Is Kathryn Janeway a "Woman In A Refrigerator"?


In 1999 Gail Simone came to the conclusion that Comic Book writers used the death, abuse and/or depowerment of female characters disproportionately as plot devices.  Typically, the destruction of these characters was designed to obtain a reaction from a male comic book character, such as revenge.

The heroines are often killed in a gruesome manner, mutilated and abused.  "Women in refrigerators are often stripped of their powers in the literal and metaphorical sense; female heroes lose their superpowers, while other female characters are sexually abused or otherwise tormented."

"Such fates seem much less likely to happen of male characters, raising questions about sexism in comic books.  Furthermore, when male characters are killed or injured, they often come back just as healthy as they were before, or sometimes in a better state, in a phenomenon called "dead men defrosting."

What does this have to do with the Pocket Book’s Star Trek Novel "Before Dishonor" and the death of Admiral Kathryn Janeway?  I think a lot.

One of the first reasons given by the Pocket Books editor Margaret Clark for her decision to kill Kathryn Janeway was that there were no more stories for the Admiral.  In other words she had been promoted beyond her author’s abilities to write stories for the character.  One would think that all these guys cannot deal with a strong woman in charge character.  That is a writing and editing problem not a character problem. 

So Star Treks strongest woman character, most visible female has to be eliminated, one wonders why.

Her death in "Before Dishonor" is horrible.  She is captured by the Borg, and turned into their queen.  Now I’ve seen "First Contact" and the Borg Queen episodes of "Voyager" and I am well aware that the Queen has at least 90% of her body eliminated in the process.  Assimilation alone could be considered rape in the strictest sense.  And in the end Captain Picard destroys the Borg Cube with Admiral Janeway (or what is left of her) aboard.  So we have the best known female Trek character, raped, mutilated, tormented, turned into the villain, and finally killed by one of Trek’s most visible and best known heroes.

There is also a second part to the "Women in Refrigerators Syndrome" trope.  You see at the end of "Before Dishonor" the spirit of Janeway is taken by Lady Q as a kind of traveling companion, never to return home again.  This is the out, the way that she can be returned because the Q can do anything, but the point is will they return her.  You see the second part is the "dead men defrosting" trope, the fact that men come back and females don’t.

How is Star Trek’s and Pocket Book’s track record in this regard?  Well pretty bad.

Trek Main Character List


Over the years six males have met their end in Star Trek, either in the television series, movies or Pocket Books novels.  That is twenty percent of males dead. 


Captain James T Kirk – killed in the movie "Generations." He is back most notably in a series of novels by William Shatner himself.

Mr. Spock – killed in the movie "The Wrath of Kahn."  He was brought back in the next film "The Search for Spock."

Dr. McCoy – died in the novel "Provenance of Shadows" as a very old man.  In Shatner’s novels he is alive and continues to live thanks to the use of artificial body parts.

Data – killed in the movie "Nemesis."  He is living in the comic book series "Countdown."  He lives because his neural nets were imprinted on the B-Fore android. 

Captain Benjamin Sisko – apparently died in DS9’s final episode but promised to come back. In the DS9 relaunch novels he returns from the Celestial Temple on the day of his daughter’s birth.

Trip Tucker – died in the final episode of "Enterprise."  In Pocket Book’s Enterprise novel "The Good That Men Do" it is revealed that Tucker isn’t dead but active in Section 31.


So there we have it, six males, all dying heroic deaths and all returned one way or another.


Look at the females now.


Lieutenant Yar – Killed in the NG episode "Skin of Evil," a murder victim.  Her was death so bad that NG brought her back and gave her a more heroic death in the episode "Yesterday’s Enterprise."

Jadzia Dax – Killed in the DS9 episode "Tears of the Prophets" again a victim of murder.

Kes – first "died" in the Voyager episode "The Gift", brought back to die again a victim in "Fury"

Admiral Kathryn Janeway – killed in the Pocket Books Novel "Before Dishonor."


Four female characters a full 25% of Trek’s Female characters dead and not one of them has made a comeback, not a single one.

Conclusion - Even in Trek there are fewer Females, they suffer death at a disproportionally higher rate and unlike males they are never brought back.

I think that fits the "Women in Refrigerators" trope perfectly.


Here is the "Women in Refrigerators" site -

Ms. Simone has collected comments both for and against her theory and they are available.

Here is the Wikipedia article -

There are various links also found in the Wikipedia article.


Elorie Alton