A trip inside outer space
By TYLER McLEOD -- Calgary Sun
Wrestling superstar the Rock guest-stars when regular Star Trek Voyager character Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) is forced into a gladiator arena
to kill or be killed.
LOS ANGELES -- It seems almost primitive considering Star Trek's three decades of special-effects innovations.
Kate Mulgrew is standing in front of a porthole on the starship set of Star Trek: Voyager, where a painted screen rotates to provides the illusion of stars moving past.
"If there's one wrinkle in it, we have to reshoot," Mulgrew, a.k.a. Capt. Janeway, says of the "diabolical" contraption.
"We are at the mercy of backdrops and props."
It's times like that one wants to pull the "I Can't Take It" switch.
Or maybe the "Confusion Sustain" button or one of thousands of subversively labelled controls and gauges on the three soundstages where Voyager is filming its sixth (and likely second-to-last) season.
Most of USS Voyager's more recognizable rooms are contained on Stage 8. Stage 9 holds a few hallways and tunnels which are continuously reconfigured, sick bay, the engineering room and a Borg regeneration chamber. (Yes, that's right: Seven of Nine's bedroom.)
It is the same engineering room used on Star Trek: The Next Generation and the Borg chamber doubles as the Holodeck.
Stage 16 is what the crew affectionately calls "Planet Hell" due to the new planets, alien ships and the endless environments of the Holodeck constantly required by scripts.
For this week's episode, at 7 p.m. tomorrow on IF, the production required a "Tsunkatse" gladiator pit where WWF superstar The Rock takes on STV's breakout Borg, Jeri Ryan.
The Rock plays a Pendari warrior in an intergalactic underground fighting tournament featuring Seven of Nine as an unwilling participant.
Borg also get a starring role next week, when Chakotay and Janeway deal with a gang of moody Borg teens. A couple of the youths end up hitching a ride on Voyager and may be in it for the duration.
"The big question, I guess, is always, 'Will Voyager get home and when?' " begins executive producer Brannon Braga on the deck of Voyager. "It may never get home. It may get home in the sixth season. It may get home at the beginning of the seventh, it may not get home until the end. It may get home in the episode after the final episode."
Braga says the writing staff and producer have already plotted out the general arc for the next season and a half. ("Gilligan will, and he'll be with the Skipper, but Mary Ann does not get off the island," he jokes.)
During that period, there'll be a lot of loose ends to wrap up.
"The Maquis are criminals, Tom Paris is supposed to be in jail ... the possibilities are absolutely endless," Mulgrew ponders.
"There's a partial Borg on the ship and now a couple more with the kids we're going to be meeting," Braga says. "There's the question of what their fate is going to be."
Well, if they're anything like Seven of Nine, their future is bright. Ryan came aboard in season four and single-handedly transformed the public image of the dreaded Borg.
Cast members Ethan Philips, Robert Beltran, Garrett Wang and Robert Duncan McNeil ham with The Rock.
"I really hate to see them have a nice Borg. You'd like to almost leave them nasty forever," laughs Michael Westmore, STV's makeup supervisor.
The Oscar-winner (Mask, Raging Bull) has worked on Treks since the beginning of The Next Generation and loves working on the villains.
The Borg are the baddest of the bunch, but with Seven of Nine winning fans, no doubt partially due to her lack of concealing makeup, Westmore has found a new favourite alien -- the Vidiians from Voyager's fifth episode.
"We came up with race whose skin is put together in patches. They harvest all different people's skin," he says, adding they'll be making another appearance this season. "Then we find out they really were nice guys once upon a time until they got infected by this disease and had to go around killing everybody."
Westmore is surrounded by boxes creepily labelled "chins," "assorted ears" and "humanoid appliances" which would be a fan's dream come Halloween.
"Once in a while, one of the studio executives wants something," he says. "It does become souvenir heaven. We lock the place up around October 1, otherwise things go missing."
Back on Stage 8, we enter the Captain's quarters where Mulgrew kids: "My bedroom is back here ... which we hardly see."
Last month, Janeway had a brief flirtation with a character in the Holodeck, but work beckoned and romance had to take a back seat again.
"I think the viewers are going to have a problem with this choice Janeway makes after six years given the presence -- the very palpable, very tantalizing presence -- of Chakotay," she admits. "We have a shared a screen chemistry for a long time and a lot of the fans really wanted that."
The fans don't always get what they want, though Mulgrew does feel her digital date was a storyline worth pursuing.
"I think it's going to teach her something about overstepping the bounds of science which she didn't know before. My trajectory for Janeway is to ever deepen humanity through her love of science," Mulgrew says.
"Do you guys want to see the mess hall? C'mon, we'll cut through the bridge."