Seven Of Nine's Star Trek Costume Was Even Less Comfortable Than It Looked

In January of 1995, "Star Trek" was riding high. "Star Trek: The Next Generation" had just made its way to the big screen in the form of "Star Trek: Generations," with a new movie already in the works. "Deep Space Nine" was wrapping up its third successful season, and Paramount was poised to launch its own network – UPN — with the two-hour pilot of the brand new "Star Trek: Voyager" to mark its debut. 

Also debuting with "Voyager" — and this is rarely mentioned anymore — was a trio of sitcoms: "Platypus Man," "Muscle," and "Pig Sty." The three sitcoms lasted only 13 episodes each, signaling a dark new trend for UPN: Nothing would live too long. While "Voyager" was popular at first (21 million homes watched the pilot), it quickly became a signal of the franchise contracting. "Voyager" didn't manage to pull in the kind of numbers that "Next Generation" and "Deep Space Nine" had, and executive at Paramount soon began altering the show to catch up with flagging numbers. In season 3, for instance, the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager — who had previously spent their off hours in a cozy holographic pub — suddenly saw themselves spending their off hours on a sexed-up bikini beach with holographic swimsuit models. By the end of the third season, the studio has resolved to shake up the cast by firing one of its members. 

The speculative story is that Paramount had wanted to fire Garrett Wang, who plays ensign Harry Kim on "Voyager," but changed their mind when Wang appeared in People Magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World. The timing of the People magazine let Wang keep his job, and Paramount instead fired Jennifer Lien, who played the compassionate and short-lived character of Kes. Into her place came Seven of Nine, a "Borg babe," in the words of writer Brannon Braga. Seven of Nine was played by actress Jeri Ryan, and certainly caught the audience's eye with her severe hairdo, high heeled shoes, and sleek silvery catsuit-and-corset costume. "Star Trek" tried to boost ratings by, essentially, serving the audience a big unexpected slice of cheesecake. The sad part is, it worked. 

Braga and Ryan, incidentally, would end up dating for several years.

That f***ing corset

As one might imagine, Ryan hated the costume, designed by longtime "Star Trek" costume designer Robert Blackman. It was a neck-to-toe bodysuit with a corset stitched inside of it, and required help to put on and remove. Ryan has said that she couldn't bend down in it, and even sitting was something of a chore. In an interview with The BBC, Ryan revealed the difficult mechanics that her midsection-cinching outfit required, including the headache involved in merely taking bathroom breaks:

"Initially, I would stay in the costume much longer than I ended up staying in it, because it takes about twenty minutes to get into. Someone has to dress me and undress me. It's a production break if I have to get out of the costume to use the restroom or something. It grinds to a halt unless they can shoot something without me, which typically they can't, if it's a scene that I'm in. So, in the interest of being a team player, the first season, I would not take rest room breaks, I just didn't drink anything on set, which is not the healthiest thing to do."

After a full season of skipping her restroom breaks, Ryan learned to streamline the process of getting in and out of the impossible costume to the point where she could get out of it not just to take bathroom breaks, but also to rest between takes:

"As time progressed, I finally learned that you just heed the call of nature and take breaks when you need to take breaks. And finally it got to the point where, they would just let me get out of it after every take. When I wasn't in the shot, I didn't just wear it to wear it, because it was very uncomfortable. It looks very simple, it looks just like a leotard, but it really was a feat of engineering on Bob Blackman's part to design this costume."

Did she burn it?

Ryan was diplomatic about the treatment of Seven of Nine as a character, though, as she felt she was given a lot to do, and that Seven was written very well. While she acknowledges that the outfit was meant to read as sexy, she was relieved that Seven of Nine existed beyond her sex appeal: 

"I don't know that I would leap at the opportunity to wear another really, really uncomfortable costume that's not normal clothing, but if it's a great character, of course, I'd be willing to do that. You do whatever it takes to play a wonderful, rich role as an actor. The overt sexiness of the costume I had no problem with. I have no problem with it, because of the way the character was written. If she was written the way everybody thought she was going to be — when they saw pictures of her initially — then, yeah, I would have had a big problem playing that character. That was not something I had any interest in doing. But she was brilliant. She's a brilliant character, she was strong, she was a wonderful role model for young women, and I have no problem with it. We have intelligent women in every physical form, in real life, so why shouldn't we see that depicted on television?"

The Character of Seven of Nine belonged to a species called the Borg, a soulless of collective cyborgs who single-mindedly absorb other species into its fold. Seven was freed from the collective, and spent four seasons of "Star Trek: Voyager" (and one season of "Star Trek: Picard") rediscovering her forgotten humanity. Most of Seven's storylines involved her trying to behave more and more human, even as her cold, remaining Borg nature often got the better of her. She would end up developing hobbies, friendships, a sense of protocol, an instinct for command, and even a romance or two. 

After "Voyager" wrapped at the end of its seventh season, Jeri Ryan was happy to leave the corset behind. On, Ryan admitted that she wanted to burn the dang thing: 

They didn't let me keep the cat suit. I would have loved to have burned it; not so much the cat suit as the corset that was under it. But, no, they didn't let me have that. I do, however, have [a Borg] alcove. I figured, "That's the least you can give me! Give me my alcove." So I have it in my game room.

Ryan is still playing Seven of Nine on "Star Trek: Picard," and voices the character on various ancillary "Star Trek" video games. Most recently, she starred in the Amazon series "Bosch" and appeared on three episodes of the new "MacGyver."