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Poll of the Month - Kathryn Janeway: Captain of Controversy

Genkos Adea

What do you think was Kathryn Janeway’s worst command decision?  

28 members have voted

  1. 1. What do you think was Kathryn Janeway’s worst command decision?

    • Stranding Voyager in the Delta Quadrant
    • Killing Tuvix
    • Allying with the Borg against Species 8472
    • Promoting everyone except Harry Kim
    • Changing history to bring Voyager home early
    • Janeway did nothing wrong
    • Something else. Tell us in the comments!

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Attribution: Yogan Yalu

(I don't want my name anywhere near this slander, and on her birthday! - Genkos Adea)

In The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway, “edited” by Una McCormack, the commanding officer of the USS Voyager writes of her years in the Delta Quadrant:

Reflecting back now on these cases where I had to make ethical decisions, all I can say is that I did the best that I could under the circumstances… I was out on a limb—a Starfleet captain without Starfleet. I could not summon up help or stop off at a starbase for extra supplies. I could not, for most of the time, even ask for advice on the decisions I had to make. (p. 151)

The Autobiography devotes five chapters to the Delta Quadrant. It expands upon many small details from the series and retells them from Janeway’s perspective. For example, she handpicked her chief medical officer, a longtime friend and former crewmate, who was then killed on Voyager’s first day in the Delta Quadrant. She writes, “I have never stopped regretting asking him to come aboard Voyager. He was a fine doctor, a good friend, and his death is one of the biggest regrets of my life.” (p. 181)

The book is also an apologia, in which Janeway defends her conduct and explains the reasoning behind her many questionable command decisions. There are examples of Janeway’s erratic, ill-considered, or simply perplexing decisions throughout Voyager’s run—isolating herself from her crew as they traversed the Void (“Night”), agreeing to sacrifice the Equinox and its crew in exchange for a reprieve from attacks (“Equinox”), and attempting to apprehend two Ferengi con men rather than transit a wormhole to the Alpha Quadrant (“False Profits”) are just a few honourable mentions. This poll, however, will focus on Janeway's greatest hits.

Stranding Voyager in the Delta Quadrant

Without our help, [the Ocampa’s] move toward self-determination would have been stopped before it had the chance. The Kazon were waiting to move in and seize the array, whatever it might cost the Ocampa. And I couldn’t let that happen. (p. 119)

Prime Directive issues aside, Janeway’s decision to protect the innocent Ocampa also smacks of the same paternalism for which she criticised the Caretaker.

Killing Tuvix

The Doctor would not perform the procedure, and therefore I took it upon myself. Tuvix died, and Tuvok and Neelix lived… Thinking about what I might have done differently will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life. (pp. 132, 180)

The classic Trolley Problem has no correct answer. However, the fact that Janeway refers to Tuvix having “died” at her hand suggests she believes deep down that she committed a wrong.

Allying with the Borg against Species 8472

What the hell could destroy fifteen Borg cubes? This, we learned, after sending an away team to one of the cubes, was Species 8472, which, as we discovered from the Borg logs, had defeated them many times before. (p. 139)

Janeway’s decision to ally with the Federation’s greatest existential threat against a vastly superior enemy—instead of the other way around—feels like a short-sighted tactical error.

Promoting everyone but Harry Kim

My last act as captain of Voyager was to give him a long overdue promotion to lieutenant. I would have skipped a couple of ranks if I’d been able: Harry surely deserved it. (His speed of promotion since has made up for it, however.) (p. 182)

The argument that the command structure on Voyager was too fragile to allow Harry’s promotion just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Chakotay and Torres received field commissions. Tuvok and Paris were promoted, the latter after having been demoted. Even Ayala managed to outrank Harry Kim.

Changing history to bring Voyager home early

The admiral complicated matters greatly by revealing details of her future to me: twenty-three years in the Delta Quadrant (dear god, the prospect…!), the deaths of Seven of Nine and twenty-two others, and the horrible thought of seeing my friend Tuvok’s faculties decline… (b. 175)

Captain Janeway is steadfast against altering the timeline until Admiral Janeway reveals the untimely fates of those closest to her: Seven, Tuvok, and Chakotay. Changing the future because things didn’t pan out for you seems like a subject that would have been covered at the Academy.



Edited by Genkos Adea
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This is a really good one. It's like the psych question they ask you: Given the right circumstances, everyone would steal?

Putting yourself in Janeway's position, how far would you go? In that case, for me, she didn't go far enough soon enough. I'd have violated and broken every rule, law, and moral to get everyone back.

Objectively, I went with the time thing. Mostly because everything else is based on decisions in the moment she as a leader had to make without knowing the consequences and I don't feel, given the situation, one can really judge those choices.

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I voted for the one that bothered me the most -- so as subjectively as possible. Harry Kim deserved better.

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30 minutes ago, Robin Hopper said:

I voted for the one that bothered me the most -- so as subjectively as possible. Harry Kim deserved better.

Ditto. If she can promote Paris, then demote him, then promote him again; promote Tuvok, and give every member of the Maquis a Starfleet rank, there's no reason Harry should have been left an Ensign for 7 years.

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 I think that a lot of Janeway's decisions can be looked at through a lens of pragmatism. She had to make a lot of tough decisions without any support and did a remarkable job getting her people home safely given the circumstances. What decision gets to me the most is the alliance with the Borg (at least in the second half of Scorpion). I don't think the mere suggestion of allying with the Borg is automatically a step too far and given the events that led up to the alliance I think there's enough gray area for it to be somewhat reasonable. However, I think the perception of the situation changes after the rest of the crew found out that the Borg started the war by invading fluidic space. A Starfleet captain using what are in essence biological weapons tailor-made to destroy a species on the cellular level to help an enemy wage what they know is an offensive war crosses the line worse than anything else on the list. The episode In the Flesh retroactively makes the whole thing even worse when 8472 proves open to negotiation after everyone actually sits down and talks things out. And the "greater threat to the galaxy" disappears without another word while the Borg continue to carry on ravaging the quadrant and assimilating entire societies after Voyager saved them from the war they started. A lot of that can be blamed on Species 8472 not being super fleshed-out or having a coherent direction in mind after Scorpion, but taking it as presented really casts the alliance with the Borg as a deal with the devil that Voyager didn't even get anything out of and that only further convinced Species 8472 that their reading that everything outside of fluidic space was out to get them was correct.

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