CodaBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 2:32 PM GMT
See Also: 'Coda' Episode Guide
Janeway and Chakotay go on an away mission together, but their relaxed banter is interrupted by a storm which destroys their shuttle. Janeway is critically injured, but Chakotay performs CPR and revives her. But the two are attacked by Vidiians, who kill them both...and then they're back on the shuttle chatting as if nothing has happened. This sequence of events repeats with several variations - in one the Vidiians shoot them out of the sky, in another Janeway contracts the Phage and the Doctor euthanases her - until Janeway witnesses Chakotay attempting to revive her as during the first time, and failing. She's dead.
Back on the ship, the crew looks for evidence that she might still be out there, and Janeway encourages them until the spirit of her father appears. He claims to have arrived to make the crossing-over easier for her, and stays with her as she witnesses Tuvok and Kes giving up on her and Chakotay leading a memorial service. But Janeway is suspicious, noting that the alien does not act much like her father who passed away in her youth, and finally she realizes that she's not dead: she's fighting for her life down on the planet where they first crashed, and her "father" is attempting to make her surrender to death.
With the help of the Doctor, Janeway fights off the alien impersonator and is revived. Chakotay comes to check on her later and they discuss how unlikely it is that the various human myths about the afterlife could really be based on this species' actions. Then Janeway says that, having cheated death, she's in the mood for celebration, and invites Chakotay to go for a moonlight sail around Lake George with her. The two practically skip out of her ready room.
I was ecstatically happy for the hour I watched this episode, but in a way, I feel as manipulated by "Coda" as Janeway did by the evil alien impersonating her father. I saw characters I once knew and loved, miraculously returned to life, telling me to believe in them. Like "Resistance" and "Resolutions" did last season, "Coda" served as a reminder not only of how gripping Voyager can be, but how dreadfully dull it is 9 weeks out of 10. An episode like this only shows up how hollow the show is week after week.
I have to hand it to executive producer Jeri Taylor, who wrote this episode - even when the script went over the top, with Chakotay sobbing over Kathryn's dead body, she could count on Kate Mulgrew and Robert Beltran to make it work. The chemistry between them is so potent that they could be reading the phone book and the words would seem rife with innuendo, but also with affection, humor, warmth. I've been asking all season what happened to the Janeway and Chakotay who appeared to be falling in love in last season's "Resolutions," and here they are - better, because they were working together instead of stuck on a desert island.
I don't give a crap about temporal anomalies or evil aliens unless there's a human story making them matter. This episode was about love and committment, which are usually dirty words on Trek. Voyager's in a situation where there isn't much for the characters to get passionate about: no Federation to protect, no enemies of Starfleet to fight. The only thing they have to care deeply about is one another, yet this show has been too chicken to really develop bonds between the characters. The Janeway/Chakotay dynamic, rife with personal and professional struggle and conflicted obligations, could provide enough emotional involvement to drive this series, but it's been squandered to the point that, when we finally get an episode like this which picks up on "The Cloud" and "Dreadnought," conscious effort is needed to remember the earlier thread.
I don't mean it as criticism when I say that the best plotting in "Coda" was recycled from TNG - the time loop like the one that kept making the Enterprise explode for Picard, the scene of attending one's own funeral like the one for Geordi and Ro. The plot itself is irrelevant when the characterization works. Mulgrew was marvelous, surprisingly strong and understated in an episode which could easily have made Janeway look like a damsel in distress.
"Coda" seemed like Taylor's apology for "Persistence of Vision," in which Janeway succumbed to an evil alien impersonating a loved one instead of fighting for her ship. It also made me feel better about the much-criticized novel Mosaic, since she didn't bow down to Daddy's wishes. Beltran was a tad hyperbolic bewailing Kathryn's loss, but that hardly mattered; Chakotay is so riddled with inconsistent feelings that he's hard to recognize from week to week.
The sad truth is that all these characters are creatures of commercialism, whose mannerisms change wildly depending on the demands of individual episodes (this week we get a warm, sensitive B'Elanna admitting that Janeway changed her life; next week we get the third straight time she'll have intimate relations while out of her mind). I love Kathryn Janeway, but she has no soul. She should have told the alien impersonating her father that; maybe he would have gone away sooner. Soon Janeway will undoubtedly pick up a phaser rifle again and tell Chakotay to go the hell skiing without her as she did in "Sacred Ground."
There's something both sad and profoundly worrisome about the fact that my favorite episode from the first series about a woman captain has her stranded with her first officer a la The Blue Lagoon, not acting as a captain at all. Please, folks, stop making Janeway choose between being a woman and being a captain, and let her be both.
Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.