Truth OR Myth? – The Janeway Conundrum

Hello and welcome to Truth OR Myth,  a Star Trek web series that looks at the Truth, or canon, information to dispel any myths that have surfaced on any given topic.  In today’s episode, we’re taking a look at Captain Kathryn Janeway and why this character would split the fan base so frequently…  I hope you enjoy…

Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager was intended to be the MOST heroic Captain ever created for Star Trek.  But instead of that, the character would become one of the most hotly debated Captains and one of the biggest conundrums created in the franchises long history…

In the past I’ve made a bunch of videos on the good Captain asking the black and white question, is she a hero or a villain?  And anyone that has watched those videos knows I came to the conclusion that she was most certainly a villain.

The Janeway apologists immediately declared me as sexist, because I can’t possibly look at a character and analyze it on its own merit, not really caring if said character was male or female, while others resorted to standard name-calling and insults, your mother was an ugly Targ because Janeway is great. Back then I had intended to do more with this topic, as the 10 or so drafts that I had written to explore the character can a test too.  However, the fact that I could never get it to the point where I loved a certain draft and the fact the channel was so young and was such a hot button issue, I put this episode on the back burner wondering if Id ever returns to it.

(CBS) A Fresh Faced Captain Janeway – “Caretaker” VOY S1

Flash forward to now, well about a month ago, when going through my own channel archives and searching for forgotten videos, I came across those discarded drafts and finally decided to take one more, more experienced crack at it, and here we are… Contrary to popular belief, Janeway is actually one of my most favourite characters.  Just because I can’t ignore the facts of the character, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy her, or can’t see the importance and impact that character had on the franchise as a whole.

In an attempt to set Star Trek: Voyager apart from the Trek Series that had come before it, namely Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space 9, it was decided early on that Voyager would host Star Trek’s First lead female Starfleet Captain.  The actual first female Starfleet Captain being seen in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Captaining the ever doomed U.S.S. Saratoga

Originally named Elizabeth Janeway in the first draft of Voyager’s pilot “Caretaker,” Janeway would be tweaked and prodded until Captain Kathryn Janeway was born by that scripts final draft.

Here are a few points that Paramount, at the time released on who Janeway was…

Janeway is a charismatic woman in her early forties, has a warm thoughtful face and remarkably attentive eyes that suggest a deep awareness of all that is going on around her and she is a tough Captain, who is not afraid to take chances.  Captain Kathryn Janeway is the quintessential woman of the future… both commanding and discerning in her warmth; she’s authoritative while remaining accessible. Beneath her extraordinary control runs a very deep vein of vulnerability and sensitivity that we look forward to exploring in Star Trek: Voyager.

All well and good, but not really what we got in the slightest.

Shortly into the series run, it became Dilithium Crystal clear that no one really knew what to do with Janeway at all.  The predominantly male writing staff would create a Janeway version that would seem to suit each personally rather than being a general representation of the character, cause Janeway to inexplicably change personalities and views on certain topics on a week by week basis.

(CBS) Janeway, Chakotay & Paris – “Alliances” VOY S2

While female written staff would then attempt to explore what they termed, “Janeway’s feminine side,” only to have those episodes be hated by the majority of the fan base, not because Janeway was a woman, but because again, they just didn’t seem to fit with what had come the week before. Remember how I said that Janeway was to be a risk-taker?  And indeed in some episodes, she was, but then in others, like Alliances, she was absolutely resistant to an idea that would help her crew stay alive, that being creating an Alliance with the Kazon, spouting the Starfleet Gospel as her reasoning.  Yet a few seasons later, she would actively seek out an alliance with the Borg, and her reasoning?  It would save her crew. This wouldn’t have been so bad if the writers at the end of Alliances hadn’t taken the 5 minutes to bash its audience over their head with Janeway’s final speech on how Alliances are bad, against Starfleet Regulations and she was right about that all along.

And this would become a re-occuring problem through out the shows run…  Lets look at a few of them now…

Remember the episodes, “State of Flux” and “Maneuvers”  In those episodes, Janeway is ticked when information on Voyagers technology, and then some of the technology itself is stolen by the Kazon.  In those episodes, Janeway is clear about the situation, stating that she would see Voyager destroyed rather than giving anyone technology from the ship.  Yet in numerous episodes, such as “The Killing Game (Part 2)” and “Counterpoint” she willingly gives the Hirogen Holodeck technology and the group of rogue telepaths shuttlecrafts filled with Starfleet Tech, without a moment’s hesitation.  So much for destroying Voyager before giving up its technology.

In fact, what about those rogue telepaths?  Remember the Prime Directive?  Starfleet’s General order 1 that Janeway often gushes about?  How about the fact that the way the Devore deal with telepaths in their space is a clear internal matter?  Yet Janeway violates the Prime Directive and helps them, because that week, she feels that’s the right thing to do? yet in “False Profits“, she sends back the Ferengi duo to the planet, to continue to bleed that planet’s population dry, as that is what the Prime Directive says she should do?

Or how about all the times she negotiates passage through peoples space?  Seems reasonable to do, since it is their Space after all.  Yet in “Year of Hell“, she just decides to have Voyager pass through Kernum Space even though she is repeatedly warned not too, and in fact, Voyager ends up so badly damaged that most of the crew have to abandon it? 

(CBS) Making a Deal With The Devil – Scorpion Pt1 VOY S3

In fact, that is a continual problem in the show…  One week having Voyager alter course because a species says No you cant travel our space, yet other times she just says, you’re bullies and continues through anyhow. “Caretaker” was a huge problem.  Here Janeway clearly violates the Prime Directive, as the conflict between the Caretaker, the Occampa and the Kazon, is a clear internal matter.  Yet she destroys the array, by her choice, and strands her crew 75 years from home. Janeway apologists often spout on about how that was the right thing for Janeway to do, as letting any race, let alone the Kazon, have that advanced technology is unacceptable.  And to them I say the following;

First, who is Starfleet to decide what is too advanced for another species to have?  After all, that’s why the Prime Directive exists in the first place, to prevent Starfleet Officers from acting as gods over anyone. And second, fine you want to believe that that sort of technology is just too risky for another species to have and that what Janeway was doing what was right, then explain your reasoning to me for the episode “Voyager Conspiracy”  There the crew find someone using caretaker like technology to create a catapult top slingshot a starship thousands of light-years.  Does Janeway destroy it?  No instead she uses it and goes on her merry way, leaving it in an area of space where anyone could then find it, steal its technology and use it against anyone they see fit.  You can’t justify that action in any way, and you certainly can’t have it both ways.  And flimsy excuses like well maybe there were no less advanced races in that area of space or maybe she set a time bomb on it because a) The area was filled with hostiles such as the Vaudwaar which Janeway unleashed on the Quadrant and b) There was no mention or even hint in the episode that Janeway intended to destroy the slingshot.

How about Janeway deciding to give samples of all of Voyagers crew in Demons to the Biometicic Lifeforms so they can copy all of Voyagers Crew.  In essence, in that episode, she created a whole race of new lifeforms and then Voyager flies off without any second thoughts about what these lifeforms may do or what could happen to them.  And we all know how great that one turned out. And to me, the biggest, most outrageous thing that Janeway did, was her reaction to Captain Ransom in the “Equinox” 2 parter.  Here she condescending chastises Ransom for killing off members of an intelligent species just to get his crew home.

Apparently she forgot her own actions in the “Scorpion” 2 parter, where she was willing to make an alliance with the Borg against Species 8472, even going so far as to develop and create a weapon that she then intends to give to Borg once across their space.  And this weapon for Species 8472 is essentially a weapon of Mass Destruction.  Does she really think the Borg wouldn’t use that weapon to wipe out the entire species in order to win that war and preserve the collective?

(CBS) Janeway & Seven – “Hope & Fear” VOY S4

Now I’m not saying that what she did was right or wrong per se, merely that she herself was willing to, by her own actions, allow genocide to happen with weapons she created.  And yet she has the gull, to look down at Ransom for him doing the same thing?  And in actuality, less of genocide then what she and the Borg were willing to do? Of course, she did the right thing in relieving Ransom, but that’s all clouded in a HUGE WTF moment as the fan base looks on and can do nothing more than shake their head in disgust at how once again this characters traits, and previous actions are completely forgotten.

Imagine how much more powerful and meaningful that scene with Ransom would have been if Janeway seemed sympathetic to the Equinox’s plight but made it clear that she had no choice, that regulations were clear.  And Ransom, in turn, reviewed Janeway logs and discovered what she had done in Scorpion, and THEN decided to mutiny as he felt Janeway’s decision was hypocritical?  It certainly would have made more sense for Janeway’s incessant pursuit of the Equinox with that scowl on her face.  Janeway attempting to make up for what she had done, showing she realized that that decision was wrong, and showing she had grown as Captain, a Starfleet Captain.  But no instead, if it wasn’t for Chakotay, she would have murdered a fellow Starfleet Officer to achieve her goals, and in the end, it’s Ransom that remembers what it is to be a Starfleet Captain.

This flippy-Floppy problem with Janeway can be seen all through out Voyager, and when you disconnect yourself and look at things on a case by case bases, it’s clear that the writers had no clue what so ever on what to do with Janeway. Rather than allowing the character to lead the story, the story would end up dictating what that character would become on a week by week basis.

This is just a short video with a few examples of why the character is so disputed in fandom, while unlike Jean-Luc Picard or James T. Kirk, Kathryn Janeway tends to split the fan base on whether she’s a good Captain or not. And I also know that there will be some who are already typing their fingers off in anger and will attempt to justify the characters actions with comments like, “But she was alone in the Delta Quadrant and had to make the Tough Decisions,” and those are the people who have missed the entire point of this video.  It’s not about the decisions she had to make, or whether those decisions were tough.  This video is about how one week she made that tough decision and justified it a certain way, only to make the opposite decision and justify it in basically the same certain way.

(Paramount) Star Trek: Nemesis Features A Cameo From Admiral Janeway

It was bad writing point-blank.  Kathryn Janeway was written to be the most undefined character in Star Trek history.  And THAT’S the problem. As I said at the beginning, Kathryn Janeway is one of my favourite characters in the Star Trek Franchise.  And Kate Mulgrew’s portrayal as the Captain was amazing.  And Id also likes to see Janeway return in a future series, hopefully, Star Trek: Picard, where we can see some sort of organic battle of wills between the two. But I can’t and simply won’t ignore the facts about the character simply to please people in my audience.

Janeway was a huge missed opportunity in the show, one among many actually.  And in fact, nowadays, when I watch Voyager, I see Janeway as suffering a form of PTSD.  After all, her first command, she ends u in the Delta Quadrant, her crew dying around her because of choices she makes, and she is slowly sliding into insanity.  At least that makes some of her decisions make more sense.  But of course, that was never the intent of the show’s powers that be.

To them, Janeway was simply a Starfleet hero, no matter what she did.  And if we the audience didn’t think so, then they’d beat it into our heads with sanctimonious speeches about how great she really was, and that makes me sad. Instead of a creating a Captain as heroic as Kirk, as Philosophical as Picard and as Tough as Sisko, all they did was a create a character that will forever split the fan base and have a large chunk of its wonder for the rest of time about what Kathryn Janeway could have been, a character to save a dying, at that time, franchise…

Thank you for watching today’s episode of Truth or Myth, what do you think of Captain Kathryn Janeway?  What would you have changed or done differently with that character?  Well leave your comments in the section below and don’t forget to like the video and subscribe to the channel, hitting that little bell icon so you won’t miss a single video we release.

What to help the channel not to flip flop on its own character traits? Then just click HERE to become a channel Patron…

Watch The Latest Truth Or Myth Below

Thanks again for watching, and remember, When diplomacy fails, there’s only one alternative… violence… It may not be the Starfleet way…  But it’s certainly the Janeway…