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The Chute (episode)

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"The Chute"
VOY, Episode 3x03
Production number: 147
First aired: 18 September 1996
46th of 168 produced in VOY
44th of 168 released in VOY
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 0 released in VOY Remastered  
425th of 728 released in all
Harry and Tom in Prison
Teleplay By
Kenneth Biller

Story By
Clayvon C. Harris

Directed By
Les Landau
50156.2 (2373)
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Harry Kim and Tom Paris are found guilty and detained in a prison where a neural implant gradually drives the inmates mad.


Many alien men crowd around a chute. Through the chute comes Ensign Harry Kim landing on the ground. One of the men picks him up and pushes him to another man, who in turn does the same. He gets pushed around the room, punched, and hurt when finally he gets pushed into none other then Lieutenant junior grade Tom Paris. Tom punches him and he lands on the ground.

Ensign Harry Kim and Lieutenant jg Tom Paris are imprisoned after being accused of using trilithium to bomb the Laktivia recreational facility on Akritiri, killing 47 off-duty patrollers. Paris tells Kim that they are in a Akritirian maximum security detention facility more than three hundred meters underground with fifty other prisoners. They are controlled by a neural implant called a clamp, which makes the prisoners paranoid and violent.

The only exit is a chute which the Akritirians use to send food and new prisoners into the holding area. However, it is protected by a force field which shocks anyone who touches it. Kim finds a way to disable the field. As Paris and Kim attempt to escape, the other prisoners find them and stab Paris.

Kim takes Paris back to their shelter but it has been taken over by other prisoners. He then approaches Zio and offers to take Zio with him while he escapes in exchange for shelter, food and bandages. Zio and Kim disable the force field and climb up the chute, only to find that it leads to a hatch into space. They are not underground but imprisoned on a space station, escape to the "surface" is impossible.

Kim tries to convince the other prisoners that they need to join together to raid the vessel that brings food and prisoners, however, they refuse. Kim goes back to the shelter where Paris is resting and finds that he has taken apart the device that disrupts the force field. Kim is furious and the two fight, Kim nearly killing Paris. Zio tells Kim that he should kill Paris because he is a drain on resources.

On Voyager, Captain Kathryn Janeway is trying to negotiate with Ambassador Liria of Akritiri so that she can find her crewmen. They tell her that Kim and Paris have confessed to the bombing and that Voyager is the only possible source of the trilithium used for the bomb in the sector. Two Akritirian patrol ships appear and threaten to board Voyager and imprison the entire crew causing Janeway to order a retreat. Lt. jg B'Elanna Torres reports that paralithium can also be converted to trilithium. She informs Janeway that paralithium is much more common because it is used to power impulse ships.

Voyager reviews its logs of vessels that their sensors recorded while in orbit of Akritiri and finds four that are powered by paralithium. They track down the vessels and find the bombers: two siblings named Piri and Vel, who are affiliated with a terrorist group called Open Sky. Janeway goes back to Akritiri and offers to exchange them for Kim and Paris. However, the ambassador refuses, saying that Kim and Paris' convictions cannot be overturned.

Janeway approaches the bombers, who say that they know the location of the prison. Janeway offers to let them go if they give them access to the prison. Janeway decides to get close to the prison in Neelix' small ship.

Back in the prison, the prisoners are suddenly alerted to the arrival of someone coming down the chute. The prisoners crowd around, ready to "greet" the new arrivals, when Janeway comes down the chute wielding a large weapon. She stuns several of the prisoners as Lt. Tuvok comes down the chute after her. The two senior officers are able to locate Kim, who brings them to Paris. The four Starfleet officers make their escape, just as an Akritiri ship announces its plan to board the Talaxian vessel.

Back on Voyager, Kim, Paris, Neelix, Janeway, and The Doctor gather in sickbay at the end of The Doctor's treatment of Paris' wounds. Paris and Kim go to dinner together and Kim awkwardly tries to apologize to Paris for almost killing him. Paris stops him short, saying that he doesn't remember that. "What I remember," he says, "is a voice saying, 'This man is my friend. Nobody touches him.'" The two friends leave to enjoy a hearty, much-dreamed-about dinner.

Log entries

"Captain's log, stardate 50156.2. After 72 hours, Lieutenant Paris and Ensign Kim are still missing, and I'm quickly losing patience with the Akritirian authorities. They continue to deny us access to the surface, and they've yet to confirm whether our crewmen were killed in the bombing."

"Captain's log, supplemental. So far, we've located three ships with paralithium plasma emissions, but none of them appears to have produced explosives. We're currently in pursuit of a fourth vessel."

Memorable quotes

"I'm only in the mood for good news today, ambassador."

- Kathryn Janeway, to the Akritirian ambassador

"This man is my friend; nobody touches him."

- Harry Kim, to prisoners about Tom Paris

"A prison without guards?"

- Harry Kim, on the Akritirian jail

"He's dead."
"I think I've lost my appetite."

- Harry Kim, checking on a prisoner and Tom Paris

"Right now, I'm so hungry, I could eat a bowl of Neelix's leola root stew."
"Me, too. Never thought I'd say that."

- Harry Kim and Tom Paris

"Tom, listen to me. I... I almost killed you."
"What are you saying? You're the one that kept me alive."
"I was ready to hit you with the pipe. Don't you remember?"
"You want to know what l remember? Someone saying, 'This man is my friend. Nobody touches him.' I'll remember that for a long time."

- Harry Kim and Tom Paris

Background Information

Story development

  • This episode had the working titles "Playground" and "The Pit". ([1]; Beyond the Final Frontier, p. 297)
  • The episode was a left-over from the first two seasons of Star Trek: Voyager and proved to be particularly problematic for teleplay writer Kenneth Biller. He explained, "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." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, pp. 88-89)
  • The solution that was ultimately decided upon was the addition of the clamp to the story, although this concept frustrated Ken Biller. "What we ultimately ended up doing was adding this idea of the clamp, which was this science fiction idea which would compress the passage of time. These alien captors had implanted the prisoners with neural devices that drove them a little nuts and made their violent tendencies come out. I ultimately agreed to do that, but I was very against it. It was saying, if Kim behaves violently in any way, he's under some sort of influence. It's not his essential humanity or his character that's actually responsible for this kind of behavior." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 89)
  • The final draft of this episode's script was submitted on 3 July 1996. [2]

Cast and characters

  • Kim actor Garrett Wang thoroughly enjoyed this episode. During production on the fourth season outing "Scientific Method", Wang not only cited this installment as one of three examples – from each of the first three seasons – that he considered to be "a progressively higher jump for me acting-wise" (the other such episodes being "Emanations" and "Non Sequitur"). He also regarded this installment to be a stand-out episode and one of the best examples of what Star Trek: Voyager could be, remarking, "Other than the fact that I was in there a lot, I really thought that it was a good showcase to see what Kim could do, what levels he could get to." (Star Trek Monthly issue 33, p. 34) Additionally, when asked – later in Voyager's fourth season – what episode he felt best epitomized what he could do when given the opportunity, Wang instantly replied, "That would be 'The Chute.' It's the best Kim episode." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #17, p. 36)
  • Garrett Wang especially liked the story for this episode. "That was one of the most clear cut scripts that we've had," he said. "You have an arc which goes through the entire thing. You've got the fact that we are trapped in the alien prison ship and dealing with this increasing amount of tension by these implants in our skulls. The stakes were high in that episode, and I really enjoyed it." (Star Trek Monthly issue 33, p. 34) Wang further said of this installment, "'The Chute' was the first time I was given something with no dead ends. There was an arc from beginning to end for the character. It was so simply written, and it was so beautiful. There was very little extraneous information, and I loved that [....] The main idea – that the only way the prison population decreases is because of these devices on the back of the prisoners' heads that cause them to become more and more stressed, so that they kill each other – was great. Those kinds of stakes [...] made it feel real." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #17, pp. 37-38)
  • Despite the fact that he liked this episode, Wang also felt it was one of numerous episodes that did not give a clear picture of Kim's motivations. "I would love to know more about the things that eat at Harry. You don't see many episodes or scenes about that," Wang remarked, during the fourth season. "Even in 'The Chute,' my big episode last season, it was Harry being heroic. As good as it gets, it wasn't really about what makes Harry tick." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #17, p. 37)
  • In common with Garrett Wang, Paris actor Robert Duncan McNeill also extremely liked this episode, citing it as one of his favorites from Star Trek: Voyager's first three seasons. (Star Trek Monthly issue 37, p. 44) He commented, "'The Chute,' I loved [....] 'The Chute' was sort of a combination of The Road Warrior and NYPD Blue. It was a very good show, and Garrett Wang and I had some very meaty stuff to do." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #11) Indeed, McNeill appreciated that the clamp-induced aggravations of the prisoners provided performance opportunities for the actors and that the episode gave an insight into his own character of Paris. "That was a great episode to explore [the] street-wise side of him," McNeill declared. He continued, "It didn't back off [....] Emotionally, that episode allowed the actors to really hit some peaks and valleys; it had action and tension in it, and a lot of passion. It wasn't a squeaky clean Star Trek thing that very often is the mode." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 108) Of the friendship between Paris and Kim, McNeill stated, "They've really expanded that relationship. We've seen Paris and Kim have some fun and we've seen them in action together in episodes like 'The Chute,' when things got serious. That's good." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #11)
  • Shortly after appearing in this episode, Neelix actor Ethan Phillips (who enjoyed episodes wherein his character acted heroically) said of this installment, "Neelix also gets to play the hero in an episode we've just shot. He doesn't have a lot to do in it, but he does rescue Tom Paris and Harry Kim and kind of saves the day." (Star Trek Monthly issue 20)
  • Both Garrett Wang and Ken Biller were impressed by the performances herein. "We had good guest stars on that, too," Wang enthused. "Robbie [Duncan McNeill] was really good." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #17, p. 38) Biller opined, "I think that Robbie and Garrett both gave very strong performances in it." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 88)

Sets and wardrobe

  • According to the unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 136), the sets of this episode were constructed from stock set pieces, including the interior of Neelix's shuttle which – according to the book – was quickly assembled from stock pieces.
  • Of all the sets in the first three seasons of Star Trek: Voyager, however, the alien prison set for this episode was the most challenging to design. This was because the set was required to facilitate considerable interaction with the actors. Set designer Richard James commented, "The prison set centerpiece was a chute which Kate [Mulgrew] had to slide down and there's not a great deal of rehearsal time for the sets. So edges had to be eliminated, the iris of the chute made to open and close effortlessly, and the crawl space had to be easily mounted by Garrett Wang and Robbie McNeill, as well as be able to accommodate the camera." Co-executive producer Jeri Taylor recalled that the episode had "pages and pages of scenes to shoot in this ship prison that was supposed to be claustrophobic." She continued, "Through connivery and clever thinking Richard was able to make this cramped single set look like two or three sets. The way he designed and redressed the exits and entrances, he provided the illusion of different levels and sections." (Star Trek: Communicator, issue #111, pp. 53 & 54)
  • According to the book Delta Quadrant (p. 138), the stock elements used in this episode were not only sets but also costumes. Indeed, two of the Akritirian inmates clearly wear a costume originally created for the Aaamazzarites in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.


Shooting The Chute

Director Les Landau talks with Vel actor James Parks during production of this episode

  • This is the only episode of Voyager's third season that director Les Landau worked on.
  • The production of this episode was closely monitored by Tim Russ, Roxann Dawson, and Robert Duncan McNeill, all three of whom were regular cast members who were very eager to direct some of Star Trek: Voyager (McNeill having already been scheduled to direct an episode, by this point). Garrett Wang reflected, "I remember they were observing Les Landau directing 'The Chute'. All three of them were cramming in there." [3]
  • To give the episode an unusual visual style, most of the camera work in the prison used hand-held cameras. (Star Trek: Voyager Companion) Explaining why this technique was used, Paris actor Robert Duncan McNeill recalled, "Les Landau was making his farewell show with that episode. He was going off to work with Steven Spielberg on High Incident. So, Les was experimenting with styles he could use on his next series. Much of 'The Chute' was done with hand-held cameras [and] I love when we can do Voyager differently." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #11) This episode, however, was not the final Star Trek production directed by Les Landau; he returned to direct two more episodes of Voyager as well as the Enterprise outing "Sleeping Dogs".
  • Ken Biller was highly pleased with Les Landau's directing of this installment. "It was wonderfully directed by Les Landau," Biller raved. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 88)

Visual effects

  • This was the first Star Trek: Voyager episode on which visual effects supervisor Mitch Suskin worked. Adapting to the demands of working on the series, particularly the sophistication of Voyager's review process, was challenging for him. He recalled, "That episode was tough for me [....] I had to learn the process of how things get designed in Voyager, how they get approved, and getting it all together in time to make the episode. That was the biggest challenge. A couple of new ships had to be designed for 'The Chute'; a space station prison and Neelix's ship which had never been seen before, and there was a lot of discussion as to what they should look like. They went through numerous designs before they came up with what was finally used [....] It was quite a process [....] It was more than I was used to. [Before Voyager], I used to walk into one person's office and present my ideas." Ultimately, both the Akritirian maximum security detention facility and Neelix's shuttle were visualized with CGI done by Digital Muse. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, pp. 103 & 104)

Reception and aftermath

  • This episode achieved a Nielsen rating of 4.3 million homes, and a 7% share. [4]
  • Cinefantastique rated this episode 3 out of 4 stars. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 88)
  • Star Trek Monthly scored this episode 3 out of 5 stars, defined as "Warp Speed". (Star Trek Monthly issue 24, p. 59)
  • The unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 138) gives this installment a rating of 8 out of 10.
  • Ken Biller was slightly puzzled by the popularity of this episode. "It's gotten an amazingly positive response," he said, "which kind of surprised me. It was not my personal favorite episode [....] But I think ultimately what people responded to in the episode was that the relationship between the two guys was so strong." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, pp. 88 & 89)
  • This episode's popularity was also evident to Garrett Wang. He said of the episode, "It was pretty well received by the critics. I think they enjoyed that episode." (Star Trek Monthly issue 33, p. 35) He also noted, "'The Chute' [...] is viewed by many people as a really kick-butt episode." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #17, pp. 36-37)
  • After working on this installment, Garrett Wang studied the episode in an effort to better his acting generally. He commented, "Now after watching it like 50 times, just trying to improve my acting, I feel like a lion waiting in the wings to pounce on the next available script I can get." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #17, pp. 36-37) Early in the fourth season, Garrett Wang also hoped that the episodes of that season would match the quality of this episode. (Star Trek Monthly issue 33, p. 36)

Other trivia

  • Paralithium is introduced here as a further branch of the "futuristic" lithium family of starship fuels, producing the highly dangerous trilithium as a by-product.
  • Reference to 47: Paris and Kim are accused of killing 47 soldiers in a bombing.

Video and DVD releases

Links and references


Also starring

Guest stars


Uncredited co-stars

Stunt doubles


2296; 47; acetylcholine; Akritiri; Akritirian; Akritirian cargo vessel; Akritirian maximum security detention facility; Akritirian patrol ship; barbecue; Baxial; brig; brigade; Chateau Lafite Rothschild; cherry pie; clamp; combadge; Delaney, Megan; dilithium; emergency vehicle; Federation; fettran sauce; fire ant; flambé noodles; food cake; fudge ripple pudding; grocer; Heva VII; Heva VII refueling port; hospital; hotel; hypothalamus; liter; ion propulsion; Laktivia recreational facility (Laktivia canteen); lamb; leola root stew; meter; multispectral subsurface scan; mushroom; onion rings; Open Sky; paralithium; plasma; pulse gun; potato; replicator ration; Risan bean; Sandrine's; shrimp; synaptic stimulator; T-bone steak; Talaxian; trilithium; warden; wild rice

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