The iconic captains of the Star Trek universe each have their own claim to fame. Captain Kathryn Janeway guided Star Trek: Voyager home from the remote and unexplored Delta Quadrant, making her one of the most experienced and intrepid of all our favorite Starfleet officers. She escaped from deep-space anomalies that would have made Captain Kirk reach for a glass of Romulan ale.
That doesn’t mean that Captain Janeway also didn’t make some huge mistakes. In fact, she has a reputation for making decisions that appear to be inconsistent. Is that because of the circumstances surrounding the journey of Voyager, or is it just random good days and bad days? Here are five times Janeway was the best captain in the Star Trek universe, and five times she totally lost us.
10 Best – Year of Hell, Part 1
It helps that Janeway has a compelling and sympathetic villain to challenge in this episode, a character named Annorax of the Krenim race. Janeway’s optimism in the face of all hell breaking loose versus Annorax’s cynicism as he tears apart timeline after timeline is one of the ways she shines in both of these episodes. He seems to be a tortured mashup of Nemo and Ahab, while Chakotay compares the tenacious Janeway to the real-life Captain Cray of the HMS Calliope.
Her emphatic refusal to break up the crew at first makes her decision to do so later all the more heartbreaking. It also proves that she was always putting her ship and crew first, and not obsessed with her own white whale. Her diplomatic and tactical prowess in both parts one and two of this epic, year-long adventure is also impressive, but we’re giving it to the decision that tugs on our heartstrings.
9 Worst – Scorpion, Part 1
You’re going to make a deal with the Borg and give them Starfleet tech? Really? And please don’t tell us that story about the scorpion and the fox again, it’s been criminally overused and we already know how evil the Borg are. It seems that Janeway makes this decision too quickly considering the other options she might have, never mind how she digs her heels in about making deals with hostile races at the best of times.
It’s surprising the crew didn’t mutiny over this, considering how much damage the Borg are so famous for doing. By the time this episode comes to a close, one really has to wonder what Janeway was thinking.
8 Best – Scorpion, Part 2
Not only does this episode end with the most popular character on Star Trek: Voyager joining the crew, but it also reveals the meaning of the title. It turns out we had the fox and the scorpion mixed up and Janeway knew what she was doing the whole time. Never underestimate the power of human trickery.
Not only did the crew get to kick some Borg but actually got one of them severed from the Collective along with some of their tech. That seems to have worked out in an interesting way after all. For fans of the show generally, it’s also nice to see an old storyline involving Chatkotay actually get a meaningful callback.
7 Worst – Caretaker, Part 2
If this hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have a show, so the plot armor that makes this necessary is understandable, but it’s still a strange decision. Even Tuvok seemed to hesitate. He had calculated a way to send them home and suggested to Janeway that they use it. This would have left the array intact, presumably to be used by the Kazon on the defenseless Ocampa. However, that’s really just the worst-case scenario, isn’t it?
Do we really have to do what this dying alien asked, which is to destroy the array? The Caretaker was never all there, perhaps suffering from senility, and his assumptions about the Kazon and Ocampa might have been wrong. All the Kazon wanted was a Replicator and the Ocampa had some mysterious mind control power that they never got to use, but on the other hand, thanks for seven years of great entertainment.
6 Best – Coda
Janway’s stubborn nature can be a disadvantage, but it saves both her and the crew this time. When the episode starts, it’s set up with a rather tiresome theme of pragmatism impeding spiritual growth but that turns around at the very end. What saves Janeway from being taken prisoner by a malevolent alien being is her devotion to her crew and her outright refusal to leave them, even though they seem fine without her.
This might be an example of Janeway being conceited, but it’s equally because of the crew’s love for her that she is able to return to them, confirming that they love her just as much.
5 Worst – Sacred Ground
Well, at least by the end of the episode she had smartened up, but her stubborn nature almost killed one of her most valuable crew members. Usually, Janeway is really good at thinking outside the box, but she falls flat on her face this time.
The moral of the story here is twofold; don’t apply logical answers to spiritual questions, and things are not always as they seem. At least Janeway can honestly say that she not only learned both lessons but succeeded in saving Kes at the end.
4 Best – Flashback
One thing you can count on with Janeway is the faith and trust she has in her crew, in particular, the close relationship that she and Tuvok shared. His memories of the time he spent as a crew member of the USS Excelsior are a focal point of the storyline in an episode that was written to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise.
We saw a glimmer of this in an early episode that featured Be’lanna Torres, “Remember,” when Janeway trusted her Chief Engineer instead of the foreign dignitary, so it’s fairly consistent with her character. In both cases, Janeway encourages her crew members to follow their memories through and face them, confident that she can handle any problem they have.
3 Worst – False Profits
This is a replay of the decision that trapped them in the Delta Quadrant in the first place. There’s a choice between playing the Sheriff of the Universe and getting the crew home. This is one of those times when Janeway, inexplicably, chooses the former. It doesn’t help that the inhabitants of this planet are wide-eyed, vapid idiots and it’s hard for us to find a reason to care about what happens to them.
They seem to have the government that they deserve, so why not just leave them that way? What makes this even more frustrating is that in the course of trying to free the planet from Ferengi rule and bring the con artists to justice, Janeway might have wasted a way to get the crew home.
2 Best – Macrocosm
Kathryn sheds her uniform and swaps it out for a tank top and gun belt in this harrowing episode, where we get to see how she is in the field as opposed to also being a scientific and tactical genius. Janeway goes Commando in this episode to defeat an alien that seems to be both a virus and some kind of poisonous insect.
It’s just as gruesome as it sounds, and Janeway doesn’t lose her cool for a second. It’s her and the Doctor against a ship full of flying, crawling viruses. She even drops her gun at one point and pulls out a knife to skewer one of the aliens in hand to hand combat.
1 Worst – The Killing Game, Part 2
So, giving the Kazon a replicator is a flat-out no, we’ll trade our tech with Borg pending certain very strict conditions, but we’re going to give a violent race we’ve been at war with for months holo-technology. Oh yeah, and we’re just handing it over to be nice. They didn’t ask and we’re getting nothing in return.
This is all based on some sob story their dead leader told Captain Janeway about how their ritualistic hunts were killing a whole race. Considering how much trouble the Holodeck often is, it would certainly keep the Hirogen occupied. Wait, is this another situation where Captain Janeway knew what she was doing the whole time?
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