Star Trek 517: Coda

517. Coda

FORMULA: Persistence of Vision + Cause and Effect + The Tholian Web + Frame of Mind

WHY WE LIKE IT: Janeway dies repeatedly.

WHY WE DON'T: Doesn't know it's a parody.

REVIEW: Coda perhaps screws with the audience one too many times as twist is piled upon twist upon twist upon twist, but it's in a sense a parody of the kind of plots Voyager's already known for. But unlike the tongue in cheek Relativity to come later, Coda takes itself seriously and therein lies its weakness. For the first 20 minutes though, it's very much Jeri Taylor channeling Brannon Braga, right down to the thesaurus title.

We see Janeway die many deaths, but each time a classic twists seems to save her. Is it a time loop? A temporal anomaly? A parallel universe/timeline? Or is it all in her head? Is she visited by her father's spirit? A figment of her own imagination? Or some kind of psychic vampire? Let me spoil the ending by revealing it's the latter who, as part of Voyager's atheistic agenda, is used to intimate that all near-death experiences are the result of alien visitations, and the after-life possibly nothing more than a subspace matrix. Star Trek is never so weak as when it tries to give scientific rationale for the great Mysteries (remember when Kirk met God?).

So we ARE in Janeway's head, even if manipulated by the alien. We shouldn't be surprised then to see all those alternate reality twists and turns. This is very much her world, day in and day out, isn't it? Temporal anomalies are at least as important an element as the Vidiians who also make an appearance. Being in her head, we should take particular attention of her funeral because it's what she thinks others think of her. Watch out, ego coming through! It's one big love-in. Let the violins play on.

The episode does give us some insight into Janeway's background - her father's death, her upbringing, etc. - mostly cribbed from Taylor's novel Mosaic (and thus possibly the most canonical Star Trek book every written). An adult Janeway doing ballet for her crew is a little hard to imagine however. But then, there are a number of eyebrow raisers in the script. The ship's two leaders traveling together in a shuttle, for example (the reason they shouldn't is presented in the episode). And is it a good idea for the alien to generate the first 20 minutes of the episode when all they do is cast doubt on Janeway's death? Perhaps it's all part of Janeway fighting it.

LESSON: Go with the flow. Unless it flows towards death.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: The premise is on the insensitive side, and there is either one too many twists or one too few, but the episode has a good focus on Janeway. It might raise a smile in an ironic, postmodern kind of way.


De said...

Around the time it was published, Jeri Taylor's Mosaic was billed as the only novel that's part of the official canon. The idea was that any aspect of Janeway's pre-Voyager life had to be checked against details in the novel. For a while, it worked and Taylor wrote Pathways with the same intention for the other characters (except Seven or the Doctor). Once Taylor left, the writing staff pretty much ignored both edicts.

Anonymous said...

Well, we definately have at least one, depending on how you count, alternate/parallel/fictional version of the Voyager Crew here. I'm not sure that it qualifies as more interesting than the real ones, though, since this episode hasn't even remotely stuck in my memory...

Jon said...

You made a mistake in your review, it should've read like this:

WHY WE LIKE IT: Janeway dies repeatedly.
WHY WE DON'T: She keeps coming back.


Anonymous said...

How true. This could be the correct timeline for Voyager leaving Chakotay the true Voyager captain.


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