Mark Watches ‘Voyager’: S03E15 – Coda

In the fifteenth episode of the fifth season of Voyager, Janeway and Chakotay experience a bizarre fluctuation in time. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of death/grief, and consent/possession.

THIS IS SUCH A GOOD EPISODE, Y’ALL. I cannot believe that a common genre storytelling trope – the repeating time loop – was turned into this. WHO DOES THIS. WHO EVEN THINKS OF THIS. Let’s discuss.

The Time Loop

I’ve seen so many of these in my life, and I’ve seen a number of them for Mark Watches. So you can imagine my surprise when, within the second loop, Voyager changed the pattern. See, in practically every iteration of this trope, either one person remembers the resets or no one does, except for some vague sense of deja vu that leads them to realize that there’s a way to prevent the Groundhog Day cycle from repeating again.

And yet here, the second version of the loop ends much more quickly before moving on to the third one. AND BOTH CHARACTERS RECOGNIZED TIME WAS REPEATING. So, despite being quite familiar with this gimmick, I was hooked. This was different.

Then, the third loop hits, and I was confused, bewildered, shocked, and impressed. They stop the time loop. IT DOESN’T HAPPEN AGAIN. Instead, the experience morphs into something else. When Janeway “dies” nearly ten minutes later, I figured the loop would repeat again. Instead, Janeway watches as the ship mourns her death.

It made no sense to me whatsoever, and that is an invigorating thing to experience.

Grief

For a moment, “Coda” becomes a haunting examination of life aboard Voyager without Captain Janeway. That’s the reference in the title: this is the final note. How would people react? We watch it happen, and it hurts so badly. Chakotay’s visceral, emotional reaction at the moment of her death is THE WORST THING EVER. (And gave me fuel for some shipping scenarios… hehehehehe.) The scene in Sick Bay as the Doctor tries to save her is painful. Then, the crew throws themselves into the slim hope that her consciousness is still around, that they can still save her.

I expected that to be the solution. I thought that with Tuvok’s help, Kes would locate her. NOPE. This episode is clearly out to get me because then, everyone accepts her death. They hold a memorial service; Janeway watches B’Elanna and Harry give emotional speeches; IT IS A CONTINUATION OF THE WORST THING EVER. And then her body is being ejected into space, and absolutely nothing makes sense.

Rejection

I’ve always been a fan of the way that Janeway is so stubborn and brave. Every time she stands up to another jerk or bully, I just love her more. And it’s a challenge for a writer to come up with a concept like this one and give us a satisfying ending. Yet Janeway’s rejection of her own death is one of the most powerful things I’ve seen on this show. The reveal that this was all caused by an invasive being that attached itself to Janeway’s brain is satisfying because it explains everything while still being a fascinating idea, too. It doesn’t feel corny; it doesn’t invalidate the experience, either. The entire thing was an act of manipulation, one that was meant to compel Janeway to give up and enter this being’s “matrix” to PROVIDE IT WITH SUSTENANCE.

no thank you NO

The idea that we should accept death and move on is a pervasive theme across many forms of fiction and in popular culture, so I found it bold that this was a refutation of that. Before Janeway discovers the truth, she was completely ready to basically haunt her crewmates. AND I LOVE THAT THIS ISN’T PORTRAYED AS A BAD THING. Death is scary, and Janeway’s “sudden” death did not allow her to prepare for it.

So she just refuses it. I LOVE THAT SO MUCH.

The video for “Coda” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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