Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Review: Voyager 3.15: Coda

There's a frame where he's giving her the Kiss of Life and the
title card "Written by Jeri Taylor" appears.
Star Trek Voyager - Season Three, Episode Fifteen - Coda
Written 21/09/15

Sit down, kids. We need to have a serious talk about Jeri Taylor. The dichotomy between Deep Space Nine and Voyager did not come from indecisive scriptwriters. Near the end of the run of Star Trek The Next Generation, the writers going off to their respective series separated into two factions - Ronald Moore and Ira Steven Behr for DS9, Brannon Braga and Jeri Taylor for Voyager. There was of course a lot of overlap, but the important thing here is Jeri Taylor, who conceived of The Maquis, Janeway and several other important aspects of the show. While her influence on the show is very important, there came a point where her writing for the show was developing certain... themes. Mainly, long speeches about how people love Janeway, and especially about how much Janeway and Chakotay are deeply, madly in love with each other.
     It is because of this that this week's episode, Coda, ends up being a bit of a wet mush. The Braga-esque sci-fi plot, in which Janeway seems to die recursively until she is confronted by her father's spirit, does not as you might expect have anything particularly to say about the nature of human mortality. Now, I am an ardent Janeway/Chakotay shipper, as you will have seen over these many weeks. But here it seems really out of place. Every time Janeway "dies" we are shown character upon character lamenting her death with great prose, culminating in a lengthy funeral scene where each characters gives a loving eulogy for her. Then, she fights off the spirit of death by sheer will alone, and once recovered goes off to the Holodeck with Chakotay.
     The episode is crippled by the fact that, as it keeps telling us, Janeway is the brilliant main lead character that all the other characters love. There's no tension surrounding her actually being dead, because she's the main character of the show, and because temporary deaths on Voyager are like people being sent home on Top Chef. I mentioned Brannon Braga - this episode's beginning reminded me of Projections from the second season, where the layers of realtiy around our characters seemed to be fading away fast. But the episode doesn't really crank out it's main premise (Janeway is supposedly dead and in the afterlife) until the last fifteen minutes, leaving just under half an hour of confused plot, mad editing and everyone gushing about how beloved Janeway is.
I do most of my own screencaps now. Some are better
than others.
     I won't lie - I did enjoy this episode. Whether or not you agree with the politics behind Janeway and Chakotay, I believe that they work as a couple, and I love all of the little hints spread through the series (mainly by Jeri Taylor herself). But this episode, without that, is just a mess - a splattering of broken plot segments, leading up to a plotline which could have had some really fun sci-fi intricacies - themes on the nature of death like in Emanations, and later in Mortal Coil. Instead, this episode is content to be nothing more than the Captain Janeway show - and that's just not enough.


NEXT WEEK: B'elanna gets really horny and needs to Tom Paris to bonk her now. It's the teenage fanfic that is Blood Fever.

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