Janeway: “There’s coffee in that nebula!”

Captain Kirk had Romulan Ale and Saurian Brandy, Captain Picard had Earl Grey Tea, Captain Janeway: ‘Coffee, Black!’

Firstly I’m going to draw your attention to the beginning of Voyager and what I thought of Captain Kathryn Janeway. Kathryn Janeway is the first and thus far only female Captain in a Star Trek series. So, it’s no surprise that the Producers and Directors of Voyager really didn’t know what to do with Kate Mulgrew’s character Kathryn Janeway. First it was the hair, then it was the outfit and then it was actually the way she acted! Kate often talks about the way they were obsessing with her hair, her bosom and her height. With all the pressure of being the first female Captain, Kate Mulgrew stood up and said, “Leave me alone! Let me do my job and trust the audience to come to me!” – And we did! (She often says this at conventions when people ask her about the hair and how it changed during the series’.) After Kate had said this we saw a change in the character on screen, it was like Kate was now comfortable with the character, which made the audience comfortable.

Janeway in ‘Caretaker’ is very masculine, the writers has been so used to writing male Captains, so they had written and directed Kate in that way – a female Captain was new to them. In the beginning she came across as very strict, a sort of military Captain. The scene in the ready room with Tom Paris and Harry Kim, sticks in my mind as an example of Janeway being quite masculine, she stands stiffly and appears to be big on protocol; Harry Kim even calls her ‘Sir’. I think that line was mirroring what the writers were thinking – mistaking her for a Male Captain. As the season unfolds, her bun gets lower and flatter so the character comes into her own. So this is probably where the writers thought they should emphasise her coffee loving trait. I honestly think that the writers were thinking about TNG and Jean Luc’s ‘Tea Earl Grey, hot’ when writing Janeway’s ‘Coffee, Black’ lines/story lines, they seemed to be stuck in their old way of writing.

Her coffee addiction becomes apparent when we see her in her ready room in following episodes, ordering from the replicator, ‘Coffee, Black’. Also from Neelix when replicator rations are low in Season One Episode: ‘The Cloud’. In this episode Voyager has been in the Delta quadrant only a couple of months and Neelix has taken on the role of chef and is cooking for the crew. They are beginning to see the effects of being stranded more than 70,000 light-years from Earth; replicator rations are beginning to run out! This means Janeway is cut off from her usual coffee supply, needless to say Neelix’ substitute is less than appealing. Then Voyager encounters a strange nebula, Janeway orders “Set a new course…there’s coffee in that Nebula!”

So ‘Coffee, Black!’ became Janeway’s ‘Earl grey’.

In the Episode: ‘Hunters’ in Season Four, Janeway says ‘Coffee is the finest organic suspension ever devised…I beat the Borg with it’. That to me shows that she attributes coffee to military success but also adores her coffee. Was she using it as a replacement for real love, because she couldn’t have a relationship with a member of her crew? When I thought about this it made me feel quite sorry for Janeway. I think the writers started to put more emphasis on Janeway’s loneliness after they figured out that she was a different Captain and Kate herself had said that she didn’t want the character to have a guy every episode. So instead, coffee! Really?!

Furthermore, in Season Five, Episode: “Bride of Chaotica”, Janeway asks Neelix for coffee, Neelix is going to reply that replicator rations are low but Janeway cuts across him and demands ‘Coffee!’. He orders the coffee from the replicator and is about to ask her something else when she puts her hand up and says ‘Coffee first!’ She takes a sip, looking very satisfied and with a sigh of relief says ‘Now, what’s the problem’. She sometimes puts her coffee dependency before problems of the ship! Did this cause some of the problems that Voyager faced? Is that what the writer were insinuating?

Does it make a character memorable when they have a catchphrase? Hers was ‘Coffee, Black’ did she need one? She was the first and only female Captain and in my opinion she didn’t need one! …Well at least we know she changes to tea, thanks to Admiral Janeway in ‘Endgame’.

So I’ll leave you with this; What would Janeway have been like without Coffee? Would she have been able to get Voyager home? Would Voyager have been a very different series without Janeway’s Coffee?!

Thoughts to ponder my fellow Trekkies!

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One thought on “Janeway: “There’s coffee in that nebula!”

  1. Considering how I feel about my coffee in the morning (I swear I simply CANNOT function properly without two cups of the “nectar of life”), I certainly understand how Janeway feels. Especially what you said about her demanding coffee from Neelix, taking a sip, and then saying, “Ok…what do you want?” That’s exactly how I feel! Did Janeway need coffee to get the crew home? Probably not…but it definitely made the trip easier. 😉

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