There's one thing that can't be argued with about Star Trek: Voyager: It's that the series took a new turn—make that a very sexy new turn—with the arrival of Jeri Ryan as former Borg drone Seven of Nine during the sci-fi show's third season. It was a shift in focus that had co-star Robert Beltran, who played Commander Chakotay, rather displeased.
During a lengthy interview with Star Trek.com, Beltran opened up about his displeasure regarding how his character, Chakotay, was used on the show—especially when Brannon Braga took over from Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor as executive producer, and changed Star Trek: Voyager's focus to Seven of Nine, Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and Robert Picardo's Doctor, almost to the detriment of the other established characters:
During the Michael Piller-Jeri Taylor years, they listened intently [to what the actor had to say and his concerns over his character]. It was after that ... I guess when Brannon Braga took over, when the Seven of Nine character made her entrance, the focus changed. That was fine with me. That was fine with me, but I think writers have an obligation to fill out all the characters if they're regular characters on a series. I think several of the characters were diminished—Chakotay and Tuvok and Kim and Neelix. I think it was just easier for these new writers that came on to write stories about the captain and about characters that weren't really human, like Seven of Nine and the Doctor. Those three characters were kind of all-seeing, all-knowing, omnipotent, and I think a lot of the tension and drama that was available was lost because you have to really dig hard to find tension in all-knowing, all-seeing characters. They know everything, right? They have all the answers. Or else you have a redundancy of the same scene written over and over and over again, with slight variations.
It's all fine and dandy to voice one's concerns about the well-being of the other Voyager characters, but did the actor—being so vocal on the subject—get into trouble with the cast and crew? And does he believe it affected him and his work?
I don't know what the effect was. I'm just kind of a blunt person and, because I have brain, I can see problems and so I'm vocal about them. I think a lot of the actors were feeling the same way, but for me it was like, "OK, you can fire me if you want to. Go ahead, and I'll leave." That gave me a certain amount of freedom. I was single at the time. I didn't have to worry about a family like everybody else on the show, except maybe Garrett. I felt like I was telling the truth, and if people can't take the truth, that's fine with me, but I'm not going to be stifled by the prospect of being fired.
See, I never pissed off anybody on the set. None of the actors ever got mad at me and said, "Hey, you should shut it." It was always kind of an inside joke. So it didn't affect my relationship with anybody, not even Rick Berman or Brannon Braga, and they were quite aware of what I was saying. It was one of things that I didn't understand, either. I was being blunt. I was being honest and truthful, as far as I could see the truth, and I think they understood that. I think the series was safe. It was going to go seven years with or without me, and they decided to stay with me because, in the long run, I don't think what I said made very much difference, except to a very, very small percentage of fans who maybe didn't like what I said. There's a small percentage of fans who hold Star Trek and the Star Trek franchise sacrosanct, like it's their god. It's a very small minority, but what I said didn't make any difference to the vast majority of the audience.
What do you guys think about that?