Star Trek: Prodigy's Kate Mulgrew Talks Bringing Back Janeway for a New Generation

This week, Paramount+ debuted the first episode of Star Trek: Prodigy, Star Trek's first-ever series aimed at younger viewers. The series introduces old and new Star Trek fans to a new cast of characters who take charge of the abandoned Starfleet vessel, the USS Protostar. But they're joined by a familiar face in Captain Kathyrn Janeway, voiced by Kate Mulgrew, who starred in Star Trek: Voyager. As the first female captain to lead a Star Trek series, Janeway has left an indelible mark on a new generation of women in leadership positions. Speaking to after the Prodigy's premiere at New York Comic Con, Mulgrew reflected on how returning to the role affects Janeway's legacy.

"Well, it's a further enhancement of that legacy, isn't it?" She says. "Because who better than this young demographic to carry the mantle and what better mantle to give them than that of Star Trek?

But this isn't the same Janeway fans know from seven seasons of Voyager. Star Trek: Prodigy's Janeway is a training hologram built into the Protostar's computer.

"She's familiar, but she's different," Mulgrew tells us of the nuanced differences between the two versions of the character. "She's a hologram, so she is endowed with certain traits that would make her arguably a little bit bigger than life, whereas of course, live-action Janeway was live-action and what you saw with what you got. But I love drawing her, I love illustrating her and shaping her in accordance to the needs of the other characters. It's really a wonderful challenge creatively."

The difference between playing the character in live-action and voicing her for animation isn't limited to the character's on-screen presence either. "Well it's solitary," Mulgrew says of recording her vocal performances. "Comparatively speaking, it's easier, certainly easier than the live-action. And I find being alone in the booth very freeing. I find something about that whole sense of being sort of cloaked in velvet wonderfully liberating and I don't know why, but I always have. I started by reading books on tape when I was a very young actress and I just loved the whole sense of it, sense of mystery and you can take wing imaginatively in that booth in a way that sometimes in live-action, you can't."

Star Trek: Prodigy sees Janeway aiding a ragtag group as they navigate the Delta Quadrant following their escape from a prison planet. Though the show skews towards a younger demographic than live-action Star Trek, the way Mulgrew describes it, it could be a Voyager animated series. 

"I think that it's very much in keeping with the themes of Star Trek," she explains. "Lost. How do we get unlost? How do we get found? How do we get this ship up and running in this particular quadrant of space that we do not understand and how do we avoid all the perils along the way? So the tenants are the same, I would say. Different characters entirely, but then we had alien species and it was all the same sort of approach."

Beyond attracting young fans, Mulgrew's return as Janeway could attract the attention of lapsed Star Trek fans who may have drifted away from the franchise at Voyager's end. Mulgrew suggests those fans should prepare themselves for unexpected emotions.

"I would say beware of the emotional flooding that might overcome them," she says. "It happened to me today watching it backstage. It's very strange. It's a deep, deep thing. If you love Star Trek, and if you love a particular character like Janeway, it's going to be very, very resonant, particularly if you're sharing it with your young ones, very meaningful, I should think, to have that shared experience. It's going to be weighted with a future that perhaps the other demographics did not have."

What do you think? Let us know in the comments. Star Trek: Prodigy's premiere episode is streaming now on Paramount+. New episodes will debut on Thursdays.

Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images/Paramount+