Star Trek Voyager Is 20 and How Janeway Broke the Glass Ceiling

Voyager is probably low on the radar for most Trekkies, but for me it was my first time watching Star Trek.  I was probably 8 or 9 when I flipped through the channels one day and came across Star Trek. It may have even been part of a lineup that caught my attention – sort of like the back-to-back Xena:Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys followed by Cleopatra 2525 and Jack of All Trades. I really can’t remember – but I do remember noticing a woman in the role of captain on a very cool looking ship. Like many other little girls my age, we probably tuned in to watch a somewhat plain Jane assume command of a spaceship with a mission to explore. I thought Seven of Nine was cool, too, until she lost her science officer uniform to a ridiculous skin-tight …thing.

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I watched every episode of Star Trek: Voyager.  As a result, I learned about Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: The Original Series. I fell in love with both of them and powered through each season and then I came across Deep Space 9, which I couldn’t love at all. I don’t think I ever will grow to like it which is a shame because I am sure it is no better or worse than the others. backwards.

Anyway, we’re not here to talk about the other ininstallmentsf Star Trek. We’re here to talk about the 20 year old series that changed the lives of little girls everywhere. Unlike Kirk and Picard, Jane was a scientist, not a strategist. She wasn’t assigned to an endless mission in an unknown quadrant. This probably makes her more significant because every decision she made was technically a matter of life and death. Kirk and Picard had rules and orders hanging over their heads.  As viewers, we are constantly reminded of the authority figures who oversee the Star Fleet captains. Kathryn Janeway’s adventure to a new part of the galaxy was representative of playing with gender roles in the Star Trek world. Did the Prime Directive and the Federation matter? Janeway’s primary focus was making sure her crew was safe. Her job was to protect them and find a way home. These tasks traditionally fall to men. Women are protected by men but here we have a series in which a woman is protecting a crew of mostly men.  She wasn’t using brawn, combat strategy, or (male) authority to get her crew out of dangerous situations. Voyager wasn’t even equipped with weapons like the Enterprise. Voyager was a science vessel unprepared for a journey to the unknown. startrek_voyager_01

As an adult, I can dissect the themes and comment on gender, masculinity, the emasculated ship and so on. As a little girl all I could see was this intelligent woman who could make decisions quickly. She was also witty and prepared for people to question her competence; such as when Q commented that Riker should have been given Voyager instead of a woman. Captain Kathryn Janeway prepared me for life as a woman without me knowing it. I didn’t want to be an astronaut, an engineer, or even a firefighter – but her attitude and confidence taught me that women need to do a little more to prove they are competent in a man’s world.

This may not be the greatest in the series by any real standards but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Star Trek: Voyager introduced me to the Trekkie universe.