Review by C.J. Bunce
The latest of the in-universe Star Trek biography books takes fans of the franchise back to Star Trek Voyager in The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway. The captain made famous by Kate Mulgrew takes readers through key life events that led to her role as one of Starfleet’s greatest leaders, and she provides her recollections on seven years in the Delta Quadrant. For fans looking for a trip through memory lane and the key encounters of the crew on Star Trek Voyager, all in that calming and authoritative voice, they will find it here.
The voice of Janeway is actually provided by frequent Star Trek novelist Una McCormack. I’m a fan of Janeway and count Star Trek Voyager as the ultimate realization of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a future led by adventurers and scientists seeking out new life and strange new worlds, which might make me a bit more critical of the voice of Janeway, especially when so many spin-off books get lead franchise heroes wrong. McCormack provides a believable Janeway storyteller, easy to hear in your mind in Mulgrew’s voice.
The autobiography is split exactly in half by a photo montage (some clever Photoshops and mocked-up might-have-been images) from Janeway’s past–the first half primarily new content, new backstory of what kind of woman would become one of Starfleet’s greatest captains and admirals. The second-half is more familiar territory: the life of Janeway once she embarks on the good ship Voyager, the seven year voyage 70,000 lights years away in the Delta quadrant, and beyond.
Janeway’s early years borrow as much as possible from Janeway’s backstory, but there wasn’t a lot of material–she wasn’t all that open with her crew, understandable for a ship’s captain. So the first half of the book is for readers looking to be inspired by a life that could be swapped for any successful woman. McCormack includes typical life trials, particularly in a busy career, attention to finding a life-work balance (that Janeway never did all that well), and valuing family and relationships that helped her grow (including a familiar groundskeeper named Boothby, who seems to have been the key to all successes at Starfleet).
Obligatory brief asides to the weirder side of the Voyager series highlight what worked on the series and what makes for the stuff of the cringe episodes every series seems to experience from time to time: self-questioning her decision to split Tuvix and experiences with Q. Better handled are reflections on her regret not detecting the murderer Lon Suder’s issues earlier, and whether she could have brought Amelia Earhart aboard the ship and brought her back to the Alpha quadrant. Readers won’t find much about Janeway running off with Tom Paris and having offspring as a proto-lizard, but it turns out Janeway does have offspring previously unreported–that is the single bit of new information in this story. It’s the only point where Janeway recounts any substantive event after the two-part finale episode. This book doesn’t get to Janeway’s brief return as admiral in Star Trek: Nemesis, or for example, what Janeway was up to while Jean-Luc Picard was off finding Romulans.
Believable memories include thoughts of her dog Mollie, gratefulness to Admiral Paris and Reginald Barclay, and observations on the growth of other crew members, Paris, Torres, Kes, Neelix, Chakotay, Tuvok, Seven of Nine, and Naomi Wildman, who provides a foreword for the book in her commander years. Janeway recounts visiting members of families killed on her big mission, including that of the Equinox, which was a nice touch. She also admits her pleasure, which was obvious in the series, with the use of the holodeck (especially with Leonardo) to distract the crew from their time far from home. Although McCormack includes more than enough recollections of Janeway’s fiancé Mark, we don’t get to see Janeway’s romantic stories–she had some genuine relationships with several men in seven years aboard Voyager, in real life and even via the holodeck, that could have told us some more about the character. Maybe she just doesn’t kiss and tell?
McCormack uses the parallel of Dorothy Gale blown away in a tornado but eventually finding a way home in The Wizard of Oz as a framework readers will find that the author revisits from time to time in telling Janeway’s story.