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STAR TREK: VOYAGER - Roxann Dawson Directs
By Anna L. Kaplan
November 02, 1999
This season, Roxann Dawson, STAR TREK: VOYAGER's B'Elanna Torres, became the first female cast member to direct an episode of the show and one of the few women to direct any TREK ever. The episode, 'Riddles,' penned by Rob Doherty from a story by science consultant Andre Bormanis, airs November 3rd on UPN. Dawson explained, 'It's a beautifully written episode which revolves around the characters of Tuvok [Tim Russ] and Neelix [Ethan Phillips], and their relationship. An accident suffered by Tuvok changes him and really impacts the nature of their relationship. Both Ethan and Tim did phenomenal work on this episode. It really is beautiful and very touching. It also involves an alien species, and our search for them, because they have some information that can help Tuvok. We've got some ship action, some fighting, wonderful character moments. I think it's a nice combination, a nice balance of all of those elements. I am very proud of that episode.'
She especially praised the work of the two main actors. She said, 'In this particular episode, I think that we see sides, especially in Tim Russ' character, that we've never seen before. I think he so appreciated the opportunity to go 180 degrees in a different area, that he just embraced the whole experience. They are really given an acting opportunity here, and they both rise to the occasion. That moment of realization at the very end is a beautiful one, and is very well realized by both of the actors.'
Dawson went through the long years of observation and learning that STAR TREK requires for its actors who want to direct. She said, 'I think I went into this expecting everything to go wrong. I really did my homework, and I have been observing for a good two to three years before that, in preparation for this. I think that I was so prepared that I wasn't really thrown by too much. Things of course did go wrong, but I think I had prepared so much for there to be catastrophes, I was pleasantly surprised at being able to enjoy myself during that period of time.'
One thing that complicated the preparation right before 'Riddles' was the fact that Dawson's character appeared in 'Alice,' the episode being shot at the time. Did she get her prep work finished? Laughed Dawson, 'Well yes and no. I did. I was also working as an actor pretty heavily in the episode right before, so it was extremely difficult to find the time to do it, but I managed somehow. I had to go to meetings in full B'Elanna prosthetics. I was actually filming 'Alice' at the time. It was right at the tail end of my prep, a few days before I started shooting, so it was very difficult.'
Still, it all worked out. Dawson also worked with the visual effects department. She explained, 'We had to create an interesting alien. It's sole purpose was to hide itself, so when it is discovered and revealed, it needed to be very mysterious looking, and have a sort of a ghostly appearance. It was fun discussing how that would come out. We did not have an actor actually play this cloaked alien. It's all visual effects.'
Dawson thoroughly enjoyed directing 'Riddles.' She enthused, 'It was a great experience for me. I'm beyond grateful for this opportunity, actually; I really am.
I would love to direct here again, on VOYAGER, and most certainly afterwards. It's interesting because I always wanted to try it, and I worked extremely hard in preparation for this opportunity, but I didn't know until I did it whether I would enjoy doing it. I think that it was a wonderful revelation for me, to realize that I absolutely, thoroughly enjoy directing, and now I am very much looking forward to the next opportunity.'
Just before the airing of 'Riddles,' Dawson planned to be in Canada, guest starring on the other UPN series. She explained, 'I am about to go up to Vancouver to do an episode of SEVEN DAYS. I don't know when that will be airing, but it's an exciting role, and I am looking forward to that. The character that I am playing is the captain of a naval vessel, which is going out to monitor the waters right outside Taiwan, and ensure that there isn't any potential Chinese invasion of the Taiwanese borders. There is a mad admiral on board who takes over the ship and ends up starting a world war with China. That's when Mr. Parker [Jonathan LaPaglia] goes back seven days to find out what happened. Mr. Parker boards the ship, and we discover what actually happened on the ship to start this battle. It's a very interesting psychological drama as well. I rarely get a chance to watch TV with my schedule, but I've tuned in to the last couple of ones just to see what the show is like, since I am about to go do it. It's very good; the concept is great, and it's very well executed. I'm looking forward to it. It will be nice to do a role without all this makeup on my face. The hardest part is going to be being away from my family for a week, but I think it will go fast.'
Dawson not only acts, directs, sings, and dances; she also writes. She and her writing partner Daniel Graham have been working on a trilogy of science fiction novels, the first called, ENTERING TENEBREA. Dawson noted, 'We have completed the second novel of the trilogy, and we are being told the first two books of the trilogy will be released at the same time, by Simon and Schuster, in hardback, in May of 2000. Then we begin working on the third one, probably next month. We'll start outlining it over the phone.'
But Dawson's favorite job is none of the above. She is the mother of a young daughter. She laughed, 'That definitely is my favorite job, bar none. I think that might run longer than VOYAGER.'