- Trek Galaxy's Voyager Tribute -

By Gregory L. Norris & Laura A. Van Vleet exclusively for TrekGalaxy.

Day 06 - Half Klingon, Half Human, All Star!

"The final episode, 'Endgame, Parts One & Two, will air on Wednesday, May 23, at 8:00 PM (PT/ET) on UPN and promises to be the ultimate in adventure as the crew continues to find a way home. In Voyager's epic final adventure, a mysterious visitor from another time forces Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) into a deadly confrontation with her arch nemesis, the Borg Queen. In the midst of the peril, an unexpected romance ignites and a new generation of the Voyager family emerges…" -- from the official Star Trek: Voyager finale press kit.

Meeting Roxann Dawson in the final days of filming Voyager holds for us a strange and wondrous element of classic Trek storytelling all its own. It feels like time travel, as though we have passed through a temporal flexure or paradox leading back to the early days of our careers as feature writers covering the best the science fiction genre has to offer. On November 19, 1997, Laura and I conducted our very first celebrity interview. It was with the lovely Ms. Dawson. Four years and a few hundred stories later, we think of that interview now, knowing everything we've done since was built upon it. Had that first freelance feature not been written, there would be no tenures as staff writers for two of the leading science fiction publications in the world; no monthly column; no chance meeting with Voyager creator Jeri Taylor's assistant, Sandra Sena, which in turn would lead to a first story pitch which, some one hundred plus attempts later, would result in the acceptance and development of the two episodes we created that became 'Counterpoint' and 'Gravity' during the series' fifth season. So with this sense of anticipation, we head across the stage to the massive, two-story set that houses Voyager's engineering section, where the actress awaits.

"Hello, Ms. Dawson," we greet. "How are you?"

"I'm fine, Gregory," answers Dawson, who is as lovely in makeup as she is out. "Hello, Laura."

Laura says, "It's wonderful to speak with you again."

"And good to talk to you again," Dawson enthuses.

We banter briefly - talk about the book we are writing, Star Dates, which features interviews with 100 of the genre's brightest stars, including a foreword by Kate Mulgrew and a chapter on Voyager's chief engineer.

We comment on the set visit and how lovely it is to speak with her again. Then, the inevitable question -

"What are you feeling now that the end of the adventure is in sight?" I ask.

Roxann Dawson as Voyager's Chief Engineer, B'Elanna Torres. "I feel very lucky and grateful to be part of something as extraordinary as this show."
Dawson sighs, "Obviously, I'm sad. Sad to leave a family that I've been so close to for seven years. Excited about the future. Looking forward to a little break. I think there are mixed emotions on every level."

"How would you sum up the experience of being on Voyager as a whole?" poses Laura.

"Wonderful," says Dawson in her soft-spoken, melodious voice. "I think being here afforded me opportunities that I never would have been given otherwise. I feel very lucky and grateful to be part of something as extraordinary as this show."

Many good things have happened to Dawson since she set foot on Voyager - the birth of her daughter, Emma Rose (viewers will recall that the pregnancy was coyly disguised by directors and cameramen during the series' fourth season), the publication of her trilogy of science fiction novels by Pocket Books (the Tenebrea novels), and a breakthrough into directing episodes, the latest of which, 'Work Force, Part Two', had aired the week of our meeting on set. "We were very impressed with the job you did on 'Work Force'," I say. "It was really well done!"

"Oh, thank you," Dawson says, a genuine smile on her lovely face.

"Do your future plans involve more time behind the camera?"

"I hope so," says the actress. "It's something that's very, very important to me. It's something that I'd like to be part of my future, and it's something that I'm working towards."

"You have a good eye for directing action and emotion - we wish you well. The cinematography in that episode was classic." Ever gracious, she thanks us again. "Can you take us into the daily world of life on the set of Star Trek: Voyager - what has it been like for you?"

"I have very early calls in the morning, and I have two and a half hours of makeup, 45 minute removal at the end of the day, so it's a very long process," Dawson sighs. "The makeup is the only thing I don't like about my job. It has not gotten easier over the seven years, and in fact it's become more difficult."

"Really?" Laura asks.

"Yes. The damage to my skin is terrible. B'Elanna's prosthetics are really an awful thing to wear. In the seven years, it's definitely taken its toll on me. It's the only thing that I really do not like. Everything else, I adore about the show," she says. "I love acting in it, I love the people I work with, but that problem with the makeup is very difficult. Obviously, that's how I begin my day, going through the two and a half hours of makeup right before work, then the constant touch ups and redoes throughout the day because the makeup is very difficult to sustain. I've had allergic reactions to different things in the makeup. It's a constant battle. So I've had to overcome that and then act - and then bring a character to life that can transcend the rubber on my face, and the wig, and all of that."

"I have to say," Laura adds, "that this has been our favourite season for B'Elanna Torres. So much has happened with the pregnancy and her marriage to Tom Paris."

"I've been very lucky this season," Dawson says. "I love how they ended the wedding with that image of the Delta Flyer trailing the tin cans. I thought that was original," she laughs.

I mention our first interview again. "You told us back in '97 that when you were a little girl, you used to perform plays for your family, your first break into acting."She nods. "Were you a fan of science fiction growing up, and if not, how has your opinion of the genre changed now that you've become one of its most visible stars?"

"Well, I think I had one view of science fiction the majority of my life, and then it changed when I got into Star Trek," says the actress. "Mostly, my view of science fiction was that I wasn't interested in it very much, although I was always interested in science. But I also think the reason why is that I think there is science fiction, and then there is Star Trek. The majority of things that call themselves science fiction on television right now - yes, they're fictionalised science, but they don't really address the kinds of stories that Star Trek does. Star Trek takes science fiction to a level that makes it theatrical and does it in a very old fashioned way, a moral tale that forces you to think and question. It lifts itself out of the ordinary. I don't think that other shows even strive to make you do that. That's one of the things that I love about Star Trek and what it tries to do. And when it does it well, it's the best thing out there. So, I may still hold my same view about science fiction in general as a rule, but I think, for the most part, unless it's something that makes me think and question and is intellectually stimulating, I'm not just interested in the genre as a whole."

"I'd have to agree with you on that," Laura states. "You know, we're huge Voyager fans. We've been faithful viewers from day one. When Voyager's gone, what's left out there?"

"Reruns!" Dawson laughs. "That's about it, because there isn't really a lot of great science fiction out there to enjoy. Wednesday nights are a real event for us," I add. "On many different levels, we're not looking forward to the finale."

"There is going to be another series, so you can look forward to that," she offers.

"But it won't be Voyager - which really is, in our opinion, the best of all of the Star Trek series."

"You know, we have an extraordinary cast," Dawson continues. "I don't mean to toot my own horn here, but I mean - extraordinary. I've done other series before. I can say with a matter of experience and authority that I feel that not only is this a cast of really good, decent people, but they're really good actors! In the beginning, we've all come to work with a great deal of respect for each other's work. I know we'll leave with that same respect, if not more. Another thing is, having directed, I love working with them as actors. I love that they give me their respect as a director, to listen to what I say, to take direction, to take it to the next step. I think whenever our cast has directed - Robbie McNeill has directed, Bob Picardo, Tim Russ, Robert Beltran - we as a cast treat them with a great deal of respect because we respect each other as artists. That's really rare. Not to be a pessimist, but it's highly unusual, and I probably won't find that again."

"Don't repeat this to any other Trek cast, but as we've told Kate Mulgrew many times, we think Voyager has the best chemistry. However you define it, it works!"

"I would agree with you there," Dawson says.

"In keeping with this thought," Laura says, taking the lead. "Kate Mulgrew always says how much she loves working with you. She always mentions your name during an interview. Can you talk about your friendships among the cast?"

"Well, let's start off with Kate. That love is mutually returned. Kate is not only an extraordinary actress, she's an extraordinary person. They don't always go hand in hand. I have enjoyed my friendship with her over the past seven years, and I hope it will continue beyond that," feels Dawson. "I think a lot of these friendships will flourish beyond the show. There are some extraordinary people who should remain in contact, because maybe we can create something else to do together! The cast as a whole - I love working with Robbie. His sense of humour and his talent, if they were going to pair me up with anybody on the set, I'm glad it was with him. He has just been a joy to work with. We have so much fun. Johnny Phillips - not only is he an extraordinarily sensitive person, he has such a sense of humour! It doesn't matter what mood I'm in, he always lifts my spirits. I love working with him."

"They cast him well, didn't they, as Voyager's morale officer!"

"He absolutely is. He's just the best. He's the morale officer of the cast on the show, as well as the crew. The same with Robert Beltran, who has a great sense of humour that we never see on the show, but I'm sure you've picked up on in interviews."

"And in that hilarious movie he did, Eating Raoul."

"That's right! But he again is a real find as an artist and friend. The whole cast is really wonderful to work with. I'm going to miss them terribly."

"Do you have a favourite memory of your time on the set?" Laura asks.

"I have favourite moments. I don't have a favourite episode - but I've been living through all these moments. I haven't seen so many of the episodes because I've been working at night, here on the set, when the show airs. I barely got home last night in time to see the episode that I directed," she laughs. "There have been a lot of wonderful episodes, so many. I can't think of one that is my absolute favourite. Obviously, I have a fondness for 'Riddles', which I directed. I thought that Tim Russ and Johnny Phillips were so amazing in that. I'm very proud of it, and because of that episode, my relationship with them grew even deeper. It's honestly one of my fondest times of the last seven years that I remember, being a full-time director and working with two great actors and an excellent script. So obviously, we had fun for that episode and for their work in it. There are so many moments."

"And moments with B'Elanna that were so enjoyable. 'Remember', 'Extreme Risk' - the banana pancakes?"

"Yes," Dawson says with a smile. "The banana pancakes."

"And this year's 'Prophecy'-"

"Which I have not seen yet!"

Laura jokes, "Make Paramount send you a tape."

"I think I need to do that," the actress laughs.

"Last question - if you could take anything from the set, no matter how big or small, what would it be?"

"The warp core," Dawson giggles. "I'd love to stick that in my living room!"

We have a good laugh, recall that first interview four years ago, and wish each other well for the days and successes ahead. A brief hug and we leave for our next destination, an encounter with Dawson's on-screen husband and Voyager's crackerjack pilot, Tom Paris. We approach the helm and Robert Duncan McNeill for the latest leg of our Delta Quadrant journey.

"Hello, Mr. McNeill!"