Star Trek Stole From TNG Finale To Make Janeway A Better Captain

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

One of the things both the biggest fans and biggest haters of Star Trek: Voyager like to point out is that the show is very different from earlier series like The Next Generation. While that is true in many ways, the early episode “The Cloud” revealed how the show stole from the TNG series finale in order to make Janeway a better captain.

This episode introduced a trendy pool hall as Voyager’s version of the Enterprise poker table and deliberately had Janeway play with her crew to illustrate that she had the kind of crew relationship that it took Picard years to cultivate.

One Of The Best Final Scenes In History

star trek best finale

For this Star Trek story about making Janeway a better captain to make sense, we must first revisit “All Good Things,” the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

After having a timey-wimey adventure in which he saved humanity and possibly the universe, Captain Picard ends the episode and the series by finally sitting down and playing poker with the crew. He had always been invited, but it took him seven long years to become comfortable with the idea of just relaxing and playing cards with the crew that had basically become his family.

Pool Replaced Poker

What does that story about Star Trek: The Next Generation have to do with Janeway? First of all, the Voyager episode “The Cloud” introduced Chez Sandrine, a trendy French bistro and pool hall. According to longtime franchise writer Brannon Braga, one of the big motivations for creating this ambitious new set is that “we…wanted to create our version of the Enterprise‘s poker table.”

Janeway Was Close To Her Crew

The problematic script for “The Cloud” was handed to then-showrunner Michael Piller so that he could turn it into a viable episode. However, he quickly realized that the sci-fi plot about a living nebula and Voyager’s interactions with it would only take about 20 pages to fully resolve.

Rather than abandon the Star Trek episode for its flimsy plot, Piller decided to fill the rest of the ep with fun character scenes for Janeway and other key crew members.

At the very end of the episode, Kim invites Janeway to come play pool, and she agrees to do so while demurely acting as if she had never played before. She proceeds to kick all kinds of butt, sinking one ball after another and proving that pool sharks are alive and well in the 24th century, even if money is a thing of the past. As a fun bit of trivia, it was Janeway actor Kate Mulgrew and not a stunt actor who so skillfully sunk the 8-ball onscreen.

Voyager’s Unique Situation Changed The Equation

kate mulgrew janeway

According to Star Trek: Voyager writer and future showrunner Jeri Taylor, the final scene of “The Cloud” was meant to separate Janeway from earlier captains like Picard. “When she comes in to play pool, we show that she’s not necessarily going to be the captain of captains past,” she said. “She is willing to have a different kind of relationship with the crew than Kirk or Picard.

Taylor believed that Voyager’s unique situation–being stranded on the other side of the galaxy with no Federation support–”would force Janeway to try to be closer to her crew.” She felt (and we agree) that it would have been weird if Janeway had been as remote with her crew as Picard was with his. It was a huge deal when Picard finally played poker with the crew at the end of TNG, but this early Voyager ep went out of its way to demonstrate that Janeway is “already out playing pool with the guys and strolling around making friends.”

A Different Type Of Captain

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It may sound like a small choice on the part of Star Trek’s creative team, but it was a real game-changer having Janeway begin the show with the emotional intelligence that it took Picard the better part of a decade to attain. She instantly presented herself as a different kind of captain, and this helped present Voyager as a very different kind of spinoff.

It’s certainly a better way for the character to live her life…as we can see from the title character’s initial isolation and loneliness in Picard, being aloof from everyone leads to nothing but a lifetime of lost love, career misery, and really, really bad wine.