Star Trek: Voyager has hardly ever launched itself into uncharted territory until now, far from it. Very often it has, like all the Star Trek series following The Original Series, reused previous ideas (especially from The Next Generation). Given that the setting should’ve been entirely new (the series takes place in an entirely different quadrant), I have often based my criticisms on this lack of imagination.
In this Coda, Jeri Taylor wrote the script and used repetitiveness to get right to the heart of the matter, with the characters who instantly know what they’re experiencing because a similar thing happened to other Starfleet crews in the past. This means that we the viewers are spared some useless explanations! Here Chakotay and Janeway are on a shuttle (why do both the captain and the first officer go on a mission together?) and everything seems to go awry, with an attack by the fearsome Vidiians (here they are again, after Phage, Faces, Lifesigns, Deadlock, and Resolutions), and the captain dies! But shortly after we are back with Chakotay and Janeway in the shuttle who immediately realize that something is wrong: they are reliving the moments before the attack! They take countermeasures but… again with no luck. And again they start from scratch… well, they seem to be trapped in a time loop, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day (1993). Or like the Enterprise D at the end of the fifth season of The Next Generation in the masterpiece Cause And Effect.
So here we are again copying The Next Generation, that’s what I immediately thought. But instead, as it had happened in Alter Ego (which took a lot from Elementary, Dear Data but then changed things), Voyager’s Coda in the middle of the episode takes another turn and switches from a time loop story to one on the acceptance of death. More or less.
And this is a bit of the weak point of the episode: it’s a bit confused. It begins with the time loop, and then it abandons it to develop a story of a hostile reaper of dying souls lurking on an inhospitable planet. I wonder if this is something positive (for once our Starfleet heroes don’t know what to do) or not (this change of course confused me a bit halfway through the episode).
In any case, the second part of the episode is better than the first, or at least it seems to have a clearer sense of direction. Except that it’s not entirely well realized, with ghost Janeway talking to her father, a Starfleet Vice-Admiral (Len Cariou), who strongly wants her to go towards a light that, it’s easy to guess, wouldn’t be good for her. A bit like in Star Trek V, the entity is revealed to be evil fairly quickly. It doesn’t to be omnipotent, nor it asks for a starship, but we’re in that territory!
So, what about Coda? There are some beautiful farewell speeches to the captain in the funeral ceremony in honor of Janeway, especially that of B’Elanna (Roxann Dawson is great). It’s funny to see Robert Beltran in despair while doing the lightest heart massage in the history of television, but overall the episode seemed to me like a confused mix of ideas leading to the inevitable conclusion that Captain Janeway is here to stay until the end of the series. Ciao!
PS: The Delta Flyers podcast shout out: Garrett Wong and Robert Duncan McNeill are so disappointed that the potential intimate relationship between Chakotay and Janeway went nowhere. On the other hand, here’s the first reference to a possible story between Torres and Paris , at least according to what Janeway says…
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