I am not Trekkie (or Trekker). I keep saying that, and people keep looking at me as if they know better
Regardless, I recently read an interview between Aisha Tyler and Jeri Ryan, who starred in Star Trek: Voyager
between seasons 4 and 7. In that interview
, Ryan stated that she had an unnecessarily difficult relationship with one of Voyager's other stars, making her stint on the series miserable. She would be nauseated on set because of this anxiety, and in general she did not enjoy filming the series because of it, although there were (and continue to be) great rewards from the show.
Who was her antagonist? Everyone knows it's Kate Mulgrew, who played Voyager's Captain Janeway. You can read the interview, and it's cringe-worthy if it is accurate.
To Jeri Ryan and Kate Mulgrew both, here's my suggestion. It's 2014. Get over it.
It sounds flippant, but I don't say this lightly or easily. We all have relationships we've left behind that are better left there. Sometimes exes and former colleagues should stay in our memories and not in our current lives. I understand.
But you are both inexorably linked through this Star Trek vehicle, something I know you both considered heavily when you took on these roles. They weren't just acting roles. You consistently play the roles of Trek alumni as well, ambassadors for Gene Roddenberry's vision of a highly technological future in which humanity plays an enormous role in exploring interstellar space and spreading a message of peaceful coexistence. Furthermore, this ongoing enmity does not appear to be the fault of either participant.
Cast members sometimes don't get along. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy had ill feelings
about who the star of Star Trek
(The Original Series) really was. You could use their post-series relationship as a guide, but that would only take you so far. The reasons for your deteriorated relationship go a bit farther and are more insidious than who deserved top billing. Let's take a look:Voyager
is the first Trek series with a female captain. Mulgrew played it extremely well. It seems in fan panels at Trek conventions, Mulgrew is starting to confirm her side of the conflict
: she was assured by Voyager
's producers that the captain was not going to be a sex object. She would not be shown in a tight suit, or her decisions made by a typically weak female, dependent upon men for courage or conviction. Mulgrew understood that women on the series would not be portrayed this way. For the most part, Voyager
adhered to this for the first three seasons until Jeri Ryan was cast.
It should go without saying that women on television, and moreso in 1995 when Voyager
started, are depicted the way men want them to be shown: available, attentive, attractive, receptive to male advances, or if none of these, ugly, overweight, and an antagonist. In its way, Voyager
was ahead of its time, much like The Original Series. The show did not allow viewers to see Captain Janeway as any of these descriptors. She was forceful, in charge, decisive, yet compassionate, graceful, even maternal. I would wager we never saw her in a long term romantic relationship because writers did not know how to portray a woman in charge who had to be shown being vulnerable.
Even on various Trek series, for all of Roddenberry's foresight, women have been restricted within archetypes. Lieutenant Uhuru may have been the first black woman in space, but she and other women on the Enterprise
wore miniskirts while the men wore comfortable, practical uniforms. Similarly, Counselor Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation
lost the miniskirt, but wore a skin-tight bodysuit for no particular reason. Even Marina Sirtis, who played Troi, thought it was ridiculous
and lobbied to have the costume changed, which it was by TNG
's sixth season.
Janeway, undeniably attractive, is also diminutive and slight, which is an interesting way to portray a woman in power. She was costumed in a unisex uniform, which she wore quite well I should add, often shown confronting antagonists who are taller and bulkier than she is. The show placed Mulgrew in frames with her costars, shot from the over-the-shoulder behind the larger person so Mulgrew looks like she is being squeezed into the frame and barely fits, her neck craning up to look into the eyes of someone towering over her. This is a trick to convey that although the captain is small and could easily be physically overpowered, she does not move away and sticks to her convictions.
Ryan was cast as a cyborg/human, kidnapped by Captain Janeway who must then convey to her what it means to be human. The exploration of humanity is a repeated theme in all the Trek series, and quite frankly, the relationship between Janeway and Ryan's character Seven of Nine is one of the best in television hands down, not just within the Star Trek canon. I should state here that if the off-screen relationship between Ryan and Mulgrew was as toxic as Ryan alleges, they are each astonishingly good at their craft.
Any discussion of Seven of Nine must include her appearance, which is relevant here because it drew the focus of Mulgrew's ire, and to some extent, mine too. Seven of Nine is not small. She's nearly six feet tall, strikingly beautiful, and to put a fine point on just how restrictive
this role was, was costumed in such a tight-fitting catsuit (Ryan herself calls it a catsuit
) that it required a solid breastplate/corset form-fitted to Ryan that made it difficult for her to eat, breathe, and go to the bathroom
. Promotional images were taken of Ryan in the suit looking ridiculous, contorted, and out of character, which apparently means sexy (here on deviantArt too, pervasively). Additionally, shots were blocked to feature Ryan's body prominently. In one scene early in the fourth season ("Day of Honor"), on Voyager
's bridge, the captain, in the background in the middle of the shot, must walk past Seven of Nine who is placed in the foreground on the left, in profile. Instead of taking a straight line to the left out of the shot, the captain walks to the right, then the left, basically around Jeri Ryan's ample chest, the third co-star in this scene.
Demeaning for Mulgrew and the captain? I can see that. Ryan's fault? No. Oh, and Ryan was dating one of the producers, so no good can ever come from that.
What's really confounding about the discord between Mulgrew and Ryan is that they are both apparent pawns in a larger scheme that was and continues to be outside their control. Here's the depressing reality: even with the strong female characters on Voyager
-- and there are more than the captain and Seven of Nine -- men still controlled that show. Male viewers responded overwhelmingly to the catsuit while obviously someone made a decision to put Ryan in it to capitalize on her physique. Ratings shot up. The problem with gimmicks is that people respond to them. An increase of viewers to see that beautiful, rich relationship between the captain and Seven of Nine, which, for whatever reason, was all but abandoned by the seventh season. What a shame.
So what to do? As stated, it is 2014, so here's a better guide to "get over it". You both spend frequent time in Los Angeles. Mulgrew boasts about her cooking. Have lunch. Kate, invite Ryan over and talk this out. Both of you, acknowledge whatever terrible behavior and misunderstandings occurred on set. Apologize for the hurt feelings, even if you were not directly responsible for them. Then start the conversation about what it's like to portray two of the strongest women ever to grace television. In the same show! And where television is now because/in spite of your portrayals. Then move on to where the Star Trek franchise is now, apparently slid so far backwards in terms of gender equality it's as if Voyager
never existed. If you need extra inspiration, go watch the scene in Star Trek: Into Darkness
, where Dr. Carol Marcus asserts Captain Kirk not look at her in her underwear (how assertive) while the camera lingers over her in her underwear. Are you both ready to strangle whoever is responsible for that now? Good. Combine your forces and fucking say something about it!
If not, your continued silence toward each other leaves a stronger legacy than the show you starred in. Petty Hollywood squabbles are more significant than Gene Roddenberry's vision. Who got top billing is more important in the long run than any advances you may have made together. I get the impression no one at fan conventions challenges you about this. Fan conventions must be pretty comfortable, if not sometimes tedious. This is for fans too: stop putting up with this. Start asking Mulgrew and Ryan, whose agents no doubt have lunch every six months or so just to navigate the maze of international Trek conventions so they can assure their clients they won't attend the same events, to appear together, to speak together on the topic of women in science fiction. Kate and Jeri, talk about what you wished your characters would have done or been, but could not because of the times. What do you wish to see? What kinds of characters, television shows, or films, would you be proud to see profess their influence by Janeway and Seven of Nine? What would you love to star in today?
Silence also conveys complacency with the status quo.