Last season was a time of change for Kathryn Janeway. After a despondent start in a starless void, the captain of Voyager romanced a duplicitous alien, became the Bride of Chaotica, and saved Seven of Nine from the Borg Queen. Her ship was destroyed three times, but a little alternate-universe manipulation and time-tampering brought it back.

Janeway's relationships with her senior officers survived some tough disagreements, and Voyager made it a few leaps closer to home courtesy Borg technology and a quantum slipstream drive. It seems appropriate that Dante's La Vita Nuova - "The New Life" - was the captain's favored reading material in this season's episode "Latent Image."

The same might be said for Kate Mulgrew, who made more changes to her life than her fictional alter ego. During the past three months, Mulgrew got married to Ohio politician Tim Hagan, then signed a long-debated contract to appear for a seventh season on Star Trek Voyager.

"So much has happened to me in the past year to make me realize that time is very precious," she said the week before shooting commenced for Voyager's fall episodes. "I was prepared to make some very significant changes at Voyager if my bosses were not inclined to acknowledge my need for time."

Negotiations were reportedly tough - at one point Mulgrew announced to a roomful of reporters that she wished Janeway would go out in a coffin, leading to a flurry of retractions. Yet the actress now believes she can balance another two years of the weekly series with her desire to get back to the theater, and with her devotion to a family that now includes two stepdaughters as well as her own children.

Though Mulgrew admits she came very close to leaving Voyager, her character gave her inspiration to stay. "My big conflict throughout this renegotiation was that Janeway would not renege. She would complete this mission. And that's what I'm going to do."

Home From the Delta Quadrant

Though the Iowa native has always said that she loves the character and feels very close to the creative team which produces Voyager, her regret at being away from her adolescent children has taken an increasing toll on her ability to enjoy her work. The actress admitted that her sons are not thrilled to have a celebrity for a mother and resent the demands on her time.

A member of a large, close-knit Irish Catholic family, Mulgrew has also missed visiting with her mother and siblings. When she encountered Hagan - whom she had met briefly but memorably several years ago on a trip to Ireland, following an introduction by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith - she decided, "I was not going to miss this man, not again."

After a bicoastal courtship, Mulgrew and Hagan were married April 19th in a small ceremony in Sanibel, Florida (there are details in the July 5 People Magazine, in which the Hagan-Mulgrew nuptials share space with the latest royal wedding). Said the bride, "I'm unbelievably happy and I thought I was very happy before. He's a great, great guy."

While Hagan left public office in January, declining to seek re-election as Commissioner of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, he has formed a committee to consider running for Republican Senator Mike Dewine's seat in Washington, and has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor as well.

"If you saw his work in Cleveland, you would see what he's done for that city...he has turned social work on its head," explained Mulgrew. "Ohio's pushing him like hell, because he's the last of the great Democrats. He calls himself a dinosaur, the last of the New Dealers, but he's just remarkable. We're going to look at the Senate race with a jaundiced eye, because he's been in politics for 25 years, and we're not at all convinced that it's the way to launch this marriage particularly given my schedule."

Since they reconnected, the couple have been commuting between his home outside of Cleveland and hers in Los Angeles. The situation was taxing to Mulgrew and Hagan and to their children: her sons had not yet met his daughters at the time of their wedding. Still, as Mulgrew stated, "Paramount stepped up to the plate in a very tough renegotiation. They seem very certain that there will be a seventh season, and they were willing to acknowledge my need for time."

She also confessed that when it came down to it, she didn't want to leave Voyager in mid-journey because she feared the effects on the show and its legacy. "All of my creative investment, my ego is invovled in this, my deepest feelings about what I've done - not the least of which is the fact that I was the first female captain. To tell you the truth, without me, I think it wouldn't fly. They'd be all right, they'd find a way, but I felt very strongly that it wouldn't be the same. So I'm going to complete this series with as much panache as I can."

Lost In Space, Year Six

Mulgrew sat down with executive producer Brannon Braga before shooting started to discuss some of her hopes for Janeway. "My great wishes for this season...I really want a featured episode with Roxann [Dawson, who plays B'Elanna Torres] and one with Bob [Picardo, who plays the Doctor], where they are integral to what's happening not only on the ship, but with me," she revealed. "I have a very close personal relationship with both of them, those two, and I feel that Roxann has suffered a bit in the past year."

Maybe they could make Torres a love interest for Janeway instead of Tom Paris? "I'm not ready for that!" howled Mulgrew, who believes that there will be romance for Janeway this season - not a single episode like last year's "Counterpoint," but an ongoing arc. "I'm really careful about it because it's got to be real, but it's also got to be intriguing. So we're hatching that right now. I want it to be very provocative; I don't want it to be even remotely predictable. I think it's a big, growing surprise to Janeway - it dawns on her, this need, and then she just goes like nobody's ever seen her go before. And we'll see the consequences of that."

"And what other things have we never seen?" continued the actress. "We've never seen her really laugh. We've never seen her eat. We've never seen her dance. We've never seen her really cry. We've never seen her deeply intimate with somebody. We've never seen Janeway as a passionate woman - we'll do that."

"I liked last season, it was a very good season for me as an actress," she added. "They gave me all those colors. I think Arachnia was a surprise to them - that I do farce, that I do comedy, that I do love - now they just have to let me go, so I can do that in the confines of, say, the bridge, with the same ease. There's no reason there can't be laughter, badinage and a degree of farce in all this."

This sounds very different from Mulgrew's insistence a few years ago that the captain had to maintain a certain level of decorum. "Well, that was three years ago," she allowed. "We all get to change. Part of it is my relaxing, just letting myself go. I have pretty high confidence now, and I think that they see that. They see that I'm free, I don't have any problems with her professionalism, her demeanor. Her command is in place. And now it's time to give it a much broader base, and let everybody else fly too. I'm concerned about Tuvok, I'm concerned about Chakotay. Everybody's got to get in there and get their hands dirty this year."

The former soap opera star groaned a bit when reminded of the hundreds of Janeway/Chakotay fans still hoping for some more intimate connection between Voyager's captain and first officer. "Let me tell you, I have tried," she said. "This relationship has been given a lot of opportunities. But if it doesn't work, it doesn't work."

Who, then, might the captain bond with? "My last thought was, let's get Kashyk [from "Counterpoint"] in here, bring him back for real, and let's see this thing heat up. He was so passionate, he was so engaged with me, we showed up early for rehearsal. He was supposed to kiss me very quickly and say goodbye, as written, and I said, no no no, I'm going to grab him! Then he took the back of my hand and kissed me, and I thought that was great. We kicked butt together, he and I. That's the fun for me."

What about the omnipresent Seven of Nine, still hailed by UPN as the savior of the show despite erratic ratings? Mulgrew dismissed reports that she and actress Jeri Ryan are competitive with one another, naming several tense Janeway-Seven scenes among her favorite onscreen moments. Indeed, "Dark Frontier" and "Relativity" were two strong Janeway episodes made possible by the character's complex interactions with her Borg protegee. Like Mulgrew, Ryan reportedly has been involved in difficult contract negotiations, to which her co-star says she's sympathetic.

"If I had been promoted in that fashion, I'd do the same thing as Jeri Ryan - this is her opportunity to go for it," the television veteran noted wryly. "I just hope she's happy, because I'm happy, and I want happiness on the set. Relaxation and personal happiness have so much to do with what goes on at work. I feel a renewed sense of committment and fun."

Some fans may be sorry to learn that Mulgrew doesn't believe Voyager will return to Federation space this season. "Don't put a period on the end of that, but I think Paramount does not wish us to return," she said. While the actress expressed hope that the addition of former Deep Space Nine producer Ron Moore to the staff would encourage storylines which would connect Voyager to the Alpha Quadrant, Moore's departure last week may have limited such possibilities.

"I have a pretty good feeling with the Braga-Moore combination, there's going to be a lot of action, and science fiction at its very best," she said before the unexpected shakeup. "Brannon is a provocateur, his intelligence is borderline dangerous. I think that he will take science fiction to new heights."

Because of her own schedule, Mulgrew did not see the Deep Space Nine finale, but heard that "it was wonderful" from colleagues. "They have great writers and they have great actors over there," she noted. "Colm Meaney, who is one of the great actors of our time. Avery Brooks is a wonderful actor, I've worked with him [on Roots: The Gift]. They've got Rene [Auberjonois], they've got Nana [Visitor]. And Louise Fletcher is wonderful."

Though she thinks it would be interesting if there were more crossovers like the appearances of LeVar Burton in the episode "Timeless" and Jonathan Frakes in "Deathwish," she also believes Voyager should chart its own course.

"In this year that we stand alone, I want it to be really great," added Mulgrew, referring to the as-yet-unnamed new Star Trek series that executive producer Rick Berman told USA Today is already in the works. With Deep Space Nine off the air and no new Next Generation films planned, "It's like being a member of a large family and suddenly everyone goes away to college and you have the house to yourself. I don't know what they're going to do next, but my guess is that they'll bring it on during our seventh season. That gives us this year to be wild."

And The Ship Sails On

And after this year? "The marriage is first, and getting my kids into the world," Mulgrew stated. "When that is finished, that will be the start of a different chapter. I would dearly love to go back on the stage. I will get an apartment in New York, Tim has the house in Cleveland. That doesn't preclude anything out here. But I think it will be about love for awhile, and calming down, reassessing."

"It's been a hell of a five years for me, so I think I'll take a little bit of a rest - my husband laughs at me, he says, yeah, you'll rest for two weeks!" she added with a chuckle. "He will have to revisit his political aspirations - if he doesn't run for the Senate next year, he may look at the gubernatorial race, or the race for the Senate six years hence. He wants to support me over the next two years, and then he'll need my support."

Though she laughed at the question of whether she has political aspirations of her own, Mulgrew is interested in arranging a convention to raise money for the Kosovo refugees, whose plight has upset her. "I'll do whatever it takes, I'll waive my fee, I'll sign autographs for everyone, I'll run the auction, I just want to do something to help these people," she said.

Though she likely will be able to support herself doing conventions for some time to come, the actress said she hopes that after Voyager, her career will transit "into the kinds of roles I will be ready for then - good character work. I can still do some wonderful leading roles, but Hollywood as you know is not kind to women after the age of twelve." The actress laughed. "I go to the movies now and I fall asleep. Somebody dragged me to Shakespeare in Love, I was in a coma inside of seven minutes. I can't watch pubescent people making love anymore, I really must have some adult fare, you know?"

It's a feeling which extends to Kathryn Janeway. "She's real. It's time for her to break out. Let's just let her be a real woman, and she can command the ship!" the actress exclaimed. "I looked Brannon Braga in the eye and I said, there's nothing sexier than a middle-aged woman who knows her heart. And he said, you're absolutely right. So let her break out. It's time. The hair has got to come down. And why can't she lick her chops at the same time? I think it's time for her to lick her chops."

Mulgrew stopped for a moment to lick her own chops. "I feel good, I feel very good," she purred in the instantly-identifiable voice which transfixes all who encounter Kathryn Janeway. "It's all good. It's been an incredibly full year for me, and everything seemed to come together. This is one of those moments in life when you just know it's sweet to be alive."

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