Monday, November 5, 2012

The Chute

** (2 stars out of 5)
Akritiri is not where you'd like to go unless HBO's "Oz" is your idea of a televised vacation brochure.

Tom and Harry are convicted of a terrorist bombing that killed 47 cops at a rec centre, mainly because they were there, they survived, and they've heard of bombs. They are thrown into an oubliette with "The Clamp" embedded in their heads. It's a torture device to stimulate aggression and keep the prison from getting crowded. There are no guards, no cells, no early release for wrongful conviction, no RELEASE at all: only starvation, stabbings and WAY too occasional drops of sustenance blocks down the same tube new prisoners drop in.

A horrible game of chutes and ladders, only there's only one chute and no ladders to speak of.

Believing they are underground, the boys manage to keep from getting killed or killing each other long enough to climb up the Chute: only to discover there's no THERE there. They are on a space station. Take that, the ending of THX 1138!

Janeway easily catches the true bombers (the Open Sky freedom fighters), and she leads a strike team to the rescue in Neelix' ship (which they found under some old coats in the shuttle bay, having forgotten it existed.)

Guilt-ridden, Harry asks Tom whether he remembers that point when he was ready to strike his delirious, infected friend down dead. Tom tells him he only remembers Harry's words to the slavering convicts: "This man is my friend. Nobody touches him."

"The Chute" is well regarded and well performed. But I don't enjoy it. The vast majority of modern television seems like this to me: people reduced to animals on their last raw nerves, capable only of cruelty. Star Trek being what it is, there's still a glimmer of heroism and friendship overcoming adversity. But I have to look elsewhere for any sense of triumph of the human spirit. Or something. Anyway, don't listen to me. I have no stomach for watching others suffer.

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