Robert Beltran spent seven years in the Trekverse as Commander Chakotay on “Star Trek: Voyager.” As second in command, Beltran’s character was almost as central to the show as the lead, Captain Kathryn Janeway, played by Kate Mulgrew.
Though many “Star Trek” actors loved their time in the Trekverse, Beltran didn’t always love working on “Voyager.” In fact, he was vocal about dissatisfaction.
Beltran Wasn’t Happy With the Writing
In a 2012 interview with StarTrek.com, Beltran revealed that after the first few seasons of “Voyager,” he started to take issue with the storylines and character development. Or more accurately, the lack of character development.
“Chakotay was kind of a solitary character, at least from season four to seven. I think the first three seasons there were a lot of interesting storylines, and then I think a shift happened in the series after Jeri Taylor left,” Beltran said. “It was only that relationship with the captain that had depth to it. Chakotay and Tuvok didn’t have much. Chakotay and Paris didn’t have much. Chakotay and the other characters, there wasn’t much of a relationship there. I always regretted that because there was a lot to explore.”
Beltran also told StarTrek.com that he wasn’t afraid to voice his critiques to the writers and producers because he didn’t really care about staying on the show.
“I felt like I was telling the truth,” Beltran remarked.”And if people can’t take the truth, that’s fine with me, but I’m not going to be stifled by the prospect of being fired.”
In an appearance on Skitz Interviews, which can be viewed above, Beltran said he was also frustrated by the repetitiveness of the writing. He felt that the drama of each episode was blunted by the fact that Voyager and her crew always made it through the scenario of the week without facing lasting consequences. He explained that eventually, it felt like he was doing the same thing over and over, week after week.
Beltran reiterated this position to the authors of “The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years.”
“Scenes on the bridge were always the same… manufacturing some kind of crisis on the bridge where we’re getting rocked by energy bombs and we’re doing all this ship shaking, getting flung around the bridge. But the audience knows we’re coming back next week. So, why spend an ungodly amount of time on the bridge with this manufactured crisis when we know we’re going to make it?”
He went on to say that he wished the writers would have done more over-arching storylines as they did on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” He continued, emphasizing that it wasn’t the writers’ fault. They were being limited by the unspoken rules of the Trekverse.
Drama With the Writers
Though Beltran never got fired for loudly critiquing “Voyager’s” writing, he didn’t exactly make friends behind the scenes. He got along with his fellow actors just fine, but a few of the writers really didn’t like him. Showrunner and writer Brannon Braga was one of the people who had a problem with Beltran, as he told the writers of “The Fifty-Year Mission.”
“I had an issue with him as an actor,” Braga said. “I had an issue with him phoning in a performance, and, in my opinion, not being prepared. When that happens, you don’t write for him, and when you don’t write for him, he gets mad. It’s like a vicious loop.”
Beltran told the authors of “The Fifty-Year Mission” that “Voyager’s” writers didn’t give him anything to be “enthusiastic about” in their scripts. So, he showed up, did his job, and left. He didn’t put in anything extra because he didn’t feel like the team behind the show was putting in anything extra either.
Beltran went as far as to tell the writers that he didn’t care if he was only in “one scene in every episode” as long as it was “a good scene.”
The Rumors of His Plan to Get Fired
By the time the fifth season of “Voyager” was underway, Beltran was ready to be done with the show. He told the authors of “The Fifty-Year Mission” that his dissatisfaction with the writing played a major part in his desire to leave the show. However, tensions between the actors, especially Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine), also played a part. All in all, he wanted out.
For several years, rumors about how Beltran actively tried to get fired from the show have circulated on Trek message boards and entertainment sites. Supposedly, every time his contract was renegotiated, he asked for more money.
As the rumor goes, Beltran was sure that Paramount wouldn’t accommodate his demands for more money, but they always did. So, he stayed on the show, making more money with each season.
Beltran himself has not confirmed this rumor and neither has anyone else associated with the show. However, he has been vocal about how much he wanted to leave the Trekverse. In the years since “Voyager” wrapped, he’s continued to talk about the behind-the-scenes drama that plagued his years on the show.
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