The USS Voyager is the only Federation ship in the Delta Quadrant and Captain Kathryn Janeway’s primary mission is to get her crew back home. Along the way they’ve explored new worlds. Unfortunately, most of the aliens they encounter are hostile. Still two years into their journey, the crew is in high spirits for the most part. They have begun to bond outside of work. More often than not, the crew gathers on the holodeck, a virtual reality room that can be programed to recreate any place real or imaginary.
In the beginning of “Coda,” Neelix and Janeway talk about how well talent night went the evening before. During a shuttle trip, Chakotay points out that Kathryn’s ballet act was the highlight. She goads him into signing up for the next one before detecting surprise turbulence. The two struggle to land the shuttlecraft and Janeway is severely injured in the crash. The Vidiians, a hostile race of organ harvesters from Season 1 and 2, surround Chakotay and Janeway. They shoot the commander and strangle the captain.
In the next scene, the command team is back in their shuttle as if nothing had happened. But Janeway and Chakotay remember and start scanning for anomalies. They realize they are in a time loop. Janeway dies a few more times before she finally discovers the anomaly. Suddenly she finds herself standing on the planet that she and Chakotay crash landed on earlier. The commander is performing CPR but it’s not going well. Janeway sees herself in sickbay as the Doctor and Kes work to revive the captain, before he pronounces her dead.
Janeway can’t accept she’s dead, even when she can see her own body in sickbay. She reaches out to Kes, who is telepathic. The crew spend three days searching for any sign of the captain but can’t find anything. While in Engineering, Janeway sees her father, who died 15 years ago, emerge from the anomaly. He’s there to help her accept her death and cross over, though he can’t quite describe where exactly.
But the captain is stubborn and refuses to leave. During her memorial service, she catches glimpses of Chakotay, the Doctor, and Tuvok standing over her on the planet. She realizes that her father and her death are a hallucination, caused by an alien parasite that the Doctor is treating. With a resounding “go back to hell, coward” she’s able to force the alien out.
I picked this episode for two reasons. One is the behind the scenes. This is one of the few episodes of Star Trek that has a female director, Nancy Malone, and a female writer, Jeri Taylor. Taylor was one of the producers behind the creation of Star Trek Voyager and shaped Janeway’s character. She even wrote a biography of Kathryn Janeway, Mosaic, and pulled plot points about Janeway’s father for this episode.
The other reason I picked “Coda” is personal. When I discovered Voyager I fell head first into online fandom. It wasn’t until I saw this episode that I became a shipper. After seeing how much pain Chakotay was in when he lost Janeway, I thought the two should be together in a relationship. To this day, it’s hard for me to watch Voyager without imagining the command team together as a couple, even though it never happened on screen.