Capt. Janeway is coming home

The Kathryn Janeway statue sits to the side of the popular B-Line Trail, behind the Hyatt Place hotel.

She won’t be born until 2336, but the Star Trek star, actress Kate Mulgrew, will come to her character’s future Bloomington birthplace to celebrate Janeway, the first female captain in the fascinating Star Trek universe.

Sometimes I want to stop by the Capt. Janeway bust and information display on the B-Line Trail when I see people looking at it, posing with it, or laughing at it.

“Do you know why this is here?” I want to ask.

I’ll explain.

To summarize, the television and film series “Star Trek” was enjoying a popular and critical renaissance with its superb “Next Generation” series when native Hoosier and Indiana University graduate Jeri Taylor was invited into the Star Trek universe as a writer. She was already known as a good and versatile screenwriter, through her contributions to popular shows as varied as “Quincy,” “Magnum PI,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Incredible Hulk.”

A broad portfolio. But Star Trek was out of this world.

“I had never seen any of the original series. I had never seen one of the features (films). I had seen none of ‘The Next Generation’,” she told me in 1993.

“I had the kind of mindset a lot of people unfortunately still have,” she said. “That it’s silly, sci-fi programming. Basically for kids, and shoddy production values, and sort of a lesser cousin to a syndicated show.”

The creative potential was vast, however, and once Taylor devoured every previous Star Trek episode, her attitude changed mightily. “I was really impressed, as I continue to be today,” she said. “The values espoused on the show are good. It has a positive view of the future. There’s a moral center to it. And it’s extremely well-acted and produced. I sincerely believe it’s one of the best shows on television.”

“The Next Generation” boasted a beloved cast as well, including Capt. Jean Luc Picard, played by the extraordinary actor, Patrick Stewart. But as the next iteration of the Trek franchise, “Deep Space Nine,” sputtered along, Taylor and others were already smitten with their next concept, the series “Voyager.”

Taylor is often credited for championing a female leader – a first – and crafting a “first” who lived up to the attention that “first” invites. “I think Janeway would have to rank as my most significant character,” she told a Trek fans’ website. “There is so much of me in her that in the beginning it bothered me to share her with (actress Kate Mulgrew). Of course, those feelings didn’t last, because Kate breathed life into her, but it shows how close, and how proprietary I felt abut Janeway. I’m terribly proud of her,” the author and executive producer of the series said.

“Janeway ranks right up there with all the Star Trek captains . . . in terms of grit, intelligence, compassion and grace under pressure.”

Janeway ranks as formidable and admirable as any.

Somewhere along the line, Taylor had to assign some back story to Janeway, so she indulged herself. An IU graduate, the former spouse of revered sports broadcaster Dick Enberg, who was the first “voice of the Hoosiers” when an IU sports network was formed, Bloomington held a special place in her memories. So Janeway was born — in Bloomington, Indiana. On May 20, 2336.

Monuments have been erected to fictional characters before – including original “Star Trek” Captain James T. Kirk, and one-time comic strip hero Joe Palooka, whose limestone statue is significantly deteriorating in Oolitic, Indiana.

A local group coalesced in 2019 to form the Janeway Collective, which raised enough money to erect a handsome statue and information kiosk in a prime location along the walking and biking B-Line Trail, behind the Hyatt Place in downtown Bloomington.

Mulgrew has supported the statue effort from the start but was unable to attend the official unveiling. She’ll appear at a free public event at the statue at 3 p.m. Sunday, followed by remarks and a “conversation” with the actress, and an autograph session at the Woolery Mill at 4:30. Those events are now sold out.

At Mulgrew’s request, a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to two Alzheimer’s and dementia research organizations.

And on a more light-hearted note, Trek aficionados will form teams and vie for bragging rights at a Janeway Trivia Night at the Crazy Horse bar and restaurant Saturday beginning at 8 p.m. 🐝