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Recap / Star Trek Voyager S 3 E 3 "The Chute"

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Kim gets his first taste of the Chute.

On a planet, Tom Paris and Harry Kim are arrested for a crime they didn't commit and sentenced to the Chute — the doorway to a brutal prison. As Voyager attempts to rescue them, Tom and Harry struggle against the inmates and the implants they've received to remain alive and human.

This episode contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Captain Janeway is the first down the Chute, wielding a compression phaser rifle and backed up by Tuvok.
  • The Alcatraz / Deadly Environment Prison: They are shoved into a tunnel that drops them into a space with a number of fellow prisoners. There are no guards, and think they are underground. Turns out they are in a Space Station, which cuts off any chance of getting outside and running.
  • Ambiguously Evil: As shown in the Background Halo scene — is Zio a madman leading Harry down a dark path, or just a ruthless pragmatist who's realised how to beat the system?
  • And Then What?: Zio points out that escaping up the Chute while a spacecraft is delivering food or prisoners won't work, because how are they going to get past the guards without firearms of their own?
  • Arc Number: Paris claims to have killed 47 men. It's later revealed this is the number killed in the bombing he was accused of.
  • Attack Hello: In the Action Prologue, New Meat prisoner Harry Kim is being roughed up by the inmates when Tom Paris intervenes...only to punch Harry himself. Turns out he's just playing along. "In here, you don't want to appear weak."
  • Background Body Part: During the speech of Zio, a prisoner who's found out the secret behind the aggression implants, the force field ring at the bottom end of the chute frames the back of his head, appearing as a halo. And also as a set of horns, so you can take the Rule of Symbolism either way.
  • Beneath the Mask: After being stabbed, Tom orders Harry to abandon him if necessary because I Will Only Slow You Down. Eventually he loses his bravado under the influence of the Clamp and begs Harry not to leave him behind.
  • Berserk Button: When Harry discovers a deranged Tom has disassembled the device they needed to deactivate the Chute's forcefield, he attacks his friend in a rage.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: In this case, Harry, who faces down an entire group of prisoners trying to get what they can from a badly injured Tom.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Vel tries to protect Piri from being sent to prison.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Harry is facing off with a large mob intent on looting a dying Tom Paris, when Janeway turns up with a security team.
  • Cold Equation: Kim is encouraged by Zio to let Paris die in order to conserve resources.
  • Continuity Nod
    • Trilithium was used as a weapon in Star Trek: Generations.
    • Neelix's shuttle, picked up by Voyager in the pilot episode.
  • Dark Messiah: Zio. He even has a manifesto and plans on recruiting others to follow his path.
  • Death Glare: Janeway when Piri accuses her of cowardice.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: The prisoners are underfed, causing them to fight and kill for food.
  • Dilating Door plus a Forcefield Door: The Chute
  • Dissonant Serenity: Zio is the only calm person in the prison, having worked out how to turn the Clamp's impulses to his advantage.
  • Explosive Leash: Downplayed, the Clamp is designed to heighten aggression and prevent prisoners from thinking clearly, so none of them can coordinate an escape. If removed without proper medical equipment it will kill you anyway.
  • Escape Route Surprise: Climbing the Chute leads not to the surface, but the vacuum of Outer Space.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Both Harry and Tom struggle against heightened aggressive impulses courtesy of the brain clamps they've been implanted with.
  • Finish Him!: Zio urging Harry to kill Tom for a Commercial Break Cliffhanger.
  • Food Pills: Prisoners of the Chute are fed brown rectangular cuboids. Tom and Harry fantasize about real food.
  • Food Porn: Tom and Harry engage in this as a distraction.
  • Foreshadowing: Tuvok says even a subsurface scan has shown no sign of Tom and Harry's lifesigns. This hints at The Reveal that the prison is not underground as believed by the inmates.
  • Friendship Moment:
    • What Harry says while facing down the group:
    • Reinforced at the end of the episode when Harry apologizes to Tom for going crazy, and Tom says that he remembers Harry saying the line, and is grateful.
      Tom: You want to know what I remember? Someone saying, "This man is my friend. Nobody touches him." I'll remember that for a long time.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Harry successfully lowers the Forcefield Door on the Chute. It doesn't help him or Tom escape, though, as the Chute leads into space.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Harry and Tom have a conversation about the Delaney sisters to avert the inevitable prison Ho Yay.
  • Hellhole Prison: Thanks to a lack of food and other supplies and the aggression implant slowly driving you into a hyper angry or insane wreck which all comes together to create a very dangerous place where you are unlikely to ever make it out alive.
  • He's Dead, Jim: Justified, thanks to a Slashed Throat and no doctor.
  • Hope Spot: Harry disables the force field, climbs up the Chute, and finds a hatch leading to freedom...or, as it turns out, the vacuum of space, ending his escape attempt.
  • Hyperspeed Escape: Janeway decides to run rather than waste time fighting the Akritirians, as it won't get Tom and Harry out of prison.
  • I Can't Believe I'm Saying This: Even Neelix's leola root stew is missed by a starving Tom and Harry.
  • I'll Kill You!: Zio threatens to kill Harry if he's lying about a means of escape. Later Harry tosses Zio's manifesto (which he's never shown to anyone else) in his face. Instead of attacking Harry, Zio just picks up the papers.
    "If I were like the others, I'd kill you. But I don't lose control. That's the difference between me and you."
  • "Inescapable" Prison Easily Escaped: Averted (see Surprisingly Realistic Outcome).
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Zio's utilitarian philosophy is the only means of surviving in the prison. He even manages to thrive as everyone destroys themselves around him.
  • Kangaroo Court: Harry Kim and Tom Paris are accused of a terrorist bombing when trilithium residue (from Voyager's warp engines) is found on their clothing. Even when Janeway later catches the guilty party, the government isn't interested in releasing Harry and Tom in exchange for the terrorists — the fact that no conviction is ever reversed is regarded as a very effective deterrent.
    Kim: The Akritirians interrogated me. When I wouldn't confess to the bombing, they dragged me in front of a judge. He said you'd already confessed for the both of us, then he pronounced me guilty.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!:
    • Harry Kim hands out beatdowns to a bunch of hyperaggressive fellow prisoners and figures out how to break out of The Alcatraz. When he discovers the escape route leads to outer space, his next move is to try inciting a Prison Riot against the cargo ships that bring food!
    • Neelix and his ship prove critical to breaking Paris and Kim out of prison.
  • MacGyvering: Harry fashions a tool out of a pipe and some wiring that allows him to break through the legendarily impassible chute.
  • Make an Example of Them: The Akritirians refuse to exchange Tom and Harry for the actual bombers, as no-one sentenced to the Chute is ever released.
    Janeway: That is an outrageous policy!
    Liria: I assure you, it has proved to be a most effective deterrent.
  • The Millstone: Tom, suffering infection and delirium, becomes this when he takes apart the device Harry was using to disable the force fields.
  • Mind Control: The Clamp appears to be a form of torture, but Zio claims the actual objective is to prevent the inmates from cooperating to escape.
  • Mind over Matter: Zio is a hardened criminal but displays a Tranquil Fury compared to everyone else in the cell block. He has spent a long enough time there that he has meditated on the nature and purpose of the Clamp and even written a manifesto. He offers to teach Harry how to beat the Clamp but that requires Harry to kill Tom and cut off anything weighing him down, which he refuses.
  • Mood Dissonance: Harry is giving Tom a Security Cling, while outside they can hear the bedlam of the inmates fighting and laughing.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After they're back on Voyager, Harry has a major moment of this when he recalls nearly beating Tom to death. Tom responds with the Friendship Moment above.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Kim snaps under the influence of the aggression implant and deals one out to Paris, only barely managing to stop himself from killing him.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Neelix does his Talkative Loon schtick with the approaching Akritirian patrol vessels.
  • The Oner: Two of them. The first is when Zio is trying to tell Harry how to use the aggression from the implants into a force to work for him and help him succeed followed by a monologue about how Zio came to be the man he is. The other is when Harry is trying to come up with an escape plan being met constantly by Zio's interjections and counterpoints, finally ending with Zio offering to let Harry read his Manifesto.
  • Only I Can Kill Him: Tom uses this as an excuse to stop the others killing Harry, claiming he ratted them out to the authorities.
  • Phlebotinum Pills: All prisoners are implanted with a brain clamp that heightens aggression.
  • Prison Episode: The Clamp was a sci-fi device to convey a difficult problem with this kind of story in an ongoing TV show, being the inability to show the passage of time. It made them jittery after only a few days while normally it would take months or years (DS9 did something similar with "Hard Time" where the 20-year prison sentence was a fake memory implant).
  • Reveal Shot: Harry looking through the portal into outer space.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: From what we see of the Akritirian government, they show every sign of being a totalitarian dictatorship, and the Open Sky movement is fighting against them. However, they're perfectly willing to employ terrorist bombings as a strategy. (We also learn literally nothing about their ideology, so it's entirely possible they're as bad as the regime they oppose.)
  • Robbing the Dead: And the inmates are entirely willing to assist with the dying part.
  • Sci-Fi Name Buzzwords: Trilithium, which can be made from paralithium.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Ex-con Tom Paris tries the Alpha Dog ploy, but Pit just returns with more men and weapons. Harry Kim tries the expected Starfleet tactics — MacGyvering his way out, rallying the locals with a Rousing Speech — but this doesn't work either. If Janeway hadn't turned up, it's obvious they both would have died in there.
  • Trojan Horse: Neelix's shuttle is used to convey the rescue team into Akritirian space.
  • The Unreveal: Sadly, we don't get to see how the rescue party managed to convey an injured, delirious and basically deadweight Tom up the titular chute and into Neelix's ship.
  • Villain Ball: Janeway offers to hand over Vel and Piri in exchange for her crew. The Akritirians refuse, thus letting two terrorist bombers slip through their fingers which will likely lead to more bombings.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Harry tries to convince the prisoners to join him in an escape, but the Clamps make it impossible to reason with anyone. Except for Zio, who can be pretty reasonable, but declines for other reasons.
  • What You Are in the Dark: After being rescued, the Doctor clinically explains what the Clamp was and how he removed it. Harry is unnerved over what he felt and almost killing Tom in order to survive, while Tom is surprisingly casual about the experience and Harry believes he didn't remember anything in his injured state. Tom affirms he remembers one line near the end "This man is my friend, no one touches him" and says that will stick with him for a long time.
  • You're Insane!: Harry when Zio attempts to recruit him as his first disciple. It's left ambiguous whether Zio really is insane. Or if this is what Zio wants people to think.