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Stardate 0101.01: The Love Boat Promises Something For Everyone

Plus: Trek People, Trek Books

By Michelle Erica Green     January 01, 2001

Warning! Spoilers Ahead!

I'd like to make a resolution to find more to like about Star Trek: Voyager in its waning days. But 'Resolutions' is a loaded term for many of us long-term Voyager viewers. Remember the second-season episode in which Janeway and Chakotay got stranded with a deadly virus and Chakotay made his 'Angry Warrior' speech? That episode, which ended despite its title without any real resolution, did confirm one thing: Voyager's captain and first officer were at one time on the verge of an intense, passionate relationship that could have blown away most of the affairs on shows dedicated to love. Or at least that's what a lot of us thought.

Then again, Voyager is science fiction, so some people didn't remember or didn't care--Janeway among them, apparently. Brannon Braga set about removing every trace of Janeway/Chakotay bonding when he took over the show. Midway through the fifth season, when I reached my personal nadir as a Star Trek fan, I realized that I had to forget 'Resolutions' and the Voyager I had expected in its wake if I had any hope of learning to like the show again. And I thought I had, until the latest round of rumors dredged up all my third-season frustrations and reminded me that I was on the verge of tuning out even before Seven of Nine obliterated much that had come before.

SFX has posted an item backing up TrekWeb's recent claim that Q, who made such a marvelous foil for Picard, will return to Voyager during the show's final weeks. The last two times Q appeared on Voyager, he offered to send Janeway home if only she would do him a very personal favor. The question itself is offensive, as I can't imagine it being addressed to any of the current crop of male captains. In all probability, Q never made such an offer to Picard or Sisko because he knew that if he did, they would risk obliteration just for the pleasure of punching him. Yet Janeway's dithering response--failing either to deck him or to let him fulfill her personal obsession and get her ship home--has almost been worse.

SFX states that John De Lancie is due to film a final Voyager episode in the near future. TrekWeb claimed several weeks ago that the episode would be called 'Q Two,' and would focus on the relationship between the young Q conceived in 'The Q and the Grey' and Godmother Janeway. That wouldn't be so terrible--especially if Janeway helped Q Jr. give Daddy his comeuppance--even if it does sound derivative of a couple of Peter David's marvelous Q novels. Even so, the plot seems rather silly compared to the galactic stakes when Picard and Q went head to head, even if getting home were the prize for Voyager. But, as we keep learning, Janeway's no Picard.

So why am I troubled by the likely return of Q? Mostly because of persistent reports that Kate Mulgrew is fighting for Janeway to have a romance with a man Mulgrew considers worthy of her character. I am completely in Mulgrew's corner when it comes to the unsatisfactory nature of Janeway's holographic affairs. And given the antipathy for Robert Beltran she has made apparent in interviews of late, I'm even willing to concede, reluctantly, that it's too late for Janeway and Chakotay to get their act together. Mulgrew has repeatedly extolled Janeway's virtues and expressed a wish to see her good friend De Lancie on the show again. One gets the impression she thinks Janeway deserves a demigod--and Q might fit that bill.

Bryan Fuller promised that Janeway would have a romance in a future episode. Speculation centers on 'Workforce,' but she won't be in her right mind during most of that episode, which would make it a mindless affair, almost as pathetic as romancing a hologram. So maybe that isn't the episode Fuller meant. I'm sure that for the show's writers, it would make sense for Janeway to get it on with Q. For one thing, we know Q lusts for her--a fact that leaves an opening for some elusive continuity if the writers capitalize on it. Other than the abortive yet compelling bond with Chakotay, Janeway's romances have consisted of two holograms, one Bothan pretending to be her ex-lover, one fascist executioner and Tom Paris as a salamander. Given this track record, I suppose I should rejoice at the idea that Q might romance Janeway.

So how come I am thinking nostalgically about 'Resolutions' instead? Partly it's because of the excruciating sexism of the previous two Q episodes. In 'Death Wish,' Q keeps suggesting that Janeway's gender is a weakness. True, it's Q's job to be a pest, but he has always preyed specifically on the insecurities of his victims. When Q suggests that Janeway's deepest insecurities center on her gender and the tenuousness of her femininity as a woman captain, he undermines her authority as such. Then, to make matters worse, he returns in 'The Q and the Grey' to suggest that her highest calling in life could be to bear his child. Even though Janeway rejects his proposal, the fact that Voyager's writers would even suggest that a 24th century woman might respond positively to such an idea makes me furious.

It's annoying that the Q have acquired fixed gender on Voyager, in contrast to Q's suggestion to Picard that he should have come to the Enterprise captain as a woman. These omnipotent beings fall into stereotypical human sexual cliches--just like Janeway, whom we have seen alternately pigeonholed as a condescending mother figure to her crew, a sexualized yet timid female preying on holograms and a resourceful, intelligent captain whose 'femininity' is entirely sublimated to that role. I miss the days when Janeway and Chakotay went head to head as something akin to equals. He was serving as her subordinate, but he had been a commander in his own right, and he didn't shirk then from ideological arguments. For a short time, they were the closest thing to a perfect match that I have ever seen on television.

If Janeway is to have another romance, I wish it could be with someone who could truly face her as an equal. Despite being an evil dictator, Kashyk in 'Counterpoint' met her as such, which is probably why he has attracted such a fan following among women. I hate the idea of Janeway paired with a man who's inherently superior to her. And I hate the idea that Janeway's traditional feminine attributes might be what wins her crew a trip home, regardless of whether it's her sexual allure for Q Senior or her maternal relationship with Q Junior. Hopefully this future Q episode will be just another lark, with consequences only for the galaxy at large, rather than for Kathryn Janeway's image as a captain, a woman, and the rarified dual role.

Trek People: Too Much Information

Supposedly there's no such thing as a surfeit of publicity. But you'd think Jeri Ryan would have learned from her illustrious colleagues Kate Mulgrew and Robert Beltran that one still can give out too much information to the press. Despite my initial prejudices against her costume and her domination of the series, I have learned to like Seven of Nine--and Ryan's interest in fandom in general and gay and lesbian media issues in particular has made me very happy. I try not to think too much about her romantic life, because I can't stand what Brannon Braga has done to Star Trek--I just hope they're happy together. I know many other fans who are so disgusted with Braga's promotion of Ryan that they've basically stopped watching the show, but I've always chosen to blame the network rather than the executive producer for the starring role given hot commodity Ryan. The network has been all too eager to plaster Seven of Nine's bustline all over the media.

So it's upsetting when Ryan tells The Boston Herald that before Braga departed Voyager to write a new Trek show this season, he 'had always written basically every line of dialogue my character uttered. My character was very much his creation.' The latter isn't really news, but the former is troublesome. It suggests Braga did play a role in creating screen time for his girlfriend at the expense of the other actors. Ryan has made Beltran's case against Braga a lot stronger. It also makes it harder to be happy for Ryan as she embarks on a publicity blitz for Dracula 2000, her first film role since she became famous on television. 'It was a chance for me to get my feet wet in the feature world now that we're in the last season,' she explains to TV Guide. She praises both the Trek and Dracula producers for accommodating her, but one can't help wondering if the other actors would have received the same consideration had they wanted to do a film during Voyager's shooting season.

TV Guide wonders whether she thinks Braga fell in love with Seven before he fell in love with the actress who played her. 'I think it was a vehicle for us to meet, like having a child before we had the relationship,' she laughs, then adds, 'But that sort of makes him like Frankenstein's monster, doesn't it? Well, we like it.' Not exactly a balanced picture of a relationship. Though she says she will miss the cast and crew, it sounds like Ryan may end up happier than Seven of Nine, who has 'been experimenting with her sexuality and experiencing real emotions and real romantic feelings' in the show's final episodes. 'I think she'll end up as a tragic figure,' says Ryan, reiterating the sentiments she expressed on a UPN news show last week. I wonder if it'll be hard to feel sorry for Seven given what we know about the favored treatment of the actress who plays her.

As a memento, Ryan plans to save Seven of Nine's eyepiece, which she claims the prop department is turning into a refrigerator magnet for her. Like Mulgrew, she says she is looking forward to spending more time with her son after the series ends, and reveals that she turned down some future series offers because they would require her to work such long hours that she would 'be missing his entire childhood.' I hope her next role makes her happy, gives her enough time to balance work and family, and takes more advantage of her skills as an actress than her appearance in a corset.

Trek Books: Star Trek: Dark Passions Book One

Speaking of Seven of Nine in a corset, I want to express my deepest appreciation to Pocket Books Senior Editor John Ordover for understanding something all previous Trek editors have neglected: sex sells. With the Dark Passions mini-series, official Trek publications venture where none have gone before--into the delicious realm fan fiction has been exploring for decades. This is heaven for lesbians and a lot of fun for male readers who like to watch girl-on-girl action, with a surprising degree of detail, if not explicitness. Ordover describes Dark Passions as 'Star Trek: Bad Girls.'

Writer Susan Wright has set the novels in the mirror universe, where no one thinks it's strange for Kira to be having an affair with Seven of Nine...except that Seven is a low-caste human. Intendant Kira from 'Crossover' fights for power against Bajoran First Minister Winn Adami, Terran Intendant B'Elanna Torres and Regent Worf's consort Deanna Troi. The first novel starts with Annika Hansen, Agent Seven of Corps Nine of the Obsidian Order, preparing to assassinate Worf's close friend and ally Duras. She takes her orders from Cardassian mentor Enabran Tain, who hopes to destabilize the Klingons by casting suspicion on Gowron...thus giving the Cardassians greater power in the alliance that governs the Alpha Quadrant.

Unlike many humans, Seven has never been a slave. But when Kira wins the coveted post of Overseer and takes possession of transporter technology that could give her nearly unlimited power, Tain sends Seven to spy on Kira in a guise she has never used before: the human face with which she was born. To the Intendant, all humans are slaves. Seven becomes her friend, then her lover and ultimately her pawn in power games involving free Terran Sisko, smuggler Jadzia, political rebel Leeta, Winn's trusted assistant Ziyal and Tain's bitter enemy Dukat. Since this is the mirror universe, most of the games involve sex. Lots of sex. Regular Trek could learn a thing or two from the dark side.

The warping of familiar characters is delightful. Deanna remains an empath, but lives in terror that her human background will be discovered. B'Elanna's human heritage is no secret, but in this universe, she lives in shame of that side of herself, while her proud Klingon background makes her a member of Worf's inner circle. Winn, a devout servant of the Bajoran people, has joined the Circle of rebels who fight to free Bajor from Alliance interference. Adami has never forgiven Nerys for killing her mentor Opaka, yet she raised half-Cardassian Ziyal as a member of her own household. Kira--who lusts after timid Keiko and openly lesbian Leeta, as well as the Regent, the Regent's consort, Sisko, Seven and dozens of others--wants unquestioned adoration and allegiance more than power.

These characters are a lot of fun, sexy and smart-mouthed, but Wright's Seven is a revelation. She has many of the same emotional problems as Seven of Nine. Her parents died when she was a child, she was given a neural implant by her captor-saviors, now she struggles against emotions she has been trained not to feel at the same time as she wishes to escape her violent past. She has familiar identity issues; within the first few chapters, she appears as a Klingon, an Andorian, and a human, although she thinks of herself as Cardassian. When she expresses hopelessness about the fundamental selfishness and self-righteousness of all the people she encounters, even fierce patriots like Winn and Ziyal, one can't help but pity her. It's easier to like this Seven of Nine than the one on Voyager.

Wright tells a terrific story, with lots of action and witty irony. One tries not to think too much about the fact that bisexuality is inherently tied to 'bad girl' behavior in these novels, and it's annoying that the men are characterized as straight, even traditional slash star Garak. Yet Dark Passions Book One is worth owning for the cover alone, depicting beautiful human Annika Hansen and Klingon warrior woman Deanna Troi flanking the leather-clad Intendant Kira. The cover of Book Two shows Agent Seven with enslaved humans Beverly Crusher and Kathryn Janeway, who wear tattered clothes and look quite delectable. Tune in to discover what pleasures await inside.

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