Star Trek: Voyager: Coda   Rewatch 
July 17, 2017 7:16 AM - Season 3, Episode 15 - Subscribe

Go into the light... go into the liiiiiiiiight, Kathryn... yes, into the light... that light... the one that's right in front of you... gotta get into that light... go ahead... time's a-wastin', I got stuff to do... any day now... damnit, will you just go into the freakin' light already?!?

Memory Alpha wishes for once that there was someone on board with bagpipes, just to play "Amazing Grace":

- The development of this episode began as an amalgamation of plot ideas that Star Trek: Voyager's writing staff had been considering. Executive producer Jeri Taylor explained, "It was a combination of several threads of ideas that we had been kicking around. None of them seemed to be working on their own. Then we began cobbling them together, and all of a sudden we had this wonderful, rich mystery."

- Some story elements of this episode – including Admiral Janeway's reference to his own drowning, and to other members of the Janeway family – were taken by Jeri Taylor from Mosaic, her own novel about the life and career of Kathryn Janeway up to her time as captain of the USS Voyager. Taylor remarked, "This is the fun of being an executive producer. I get to say what her backstory was. We have been having a good time including some elements from the book into the episodes."

- Jeri Taylor also considered this installment to be an opportunity to explore the relationship between Janeway and Chakotay, without indefinitely changing the nature of the bond between them. Taylor noted about the episode, "It was an opportunity to show feelings between Janeway and Chakotay in a safe territory, because it was all inside her head."

- In spite of all the technology available in the 23rd and 24th centuries of the Star Trek universe, this is the third of only four times in canon that any character has used cardiopulmonary resuscitation as part of advanced cardiac life support. McCoy uses it in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, produced five years before this episode, while two seasons before Bashir used it in an attempt to save Gabriel Bell in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine third season episode "Past Tense, Part I", and Janeway later used it in the fourth season episode "Scientific Method".

"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."

- Janeway and Chakotay, discussing the latter's possible contribution to Neelix's talent night

"She saw something in me that I didn't see. She saw a worthwhile person where I saw a lost and hostile misfit. And because she had faith in me, I began to have faith in myself. And when she died, the first thing I thought was that I couldn't do this without her, that I needed her too badly – her strength and her compassion. But then I realized that the gift that she gave me, and gave a lot of us here, was the knowledge that we are better and stronger than we think."

- B'Elanna Torres, during Janeway's memorial

"I know Captain Janeway wouldn't want us to be sitting around moping. She'd want us to be cheering each other up remembering the good times, like that away mission when we found all those bushes of overripe fruit. I must have eaten half a kilo. My hands and mouth were all purple, and the captain... the captain came and sat down next to me, and her mouth was all stained too. She put her arm around my shoulder and she said... she said... 'Ensign, these are the times we have to remember."

- Harry Kim's speech, which brought tears to Janeway's eyes

Poster's Log:

Doing these rewatches, I usually come out with a better or more nuanced opinion of the episode in question, but occasionally I'll feel like a given episode was even more of a stinker than I remembered: "Tattoo" was one, and this is another. I'd remembered it mostly as "Janeway thinks that she's dying, but it turns out that her 'dad' is really just another psychic energy vampire." I'd forgotten the multiple plot twists involving the Vidiians and the seeming time loop, but they don't really add to the episode. The real deal killer was the Doctor deciding to euthanize Janeway without letting her decide, or even letting her say goodbye to the rest of the crew (which she could have done without leaving sick bay, if quarantine was the issue). In what universe would that have been a thing that the Doctor would have, or even could have, done? I think that maybe the psychic vampire's intent was to run Janeway through a series of horrible "fake" deaths in order to wear out her determination and encourage her to accept the "real" one, but if so, that's a pretty shitty tactic, since it would just increase her disbelief that the quote-endquote "real" death was really real. And, although guest star Len Cariou has some impressive dramacred, his performance came off a bit chilly to me (although that could have been colored by my foreknowledge of who/what he really was); maybe that's how Admiral Janeway just was, but there was something about him that came off as predatory from the get-go.

And it's a shame, because the cast really put their back into the funeral scene. And I will say that Kes seeming to pick up Janeway's spirit with her space pixie sense (and subsequently working with Tuvok to scan the rest of the ship) was an effective head-fake. But the whole induced-hallucination-chain thing was already done better in "Projections", IMO. And, even if Kate Mulgrew had decided to leave halfway through the third season (not impossible, given that Babylon 5 replaced their first captain after the first season), this would have been kind of a not-great sendoff for the series lead; I don't think I was even remotely convinced the first time around.

Poster's Log, supplemental: Attending Your Own Funeral is a popular trope; I remember it from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer when I were just a lad, and it's also shown up in TNG, in "The Schizoid Man" and "The Next Phase." If someone were to monetize time travel, I imagine that it would be a popular destination. I also liked the detail of there being refreshments after Janeway's service; see Southern folkie Kate Campbell's "Funeral Food."
posted by Halloween Jack (15 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Guhhhhhhhhhh, this episode.
I agree 150% with Jack's assessment (the extra 50% is for the guhhhhhhhhhh).

On top of the flaws noted above, did they ever even TRY to explain the time-loop fake-out in the shuttle scenes at the beginning? What would be the point of the aliens doing that??

We also get some more of that clumsy "exploration" of science-vs-religion "ideas."

Now that I know this was a Franken-script, cobbled together from a bunch of other scripts that weren't working, the episode doesn't baffle me quite as much. But I certainly don't like it any more.

In fact, in a way, I resent it more than "Tattoo," because one feels a responsibility to watch this one, because it's obvious that there'll be some Big Acting Moments in the funeral scene. (And there are, and they are indeed powerful, despite our foreknowledge that nuh-uh, no way.)

Len Cariou, I have to say, was probably miscast. My rarely-inaccurate actor-face-memory tells me he's been a villain before. I buy the idea that Janeway's dad would be formidable, but given the is-she-dead-or-not hook, it's too much of a giveaway.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 8:11 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Particle of the Week: I'm giving it to the ever-popular thoron, as the Doctor attempts a thoron burst to treat Captain Janeway in one of the flashes.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: The KDF official storyline involves fighting actual demons from actual Klingon Hell, but they have the courtesy to use starships like everybody else, some of which are retrofitted for use by players. (I feel it's an even less sensible plotline than the one presented here, but definite points for style.)

Ongoing Counts: Arguable.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 23.
* Shuttles: Down 3. Their shuttle does crash during this episode, but Voyager shows up, so I'm going to assume they were able to recover it unless you guys think otherwise.
* Crew: 143, because of course they're not really killing off the captain.
* Other: 46 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 8.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful.

Notes:
* Seems like we're on the same page about this one.

And it's a shame, because the cast really put their back into the funeral scene. And I will say that Kes seeming to pick up Janeway's spirit with her space pixie sense (and subsequently working with Tuvok to scan the rest of the ship) was an effective head-fake. But the whole induced-hallucination-chain thing was already done better in "Projections", IMO.

Agreed. The nested hallucination thing worked much better in Projections. This one just... it's too obvious.

In fact, in a way, I resent it more than "Tattoo," because one feels a responsibility to watch this one, because it's obvious that there'll be some Big Acting Moments in the funeral scene. (And there are, and they are indeed powerful, despite our foreknowledge that nuh-uh, no way.)

Tattoo pisses me off more, but I think it may be the single most racist episode of Trek I can remember offhand. That said, I agree that the funeral is indeed pretty good, despite being predicated on transparent bullshit. (Both the B'Ellana and Harry talks felt earned, which was good.)

We also get some more of that clumsy "exploration" of science-vs-religion "ideas."

Yeah. The implication that this was some literal incarnation of Satan was just dumb and clunky.

Other stuff:
* I would pay to see the apple/phaser act.

In fact, that would've made a better episode.

And yeah, don't have a ton more to say. (Crazy couple of days - my house was only a couple blocks outside a recommended evacuation zone for a brush fire yesterday, and so I've been at my sister's since that notice came down.) If anything else comes to mind, I'll pop back in with it later or tomorrow.
posted by mordax at 12:31 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Beyond an apple and phaser act, I want to see what an actual, fully realized 24th century carnival looks like.

(What we saw in The Thaw doesn't count.)

The interesting thing about the funeral scene here is that since it was Janeway's hallucination we're really seeing what she imagines her crew saying about her, telling us much more about her than about Kim or Torres or Kes.
posted by 2ht at 2:19 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


Other stuff:
* I would pay to see the apple/phaser act.

In fact, that would've made a better episode.


Pretty much.

Dark Matter did an excellent time loop episode a few weeks ago. The character at the center of the loop tried desperately to convince the crew he was repeating the same day over and over again to no avail. Completely exasperated, he asked the ship's android to teach him something he'd "never know in a million years."

It was lighthearted, funny and I got way more enjoyment out of that single scene than this entire episode, which was sort of a Frankenstein's monster. You had elements of TNG's "The Next Phase" and "Time's Arrow", DS9's aforementioned"The Visitor" and the aforementioned "Projections". Yet somehow "Coda" was less entertaining and engrossing than all of them. Which is a shame, because the memorial service scene was well done. And I love watching Janeway get defiant. But those two parts weren't enough to carry the whole story.
posted by zarq at 8:09 AM on July 18 [3 favorites]


Yet somehow "Coda" was less entertaining and engrossing than all of them.

I really think it hinges on there not actually being a mystery. Like, Jeri Taylor says:
Then we began cobbling them together, and all of a sudden we had this wonderful, rich mystery."
But I have no idea what she means. After all:

* It's not Janeway. If Kate Mulgrew had been leaving Voyager, the promos and buzz would've wrecked it months in advance. So we knew she'd be fine.

* The time loop doesn't make any real sense the way that they usually do - events are changing and we don't know why. That's not a mystery.

* We know Admiral Janeway is up to no good. The writing there doesn't really offer any alternative - he's not coaxing and caring, he's clearly pushy.

* There's no forward motion with her relationship with Chakotay, and we all know there was never going to be.

So I'm mostly uncertain of what we were supposed to be uncertain of. There's no stakes to provide tension, and no consistency to give us something to pick at. Watching this, I knew the solution would have to be arbitrary, and it was. 'Well, we ran out of time for the episode, so she is okay now.'
posted by mordax at 1:00 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


(Time loops need to repeat to be fun. See also Stargate SG-1's Groundhog Day homage Window of Opportunity, or maybe even ARQ on Netflix. The lack of consistency in the Vidiian scenario totally ruined it for me.)
posted by mordax at 1:02 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


The tags on this post are hilarious, btw. Well done.
posted by zarq at 7:24 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


While I mostly agree with everyone else on the episode as to its overall success, I will give a little pushback on some of the individual elements. Instead of thinking about this one as trying to mislead the viewers into concern over Janeway actually dying, I think you can look at it more like the doctor's episode at the beginning of season two, Projections, where the interest is less about whether the doctor will actually blow up Voyager, which we know he won't, and more about how his delusions are manifesting themselves and why. While that episode is much, much better than this one, there is at least some fun ideas here mixed in with the more dreary or confusing elements.

If you think of all of it as being things sitting in the back of Janeway's mind, then the episode is more enjoyable to pick through to try and make sense of some of it. Taylor's pet interest in Janeway's relationship with Chakotay, obviously, is one main element, and a bit of a throwback to the earlier seasons where each main writer seemed to have their own little ideas that the other writers ignored, something of a problem for the show overall. I don't mind the thwarted romance as a concept exactly, and having Janeway's subconscious go there isn't a bad idea in itself, but Taylor's idea of their romance is still too fanfic for me in how its shown.

Janeway getting euthanized is also interesting and something of a potentially meaningful subconscious concern with a computer doctor making decisions. It suggests worry about decisions being made out of a programmed idea of efficiency without taking into account more human variables regarding the emotional will of the patient, worry then over whether the doctor is more human or program. At the same time the other moments with the doctor show a more caring perspective, where he really does fight to keep her alive, showing the split in her thoughts about him potentially.

Singling out B'Elanna and Harry for the eulogies can give a possible glimpse of what Janeway hopes her legacy will be, which may be more in shepherding those most in need of guidance rather than as tough leader, tactician, scientist, or diplomat. It is a more motherly aspect perhaps, but I'm not sure that makes it worse for being so given many of the alternatives.

Worry about the Vidiians seems reasonable enough since they're super creepy obviously. And thoughts about her relationship with her father, given what we hear about her shutting herself off after his death can be somewhat interesting in that its seeing this entity as not her father that makes her find the will to fight. It's her relationship to her dad that is then used as a basis to reject the false father and see him for what she thinks he is, which is providing her a coward's way out, which would be a road to hell as Janeway sees things.

It's not an entirely bad batch of underlying ideas, but, unfortunately, it doesn't play out all that well since it feels cobbled together and lacks a strong enough feeling of inner logic for the suggestions above to really take hold rather than being conjecture over what they potentially could have wanted from the episode. Still, this isn't an episode I actively dislike, it's just not one I think works very well.

And those are indeed some fantastic tags!
posted by gusottertrout at 12:35 AM on July 19 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I forgot to mention it when it was being discussed, but, yeah Vorik being Jeri Taylor's son does kinda grate on me, since there are so many actors trying to get a SAG card or looking for work, but nepotism is a long Hollywood tradition, so I'm not surprised about it either.

More importantly perhaps, every time I see Vorik I keep expecting to see the Doorway to Hell set behind him since he looks like Lin Ye Tang, Dave Thomas' character from SCTV.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:37 AM on July 19


I think this could have been salvaged by giving more space to develop Janeway's relationship with her father. There's a fine line between Admiral Janeway being cold because that's how he was as a person, and him being cold because he's a soul eater. We didn't get to see that develop enough to really get insight into Janeway's relationship with her father. And that character study would have been more interesting than the time loop technobabble.
posted by Banknote of the year at 7:44 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


Janeway getting euthanized is also interesting and something of a potentially meaningful subconscious concern with a computer doctor making decisions. It suggests worry about decisions being made out of a programmed idea of efficiency without taking into account more human variables regarding the emotional will of the patient, worry then over whether the doctor is more human or program. At the same time the other moments with the doctor show a more caring perspective, where he really does fight to keep her alive, showing the split in her thoughts about him potentially.

My problem with that is that we've already seen the Doctor refuse to split up Tuvix, leaving Janeway to perform the procedure. I'm not sure how someone who would balk at that would insist on euthanizing Janeway immediately, not only without allowing her any say in the matter but also without even letting her say goodbye to the crew. It's not as if Starfleet doesn't occasionally have some quite questionable practices or decisions (making Data's possibly-irreversible disassembly the subject of a hearing, or making violation of the quarantine of Talos IV a capital crime), and doctors do have a lot of say in relieving commanders who are unfit for duty for medical reasons, but this is way more than a bridge too far.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:08 PM on July 19 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how someone who would balk at that would insist on euthanizing Janeway immediately, not only without allowing her any say in the matter but also without even letting her say goodbye to the crew.

I'd argue, if I thought they really intended it to mean something, which I'm at all convinced of, that the euthanasia is symptomatic of both her concern over the doctor as computer program and of her own fear of loss of control/inability to fight, which continues to play out with the image of her father and inability to contact the crew through Kes. I don't think Janeway actually fears the doctor would euthanize her without warning, but simply that he may not be As "human" he appears, and that her sense of real and not-real may be in question. Something that also fits with the rest of the episode.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:03 PM on July 19


Sure, maybe there's something like that lurking in the back of her mind. (As we'll see in an episode a few seasons from now, The Doctor with his ethical subroutines switched off is indeed a terrifying prospect.) But this hallucination is in service to a psychic vampire whose entire existence depends on it being able to get sentient beings to voluntarily surrender to it, and I don't see this (or the Vidiians, or the time loop thing) as being anything approaching an effective gambit at getting Janeway to do so.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:00 PM on July 19 [1 favorite]


Oh man, don't get me started on the "ethical subroutine" thing. I hated that part of the episode(s), but it does indeed suggest Janeway's possible worry in that area had some grounding, even if it also completely undermines the doctor as a character.

The whole "psychic vampire thing is so weakly developed it's hard to give any serious justification for the actions since what it wants isn't entirely clear. I mean it needs Janeway to acquiesce to dying, which is a weird thing for a creature that lives on mental energy to want, but let's assume then that it's in the moment of surrender that the creature is able to steal the full psychic energy of its victim which it then feeds on for however long. One would think such a creature perhaps might get more out of more vital prey, those who either think they're still alive in a hallucinated existence, which the creature can induce evidently, or from someone not willing to give up a mental fight even as their body is doomed, but the show has it as needing surrender, so surrender it is.

I guess the concept then is that the psyvamp runs a bunch of different scenarios past Janeway hoping one of them will be satisfying or final seeming enough for her to accept, so there's a sort of romantic version, the much loved commander send off, the death by disease/euthanasia model, death in fighting, and shuffling off via nurtured quasi-religious acceptance thanks to dear old dad, etc. P-vamp only seems to have a superficial knowledge of its victim, reading the associated mental process to emotional states without necessarily understanding the deeper emotions behind the mental framework. So it knows Janeway thinks about Pops and has some associated mental concepts for those thoughts, but it can't grasp her deeper feeling about him since those aren't thoughts per se, as they don't have a clear rational form, at least until she herself finds a name for them.

The flaw in the plan is in switching stories so often with Janeway able to remember the alternatives. I mean the confusion over the storyline being sold to Janeway alone would make it unlikely she'd give in until she at least figured out what the hell the deal was. A classic liar mistake. If you're going to make up a story, stick to it. Changing details is a dead giveaway you're making things up. Showwise, it'd have been better if Janeway didn't remember each previous attempt to convince her she kicked the bucket, but she managed to see through them all anyway, but, hey, sloppy episode construction leads to sloppy results, no surprise. It is too bad in a way since the basic concept could have worked well as a late season episode, where Janeway has to reflect on her fears and actions over the journey to defeat the creature.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:25 PM on July 19 [2 favorites]


It is too bad in a way since the basic concept could have worked well as a late season episode

YES. Especially considering the title they chose. It could've been this series' "Tapestry."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:12 AM on July 20 [1 favorite]


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