-This review contains some minor spoilers. Proceed with caution-
Read By: Kate Mulgrew
Genre: Space Opera
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Runtime: 8hrs 20m
Release Date: 26/01/2021
Everyone knows the story of how Kathryn Janeway spent seven years lost in the Delta Quadrant, but now hear the tale spoken by the woman herself. Covering her entire life before, during, and after that fateful voyage, this is the story as you’ve never heard it before . . .
Though I flip back and forth on the rankings, Voyager usually emerges triumphant as my favourite Star Trek series. It had that classic sense of Trek optimism, championed science and intellect at almost every turn, and was generally a lot of fun from start to finish. Kirsten Beyer’s Full Circle novels went some way to filling the Voyager shaped hole in my life, and I still have more novels to read, but this here is something special. This is the most recent in a line of ‘autobiographies’ of major Trek characters, following in the footsteps of Kirk and Picard, but it’s more than that. For the first time, this has an audio version narrated by the actor behind the character. Kathryn Janeway may not be my favourite captain, but the promise of having Kate Mulgrew reprise that role was enough to have me pick up the audio edition. Incidentally, Kate Mulgrew’s other return to the role of Janeway is something I’m very much looking forward to seeing in the upcoming Prodigy animated series.
Having written some of her own, Mulgrew has a real knack for autobiographies. Given that we’ve spent seven years with these characters, there are few surprises along the way. But author Una McCormack wisely focuses on the emotional drive, filling in gaps and supplying motivation and follow-up for some of the show’s most infamous moments. Mulgrew’s narration is accordingly soft and measured, reflecting on a life plagued by misadventure. Maybe it was just the late nights I spent listening to this, but Mulgrew’s voice is incredibly soothing, sometimes passionate, often wry, and occasionally melancholic. It works on every level, and a better partnering of author and narrator is hard to imagine. The only reason it took me so long to reach the conclusion is the limited listening time available to me. On a long commute or holiday, I imagine these eight hours would drift by most pleasantly.
As you can imagine, this book explores a lot of Janeway’s life before Voyager, and I have to admit, the depth spent on her childhood wasn’t of that much interest to me. There are only so many happy memories I can tolerate before I want something to happen. Things really get going once young Janeway enters Starfleet. This being McCormack, we get a proper look at how the Cardassian conflict shaped those years of her life, tying Voyager into the larger narrative arcs of the Trek universe. The slice-of-life pacing continues, but now the individual incidents are more interesting to me, especially her butting of heads with one Captain Ward.
It’s where the story catches up to the series that things get interesting. Covering seasons with broad strokes, but singling out individual episodes for further study, McCormack brings a cohesion that the aggressively episodic show often lacked. I particularly enjoyed an aside reference to the events of ‘Threshold,’ and a rumination on Janeway’s controversial actions in ‘Tuvix.’ But we also get to see the character development of nearly a hundred and eight episodes condensed into a manageable few hours. Seven, Paris, and Torres shine the most here, but everyone has their moment in the sun. of particular interest is the final chapter, which serves as a ‘where are they now?’ of the main cast. It’s not in line with the tie-in novels, nor is it likely to be canonised by new series, but its a longer and more satisfying conclusion than the one seen on screen.
While it may not be the most thrilling book in the world, The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway is well worth a listen for any Voyager fan, and hopefully a sign of more actors being brought back for future volumes.