Star Trek: Voyager‘s Robert Beltran wasn’t happy with how Chakotay was used on Voyager, and was vocal about this displeasure in hopes of having the character improved.
At first, the powers-that-be listened to Beltran. “During the Michael Piller-Jeri Taylor years, they listened intently,” he said.
But the willingness to listen to Beltran’s complaints stopped with the arrival of Brannon Braga. “I guess when Brannon Braga took over, when the Seven of Nine character made her entrance, the focus changed,” said Beltran.
Beltran wasn’t happy with the character not being used to his fullest extent in the show. “I think writers have an obligation to fill out all the characters if they’re regular characters on a series,” he said.
The actor went on to explain that Chakotay wasn’t the only underused character on the show. “I think several of the characters were diminished – Chakotay and Tuvok and Kim and Neelix,” he said. “I think it was just easier for these new writers that came on to write stories about the captain and about characters that weren’t really human, like Seven of Nine and the Doctor.”
Being vocal carried little risk for Beltran, and he felt that he was speaking for some of the other actors too. “I’m just kind of a blunt person and, because I have [a] brain, I can see problems and so I’m vocal about them,” he said. “I think a lot of the actors were feeling the same way, but for me it was like, ‘OK, you can fire me if you want to. Go ahead, and I’ll leave.’ That gave me a certain amount of freedom. I was single at the time. I didn’t have to worry about a family like everybody else on the show, except maybe Garrett [Wang]. I felt like I was telling the truth, 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.”
Did speaking up do any good? “I don’t think what I said made very much difference, except to a very, very small percentage of fans who maybe didn’t like what I said,” said Beltran. “…what I said didn’t make any difference to the vast majority of the audience.”