HOLLYWOOD, CA -- According to an actor turned down for the lead role on the television series Star Trek: Voyager, Paramount/Viacom executives originally intended for the character of Seven of Nine to be male rather than female.
British film star Nigel Havers, who appeared in the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire, made the surprising revelation yesterday during a swing through Hollywood to promote his newly-published autobiography Disengaged: How I Got Left Behind In The Alpha Quadrant.
Fans of Voyager have long been aware that, during the series development process, the Paramount/Viacom head office encouraged series co-creators Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor to consider giving the role of Captain Janeway to a man rather than to a woman. Havers was one of the few men who was allowed to audition for the part of the ship's commanding officer, which ultimately went to actress Kate Mulgrew. What was not known until the publication of Havers' book, however, is that Janeway was not the only character whose gender was undecided prior to final casting.
"As far back as the first draft of the pilot episode," said Havers during his press conference, "the studio was already making long-range plans to introduce a sexy new character into the series at the beginning of the fourth season. The series bible was still being written at that point, and the studio was leaning towards having a male skipper, in the tradition of Kirk and Picard and Sisko. When I tested for the role, the character's working name was Captain Kelvin Jamesway, if I remember correctly. It was a great, macho-sounding name, and I would have loved to get the part." Havers shook his head ruefully as he said this, clearly still disappointed that what he called "the opportunity of a lifetime" had eluded him.
"Anyway," Havers went on, "the powers that be were planning to bring in a new character once the series reached its expected slump at the end of the third season. They wanted a young, hunky, drop-dead handsome man who would appeal to the all-important female audience demographics. The character was going to be a de-Borgified human male -- a Scandinavian body-builder type was their preference, as I recall -- who would be called Six of Eight. He'd have been a perfect foil for the male captain, with their relationship being similar to the dynamic between a stern yet well-meaning father and a rebellious yet inwardly vulnerable teenage son."
Reached for comment at his office, Kerry McCluggage, who served as Chairman of the Paramount Television Group during the production of Voyager, briefly answered, "All we did was ask Rick and Michael and Jeri to keep an open mind about whether the show's characters should be male, that's all." Asked whether he meant just the characters of Jamesway and Six, or the show's entire cast, McCluggage declined to elaborate.
In a telephone interview, Star Trek Executive Producer Rick Berman would not expressly confirm Havers' claims, but indicated in an oblique manner that his superiors had pressured him and his two co-creators during the development of the series. "I don't think fans realize just how little control I really have over the Star Trek universe," he said. "If they did, perhaps they wouldn't be so quick to blame me for every little thing that they don't like about our shows."
Tony Mazza, Paramount's Executive Vice-President of Current Programs and Strategic Planning at the time of Voyager's development, was slightly more forthcoming than his colleagues. "We gave a lot of attention to the character relationships when the series was being planned," he said. "Obviously, those relationships are influenced by the gender of the crewmembers, so changing one person's gender might have meant changing other characters too."
Asked if having a male captain would have affected the casting of the ship's First Officer, Chakotay, whose unresolved sexual tension with Kathryn Janeway proved to be one of the show's most endearing elements to many fans, Mazza answered, "Absolutely not. Once we knew that an energetic and innovative actor like Robert Beltran was available for the part of Chakotay, our mind was made up. So if we'd decided to have a man as our captain, then Kelvin Jamesway's romantic interests would have been directed towards one of the female officers aboard -- like B'Elanna Torres, for instance."
Fan response to Mazza's remarks was mixed.
DeltaChat's Captain Pammy, Queen of the P/Ters, reacted to the prospect of a Jamesway/Torres romance by turning purple, running to the nearest wall and hammering it with her fists while screaming epithets that this newspaper's editorial policy prevents us from publishing. Captain Pammy is expected to conclude her statement sometime during the next few hours. Fandom activist Mary Sue Scrivener, on the other hand, limited herself to the terse comment, "Look, how much worse could it have been than the Chakotay/Seven horror we witnessed at the end of the actual show? Anything that could have prevented such an abomination should have been seriously considered."
Havers said he had no knowledge of which actors, if any, were in line for the role of Six. Trek veteran Gary Graham, who like Havers was a contender for the role of Jamesway, said that he briefly considered playing Six after he was turned down for Voyager's number-one spot. He finally chose not to audition for the part after deciding that he would feel too limited portraying a stubborn, unemotional, computer-brained ex-Borg. Graham later went on to play Vulcan Ambassador Soval on the current series Star Trek: Enterprise.
Viggo Mortensen, who stars as the ruggedly handsome warrior Aragorn in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy, is reputed to have declined an offer for the role of Six because he did not find Star Trek to be "sufficiently grounded in reality" for his taste.
Meanwhile, back at DeltaChat, there was no shortage of opinion regarding who ought to have played Six of Eight. Actor Richard Dean Anderson was immediately suggested for the role, a proposal which led to heated debate. "He would have been too old for the part!" objected Nan, mysterious head of the Five-Minute Stargate exosite. "Besides, if he'd taken the Voyager job, he'd have had to quit Stargate: SG1 -- so where would that have left us?"
Commander T'Var, Dutchess of P/T, rebutted that Anderson could never be too old, and that the former MacGyver star would have had no difficulties appearing in two major television series at once. "A guy who can break out of a prison cell and overpower his guards using only a bottlecap, a rubber band and an orange peel can handle anything!" she argued.
Counselor Rachel, President of the DeltaChat Chapter of the Marcus Cole Appreciation Society, sighed that Babylon 5 hunk Jason Carter would have been "dreamy" as Six of Eight; she then dissolved into a puddle of drool and was unavailable for further comment. Doc Annin concurred, adding that Carter would have "looked especially cool if they'd let him keep his Minbari fighting pike." When reminded that the Minbari species is not part of the Star Trek universe, she dismissed this detail as "irrelevant."
"They should have offered me the role," declared Captain Red. "I've got all the qualifications for it." He flexed his manly biceps to illustrate his point, provoking much hilarity among his female DeltaChat colleagues.
Robert Blackman, Voyager's Costume Designer, gave this reporter an exclusive look at the wardrobe concepts he had created for the Six of Eight character. "Notice how much bare chest gets shown off by the plunging neckline of the jacket," said Blackman, proudly displaying one of his sketches. "I based it on the outfit worn by Duncan Regehr in V: The Series, where he played Charles, the tall ladykiller guy that the female Visitors were all swooning over. And back here, I made the seat of the leather trousers as tight-fitting as possible. If they'd gotten an actor with the right buns into these pants, I'm sure the show's ratings would have gone up by at least twenty percent."
Asked what he knew about the studio's final decision to give the captain's role to a woman -- a move which ultimately led the male Six of Eight character to be scrapped in favour of a female Seven of Nine -- Blackman stressed that he had no official information on the subject. "From the rumours I heard around the Paramount lot," he confided, "it all came down to the person they wanted to hire. They had to make the captain a woman because they simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to give the part to Genevieve Bujold."