The Great Star Trek Voyager Rewatch: The Chute

When Harry and Tom are convicted of a terrorist bombing by the Akritiri, they are sent to a violent prison where neural implants slowly drive all the inmates to aggression and madness. Can Harry and Tom survive long enough to mount an escape?

Back in the day, The Chute aired at around the same as an episode of Stargate SG-1 called Prisoners, which featured a similar concept – heroes trapped in a prison served by a one way tunnel that delivers food and inmates. It was difficult for me at first to remember which events were attached to this episode, at least until the rewatch got under way and my memories came flooding back.

This time around, The Chute came across as an episode of two strands – one good, one bad. The good part is the prison storyline itself, which thrusts Harry and Tom into a harsh environment far from the orderly world of a Starfleet vessel. At first, it seems as if the worldly Tom will be the one to get them through this ordeal, but when he’s stabbed, Harry must step forward and take charge. This is new territory for the upstanding young ensign, who must plan an escape whilst dealing with an erratic alien, hostile prison inmates, and the effects of a neural implant. Even with all this, Harry holds his own, but even he can’t effect an escape from the episode’s twist – that the prison is not on a planet, but in space.

And then we come to the deus ex machina element of the story. Given that Harry and Tom can’t rescue themselves, Janeway is forced to step in and save the day, and it’s Evil Janeway who comes to the fore. We saw hints of her when she destroyed the Fear clown in The Thaw, and then again when she killed Tuvix, but this time around it was fully fledged Evil Janeway. Once Voyager finds the real culprits, she shows no interest in hearing their side of the story, even though the Akritiri administration are clearly not the good guys in this situation. Instead, she repeatedly threatens the culprits with lifetime imprisonment under this harsh regime, until they finally cave in and give her what she wants. This is the aspect of Voyager I dislike – Starfleet’s black and white morals used to bludgeon alien races into cooperating so that we can wrap the story up within the requisite 42 minutes.

Not only that, but once Janeway gets the information she needs, it’s pure deus ex machina of the kind that saved everyone in The Game. Neelix’s ship, which has never been used for anything since Caretaker – even when it would have done a better job than a flimsy shuttlecraft – is brought out of mothballs to effect a ridiculously easy rescue mission. It’s like Janeway switches on God Mode to complete the mission – did she input a Konami Code?

Points of Note

  • This is actually the first time we get to see the exterior of Neelix’s ship.
  • In addition to the already extant lithium, dilithium and trilithium, this episode adds paralithium to the ‘lithium family’.

Lost shuttlecraft running total: 4

Possibly salvageable shuttlecraft running total: 3

Number of times Voyager gets destroyed: 1

Summary – The Chute: In which Harry just about resists killing Tom Paris.

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