Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Coda”

“Coda”
Written by Jeri Taylor
Directed by Nancy Malone
Season 3, Episode 15
Production episode 158
Original air date: January 29, 1997
Stardate: 50518.6

Captain’s log. Neelix intercepts Janeway en route to a shuttle mission, geebling about Talent Night—and also asking that, when they do it again, Tuvok be given some important duty assignment. Janeway agrees.

Janeway and Chakotay talk about Talent Night in the shuttle, with the latter marveling at the former’s ballet performance, and both agreeing that Tuvok’s reading of Vulcan poetry was stultifying.

The shuttle crash lands on the planet they’re surveying, seemingly from an out-of-nowhere electrical storm. Janeway is badly injured, and Chakotay manages to revive her with CPR. They’re then attacked by Vidiians, whom Chakotay theorizes shot them down. The Vidiians kill them both—

—and then they’re back on the shuttle talking about Talent Night. Thinking they’re in some kind of time loop, they try to avoid being shot down by the Vidiians again. However, the ensuing firefight results in the shuttle being destroyed—

—and then they’re back on the shuttle talking about Talent Night. This time, they contact Voyager and hit the Vidiians with a tachyon burst, which seems to disrupt the time loop, as the Vidiians disappear. But when the shuttle returns home, suddenly Chakotay has forgotten about the time loop, and Janeway is now ill.

The EMH diagnoses her with the Phage. Eventually, he announces that the only course of action is to euthanize her, which he does despite her attempts to order him to stop and to shut him off. She collapses to the deck and dies—

—and then is back on the shuttle with Chakotay. This time, they see a bright light, which engulfs the shuttle, forcing them to crash. Again, Janeway is badly wounded, and again Chakotay tries to revive her, but this time he is unsuccessful. Janeway finds herself standing over her dying body, but no one can see or hear her.

A rescue shuttle arrives from Voyager, and Janeway is brought to sickbay—both her corporeal form and the insubstantial spirit form. The EMH and Kes are unsuccessful in reviving her and call her death. Janeway, however, tries to contact Kes through the latter’s telepathic abilities, but while Kes gets a vague impression of Janeway, that’s all it is. Tuvok and Kes work for three days to try to recapture that impression of Janeway, but it fails. Kim and Torres try to determine if what Kes sensed was truly Janeway’s incorporeal form, but they find nothing, and finally give up.

Janeway gets to observe her own memorial service, and then her father shows up. Admiral Janeway explains that this happened to him when he died unexpectedly fifteen years previous: his spirit tried to cling to the living world, but he eventually realized he needed to move on. He’s here to help Janeway do the same.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

But Janeway doesn’t give up that easily. Even if she is dead, she wants to stay on Voyager as a “ghost,” just so she can find out how they proceed, if they make it home. But Admiral Janeway becomes insistent, to the point that Janeway is starting to doubt her “father’s” sincerity.

Then she gets a flash of herself on the planet they were surveying in the shuttle, lying prone on the ground, the EMH treating her.

Janeway is starting to think that this is all a hallucination, and confronts Admiral Janeway. It turns out that it’s an alien being that feeds off the energy of dying people. But people have to go willingly into its matrix, and Janeway refuses.

The EMH is able to revive her on the planet, removing the alien influence from her mind. She returns to the ship, grateful to have escaped.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently this alien can make someone hallucinate their own death over and over again while they’re dying and can feed on their energy, er, somehow, as they die. Sort of.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway’s father is the one who instilled in her the drive to learn and to question and to not just accept things as they are but to investigate and find out why and how things work. Her father also died fifteen years prior to this episode.

Mr. Vulcan. The hallucinatory Tuvok works very hard to try to find out if Janeway is still alive somewhere, and is very obviously shaken by her death.

Forever an ensign. The hallucinatory Kim tells a lovely story of a time when Janeway helped him through a tough time.

Half and half. The hallucinatory Torres talks about how much she did not respect Janeway at first, even after she made Torres chief engineer, but she has since come to value her greatly, as she showed Torres how to have faith in herself.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix apparently threw together a Talent Show. Kim played the clarinet, Janeway performed the ballet The Dying Swan (which she learned when she was six), and Tuvok read incredibly boring Vulcan poetry.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The first sign that this is a hallucination rather than a time loop is when the hallucinatory EMH calmly decides that he needs to euthanize Janeway, and her command codes to override this don’t work. In another of the loops, the hallucinatory EMH is quite emotional when trying to revive Janeway, snapping at Kes not to question him when he continues his extraordinary measures to revive her.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. When he sees Janeway badly injured in the shuttle crash, Chakotay’s reaction is not that of a first officer seeing his captain hurt, but of someone who sees a person he loves dying. At the end of the episode, Janeway and Chakotay head to the holodeck for a moonlit sail on Lake George with champagne. Wah-HEY!

Do it.

“The highlight of the evening was definitely Kathryn Janeway portraying The Dying Swan.”

“I learned that dance when I was six years old. I assure you, it was the hit of the Beginning Ballet class.”

“I don’t doubt it. If Neelix has another Talent Night, I hope you reprise it.”

“Oh no. Not until certain other people take their turns. The ship’s first officer, for instance.”

“Me? Get up in front of people and perform? I don’t think so.”

“Come on, Chakotay, there must be some talent you have that people would enjoy. Maybe I could stand with an apple on my head, and you could phaser it off.”

“Sounds great—if I miss, I get to be captain!”

–Chakotay and Janeway discussing Talent Night

Welcome aboard. The only guest in this one is the great Len Cariou as the image of Admiral Janeway.

Trivial matters: That Janeway’s father was a command officer in Starfleet was established way back in “Caretaker.” This episode’s writer, Jeri Taylor, also wrote a novel that filled out Janeway’s backstory, Mosaic, and many of the events from Janeway’s past relating to her father mentioned in this episode were dramatized in that novel. The novel also provided a first name for the admiral, Edward.

The real Admiral Janeway also appears in the short story “The Music Between the Notes” by Steven Barnes in the anthology The Lives of Dax.

The Talent Night that preceded the episode was dramatized in Jeffrey Lang’s short story in the Distant Shores anthology, appropriately titled “Talent Night.”

The alien returns at a time concurrent with the series finale, “Endgame,” in the short story “Da Capo al Fine” by Heather Jarman, also in Distant Shores. This time, the alien is disguised as Seska.

Janeway mentions that Klingon DNA can fight the Phage, as established in “Faces,” and also seen in “Lifesigns.” The hallucinatory Chakotay also mentions that Kes can sense unseen presences, as established in “Cathexis” (where the unseen presence was Chakotay himself).

This is the first Trek credit for director Nancy Malone, whose lengthy and impressive career included acting, producing, dancing, and directing in TV and film, and on Broadway. She’ll also direct “Message in a Bottle” in season four.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “We can stand here for all eternity and I will never choose to go with you.” This episode is a massive stew made up of several other Trek episodes. We’ve got a time loop (“Cause and Effect“), we’ve got the crew thinking the captain is dead or lost and is mourning (“The Tholian Web,” “The Visitor“), we’ve got a main character believing she might be a ghost (“The Next Phase“), we’ve got events that only happen in one character’s head (“Frame of Mind,” “Projections“), and we’ve got an alien communicating to a member of the crew by pretending to be their parent (“Interface“).

The problem is that the episode can’t make up its mind which it’s going to be. The time-loop notion of the first couple of acts is abandoned when Janeway suddenly becomes a ghost, and it’s not clear what, exactly, the point of the time loop bits were, except to fool us into thinking we were doing “Cause and Effect” again. (Or Groundhog Day, or “Window of Opportunity,” or Palm Springs…)

But no, it’s another alien doing technobabble, plus it’s all a hallucination. It’s nice to see Janeway the rationalist is back, and that the idiotic just-shut-up-and-go-with-it-and-don’t-ask-questions lessons of “Sacred Groundhaven’t carried forth. Indeed, it was her father who instilled that scientist brain in her, so it makes the image of Admiral Janeway being the one to tell her to just accept her fate a particularly fatal (ahem) flaw.

Worse, though, is that making this all a creation of the alien’s attempt to get Janeway to come to his little heavenly pocket dimension—or whatever the hell it is, the episode doesn’t even try to come up with an explanation of what it is or what the alien is doing with near-dead people, exactly—cuts off all the excellent performances at the knees.

Garrett Wang and Roxann Dawson give beautiful, heartfelt eulogies. Torres’s in particular is very illuminating of the journey that Torres has gone on, from bitter, perpetually pissed-off Maquis gear-head to chief engineer of a starship, one that has far more confidence in herself—except, of course, Torres doesn’t say all that. At best, it’s something the alien pulled from Janeway’s mind, but that makes it much less meaningful as an insight into Torres’s mind.

Robert Beltran gets to actually act like a person—his banter with Kate Mulgrew in the shuttle in the beginning and in the ready room at the end is superb. Jeri Taylor also wrote “Resolutions,” and she’s still writing Janeway and Chakotay as two people who have, at the very least, a seriously deep connection, and it gives much more texture to Chakotay’s character, at least in this episode.

Len Cariou is a great choice to play Janeway’s Dad, but—just as Madge Sinclair’s guest turn as La Forge’s Mom was undercut by making her an alien disguised as Captain La Forge—making Admiral Janeway be just a disguise the alien is using takes all the zing of having Janeway meet her old man. (Taylor at least was able to flesh out the Janeway family in the novel Mosaic, which expands a lot of what was touched upon in this episode and does so in a much more interesting manner.)

And Kate Mulgrew once again elevates the material, brilliantly playing Janeway’s frustration, her anger, her curiosity, her fighting spirit, and most especially her passion. I love that she wants to stay on Voyager, not because she necessarily thinks she can “come back to life,” but even accepting that she might be dead, if she can stick around, she wants to. The captain doesn’t abandon ship, and she has to know what happens next, even if she can’t affect the action directly.

But by making the whole thing a hallucination, by having nothing in the episode after the shuttle crash ever have actually happened, it renders all the excellent acting work frustratingly inconsequential.

Warp factor rating: 5

Keith R.A. DeCandido is part of a new Kickstarter for three books, one of which is an anthology he’s in, Horns and Halos, featuring stories about demons and angels. (Keith’s is an urban fantasy about Islamic angels.) The other two books are The Devil’s Way by Megan Mackie and An Unceasing Hunger by Michelle D. Sonnier. Please consider supporting it!

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