Kirk would have stayed on the bridge. And Picard would have gone down with the ship. But Genevieve Bujold, cast only two weeks ago as Capt. Elizabeth Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager, the latest Trek TV incarnation, bailed out after only three days. At press time, the leading contenders to replace Bujold included Joanna Cassidy (Buffalo Bill), Susan Gibney and Elizabeth Dennehy (both of whom had made guest appearances on Next Generation), Tracy Scoggins (Lois & Clark), and Lindsay Crouse (House of Games). But Bujold's sudden exit from Voyager on Sept. 8 left more than an empty captain's chair; it also raised the question of who will be in charge of Paramount's Trek empire.
According to studio sources, the 52-year-old French-Canadian film actress wasn't ready for the grind of a weekly seriesespecially the series' 18-hour days, long even by TV standards. ''The joke on the set was there are no (shooting schedules),'' says one source. ''You just never go home.'' Trek guru Leonard Nimoy sympathized. ''When you're coming from a film schedule,'' says Nimoy, ''18-hour days are not comfortable. It's the kind of thing people desperately in search of a career will do.''
In addition, sources on the Voyager set claim Bujold was acting as much like a diva as a captain. She complained about restyling her hair and was uncomfortable with the makeup (Bujold's spokeswoman denies this). ''People were giving her s -- - about it,'' says an insider. ''Add that to all the hours and she just said 'God, let me out of this.'''
The vacancy at Voyager's helm leaves the show and executive producer Rick Berman lost in space. Already backed into a tight schedule by Bujold's late casting, the two-hour, $23 million pilot, scheduled to premiere in January, had to continue shooting even as Berman scrambled to find a new captain.
And that's not the only crisis facing Berman: Voyager is the centerpiece of Paramount's new network, and a successful launch is, well, paramount. So Paramount TV exec Kerry McCluggage watched the Bujold proceedings with a baleful eye. Sources say that McCluggage, who reportedly disagreed with Berman over the choice of a female captain, might see the walkout as a sign that Berman is overextended: In the last year, he's overseen the final season of Next Generation, the upcoming feature, Star Trek: Generations, the second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and the development of Voyager.
Berman insists he's not as busy as he was last year, but that hasn't quieted speculation that Paramount might bring in a new producer for Voyager. Or that Nimoy might replace Berman as producer of the Next Generation features, if Generations doesn't do well when it's released in November. Nimoy claims he hasn't been approached, but he seems prepared to beam aboard. ''When I get a phone call from Paramount,'' says the former Vulcan stoically, ''I'll respond to them in the appropriate manner.'' Sounds logical.