ve finally been able to admit what happened, and I’m very grateful that the team at CBS let us tell that story."
As for how they decided to break the book into topics and what constituted the episode breakout treatment, Robinson says they knew their ultimate choices would create fan debate. "Any list is bound to be controversial," the author admits. "If our selection provokes a bit of debate that’s cool and kind of the point. The episodes [selected] weren’t necessarily meant to be the best ones, though lots of them are. They were chosen because they were what I think of as key episodes. That means they either exemplify a particular kind of storytelling – ‘Tuvix’ and ‘Meld’ are there because they reflect a particular vision of the show, ‘Distant Origin’ is classic Star Trek – or they represented a turning point.
"Robbie McNeill told me that after ‘Future’s End’ the whole cast relaxed and obviously ‘Scorpion’ and ‘The Gift’ saw the introduction of Seven of Nine and what turned out to be a kind of reboot for the show. Other episodes like ‘Course Oblivion’ and ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ are there because they pushed the boundaries of what the show could do. Then there are some key moments, like ‘Lifeline’ which was the first time an actor got story credit on a live action show. So there are lots of different reasons. I hope they all say something about what kind of a show Voyager was and help you to understand how it evolved, but there were lots more we could have chosen."
Even a quarter of a century later, Robinson says he's thrilled that new stories are still coming out from the cast and crew, many of which are collected in this book. "There’s the time they set Robbie’s pants on fire, Ethan Phillip’s encounter with Robin Williams on his way to the set, and the guy who kept pitching the writing staff stories that involved Debbie Harry. Those were all pretty surprising. I think the thing that was most revealing was hearing what the cast were like on set. Making Voyager was hard work and it drove them a little stir crazy. That led to some pretty silly behavior. It’s about putting all those different perspectives together so you can see the whole thing. I really like to think we succeeded in that. I’m very proud of the book and can’t wait to see what people make of it."
As a Trek fan and a Voyager fan who has been able to really assess the impact of this series on television, pop culture and the Trek universe, Robinson says he thinks the show has "aged well" in terms of its legacy. "At the time, Voyager was kind of in TNG’s shadow. It was very much meant to be the same but different. It’s still one of the most diverse casts you can imagine. It absolutely has female leads and played a really important part in moving television forward. Today it’s really easy to forget that, but at the time it was genuinely groundbreaking. I was talking to Bryan Fuller about it. He’s been watching Voyager in reruns when he finishes work about 11 at night, and we were both saying how good it is. In lots of ways it’s classic Trek, with lots of ideas and different aliens almost every week. As Brannon said, he wanted it to be bigger and bolder. It’s got all those two-parters, and in Seven and the Doctor, it has two of Trek’s all-time great high-concept characters."
Star Trek: Voyager A Celebration is available from all retailers on Nov. 24, 2020.