Star Trek Icon Created The Perfect Voyager Fan-Favorite Character

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Voyager had plenty of great character cameos over the years, which is about what you’d expect from a show whose crew is trapped on the other side of the galaxy. However, one of the best cameos originated in the holodeck rather than from a distant planet in the Delta Quadrant. In the third season Star Trek: Voyager episode “Scorpion,” we see Captain Janeway getting mentored by a hologram of Leonardo da Vinci, which is only fitting: as it turns out, the character was only added to the show because of a request from Janeway actor Kate Mulgrew.

Leonardo Da Vinci Was Suggested By Kate Mulgrew

If it’s been a while since you watched Star Trek: Voyager, you might be wondering what a show set in the 24th century has to do with Leonardo da Vinci, a Renaissance genius born in the 15th century. The answer is the holodeck: while characters like Tom Paris and Harry Kim treat the holodeck as a cross between a TV show and a video game, Captain Janeway uses it for more cerebral pursuits. In the episode “Scorpion,” we discover that she simulated da Vinci’s workshop and started using the famous figure as her holographic mentor.

A Mentor For Janeway

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At first, the Star Trek: Voyager captain wants da Vinci to be her artistic mentor as she works on her “own projects, paintings, sculptures.” However, when Janeway has to make some difficult decisions about the Borg, the very in-character da Vinci hologram becomes a different kind of mentor and tells her to appeal to God. In her typical wildcard fashion, Janeway instead decides to make a deal with “the devil” and tries to negotiate with the Borg.

Made The Most Of His Appearances

Even though he only appeared one other time on Star Trek: Voyager and once on Lower Decks, Leonardo da Vinci quickly established himself as one of the most memorable characters in the franchise’s long history. Credit for this largely goes to John Rhys-Davies, the veteran character actor who imbued da Vinci with all the wit, wisdom, and warmth you’d expect from the legendary figure. Meanwhile, credit for including the character in Star Trek at all goes to the last person you might expect: Kate Mulgrew.

Mulgrew Made Constant Suggestions

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Compared to other Star Trek: Voyager actors (and, indeed, most actors in the entire franchise), Mulgrew offered significant input to the writers about her character, and she felt adding da Vinci was crucial to Janeway’s development. The actor’s specific motivation for putting the Renaissance icon in the show is that she wanted Captain Janeway to have her own creative confidante. Speaking of creativity, da Vinci actor Rhys-Davies would later enthuse that “the whole thing was Kate’s baby and she had done a lot of research into it.”

Intersection Of Art And Science

While the Star Trek: Voyager captain has occasionally taken full credit for the idea of adding da Vinci to the show, there are other occasions where she revealed it was more of a collaborative effort with others such as producer Brannon Braga. She credits him with asking her, “Where did art most notoriously meet science in history?” leading her to answer, “Leonardo da Vinci.” This intersection is perfect because Janeway is a woman of science, so it makes complete sense that she would explore her more artistic side with someone who most famously served as the bridge between art and science.

Kate Mulgrew Made Janeway Her Own

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This wouldn’t be the last time Kate Mulgrew significantly impacted Voyager; aside from getting the producers to add da Vinci, she was still providing notes for Captain Janeway’s character development all the way through the Borg-filled series finale. In this way, the series was Mulgrew’s own workshop. Unlike Janeway, though, she never needed a mentor to bring her biggest and most creative ideas to life.

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