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Star Trek: Voyager's Roxann Dawson

Her thoughts on endings and beginnings

By Anna L. Kaplan     February 07, 2001

As Star Trek: Voyager heads toward the end of its final season, Roxann Dawson has been busy both in front of and behind the camera. The writer-producers of the show finally decided that her character, B'Elanna Torres, and Robert Duncan McNeill's character, Tom Paris should get serious with their relationship, something the actors have been wanting for years. The two characters actually got married at the end of the episode 'Drive.' Also, Dawson directed an episode of Voyager for the second time - 'Workforce Part II' - for February sweeps. In the meantime, she was at work playing B'Elanna as she deals with being married.

Dawson enjoyed 'Drive,' in which Tom and B'Elanna dealt with their relationship head on. 'I didn't know we were getting married until I got the script,' she admits. I thought it was an interesting way to deal with it, sort of unexpected. It was nice to see them confront some problems and overcome them, and decide to finally commit. I think it was about time.'

In 'Lineage,' B'Elanna, her feelings about herself and her relationship with Tom, took center stage. 'Lineage,' written by James Kahn, and directed by producer Peter Lauritson, aired Jan. 24. 'We discover that B'Elanna is pregnant,' explains Dawson. 'During a routine physical, they need to correct a small problem with the baby that is easily correctable. In the process of doing that, they are able to see a projection of what the child will look like. B'Elanna is horrified to see that she will have forehead ridges. She just assumed that with the mixed marriage that the child would not have that, not realizing how dominant it is. She wants to save her child from the ridicule that she experienced as a child. She decides that she wants to genetically alter the baby, so the baby will not have to go through what she went through as a child. Paris is dead set against it. But she figures a way to go through with it on her own.'

Returning to roots

During the episode, the audience sees flashbacks of B'Elanna (Jessica Gaona - young B'Elanna) remembering her youth, when she was teased about being Klingon during a camping trip with her father (Juan Garcia) that turned out to be one of the last times she spent with him. He left B'Elanna and her mother 10 days later, and B'Elanna believes that he left because they were Klingon. She is afraid she and her baby will suffer the same fate. She goes so far as to tamper with the Doctor (Robert Picardo) so that she can remove all Klingon genetic traits from her baby. In the end, Tom stops her in time, and convinces her that he is not her father, and will love both B'Elanna and the baby. 'She learns to accept the child as she is, and it's a moving way to come around to that decision,' says Dawson. 'She has to grow up a lot and deal with her own insecurities. It brings her a lot closer to Paris. She is basically forced to confront these major issues.'

Dawson adds, 'It's probably the episode that I am most proud of, at least in the recent past. I hope that this episode ends up being something that people will remember. This has a lot to do with things like abortion, fathers' rights, our growing capabilities of genetic alteration in the womb. All of these things are dealt with in a very moving story that is incredibly well-written. There are very few scripts in my life that I read, that I actually weep while I am reading them. I just hope that we were able to bring that to the screen. I worked very hard.'

B'Elanna's pregnancy turns into an important plot element in the episode 'Prophecy' airing Feb. 7. In 'Prophecy,' the Voyager crew encounter a generational Klingon ship that has been in the Delta Quadrant for a very long time. 'It was a very well thought out and interesting script,' says Dawson. 'I think it's got humor, and I think it's serious. I think it's got a lot of elements. It was a pretty heavy, Klingon several days.'

These particular Klingons have some unusual ideas about B'Elanna's child. Dawson laughs, 'The Klingons believe that her child is a savior. I think it's open in the end, as to whether this child really is, because the child end up playing a very important part in these Klingons' lives in a very interesting twist, that I don't give away.'

The Doctor says in 'Lineage' that B'Elanna's pregnancy could last 30 weeks or less, because of her Klingon side. So she is still pregnant later on, in the two-part episode 'Workforce,' in which the Voyager crew wind up on an alien planet under strange circumstances. But Dawson's main focus, especially during the second part of the episode, was from the other side of the camera, directing her fellow actors for the second time. She explains the setup, saying, 'In 'Workforce Part I' we discover that 99% of the crew have been abducted, basically given these new lives, and had their lives on Voyager wiped out of their memories. They believe that they exist as part of this workforce on this planet. Three of our crew, Robert Beltran [Chakotay], and Ethan Phillips [Neelix], and the Doctor are the only ones that have not been abducted and brainwashed. Their job is to get down there and try to convince these people that the lives they are existing are not their own. The way they have to convince them, and what they have to do to return the crew to the ship is all what occurs in the second half of 'Workforce.''

Dawson adds, 'The first part was directed by Allan Kroeker who is just a fabulous director. Both episodes were also shot at some locations, still on the Paramount lot but actually on location at different areas of the lot, rather than just in the soundstages. So we had some exterior shots, out of the ship into the real air. I enjoyed that.'

The previous episode Dawson directed was 'Riddles' during Voyager's sixth season, a character piece about Tuvok and Neelix. How did the two compare? 'It was a night and day difference,' says Dawson. 'I found it extremely challenging and exciting. The first one was extremely character-driven, and a very small show. In terms of scope, it was very internal. This was very external, and dealt with a lot of plot issues, a lot of sets, one exterior, night shoot. I really have fallen in love with directing and would love that to be part of my future. I am looking forward to directing more.'

As for the crew of Voyager, they do return to the ship, obviously, still heading for the Alpha Quadrant. Says Dawson of their experiences during 'Workforce,' 'It makes the journey back to Earth, which is really their home, that much more poignant from an audience's point of view.'

Looking ahead

What about that journey? What will happen at the end of the season? Dawson admits, 'I don't know. They are very tight-lipped about the ending of the show. I don't know what is happening for any of us. I think we should get back to the Alpha Quadrant, although that hasn't been stated firmly and definitively yet. Whether we arrive though in the last episode and don't have time to explore that, or we arrive in the final three episodes and explore it a little is still up for grabs.'

Dawson is anticipating her future after Voyager. She laughs, 'I am looking forward to another good role, something new, something without prosthetic makeup which I will never wear again. I am looking forward to continuing my career. This is a luxury to have a show that lasts this long. It's very unnatural, actually, to an actor's psyche. We are brought up to be wanderers, and go from job to job, and play all these different kinds of roles. It's actually been fun to play one role for such a long period of time. I am definitely ready to move on.'

Planning the future is difficult, since she is still working. Also the actors' strike is on the horizon. Says Dawson, 'We have an impending strike, and I don't know how that will affect the work. I think that we need to strike in order to get certain things that we need. But I would not want the strike to go on for too long, obviously, because it puts me completely out of work. If it's for a short time, it will feel like a little vacation, actually, so I guess I wouldn't mind it too much.'

Dawson is also continuing to work on her trilogy of books with writer Daniel Graham, 'The Tenebrea Trilogy'. 'The first book in the trilogy we have released in a collector's edition of 750 hardback copies which we are selling for charity,' she explains. We will be doing that with the subsequent two volumes. We are just completing the third book right now. [Voyager visual effects producer] Dan Curry, who has received many awards for his work, has designed our cover, and hopefully will design the next two covers.'

The actor-director-writer, who is also a mother of two, always manages to stay busy.
'I have never really been bored,' she laughs. 'I somehow create things, even when it seems like there is nothing to do. I think probably the first thing I would like to learn to accomplish when Voyager is over is to relax better. I am not really good that.'

First, there is the entire rest of the season.


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