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Star Trek’s Robert Beltran On His Voyager Regrets

In some ways, Star Trek: Voyager was the beginning of the end of Trek‘s long golden age. Beginning with The Next Generation‘s 1987 premiere, there was at least one Trek series on the air each year through Enterprise‘s demise, with different series runs even overlapping each other in the case of Deep Space 9 and Voyager. And Voyager is when I gave up on Star Trek. I didn’t stop loving the franchise, but I grew weary of the fact that it had become only that and little more: a franchise. Safe. Predictable. Comfortable. Voyager could have taken Trek in a refreshing direction, but it never really seized that potential, and at least one cast member was all too aware of the show’s problems. Robert Beltran, who played Chakotay, recently gave an honest and extensive interview to StarTrek.com, and he wasn’t shy about airing his grievances about the series.

Perhaps Beltran had a more critical eye toward the show because he was not a Trek fan when hired. “I had no idea of Star Trek,” says Beltran. “I didn’t know Star Trek from anything. But I liked ‘The Caretaker’ [pilot] script and the role of Chakotay. So I said, ‘Yes, I will be happy to go in and audition.’” That outsider’s view may have helped Beltran have a good eye for the show’s weaknesses, because he wouldn’t merely dismiss problems by saying, “Oh, that’s just how they do things here.”

One of Beltran’s biggest complaints was the feeling that Chakotay wasn’t being given the relationships that would truly help define his character. He says that he enjoyed the early episodes that highlighted the relationship between former Maquis member Chakotay and Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew). “After Seska (Martha Hackett) left, it was only that relationship with the captain that had depth to it. Chakotay and Tuvok didn’t have much. Chakotay and Paris didn’t have much. Chakotay and the other characters, there wasn’t much of a relationship there.”

One notable exception to that was the romantic relationship between Chakotay and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). However, Beltran says that even with that subplot, the introduction of Seven of Nine — and the departure of executive producer Jeri Taylor — actually hurt his character in the long run. He says that once Seven of Nine joined the crew, new showrunner Brannon Braga and the writers began to downplay some characters — Chakotay, Tuvok (Tim Russ), Kim (Garrett Wang), and Neelix (Ethan Phillips) — and turn more focus on the Captain, the holographic Doctor (Robert Picardo), and the Borg in the slinky silver catsuit. As Beltran explains:

Those three characters were kind of all-seeing, all-knowing, omnipotent, and I think a lot of the tension and drama that was available was lost because you have to really dig hard to find tension in all-knowing, all-seeing characters. They know everything, right? They have all the answers. Or else you have a redundancy of the same scene written over and over and over again, with slight variations.

You can read the rest of the Robert Beltran interview over at StarTrek.com.

Comments

  • Cenny

    He’s just mad that no one likes his character, Chakotay is a cool character, I guess….but no one really likes him LOL. The Doctor is and was and will always be my favorite, I think..I just got done watching every episode of Voyage a few weeks ago….watching DS9 right now(never have). I must say DS9 is a really really good show.

  • http://twitter.com/bardsworth Peter J. Tarkulich

    I’m in the 6th season of Voyager on Netflix, having only caught it in syndication years ago. Back then I liked it; now, having watched it from the beginning and on, I’m not so sure. It had potential in a lot of areas, and because of bad writing that potential was lost. Tension between the Maquis and the Voyager crew? Fizzled out. Chance for tension with B’lana and others? Only used here and there. The reason DS9 was so great was because it focused on the characters and built them up throughout the series; there is very little of that in Voyager. They throw it in once in a while, but it never feels genuine.

    tl;dr – Voyager’s writers sucked.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.simonet.9 Robert Simonet

    All I have to say about Voyager is that when it came to them finally coming home, the one man behind making it possible was my one favorite character in the whole Star Trek thing: Reginal Barckley.

    • Cenny

      Barckley had nothing to do with Voyager getting back to the Alpha Quadrant. It was all future Admiral Janeway.

  • Vanny

    I Loved Chakotay, and agreed that they did not thing to further his character. He was just phoning it in towards they end, as the writers didn’t care, so then why should he? And that stupid romance they through in at the end with him and seven felt forced and contrived. They could have built that up for long before that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roland-Dockerill/100003281789141 Roland Dockerill

    Definitely an underused and undervalued character and I was never keen on the native american mystic angle but there were still many excellent Chakotay episodes: Initiations, Distant Origin (one of my favourites), Year of Hell part 2, Timeless, One Small Step, Shattered (another of Voyager’s best episodes in my opinion) and others that I cant recall at the moment.

  • Madalenya Lunarhys

    Enjoying watching Voyager (for the fourth time) on Netflix. I agree that the writing tended to suck on many of the episodes and the series now seems lackluster. There are definitely some awesome episodes, but Voyager does drop the ball when it comes to the Star Trek uniqueness of story-telling. The vast possibilities in the realm of Sci-Fi seemed to only give the writers the excuse to run amok and exercise their personal desires (Jeri Ryan’s presence and the removal of Kes…a character with a HELL of a lot of potential, is one example). Not dissing Ms Ryan…Nichelle Nicols had her moments of glorious undress, but they were episodal and not a contiuous distraction. However, ‘flawed’, I still get a huge estrogen charge out of Janeway!

  • Siobhan Elizabeth

    Both Jeri Ryan and Robert Beltran have given separate interviews about how the Chakotay-Seven thing came to be, and both tell the exact same story. It was Beltran’s idea. Now he thinks it was stupid!?! Sheesh, shut up already!

  • Anung Un Rama

    Up to season 5 Voyager was ok, but nothing special. Season 6 sucked big and in season 7 the writers tried to repair some damage, but never succeeded. The “big finale” was laughable and in the end Chakotay was not the only character that was underdeveloped. Can’t blame Beltran, he only speaks the truth.

  • Jackattack

    I’m on season six of Voyager and every time I see Chakotay he’s on the the bridge. He usually has a couple of lines and no stories about him. meanwhile 7 seems to be the only one with a story. It’s a bit annoying. I really wish the writers did try and develop the character. I guess the writers didn’t feel my people were all that interesting. :(

  • startrek

    I agree with him! I still liked the series but I can certainly see where he saw uncooked meat…There were too many cooks wanting to make things perfect and while I think a little stability is good every now and then, when the boat rocks the drama intensifies. Oh, well. Could’a, would’a, should’a…

    It was a gig for him…and there’s nothing wrong with that.