The Star Trek fandom got quite a surprise when it was initially revealed that Kate Mulgrew would be returning to the franchise as the fan-favorite Star Trek: Voyager character Captain Janeway, though it was arguably a greater surprise to learn where it would happen. The actress will reprise her role in the upcoming Paramount+ animated series Star Trek: Prodigy, and fans learned another shocking bit of information on First Contact Day, where it was revealed Janeway won't be quite the same character as the one we all know from Voyager. And no, we don't just mean because it's an animated show.
In celebration of First Contact Day 2001, a panel was held for Star Trek: Prodigy (and other franchise entries), and it was there that fans learned the upcoming animated series takes place in the Delta quadrant in 2383 and will feature Captain Janeway not in her character's human form, but rather as an emergency training hologram aboard the starship. This means that, at least for now, Kate Mulgrew's return is technically to voice an AI based on Captain Janeway, and not the actual Captain. A pretty tricky move made by co-creators Dan and Kevin Hageman, no?
Star Trek fans were shown a picture of Kate Mulgrew's Janeway alongside the show's alien characters, which can be seen below.
While Janeway's AI iteration will be the way fans experience the character when Star Trek: Prodigy first takes place, it's not completely out of the question to think the actual Captain Janeway might appear in (animated) person at a later point. The events of Star Trek: Voyager took place from 2371 to 2378, meaning Janeway is still alive during the events of Star Trek: Prodigy five years later. Of course, it's not entirely necessary for fans to see her in the series as Janeway, all things considered. Having her appear in the show as an AI program still allows Kate Mulgrew plenty of opportunities to interact with characters on the show, as well as potentially showing up in a live-action spinoff, without disrupting any currently existing canon. Everybody wins!
The Janeway AI will likely be in use quite frequently in Star Trek: Prodigy, as the entire cast of young aliens piloting the starship don't know the first thing about running the vessel. In fact, these young outcasts aren't even associated with Starfleet, but will be opened up to the organization and its ideals as the series progresses. This AI must be a pretty phenomenal teacher, too, unless Starfleet vessels are more capable of self-operation than I ever realized.
The ultimate goal of Star Trek: Prodigy is to expose a younger audience to the franchise's world(s), which are basically more vital than ever given that current shows like Star Trek: Discovery and Picard aren't as family-friendly as The Next Generation or Voyager were. Given the unique way Kate Mulgrew's Janeway is set to return, it will be interesting to see what other creative ways past Star Trek actors could appear in the series and influence the other characters we already know about.
Star Trek: Prodigy is currently in development and will premiere on Paramount+ later this year. It's one of many exciting reveals to emerge from First Contact Day, which also revealed the special return of a Star Trek: The Next Generation character that's happening on Star Trek: Picard Season 2. Read up all about that, and sound off in our poll about whether you're excited or disappointed in the way Kate Mulgrew's Janeway will appear in Star Trek: Prodigy.