Sunday, July 31, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Coda"

“Coda" is the VOY version of an old Star Trek theme--kill off main characters temporarily and milk it for all its emotional worth before hitting the reset button. The minute you see jeri Taylor’s name as the author, you know the character who has died is Janeway. You also know the distraught crew is on the verge of mass suicide over the loss, because Janeway is awesome!

I have joked in the past Taylor is living vicariously through Janeway. Every Janeway-centric script she pens is one further quantum leap in the apotheosis of Janeway. In ’Coda,” Janeway might have finally succeeded. The ending strongly hints Janeway may have beaten Satan himself. Yeah, Janeway is awesome! Taylor pours it on so thick, she makes Janeway a parody of herself.

The episode begins exactly with what everyone has been clamoring--sexual innuendo with Neelix. Because, of course, everyone desires Janeway’s body. The reality is that Neelix is complimenting Janeway on her ballet performance at the previous night’s talent show. Sometimes I wonder if Neelix is the morale officer or a recreational therapist at a nursing home. The conversation is cloaked in double-speak that sounds like Janeway gave Neelix a world class lay before it is revealed she played The Dying Swan for the talent show. Not that the fourteen year old virgins watching could not conjure up images of a sex act called The dying Swan. Regardless, the scene comes across as a far too cute way of demonstrating the crew’s alleged emotional attachment to Janeway.

She and Chakotay take off in a shuttlecraft--again, the captain and first officer unwisely alone on a mission--when they become trapped in a time lopp. The loop repeats repeats three scenarios. One, the sshuttlecraft is shot down by vidiians who kill her. Two, the shuttlecraft is chased by Vidiians ships and she is killed. Three, the shuttlecraft escapes, but Janeway is diagnosed with the Phage by the Doctor and euthanized. The loop appears to end beforea fourth scenario in which the shuttlecraft crashes and Janeway dies of her injuries. The loop is broken because Janeway’s spirit emerges to witness her death and the crew’s reactions.

Before I go any further, what is the point of the time loop bit? The plot of the episode is that an alien is attempting to wear down Janeway’s resolve and get her to accept her own death so that it can ’feed’ off her. He needs her to enter a portal to what he calls the afterlife in order to do so. Killing her over and over again in rapid succession was working. She could barely adjust emotionally before being dragged into another horrible death. But then it stops completely for what, as far as the audience knows, is an authentic death which carries us through the rest of the episode. The final scenarion works the least. In fact, it builds up her resolve to resist and ultimately prevail. It is also the only scenario which allowed for a real story, so it had to be there. So why have the time loop happen at all/ Because it was succeeding in breaking Janeway down, the alien looks dumb for changing strategy even though drama demanded it do so. “Coda” should have had Janeway “die” once in the teaser and interact with the alien from the beginning.

I try to be as fair as possible when I really do not like an episode to accentuate the decent parts. In “Coda,” there is a heavily relied upon theme that everyone loves Janeway to the point of Brian’s Song melodrama. But before that seriously cranks up, the crew reasonably spends two days looking forJaneway’s spirit based on Kes’ intuition. It is this lengthy montage of events I find most reasonable about the episode. The rest? You have to be a huge Janeway fan. Or be Jeri Taylor. But I repear myself.

Janeway is present in spirit for all of this, listening in to crewmembers fawn over her in death as though she has the place bugged. I do mean fawn. The funeral sequence clocks in aat a shade over four minutes and involves Torres, Harry, and Chakotay literally cannot go on without her strength and leadership. Torres even forgives her for stranding them in the Delta Quadrant and admit’s the wisdom of doing so. Contrast this with Spock’s funeral in Star trek II: The Wrath of Khan., from the presenting of the casket to kirk’s eulogy, and landing on the Genesis planet, last two minutes and ten seconds. Janeway’s final farewell lasts nearly twice as long as the cultural icon Spock. Now that is ego.

Not just Taylor’s ego, but Janeway’s, too. The funeral sets up the alien, who has been posing as her long dead father, to finally convince her there is nothing left to do but let go. She refuses, and fights him off by sheer force of will. As she begins winning, the alien and the portal she is supposed to be entering for the afterlife take on demonic/hellish undertones, so that when Janeway ultimately defeats him to wake up fine next to the crashed shuttlecraft on the planet, she has maybe beaten the Devil for her soul. While that is left up in the air, one thing is not--the alien created these scenarios--the long funeral, her crew’s affection, etc--out of her mind. Further proof of how highly Janeway thinks of herself.

You have to be a big Janeway fan to like “Coda.” The Janeway/Chakotay shippers consider it a key episode in consideration of Chakotay’s emotional display throughout. He appears to have a serious thing for his captain. I think it is a below average effort with an overused plot device. There are logical flaws in the story structure I have already addressed, and the overly dramactic way the crew reacts to Janeway’s death is hilarious. That it all comes out of her head makes it pitifully delusional, too. I Am not a fan, but there is a certain amusement value in watching just to see high highly Janeway thinks of herself.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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