2. Captain Janeway
“There’s coffee in that nebula”
In a Star Trek ensemble cast, the captain is the first among equals. A bad captain would sink a Star Trek show. So there was a lot riding on Janeway, not to mention the added pressure of being the woman to helm a Star Trek show. Actress Kate Mulgrew excelled in the role, and with all of Voyager’s faults, I believe that she’s almost single-handedly responsible for the show lasting the planned seven seasons.
What made Janeway a great captain was that she was relatable. Kirk was too much of an action hero to be relatable, and Picard was too cool, calm, haughty, and stand-offish. On the Kirk to Picard spectrum, Janeway was closer to Kirk, with her daring-do attitude, but she also had Picard’s respectability. On top of that though, while Picard’s drink of choice was Earl Gray Tea, her’s was good old-fashioned coffee. She felt like a real person.
The other thing that made Janeway unique was that she wasn’t just relatable to the viewers, but also to the crew. Given the ensemble cast, it would’ve been a missed opportunity to not explore how the captain interacted with different crew members. Janeway’s mentorship of Kes was one probably the only good thing about her, her friendship with Tuvok was genuinely touching, and the moment when she recognized Torres’ talents as an engineer was Star Trek at its best. While her relationship with Chakotay could’ve been the heart and soul of the show if his heart was in it.
Then there was her mentorship of the sometimes reluctant Seven of Nine, which did become the heart and soul of the show. Seven was clearly introduced for the sex appeal factor, which Mulgrew felt undermined the good message of having a female captain. There was tension between the two on set, but you’d never know that by what ended up onscreen. Onscreen, the two are up there with Data and Geordi, or Quark and Odo, or Kirk and Spock.