In the season six episode of Star Trek: Voyager “Fair Haven,” Captain Janeway made an out-of-character decision.
“Fair Haven” isn’t a fan-favorite episode of Star Trek: Voyager. Much like “Spirit Folk,” it relies on Irish stereotypes and the promise of romance, which Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) finds…to a point. In that holodeck episode, she meets the barkeeper, Michael Sullivan. She and Michael spend the night talking in the bar, and Janeway is surprised when, in the morning, his wife shows up, which douses any hint of romance.
After Janeway leaves the holodeck, she edits Michael’s program to change him into the man she wants. She makes him smarter, adds a few traits that are better suited to hers, and for the big finish, she deletes his wife. After that, she continues a relationship with Michael even though she has doubts about having a romance with a holographic character. Of course, the Doctor sees no problem with the relationship.
In the end, after a storm partially destroys Fair Haven, Janeway saves Michael in the holodeck’s program. Perhaps because of her conversation with the doctor or her own questions regarding the ethics of her actions, she tells the computer to restrict her from modifying any more of the program’s sub-routines.
Fast forward to the next season of Star Trek: Voyager, and Captain Janeway encounters another ethical dilemna.
And she handles this one a lot differently as it involves the Doctor. In “Author, Author,” the EMH has written a holographic novel that ends up getting published without his permission. An arbitration is set to determine whether the Doctor is entitled to the same rights as a human. And Janeway comes to his defense.
She tells the panel about a time when the Doctor disobeyed her commands and jeopardized the crew, thereby proving that he was human. She asks the judge to expand the definition of what it means to be human to include the Doctor, who is a hologram.
"“The doctor is a person. As real as any flesh and blood I have ever known.”"
It was clear in “Fair Haven,” Janeway didn’t feel the same way about holograms initially as she didn’t give Michael Sullivan a choice before changing him. But a year later, she’s standing up for the Doctor. Was it just because he was a crew member aboard her ship, or had her actions from “Fair Haven” convinced her that she wasn’t recognizing sentient beings, those that could think and evolve, as human?
It’s interesting to see her go from modifying a hologram to her will to protecting a hologram’s right to be autonomous. And even more interesting to see that even though she was an experienced captain, she was still open to admitting her wrongs, even if only to herself, and embracing new ideas.