Star Trek: Voyager actors were supposed to suppress emotion

When Star Trek: Voyager was just getting underway, the actors who’d been cast in the series got the shock of their lives when attending a celebratory luncheon with executive producer Rick Berman. In an effort to make the aliens look real, Berman expected the actors to downplay their own emotions. In fact, he wanted the actors’ lines to be delivered as military as possible with no tears and no laughter, excepted for Neelix and The Doctor whose characters were expected to deliver the comedy.

During the first season, actors had a tough time with the edict, often having to reshoot scenes when they had expressed excessive emotion. According to Garret Wang, who portrayed Ensign Harry Kim, Kate Mulgrew had the most reshoots because she’d get teary-eyed during certain scenes. (As I’m writing this, I know I’ll be going back to watch the first season of Voyager again, specifically looking for the lack of emotion.)

Wang believed that Berman handed down the “no emotion” rule because of the death and bomb threats that were sent to the Paramount Studios production offices once the decision had been made to have a female captain. In an effort to prevent Captain Janeway from coming across as weak, she had to appear tougher than tough onscreen which essentially meant no emotion.

Whatever the reason Berman had for his decision, it seems that this would have only made it more difficult on the actors who had to deliver their lines while remembering to keep their voices and faces as expressionless as possible. And it does make me wonder if this directive had an impact on the ratings which weren’t the highest in the first season of Voyager.

In other Star Trek series, emotions helped us connect to the characters. Think of how Picard’s “there are four lights” scene would have been without emotion. How different would The City on the Edge of Forever have been if emotions were restricted? It’s hard to imagine some of the best lines of dialogue in Star Trek delivered in a monotone voice. And perhaps this is one of the reasons why Kate Mulgrew said if she could do anything over again, she’d go back and reshoot the entire first season of Star Trek: Voyager. I wonder if the other actors feel the same way.