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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…

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