Despite fan interest, the relationship between Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay on Star Trek: Voyager never moved past friendship, largely because of a choice made by actress Kate Mulgrew. Star Trek: Voyager was the first show in the Star Trek franchise to feature a female captain, making Captain Janeway a historic character and an inspiration to many female fans. Her relationship with her former Maquis First Officer Chakotay, however, continues to be a hotly debated topic among those who would have liked to have seen a romance develop between the two.
Janeway and Chakotay seemed like an unlikely pair in the beginning, starting out as wary allies forced to work together in Voyager’s pilot episode. Ultimately, the two developed a working relationship that turned into a deep, personal friendship throughout the show’s run. The closest Janeway and Chakotay ever got to admitting romantic feelings for one another was in the season 2 episode “Resolutions”, where the two found themselves stranded on an alien planet. Despite the romantic tension in “Resolutions” and other subsequent episodes, a relationship was never fully realized, and by the end of the series, Chakotay had found a partner elsewhere in Seven of Nine. While fans might be quick to blame Voyager’s creative team for dropping the ball, it seems it was mostly a request from Kate Mulgrew that stopped the relationship from developing further.
Star Trek: Voyager, like the rest of the franchise, was meant to appeal to a mostly male audience. The diversity in the cast also allowed for broader diversity in demographics, but Kate Mulgrew, the actress who played Janeway, has stated at several conventions over the years that she felt acutely aware of needing to appeal to the perceived core audience of young male fans. Once at Denver Comic Con in 2017, Mulgrew went further to say she refused to have Janeway sexualized. Being the first female captain, Janeway endured a lot of male scrutiny and criticism, even as Mulgrew and the creative team worked to have her be taken seriously by everyone. As a result, Mulgrew felt that the idea of Janeway having a romantic relationship with her first officer might make the issue even worse. The creative team had an interest in pursuing the romance, but Mulgrew felt as though she had to put her foot down and tell them no for the good of Janeway’s reputation.
Despite the chemistry between Janeway and Chakotay, Mulgrew’s decision makes sense. From an in-universe standpoint, a Captain sleeping with their First Officer is likely in serious violation of Starfleet fraternization rules. Even though Voyager was separated from Starfleet, the crew always tried to maintain Starfleet principles, and no one was a bigger proponent of this than Captain Janeway. Still, the creative team and Kate Mulgrew arguably missed the opportunity to explore all sides of Janeway’s character by not allowing her to participate in an on-screen romance, playing so heavily to a male audience that they alienated female viewers who would have liked to have seen Janeway’s more feminine side to a certain extent.
Many fans of Star Trek: Voyager are still disappointed that Janeway and Chakotay never became a couple, but with the renaissance of new Star Trek shows, the possibility of their romance may not be completely dead. Janeway has already been confirmed to appear in the upcoming Star Trek: Prodigy, and it seems from her appearance in Star Trek: Picard that Seven of Nine is no longer with Chakotay. If future Star Trek writers wanted to explore what might have transpired between Janeway and Chakotay after Voyager returned home, it is a safe bet that most fans would be excited to see new developments.