The universe of Star Trek has always been a beacon of unity and camaraderie, a place where beings of all races and species come together to explore the cosmos. However, behind the scenes of the Star Trek: Voyager series, a different story unfolded. The relationship between Kate Mulgrew, who played Captain Kathryn Janeway, and Jeri Ryan, who portrayed Seven of Nine, was fraught with tension and animosity.
A New Frontier
In 1995, Kate Mulgrew broke new ground by becoming the first female captain in the Star Trek franchise’s history. As Captain Kathryn Janeway, she was a symbol of female empowerment and leadership.
Her performance was lauded, and she became an inspiration for many young girls. However, the arrival of a new character in the fourth season disrupted the equilibrium.
The Arrival of Seven of Nine
In the fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager, the decision-makers felt the need to boost the show’s ratings. Their strategy was to target the young male demographic, and they believed that the key to achieving this was to inject more sex appeal into the series. Thus, the character Seven of Nine was born.
Seven of Nine, portrayed by Jeri Ryan, was a unique character in the Star Trek universe. She was a former Borg drone, a member of a machine race known for their collective consciousness and relentless pursuit of perfection. Seven of Nine was rescued from the Borg collective by Captain Janeway and had to re-acclimate to her humanity, a journey that would become a central theme of her character arc.
Jeri Ryan brought Seven of Nine to life with a captivating performance. Her character was dressed in a form-fitting outfit that accentuated her figure, a stark contrast to the more conservative Starfleet uniforms. This bold move by the producers proved successful as the show’s ratings soared following her debut.
Seven of Nine’s arrival marked a turning point for Star Trek: Voyager. Posters of Jeri Ryan were selling out, and she graced the cover of numerous magazines. The media was captivated by the new addition to the Voyager crew, and the spotlight shifted from Kate Mulgrew to Jeri Ryan.
This shift in attention had a significant impact on Kate Mulgrew. Despite outwardly praising her new co-star and continuing to champion the virtues of Star Trek and her character, Janeway, Mulgrew felt left behind. The introduction of a character designed for sex appeal seemed to undermine her role as the first female captain in the Star Trek franchise, a role she had hoped would be sufficient in its own right.
The Onset of Tension
However, the introduction of Seven of Nine led to a shift in attention. The media and the audience seemed to be more interested in the new, attractive character, leaving Mulgrew feeling sidelined.
This shift led to a strain in the relationship between Mulgrew and Ryan, with Mulgrew feeling that the addition of a “sexy” character undermined her role as the female captain.
The tension between Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan was not just a matter of professional jealousy or a clash of personalities. It manifested in ways that made the Star Trek: Voyager set a challenging environment, particularly for Jeri Ryan.
According to Rick Berman, Voyager’s executive producer, the animosity was evident from the start. Mulgrew, who had been the “Queen of Star Trek,” felt threatened by the arrival of the “busty, gorgeous, blond babe” who suddenly stole the limelight. The media’s shift in attention from Mulgrew to Ryan only exacerbated the situation.
Garret Wang, who played Operations Officer Harry Kim on the show, also shed light on the situation. He stated that Mulgrew’s anger was initially directed towards the character of Seven of Nine, but as time went on, it began to target Jeri Ryan herself. This resulted in a hostile work environment that was, at times, almost unbearable.
One shocking anecdote shared by Wang involved Mulgrew attempting to restrict Ryan’s bathroom breaks. She reportedly told the line producer that Ryan was not allowed to use the bathroom during work hours because it took too much time to get her in and out of her costume. This request, which was not honored, demonstrated the extent of the animosity Mulgrew harbored towards Ryan.
Jeri Ryan herself has spoken about the difficult work environment. She admitted that the first season following her arrival was particularly stressful, to the point where she would feel nauseous before going to work due to the high levels of stress.
The tension between Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan was not confined to the two of them. It had a ripple effect, impacting the entire crew and cast of Star Trek: Voyager. Robert Beltran, who portrayed First Officer Chakotay, expressed his discomfort with the situation. He stated, “The crew was uncomfortable, the actors were uncomfortable, and there was no reason for it. During filming it could go very beyond what I would have tolerated.”
A Public Acknowledgment
Years later, Mulgrew publicly acknowledged the tension between her and Ryan. In an interview, she stated, “This is on me, not Jeri. She came in and did what she was asked to do. No question about that, and she did it very well. It’s on me, because I’d hoped against hope that Janeway would be sufficient. That we didn’t have to bring a beautiful, sexy girl in.” Mulgrew admitted that she found the situation insulting and hurtful, but she also recognized that she should have handled it better.
A Lesson Learned
Despite the turbulent past, the relationship between Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan has significantly improved over the years. Mulgrew has publicly apologized and taken ownership of her behavior on the Star Trek: Voyager set. In multiple interviews, she has acknowledged her actions and expressed regret for directing her frustration with the producers towards Ryan.
Today, Mulgrew and Ryan share a much more amicable relationship. They have appeared together at multiple events and conventions, demonstrating their ability to put the past behind them. Their friendship is a testament to their professionalism and their shared history in the Star Trek universe.
Fans of the series have expressed their happiness at seeing the two actresses reconcile. The transformation of their relationship serves as a reminder that people can change and grow, and past conflicts can be resolved.