Thursday, 6 August 2015

Review: Voyager 3.3: The Chute

Don't cross Harry Kim, he knows karaté.
Star Trek Voyager - Season Three, Episode Three - The Chute
Written between 31st July and 2nd August 2015

Harry Kim is a complete and total dweeb. He's forever ending up in the wrong relationship situations. He claims to remember what it was like in his mother's womb. His only real passion seems to be playing the clarinet, badly, and despite spending seven years of the show as one of the ship's main crew, he's still at the basic rank of Ensign. Nothing more sums up the pointlessness of Harry than his centric episodes, which don't really benefit from him being the focus. However, there is a trend as Voyager goes on to try and use these centric to present a different image of Harry, and some of them do actually end up delivering some of his best moments. The Chute is an attempt at one of these, and while a lot of its success is down to sharing the centric with Tom Paris, it's still a win for Harry.
     Harry and Tom find themselves in a brutal alien prison, the crew being blamed for a terrorist explosion apparently created using material from Voyager's engines. Everyone in the prison has been given an implant which makes them angry and paranoid, meaning tensions are frayed across the board. Harry and Tom, forced to fight their own urges, group up with another prisoner called Zio in order to bypass the security on The Chute - the only entrance to the prison, through which their food arrives. Harry manages to climb up, but discovers that the prison is not underground, but in fact a Space Station. On Voyager, the crew track down the terrorist group actually responsble for the bombings, and attempt to trade them for Tom and Harry. This offer refused, Janeway instead takes the pragmatic option, approaching the prison in Neelix's trading vessel and storming the place.
     This story's character work follows a common format - put characters into a lot of stress, and/or some kind of mind-control, and see if they can keep true to themselves and their commitments. And applying this idea to Harry and Tom is not too bad of a concept - the friendship between the two forms a good part of the early show's levity. How din would it be to test Kim's tolerance of the arrogant Paris, or Paris' patience when looking out for Kim? The episode begins strongly with the latter and ends up weakly soldiering on with the former,  when Paris is not injured and Kim insists upon trying to care for him despite Zio's protestations. There's one scene near the end which is meant to be a pivotal character moment where Kim nearly kills Paris over something petty before snapping himself out of it which was effective even if coming out of left field.
♫ It's guy love, that's what it is...
     Other than that, the episode felt a little bland and mediocre. Alien political terrorists are not a new idea in Star Trek or even in Voyager, and that particular idea would go on to be covered with a lot more panache in Season Four's "Living Witness". Unlike in DS9, where we often needed a Bashir/O'Brien show because of all of the other competing plotlines, Kim and Paris' friendship is so omnipresent in this show that we really don't need to give it any particular focus. I suppose the main benefit of the episode was the focus on Kim as a character, giving one of the first examples of him overcoming his innate dweebiness and actually with competence and confidence - something I'm sure that both Garrett Wang and the audience appreciated at the time.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Voyager adds fuel to the Doctor/Kes ship in The Swarm.

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