Just over 25 years ago, Star Trek: Voyager made its debut, helmed by the indomitable Kathryn Janeway, the franchise's first woman captain of a titular starship.
For seven seasons, Kate Mulgrew portrayed Janeway, a captain leading a crew through the vast and dangerous Delta Quadrant, exploring new worlds and interacting with new species, but always with the hope of returning home.
On October 28, Mulgrew reprises her role of Janeway, once again wandering the Delta Quadrant, but, this time, she is Hologram Janeway, a training program on the Protostar ship, crewed by a motley group of young aliens, none of whom know anything about Starfleet.
Speaking with a press roundtable through digital conferencing from the New York Comic-Con, Mulgrew was thoughtful when asked about the progression of Janeway from captain to mentor and guide.
"Hologram Janeway smacks a little bit of a demotion, but it is, in fact, a very elevating thing for me to be able to voice this hologram who will evolve over time into a captain and a vice-admiral."
As Star Trek: Prodigy is a Nickelodean co-production with Paramount+, the target audience is younger than for any Star Trek show that has come before, and Mulgrew is quite excited about that.
"I love bringing this to this demographic. We've missed the young people, the kids. And we've missed the essence of Star Trek, which is the beauty of the imagination and what it can, in fact, foster and develop. So I'm really looking forward to seeing how this lands on their little ears and eyes.
"I think that on October 28, when this thing launches, everybody should be prepared for an entirely new sensation. An entirely new way of looking at Star Trek. If it captivates or captures the imagination of young people, as I think it will, I think it will be a very thrilling prospect."
Hologram Janeway's role aboard the Protostar is incredibly different from how Captain Janeway ran Voyager. However, Mulgrew finds similar themes to the two entities.
"Captain Janeway was a mentor to her crew. To most of her crew. Certainly to characters like Seven of Nine. So that is an innate part of her character.
"I don't think that Hologram Janeway, or Captain Janeway, would be very pleased to see the way Dal sprawls himself in the captain's chair. But I will teach him in short order how to sit up straight and fly right."
Of course, there are fundamental differences to playing an animated, holographic training program compared to a live-action, corporeal human captain.
"The corporeal thing is very dimensional, very nuanced, very layered, and quite complex. The hologram is essentially stripped of emotion, so I'm endowing her with Janeway's levity and her sense of order and discipline.
"I hope we get into the subtleties later on, but, as for now, I'm going to have to do without things like anger or whatever the qualities of Janeway were that I so loved playing.
"It's a challenge, and I hope that I'm meeting that challenge. It's a fine line. You have to fill your voice with color, and fabric, and life, and vitality, or the kids won't listen. The adults won't listen either, for that matter.
"It has to be a voice that's fully alive within a hologram."
Although perhaps best known for her live-action characters on Star Trek: Voyager, Orange is the New Black, Mr. Mercedes, and, of course, Mrs. Columbo, Mulgrew has been doing voice work for nearly as long as she's been performing. The comparison between the two disciplines is quite a contrast.
"Live action is far more demanding, far more rigorous. When you're being looked at, and the camera is a very clinical instrument and very demanding. It's an altogether different kettle of fish.
"There's freedom in the booth. There's utter relaxation. There's space to go wherever I want to go with my voice which I love to play with even now, and I've been doing it for forty-seven years.
"I find that -- almost always -- a great pleasure and, for some reason, deeply satisfying. When I leave the recording booth, I'm satisfied.
"Sometimes when I walk away from a camera, or a take, I want to say, 'Oh, let's do it again. I really blew that.' But I don't feel that in the booth.
"I feel that every chance is given to me, and every opportunity is available to me. And so I try to make the most of it."
The isolation of the booth doesn't lend itself to connecting with a cast. It literally compartmentalizes the performers into their own space. Mulgrew's take on that is refreshing.
"It's arguably one of the downsides of voice work, but I don't think so. There's something about the seclusion; there's something about the privacy that makes me feel as if I'm going where I need to go with the character, and I think all of these voice actors are feeling the same way.
"So when we meet under circumstances like this -- the New York Comic-Con -- it's delightful. It's great fun and full of surprise and a freshness.
"But I think that [voicework is] meant to be a singular kind of experience, and then you put those pieces together like a chessboard and, suddenly, you've got a game."
Many of the Star Trek: Prodigy voice cast are quite young. Has Mulgrew mentored them in voice-acting the way Hologram Janeway guides them on their on-screen adventure?
"I don't know about that. I would hope so. It's something that came fairly easily to me and that I have particularly enjoyed in my career. It's not every actor's cup of tea, but it is mine.
"I think maybe a few younger actors have watched how I've approached it.
"The key to it, of course, is complete relaxation, breath control, and then, of course, you let the Devil take the hindmost because you're creating a character, right? "
The character of Kathryn Janeway and all the strength and resolve, and intelligence she embodied hit the screen over twenty-five years ago, but the debate over women commanders has yet to ebb. Mulgrew is supremely patient and believes that equality is inevitable.
"It's only answerable with time. I will have to give you my particular philosophical perspective on this. History runs in cycles. It's been a quarter of a century [since I started as Captain Janeway], and whereas that feels and sounds like a long time, it's nothing. It's nothing in the scheme of things.
"Women are -- and I've said this a million times -- inherently powerful. It's just without question. It's just the way we run the culture. Until we decide to change that, and that will take women. Not so much stomping their feet as just quietly sitting down and saying, 'We own this. We have always owned it. And it's time to accept that.'
"I have a little trouble with virulence. I don't think it's productive. What I think is productive is honest strength. And since I believe that women do own that -- at least the good women that I know and love in my life -- it just needs to be imparted to the men that that is the case. And to accept it. And to shut up about it."
Star Trek: Prodigy takes off on Paramount+ on October 28 with a super-sized one-hour premiere.
Be sure to check back here as TV Fanatic brings you interviews with some of the young cast members as well as the showrunners and director.
We'll also be reviewing each episode of this visually stunning, exciting, and expansive new series as they drop! This may be a show aimed at kids, but all lovers of space travel and adventure should jump on board!
Are you hankering for more information on this ground-breaking animated odyssey? Check out our coverage of the Comic-Con @ Home Star Trek: Prodigy panel, where they unveiled the first trailer!
Will you be signing onto the Protostar? Let us know in the comments!
Diana Keng was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on X.