Yeah, the cast of characters/actors is a definite selling point of this show and they do help to carry some dreck sometimes.
Although I still think you giving Coda an 8 is kind of unbelievable, is it REALLY one of your favorite episodes of the whole show yet? Your score of 8 ranks it higher than episodes like "Prime Factors", "Tuvix", "Meld" and "Jetrel" - episodes that included a lot of characterization along with a sci-fi twist unlike Coda which was all sci-fi twist and nothing else. Like the candy floss of sci-fi.
Can you really say that "Coda" is a *better* Trek episode than like 95% of what you've seen so far of Voyager?