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Star Trek: Voyager – The Chute (Review)

This February and March (and a little bit of April), we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Season three begins. Kind of.

The Chute was the first episode produced for the third season. Basics, Part II and Flashback aired as the first two episodes of the season, but they had been produced towards the tail end of the second season and held back so that Star Trek: Voyager could launch its third season in early September. It was a smart strategy for the production team and UPN, but it did mean that there was a lot of holdover from the second season. Although the production team had wanted Basics, Part II to be the end of the Piller era, his ghost lingered on.

A breakout hit.

A breakout hit.

In some ways, the ghost of Michael Piller still haunts The Chute. The episode was produced after Piller’s departure, but writer Kenneth Biller credits the idea to the former executive producer and it feels very much in keeping with some of Piller’s pet fascinations and ideas. At the same time, The Chute does signal the beginning of the third season. It marks a point at which Voyager feels a lot more comfortable in its own skin, and where it feels like the writers have a clear grasp of what they want the show to be.

If the second season was a collection of misfiring experimental concepts and bold new directions, the third is markedly more conservative in its style and tone. The Chute is an episode of Voyager that is aiming squarely for an archetypal science-fiction allegory, and which manages to deliver on those terms. It is not necessarily ambitious or exceptional, but it manages to accomplish what it wants to do. What it wants to do is to be a very broadly-drawn (but recognisable) piece of Star Trek.

Dagger of the not-quite mind...

Dagger of the not-quite mind…

The Chute is a piece of good old-fashioned social commentary, in the long and rich tradition of the Star Trek franchise using alien cultures and settings to offer insightful observations about the modern-day world. The Chute is very much a standard Star Trek script, an “alien culture of the week” story with an obvious contemporary relevance bubbling beneath the surface. Kenneth Biller’s script could easily be reworked as an episode of any of the Star Trek shows. All the production team would need to do would be to change the names of the character involved.

False imprisonment is a pulpy genre fiction trope, one that can found across the length and breadth of popular fiction. The Count of Monte Cristo is perhaps the most iconic example, but there are countless others. When television storytelling required a series of episodic adventures produced on a weekly basis, the “prison episode” became a feature of the genre. The third episode of The A-Team (Pros and Cons) was a perfect example of the television mini-genre, demonstrating just how ubiquitous the basic plot is.

Good form.

Good form.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country had Kirk and McCoy sent to a Klingon prison planet, with Flashback documented Sulu’s attempted rescue. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had put Miles O’Brien through his own false imprisonment in Hard Time, an episode that had a life-time’s worth of false memories implanted in the character’s brain after he was falsely accused of espionage. Star Trek: Enterprise would find Jonathan Archer sentenced to a Klingon prison in Judgment and placed on board a prison transport in Canamar.

The Chute is incredibly generic, not relying on any aspect of Voyager unique to the show. This story could have happened in the Alpha or Gamma Quadrants to just about any other major characters. This would become something of a feature of Voyager in its third season and beyond. The second season had attempted to find a unique voice for the show, with disastrous results. The third season seemed to abandon any attempt to give the series a distinctive tone and instead attempted to provide the most archetypal Star Trek plot imaginable.

He ain't heavy, he's my helm's man...

He ain’t heavy, he’s my helm’s man…

When Chief O’Brien was sent to a virtual prison in Hard Time, the episode was very much specific to his character. Part of this was down to the simple fact that it was an archetypal “O’Brien must suffer” episode, the kind of story reserved particularly for O’Brien. However, there were other more subtle markers. O’Brien is the only Star Trek lead character who lives as part of a complete nuclear family during the run of his show. As such, Hard Time could focus on the character’s difficulties reintegrating into society in a way that would not have worked with Dax or Bashir.

In theory, The Chute should feel particular to Tom Paris and Harry Kim. After all, Tom Paris is the only Star Trek regular to have served time inside a Federation prison. As such, The Chute should represent a trip down memory lane. Of course, Akritirian jails are undoubtedly very different from Federation penal colonies, but the fact remains that Paris has some experience in this sort of environment. Through a novice like Harry into prison with a veteran like Paris should lead to some interesting character dynamics.

"I've got a pipe and I'm not afraid to use it!"

“I’ve got a pipe and I’m not afraid to use it!”

Deep Space Nine was very good at this. Generally, throwing a bunch of Deep Space Nine characters into a particular plot allowed the show to illuminate and explore the characters in question. Chief O’Brien is a great example of this. His experience as a soldier might have occurred off-screen years before the events of Emissary, but it still informs his behaviour in episodes where he is even a secondary lead. O’Brien’s wartime experience informs stories like Hippocratic Oath and Empok Nor, despite not being the focal point of the story. That is a lot of care.

In contrast, The Chute really doesn’t care about these two characters who have been thrown into this alien prison cell. Paris never even references his earlier time in prison, despite the fact that Caretaker introduced the character as a convict offered a chance of redemption. Paris’ role in this story could just as easily be filled by Chakotay. It could arguably be filled better by a character like Tuvok or Torres, because their own descent into violence and aggression would have a much greater image on their own self-image and Harry’s perspective of them.

"This is a rescue, Janeway-style."

“This is a rescue, Janeway-style.”

There is another weird example of this towards the climax of the story, when the episode completely eschews logical character decisions and dynamics for plotting convenience. When the Voyager crew decide to stage an elaborate rescue of Tom and Harry, Janeway leads the mission with tactical support from Tuvok. In fact, Janeway even gets to hold the gigantic phaser rifle, despite the fact Tuvok has likely been trained to use it. Janeway is the captain of the ship. Logically, she is far too valuable to risk on a stunt like this; however, it makes for a suitably “badass” moment.

None of this is to say that The Chute is a bad episode or even that the third season of Voyager is a bad season of television. In fact, the third season is a lot stronger than either the previous two seasons. There is a solid argument to be made that Jeri Taylor’s stewardship of Voyager is the creative highlight of the seven year run, and that run really begins with this episode. The show becomes a lot more stable, because it is no longer attempting to do crazy things. However, that stability comes at a cost. From the third season onwards, Voyager is effectively static.

Clamping down on inmate luxuries...

Clamping down on inmate luxuries…

To be fair, the third season is remarkably candid about this. The Chute feels a lot like a mission statement going forward; the generic nature of the script is a feature rather than a bug. The Swarm features something of a loose reset of a major character, albeit without any repercussions that reach beyond the episode itself. Remember features B’Elanna Torres dreaming of a serialised narrative of the kind that the Voyager production team have eschewed in favour of more conventional storytelling.

The third season finds Voyager scaling back its ambitions, and this might be for the best. Interviews with senior members of the writing staff feature none of the ambitious boasting that Michael Piller made about his script for Tattoo, but the season also avoids anything as racist and toxic as Tattoo. Any attempts at serialisation are so minuscule as to barely register, but that means that the season avoids the kind of disaster that swallowed up the long-form Kazon story from the second season.

"Come out to Akritiria, we'll get together, have a few laughs..."

“Come out to Akritiria, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”

That said, The Chute was an idea held over from the second season, even if it was eventually the first episode to be produced of the show’s third year. As writer Kenneth Biller explained to Cinefantastique, the episode was developed from Michael Piller’s desire to do a “prison” episode:

It was wonderfully directed by Les Landau, and I think that Robbie and Garrett both gave very strong performances in it. It was sort of a left-over story from the Michael Piller era, and I struggled with it because it was a prison picture essentially. Michael wanted this to be an episode about Kim’s humanity being tested. I thought it was basically an impossible task, because every single prison movie that has ever been successful that I can think of depends on one thing in particular, which is the passage of time. All take place over years, if not decades. Given the fact it would be impossible given the restrictions of our show to strand Paris and Kim for more than several days, it seemed therefore impossible to bring Kim to the brink.

This fits reasonably well with Piller’s vision of the show. Piller was very interested in using Voyager to tell pulpy adventure narratives. Basics, Part I and Basics, Part II could been seen as Piller’s thesis statement on Voyager, populated by elements that might easily have been lifted from the cover to a trashy sci-fi paperback.

Pining for the Prime timeline...

Pining for the Prime timeline…

At the same time, The Chute is very much in step with the Jeri Taylor. Taylor was very interested in telling archetypal Star Trek stories, in utilising a model that had worked consistently and reliably since she joined the show during the fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Part of that was the allegorical storytelling that had become a staple of the larger franchise. Even the most casual of television viewers can point to Star Trek as a vehicle for social commentary, with Let That Be Your Last Battlefield serving as the most extreme (and iconic) case.

Each of the first three episodes to be produced as part of the third season was very clearly a “metaphor” story that used a science-fiction plot element as a vehicle for social commentary and insight. The Chute is a story about how society deals with criminals. The Swarm is an allegory for mental debilitation and decline. Remember is effectively a Holocaust story, about the importance of keeping those stories alive as they fade from “living memory.” If you asked a viewer to imagine three stories opening a season of Star Trek, these would not be bad choices.

"Would we really miss them?"

“Would we really miss them?”

Of course, there had been allegorical episodes during Piller’s tenure as executive producer. Piller had envisaged the Kazon as an allegory for contemporary gang culture, to pick the most obvious (and controversial) example. Piller’s teleplay for Death Wish had dealt with issues of euthanasia, as had Brannon Braga’s script for Emanations. Michael Piller’s teleplay for Meld touched on issues of random violence with modern society, while Joe Menosky’s script for The Thaw hinted at the politics of fear.

However, these were markedly more abstract commentaries than the metaphors that launch the third season. there is something very direct about these stories and how they want to say things about the modern world. The Chute is a story that is about prison that is explicitly set in a prison. There is a sense that the production team have failed to find a hook that might make Voyager into its own distinct show, and so have decided to treat it as a more generic Star Trek series.

Knife to see you...

Knife to see you…

In its own way, The Chute is an episode firmly rooted in nineties California. Episodes like Initiations and Meld reflected the mood of the state, a region that had struggled with issues of violence and brutality throughout the decade. Early discussions of Caretaker had even labelled the rival Kazon factions as the “Bloods” and the “Crips”, making the parallels to Los Angeles gang culture explicit. The Chute seems to continue that thought to its logical conclusion.

If the second season of Voyager was obsessed with random violence in Los Angeles, it made sense for the third season to open with a story focusing on the difficult question of justice in California. At its core, The Chute is a story about the brutality of life in prison in a society that disregards the safety and concerns of those incarcerated. It is an episode that fixates upon the brutality of a prison environment in which the state has effectively washed its hands of an overcrowded (and violent) system of punishment.

Cell mates...

Cell mates…

Although this issues apply to any number of prison systems around the world, they seemed particularly applicable to California in late 1996. Two years after The Chute was broadcast, Eric Schlosser would reflect on the realities of the Californian prison system:

Over the past twenty years the State of California has built twenty-one new prisons, added thousands of cells to existing facilities, and increased its inmate population eightfold. Nonviolent offenders have been responsible for most of that increase. The number of drug offenders imprisoned in the state today is more than twice the number of inmates who were imprisoned for all crimes in 1978. California now has the biggest prison system in the Western industrialized world, a system 40 percent bigger than the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The state holds more inmates in its jails and prisons than do France, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and the Netherlands combined. The California Department of Corrections predicts that at the current rate of expansion, barring a court order that forces a release of prisoners, it will run out of room eighteen months from now. Simply to remain at double capacity the state will need to open at least one new prison a year, every year, for the foreseeable future.

In Mass Incarceration on Trial, Jonathan Simon would contend that “California is to incarceration what Mississippi was to segregation—the state that most exemplifies the social and legal deformities of the practice.” The state’s prisons were overcrowded and incredibly violent.

Pipe dreams...

Pipe dreams…

The overcrowding began in the eighties, but really picked up speed in the nineties with the introduction of California’s “three strikes” law that mandated tougher sentences against habitual offenders. That law was introduced in 1994. In Punishment and Democracy,  Franklin E. Zimring, Gordon Hawkins and Sam Kamin describe the policy as “the largest penal experiment in American history”:

The origin and impact of this legislation would have been an important subject no matter which state had adopted it, but the setting for the new law provided an even more compelling case for a major study. The state of California is one of the largest criminal justice systems in the free world. Its prisons and jails held almost a quarter of a million inmates before the new law took effect. The California prison system had grown more than fivefold in the 14 years prior to Three Strikes and already was larger than any prison system in the Western world. This was not only an extreme experiment but also one implemented in a very large and greatly expanded system.

The draconian measure was intended to serve as deterrent for habitual offenders. Certainly, there is some evidence to suggest that the law has a deterring effect for criminals who already have two strikes against them. The Chute even alludes to this political motivation for unreasonably punitive laws. When Janeway points out how “outrageous” the Akritirian laws are, Ambassador Liria responds, “I assure you, it has proved to be a most effective deterrent.”

Oh, boy.

Oh, boy.

California’s “three strikes” law lent itself to grotesque parodies of justice. Inmates were sentenced to life in prison for crimes as trivial as stealing socks. It is no wonder that the state began pulling back on the law in 2012. In response to the massive overcrowding of Californian prisons generated by the law, the state was forced to release over thirty thousand inmates when the Supreme Court decried that the prison conditions were unconstitutional in 2011. This mass release did not lead to a spike in crime rates.

However, even aside from (although perhaps not unrelated to) the overpopulation issue, the fact remains that Californian prisons are notoriously unpleasant places. In October 2015, there were calls for an investigation into the “entrenched culture” of violence and abuse in High Desert State Prison, including suggestions that the guards were wilful participants in this behaviour. Studies and research suggest that gangs formed by inmates inside prison are able to operate almost with impunity.

A smashing time...

A smashing time…

The Chute plays out a hellish vision of contemporary prison, one that seems to have been extrapolated from the extremes of California’s justice system. Akritirian justice is harsh and unforgiving, adopting a punitive and deterrent approach to their treatment of criminals. It does not matter if innocents are punished, as long as the law is seen to be upheld. The episode suggests that life sentences are the norm. “Nobody ever gets out of prison on Akritiri,” Vel advises Janeway when his sister confesses to a bombing. “They’ll just let her rot in there for the rest of her life.”

While there are certainly reports of prison guards literally pitting prisoners against each other in prisons like Corcoran State Prison, The Chute takes this idea to its logical conclusion. Akritirian authorities do not just lock up their prisoners and throw away the key, they send into space. There are no guards necessary, with the community allowed to follow its own base instincts. More than that, “the clamp” is designed to stimulate aggressive behaviour that turns prisoners into little more than animals. It is a potent metaphor for certain approaches to justice.

Neelix to the rescue...

Neelix to the rescue…

“It’s an experiment,” Zio advises Harry at one point in the story. “They’re studying us like animals. Pitting us against each other to find out what happens.” The language is quite telling; certain arguments against overly punitive approaches to incarceration suggest rely on this animalistic metaphor. Consider the argument in favour of a more liberal approach proposed by Arne Nilsen, the governor of Bastoy prison island in Norway:

In closed prisons we keep them locked up for some years and then let them back out, not having had any real responsibility for working or cooking. In the law, being sent to prison is nothing to do with putting you in a terrible prison to make you suffer. The punishment is that you lose your freedom. If we treat people like animals when they are in prison they are likely to behave like animals. Here we pay attention to you as human beings.

The Chute imagines a hellish futuristic prison where that threat is literalised. The state no longer merely passively encourages prisoners to behave like animals through prison policy or under-staffing or lack of proper oversight. Instead, “the clamp” embraces this idea of prison as a savage and animalistic environment by encouraging prisoners to engage in brutality and violence towards one another.

"Trust me, after spending time in New Zealand, this is nothing!"

“Trust me, after spending time in New Zealand, this is nothing!”

(One might reasonably ask why the Akritirians bother to operate a prison system at all. After all, they even take on some burden of providing for their prisoners; food arrives on an erratic basis to sustain the inmates. It would surely be easier to just execute anybody found guilty of a crime than to keep them in prison for the rest of their natural lives. Of course, there are any number of irrational sociological or historical reasons why a culture might choose an elaborate and cost-ineffective punishment. The real reason is so that their prison can serve as a metaphor.)

The Chute looks great. Director Les Landau does wonderful work with director of cinematography Marvin Rush to realise a truly hellish prison system. The prison station looks and feels like a post-apocalyptic landscape, and Landau really seems to push the boat out when it comes to the level of violence on display. One character’s throat is cut, complete with bloodshed; that is a lot more graphic than anything that Deep Space Nine has done to this point in its run. The Chute feels genuinely gritty and unpleasant, which is remarkable for a show as sterile as Voyager.

Why, halo there.

Why, halo there.

Even the lighting is impressive. The first two seasons of Voyager had a fairly bland lighting scheme, particularly when compared to the more atmospheric approach on Deep Space Nine. With the third season of Voyager, a bit more red seems to slip into the colour palette; it is noticeable here in the neon red around the tube, but also in the mood lighting in B’Elanna Torres’ quarters in Remember. Landau uses this neon to stage some impressive shots. As Zio outlines his manifesto, the red neon light of the chute forms a makeshift halo around his head. It is a nice touch.

Garrett Wang is not the strongest performer in the Voyager ensemble. In fact, it seems reasonable to argue that Wang is one of the weakest actors in the group. This is borne out in the episodes centring around Harry Kim, with Wang having difficulty anchoring stories like Emanations or Non Sequitor. However, The Chute might just be the best Harry-centric episode of the entire seven-season run; certainly Timeless is the only episode that threatens to compete with it. Wang does great work here, demonstrating that he can rise to good material.

"Bashir and O'Brien never had to go through anything like this... oh, wait. Nevermind."

“Bashir and O’Brien never had to go through anything like this… oh, wait; nevermind.”

Biller’s script is far from perfect. It is riddled with the sorts of contrivances and illogical plot points that will come to define the next seven seasons of Voyager. However, the episode has a strong central premise and a willingness to push its big ideas to their logical conclusions. Harry’s big argument with Zio has real weight to it, even if the audience knows that the production team won’t have the courage to have Harry murder Tom to save his own skin. It is a big thematic moment anchored in a strong moral principle. There is a confidence to The Chute.

That confidence carries the episode quite far. The third and fourth seasons of Voyager are surprisingly consistent seasons of television, given the roller-coaster that was the second season. However, the consistency has its own problems. The writing on Voyager gets a bit lazy and sloppy at times, with a sense that the writing staff is aiming towards “good enough” and stopping a re-write or two away from a truly classic script. The plotting on Voyager is frequently loose and elastic, with The Chute setting the tone for what is to come.

"You don't want to be left out. This is sure to be the topic of conversation at the chute later."

“You don’t want to be left out. This is sure to be the topic of conversation at the chute later.”

Most notably, nothing that Harry and Tom actually accomplish means anything at the end of the episode. Janeway is able to rescue her officers without any material assistance from inside the prison. All of Harry’s work to short-circuit the force-field does nothing to help; it merely provides an (admittedly impressive) act-out for the episode. The episode would have played out in exactly the same way whether Harry and Tom did anything at all; whether the two had focused on defending themselves, or Harry had dedicated himself full-time to caring for Tom.

There is a sense that Janeway does not rescue Harry and Tom because the plot demands it or because the narrative has reached a point where that is the next logical step. Watching The Chute, it frequently seems like Janeway and Tuvok arrive at the end of the forty-five minutes because it is time for the episode to wrap up and Garrett Wang and Robert Duncan McNeill will be appearing in the opening credits of The Swarm. Although Janeway doesn’t actually say it, the unspoken subtext underpinning the rescue sequence is “let’s wrap all of this up.”

Gripping stuff.

Gripping stuff.

There is also a sense that Biller leaves several major character arcs unfulfilled. Janeway seems to concede that the Akritirian justice system is horribly arbitrary and unfair, but the episode avoids having the character do anything but rescue Harry and Tom from their clutches. The system might be unfair, but Janeway ends up allowing two terrorists implicated in the murder of forty-eight people to go free because it happens to be less inconvenient than surrendering them to the authorities.

There are very reasonable grounds to be made for offering Vel and Piri amnesty, but The Chute never addresses them. Certainly, if Janeway believes (quite justifiably) that the Akritirian justice system is fundamentally broken and that surrendering anybody to it would be cruel and unusual, it seems strange that the “jail break” at the end of the episode only assists the people Janeway happens to know. Harry, Tom, Vel and Piri are spared Akritirian justice because it suits Janeway. The episode never acknowledges the people left behind.


"Yes, but we're well-groomed white terrorists. You know, the sympathetic kind."

“Yes, but we’re well-groomed white terrorists. You know, the sympathetic kind.”

(Again, The Chute provides a half-hearted excuse for this pragmatism by having Janeway and Tuvok work against the clock when rescuing Harry and Tom. The ticking clock suggests that Janeway was lucky to be able to rescue even Harry and Tom, let alone wrestle with the question of what to do with the other prisoners. However, the script never bothers to acknowledge the implications of all this. If Tom and Harry were innocent, how many others suffer without cause? Even if the other inmates are guilty, is this treatment justified? The Chute cannot be bothered.)

Related to this, it feels like the character dynamic between Harry and Zio is oddly truncated. Harry refuses to kill Tom, severing his relationship with Zio. That is the last time that Zio appears. However, the end of the episode reveals that Zio’s speculations about “the clamp” were ultimately correct. “Zio was right,” Harry concedes. However, Harry never gets a chance to acknowledge this to Zio. More than that, the episode never acknowledges that Zio has been abandoned and left to almost certain death. There is no meaningful closure, in the rush to the end credits.

Pipe down!

Pipe down!

These decisions ultimately hold The Chute back from greatness, meaning that the episode is entertaining and clever but never quite gels in the way that classic Star Trek does. This will become a recurring feature of many “good, but not great” episodes from this point onwards. The third season really does start here. In many ways, so does Voyager.

7 Responses

  1. I do really like the moment where Harry, and in turn the audience, realize they are in space and not underground. Les Landau really delivers with that shot, as he gets the dual sense of bewilderment and hopelessness just right.
    What I don’t like about this episode is the use of the implants that fuel agression. The episode would have been much stronger if the characters had just begun to unravel naturally. It would of been as if in hard time, O’brien had an implant that him kill E’char. It would have completely diluted the effect of the episode. This episode serves as a good example of why voyager failed, while ds9 succeeded. Too much reliance on technology, and not enough on real genuine human emotion.

    • It is a great shot, actually. And nicely set up by the hints earlier that the people in a space ship know where the prison is.

      I have less of a problem with the clamp than you and Biller, if only because I think it works quite well as part of the episode’s social commentary. After all, it could legitimately be argued that there is a certain view that prison should effectively be hell for its inhabitants, and that these criminals are only getting some justice by inflicting brutality upon one another. I think making that the explicit purpose of that prison here works very well, literalising the idea that society is at best indifferent to the harm that violent inmates cause to one another and at worse violently complicit.

  2. It’s interesting that the third season of Voyager has Flashback and The Chute back to back because they mirror as well as parallel the plots of DS9’s fifth season. Flashback was Voyager’s 30th anniversary Trek episode and Trials and Tribble-ations was DS9’s while following The Chute was DS9’s prison saga In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light. It’s funny considering that DS9 is the far grittier Star Trek show that Dominion Internment Camp 371 is nowhere near as harsh as the Akritirian prison. The invention of a similar “clamp” to dissuade prisoner cooperation was something that never occurred to the Dominion and maybe that’s why some of them escaped while Tom and Harry only got away through help from the outside. Under normal circumstances, you’d think it would have been the other way around.

    I’ve often wondered if Zio was a member of Open Sky especially since he fancies himself the Messiah of the Akritirian prison. His manifesto is his version of the Ten Commandments and he likes the idea of turning the prison population into an army of his followers. In David A McIntee’s Delta Quadrant: A Guide to Voyager, he said the same thing about how the Chute is framed by Les Landau to appear almost like a dangerously red halo over Zio while he’s espousing his philosophy to a disinterested Harry.

    Zio is the classic example of the man who thinks he’s above the people he’s surrounded by when in fact he’s worse than anyone else in there – the case of the lunatic wanting to take over the asylum. The casting of Don McManus is clever because don’t forget that he was in The Shawshank Redemption, the prison guard locked up in the toilet while Tim Robbins plays some classical music for the inmates over the PA system.

    “Come out to Akritiria. We’ll get together. Have a few laughs”. Great Die Hard riff Darren. The actor who plays Ambassador Liria is the father of Chris Pine, the much younger Captain Kirk. And Vel and Piri murdered 47 people (it is after all Star Trek’s lucky number).

    • It’s funny you mention those flashbacks and parallels.

      As the season continues, I start doing something similar. I think it’s around Warlord/The Assignment and The Ascent/Rise that I note that Voyager is very effectively demonstrating its shortcomings by constructing episodes that can be directly compared to episodes of DS9.

      • I forgot to mention another with The Swarm and Dr Bashir, I Presume where we get to meet Dr Lewis Zimmerman and a holographic image of him.

  3. This isn’t a bad episode but it would have been better as a two-parter. You could get deeper into Open Sky and Akritirian society, not rush the climax, give Harry and Tom those character beats. Too bad Trek didn’t hit onto Manny Coto’s story model until so late in the game. Would have served Voyager perfectly.

    • I actually don’t mind The Chute too much as a stock “Voyager does Star Trek” story of the kind that the third-through-fifth seasons actually do relatively well. It could easily be a solid mid-tier Next Generation episode, but I like me a solid mid-tier Next Generation episode.

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