Let me tell you a story, folks. A story that starts back in 2014, when I first got introduced to Star Trek.
As most of you probably already know, Captain Kathryn Janeway is my favorite Star Trek captain. Janeway was actually my gateway into Star Trek – back in 2014, while being stuck in bed for a few days with nasty back spasms, I started watching Orange is the New Black while waiting for the muscle relaxants to finally kick in. I liked it a lot – and I especially enjoyed Red, the character Kate Mulgrew played. I got Rana to watch it with me, and she was really excited to see that Kate Mulgrew was in it. When she realized that I’d never seen Kate in Voyager, though, or that I’d never really seen much Star Trek at all, she pulled up some episodes of Star Trek: Voyager with Captain Janeway and Q (since I knew John DeLancie from My Little Pony), and I got hooked.
After watching a handful of episodes of Voyager, Rana and I started a chronological watch-through of the modern Star Trek shows up to that point, and when we finally made it to Voyager, I was super excited to see Janeway’s story starting from the beginning. I ended up very attached to her as a character, and admired her perseverance in the face of despair.
I ended up naming my first car after Janeway, and got a vanity plate for the car as soon as Indiana allowed people to get vanity plates again in early 2016. I didn’t end up driving that car very much, but I think naming the car Janeway was a little bit of a testament to my bravery in facing the unknown, just like Captain Janeway did – although my unknown was trying to learn how to drive in my early 30s, while hers was facing the Delta Quadrant.
That’s Janeway the Mustang in those pictures, sporting her fancy vanity plate once it arrived. I was so excited to be able to get JANEWAY on a plate – and super lucky, too!
Five years on: a statue, and a dream
Fast forward to May of 2019. Janeway the car got traded in a few years ago at this point, and the JANEWAY license plate sat in a place of honor at my desk at the office along with my Captain Janeway holiday ornament. I had a Janeway sticker on my work laptop. I was even brainstorming the possibility of a Janeway cosplay at Gen Con that year. I think it’s safe to say I really liked Captain Janeway at this point, haha.
A friend and co-worker of mine gave me a copy of an article in the newspaper about a monument being planned to honor the birthplace of Captain Kathryn Janeway, and I got really, really excited. If we were getting a Janeway statue, maybe Kate Mulgrew would actually come visit Bloomington someday to see the statue. And maybe I could get my license plate signed! Wouldn’t that be amazing? A Janeway vanity plate from Monroe County, Indiana, home to Bloomington and the eventual birthplace of Captain Janeway, autographed by Kate Mulgrew herself. I actually daydreamed about it every so often, and when it was certain the statue was going to go up, my hopes went up even more that I could get my license plate signed. The Janeway Collective was planning for the statue to be ready for unveiling on May 20th, 2020, and I was going to be there, no matter what.
Then the pandemic happened and threw everything off the rails.
The statue’s unveiling was delayed to October of 2020, and Kate attended the unveiling via livestream. With the pandemic in full swing and my anxiety levels at an all-time high, though, I ended up staying home. I figured I’d eventually get to see the statue someday, but today was not that day. And I figured that any hope of getting to meet Kate Mulgrew in person was gone, since the statue was already unveiled – and who knew if Kate would have the chance to come see the statue in person once the pandemic calmed down (if it ever calmed down).
Being brave: the Kate Mulgrew event
Fast forward once again, to August of 2022, when I heard that Kate Mulgrew was planning a trip to the statue in October, and that there would even be a Q&A session with her as well. Needless to say, I was excited.
I hadn’t been to an event in nearly three years – my pandemic anxiety was better, but not great. I wasn’t getting out much aside for the occasional game of Kishar, and even those were a struggle. This, though? I was going to try my hardest to make it to this event. I didn’t know if there would be any sort of autograph session, but I didn’t care. I was going to bring my license plate with me and hope for the best.
As soon as tickets were available, I got my ticket for the A Captain’s Journey: Back Home Again event – and later on, a ticket to the autograph session. Last week, I pulled my science officer uniform out of the back of my closet. (Amusingly, it’s the same costume I wore to the last event I went to!) And yesterday, I put on my Starfleet uniform and went to the first big event I’ve been to since 2019.
I wasn’t as overwhelmed as I thought I would be – I think it helped that the first part of the event was outside at the Janeway statue, where people weren’t quite so packed together where I was sitting, and excitement and adrenaline carried me through the rest of the day. And I definitely had one hell of an exciting moment at the start of the event.
My friend Daniel had snagged us a spot just inside the Wonderlab garden area in the shade, behind the statue. We could see things pretty well from there, even though we were behind everything, and we knew we’d get to see Kate during the Q&A event later on. What we didn’t realize was that Kate would be coming through the Wonderlab gardens when she made her appearance. I had the license plate out since so many people wanted to see it and get pictures of it, so I was holding it while waiting for Kate to come out. Well, her path to the event took her right past me, and she stopped maybe five or six feet away from me, looked at me and my license plate, and then she smiled at me.
I think my brain bluescreened briefly, haha. After Kate continued on her way out to the statue, I turned to Peter and squeaked “OH MY GOD SHE SMILED AT ME” at him, haha.
The rest of the day kind of went by in a blur. The Nerdy Flutist played some amazing flute renditions of Star Trek themes. I got to talk to lots of other excited Star Trek fans. I kept squeaking excitedly about how Kate smiled at me. I even ran into the Andorian cosplayer I got my picture with at Gen Con 2019, and got another picture with her!
A crafty nerd’s dream come true
The most exciting part of my day was at the very end, after listening to Kate’s wonderful talk and getting my picture taken with her and other members of the Janeway Collective. (you can join the collective too, if you want!) I got to briefly meet Kate while she autographed my license plate. It turns out her first car was also a Ford Mustang!
I was so, so excited to finally have it signed. Captain Janeway is an inspiration for me, and a reminder that if we stay strong, even during the hardest moments in our life, and if we hold onto hope, we can handle anything. I mean, there’s a reason Star Trek: Voyager is one of the shows I put on when I’m depressed and need to find a little bit of light in the world. Janeway managed to get everyone home after ending up in the Delta Quadrant, even when it seemed hopeless. Even when everyone thought it’d take 70 years. She still kept everyone going, kept everyone together, and got everyone home. This year, I’ve dealt with going through my own Delta Quadrant, so to speak. I’ve been in the depths of despair. I lost someone dear to me, and a beloved pet on top of that. I couldn’t see my way to the other side of the grief I was lost in. But just like Janeway found a way home, I too have found a way through things, and come out the other side.
And my nerdy dream finally came true.