Scientist, Science Communicator, Dancer

Kate Mulgrew - Captain Janeway- Science Grrl

This weekend I attended the Destination Star Trek London event, as did around 16,000 others. I had many brilliant moments I’d love to share but one rather sticks out: meeting Kate Mulgrew.

 

I’ve been a lifelong fan and when all 5 Star Trek captains descended on London I signed right up. I saw Janeway, Kirk, Picard, Sisko and Archer share a stage on Friday night- the first time this has happened in Europe and only the second time world wide. Come Saturday it was time for the individual captain talks and this is where my love affair with Mulgrew starts.

[Here I want to break for a second to tell you about Science Grrl a wonderful project which I was lucky enough to attend the launch of just before the Star Trek event. They have produced a calendar with images of real women (and men) in science. It is designed to show a real and accurate picture of women in science. The profits of this will be used for various initiatives to encourage women into science.]

 

Autograph time! I queued (not for very long). She greeted me with a hello and a big smile (as though I was the first fan she had seen all day). I had a moment of gushing praise before I produced one of the Science Grrl calendars. I told her that I am so impressed and pleased that she acted as an inspiration to women. I told her all about the Science grrl calendar and initiative that had been set up in the UK which she though was great. She thanked me very genuinely for the calendar and my nice words which had left her beaming she said a final thank you to me before passing her calendar to her assistant for safe keeping. I like to think of her flicking through it later in the day and having that same smile.

 

You can tell that she is incredibly proud of her inspirational role. She knows she is not a scientist, she does not pretend to be but she knows how she is regarded. She knows that young girls may watch Voyager and dream of sitting in the big chair and she wants them to know that they can.

 

Kate Mulgrew. Oh captain, my captain.

 

Some people will be slightly surprised at my over the top reaction to meeting this woman and hearing her speak. Others, perhaps just a few, will understand.

I’ve always enjoyed Star Trek Voyager and been very impressed with Kate Mulgrew as an actor but knew little of her personal life or views. She came out on stage to huge applause to 3 or 4 thousand people (by my guess). She had me from the opening few lines:

 

“I know who you are.

I know some of you are nerds (cheer).

I know some of you are geeks (cheer)

I know some of you are GAY geeks (small eruption form audience, including me)

You are probably liberals too and I tell you this: YOU ARE MY KIND OF PEOPLE”  The crowd exploded.

 

We settled down and listened to her recount how she felt being the only female captain. Her experiences with the studio: “I had 8 hairstyles in the first season. They told me my bosom ‘stuck out’. Towards the end of the season she told them enough is enough. “leave me alone!” She recounted how the top brass at the studio would stand stoney faced on set. Judging. Sceptical. How did this (admittedly nervous woman) respond? “I gave them a little wink and I tickled them when they weren’t looking”

 

She spoke on her surprise invite to the white house as an inspiration to women in science. We heard how she fought to gain the respect of men in the industry. I admit I had a little tear in my eyes at points. Including when asked “is there anything you would have liked to have seen the franchise do?” she instantly responded with “yes, Star Trek needed a gay character. It should have happened, we have come a long way but there is still a way to go- it will happen”

 

A particularly clever audience member asked “is there a question you’ve always wanted to be asked but never has been? If so, what is it and what is the answer?” Mulgrew paused- more serious for a moment. Responding with “Do I believe in God?” “I’ve been asked my opinions on love, science, acting, experiences. My hopes, my dreams but never in all the years has anyone asked me if I believe in God. So what do I think? In all my years of thinking, reading, thinking, reading, reading reading- What have I decided? I just don’t know”.

 

While taking questions she would insist that she got questions from one woman then one man. When told but the host she had only one more question she overruled him, inviting seven women up on stage to ask their questions.

 

She left to a response only rivalled by that of Shatner with an instant standing ovation. Cheers, whoops and very few dry eyes. I loved her.

 

The next day it was time to have a photo with her. It was a moment that passed in a blur. I am glad to have the evidence that it happened. Though I fear her face is a little startled by my enthusiasm….

Jamie Gallagher, Oct 13

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I seemed to slightly scare Kate

It was a busy week

Captain Janeway (via @Thomas24uk)