Star Trek's 1st female captain rises through Starfleet ranks in 'The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway'

"The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway" by Uma McCormack (Image credit: Titan Books)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the initial broadcast launch of "Star Trek: Voyager," and the series continues to attract followers young and old to its intrepid outer space adventures and compelling cast of human and alien characters.

One of the key figures in the sci-fi series' success was actor Kate Mulgrew and her iconic portrayal of Captain Kathryn Janeway, whose struggles to achieve the respect and admiration of her crew and Starfleet resonated with audiences worldwide. Last month Nickelodeon and CBS Studios announced that Mulgrew will reprise her "Star Trek: Voyager" for Nickelodeon's upcoming kids animated series "Star Trek: Prodigy" in 2021.

To delve further into her origin story, "The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway" (Titan Books) was recently published to chronicle her impressive career in Starfleet, from her first command to her perilous journey into the Delta Quadrant, leading to her elevation to the rank of vice-admiral — and we're fueling up a special chapter excerpt to share.

Related: 6 'Star Trek' captains, ranked from worst to best

Kate Mulgrew stars as Captain Janeway on "Star Trek: Voyager." (Image credit: CBS All Access)

Written by Uma McCormack, this official in-universe tale explores how Janeway brought together Starfleet and the Maquis as part of her crew, forged new alliances with intergalactic species, and clashed with The Borg on their own home territory.

"Janeway is such an important figure in the history of "Star Trek" — the first woman lead, and such a strong female role model," McCormack tells "I think people connect to her courage and her determination, and also her warmth as captain and mentor to her crew. She's thrown into an impossible situation, and she carries her people along with humor, sincerity, and grit. Not every captain would have succeeded in that situation, but Janeway does."

"The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway" | $14.95 on Amazon 

"The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway" | $14.95 on Amazon 

London-based Titan Books releases a detailed account of one of Starfleet's most revered captains in author Uma McCormack's "The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway."

Now enjoy our special excerpt from Titan Books' "The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway" by Uma McCormack below.

"Ensign Kathryn Janeway, reporting for duty, ma'am!" 

It was my first day of my first posting, and I was shaking in my shiny boots, and tugging away at the cuffs of my stiff uniform. My new direct superior, Lieutenant Commander Flora Kristopher, the Al-Batani's chief science officer, was waiting in the transporter room to welcome me on board, leaning against the console. She looked at me steadily, and—bless her—did not smile at my overseriousness and formality, but simply said, "Welcome aboard, Ensign. Please don't call me 'ma'am.' Makes me sound fifty years older." 

I blushed bright red. "Sorry… Commander!" (He won't thank me for this, but I can't help but recall a certain Ensign Harry Kim, so keen to make a good impression on his new captain in our first meeting that I thought he was going to strain something. Don't worry, Harry. We've all been there.) 

Kristopher gave me a lopsided smile, pushed herself up from the console and nodded to me that I should follow her. I snapped to it. I was desperate to make a good impression. I trotted at her heels as she gave me a rapid tour of the ship, introducing me to various other officers, senior and junior. They were all friendly; one or two invited me to the mess hall for a drink once I was off shift. I gratefully accepted, muttering their names, ranks, and specialisms under my breath as we went on so that I wouldn't forget them. After about an hour of this, Kristopher said, "Relax, Janeway. This is home now. Keep up this level of intensity much longer and I'm going to have to go for a lie-down." 

I blushed again. "Sorry, Commander. I'll try and take it a little easier." 

"Good. Don't worry, Janeway. You're going to do fine." 

Kristopher was a supremely talented officer, who gave the appearance of being very laid back, but who never missed a thing. She had an enviable gift for being able to come up to speed rapidly in hugely technical subjects, ideal for a chief science officer, who frequently finds herself having to offer expert advice in fields well beyond her specialisms. Kristopher's own area of study was sustainable xenoagronomy. She had grown up on Mars, on one of the terraformed colonies, and so had early experience of experimenting with crops growing under less than propitious circumstances. By this stage in her career, numerous colony worlds had benefited from various technical advances she had made in soil science. My mother, learning that I would be serving under her, was incredibly excited. I had been instructed to get advice on a new rose hybrid she was trying to grow. Kristopher, in her turn, was delighted to discover that my mother was that Gretchen Williams: she had, so she told me, been inspired toward her field by an early encounter with her stories for The Adventures of Flotter. (I have to say that I thought it would be my father's name that went before me on my first Starfleet posting, not my mother's.) 

Flora Kristopher was a fine mentor to have at this stage of my career. She was patient with mistakes born from inexperience, tough on mistakes born from sloppiness, and more than usually able to spot the difference. The only way to get on her bad side was to point out the nominative determinism of her first name. My word, she hated that. She must have heard it almost every day of her adult life. I am eternally grateful that another new ensign made this mistake before I did. I've never seen a young man so thoroughly cut down to size. Under Kristopher's guidance, I flourished, and I started to gain confidence—which is, after all, exactly what a newly minted officer needs at this stage of her career. I thought about her constantly when I had junior staff of my own, when I tried to instill this same kind of confidence: trusting their judgement but always having a backup plan in case their inexperience let them down. 

I was lucky too that I got on well with my commanding officer. Captain Owen Paris had a reputation for rigidity within the service, but he and I hit it off immediately. We both came from families that had been in Starfleet for generations, and this shared culture eased our relationship from the outset. I too can be rigid in my own way, and the discipline of his ship suited my nature. I know that my father respected him greatly and I took my cue from this. He lacked much of a sense of humor, but he got things done. It was a pleasure to serve under him, and I have been personally grateful to him for his many kindnesses over the years, not least in the roadblock I hit during my second year, but also in his championing of the Pathfinder Project that allowed Voyager to establish contact with Starfleet. 

My first six months on the Al-Batani were, broadly speaking, a success. Half a dozen new staff had come on board at the same time, and we formed a close-knit group. One of our number—a Vulcan named T'Nat—had been captain of the Velocity team at the Academy and persuaded us to form a junior league with some of the junior lieutenants. I had not played the game at the Academy, but I was always ready for a new physical challenge, so I agreed to try it out. I took to it immediately; it filled a tennis-shaped gap in my life. The game became popular across the whole ship, leading some of the more senior officers to form their own league. Flora Kristopher was instrumental in this, and the first officer, Commander Shulie Weiss, joined too. The captain kept his lofty distance. The inevitable challenge was offered, which we junior officers accepted with alacrity: surely we would have no trouble defeating what we gleefully referred to as our "elders." Well, this is where I learned that Velocity is as much about wits and guile as it is about speed and agility. I won't say that we were trounced, but… all right, we were trounced. I have never seen a more triumphant set of senior officers. Paris came and awarded a trophy he'd organized for the occasion, and we junior officers swore to get our revenge. We never did while I was on the team. 

Between this and our survey mission, which expanded my scientific knowledge and my practical skill immensely, I had a good and challenging life. I count myself lucky to have entered Starfleet during this period. The border skirmishes with the Cardassians rumbled on, but there was still time and space for us to enjoy something of the old Starfleet, when ships were dedicated chiefly to exploration, and we were able to pursue our primary purpose as individuals, devoting our energies as much to our own personal advancement as to protecting the Federation. I knew that at the back of our minds we all feared that a larger conflict was coming—even outright war—and we were intent on seizing the day. Speaking to officers younger than me, who came of age just before and during the Dominion War, I know that they had a very different experience during their first postings. They were straight into the thick of it. Even after the Dominion War was over, there was the hard work of reconstruction, and not as much time to play. I am fortunate to have been on a ship like this. I enjoyed my work; I enjoyed my downtime; I was making good friendships and I was earning praise from my superiors not only for my work, but for my handling of various situations that were intended to prepare me for command. I was pleased with my performance. The only risk was that I was starting, perhaps, to get a little cocky, but Starfleet has its own corrective measures for this kind of thing, as I was going to find out. 

"The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway" is available now from Titan Books.

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Jeff Spry
Contributing Writer

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.