16 – Learning Curve

Grade: D-

Learning Curve (1995) on IMDb


The bio-neural gel packs on the ship are failing, which is causing all kinds of trouble on the ship. Since Lt Dalby replaced one without notifying a superior officer, he and several other former Maquis crewmen will be subjected to training courses given by Tuvok.


I have never liked this episode. We have reached a new low for this series. This is the worst season finale episode in Star Trek besides “These are the Voyages” and “Shades of Gray”.

First of all, we have Janeway’s ridiculous Holodeck program with one really bratty kid and his sister. I have promised myself that nothing good can possibly come out of these Holodeck sessions, so I’m fast-forwarding through the scenes every time I see Janeway in her 1900s costume from now on.

Second, we have bio-neural gel packs that run the entire ship’s functions. Here we learn that there are 47 backup packs, which seems like an extremely low amount. I don’t know how many the ship needed to work, but 47 replacements can’t get you too far, in my best guess. And they can’t be replicated. So once all 47 backups are in use, the next one that goes down will mean the ship is doomed to destruction. I suppose I can excuse this because Starfleet didn’t know that Voyager would be so far from home for so long. So maybe they didn’t realize they’d need to create a backup that would work, just in case.

Third, since the gelpacks contain organic material, they are subject to illness caused by bacteria and viruses. This really is beyond stupid. When they came up with this idea, did nobody think to seal the gelpacks in a vacuum-packed and sterile container that would not allow bacteria and viruses to get through? How could they have been so stupid to equip the entire ship with these things that can be taken down if someone on board simply catches a cold?

Fourth, Tuvok’s treatment of these four former Maquis officers is flat out tyrannical. He’s supposed to be unemotional and completely logical. But his decisions are not at all logical. He interrupts a crewman who asked permission to ask a question, and then demands for him to run 40 laps around the cargo bay. The crewman starts to voice a complaint, and Tuvok adds 10 more laps to it. What is this supposed to teach him? That he’s not supposed to talk or ask questions? Where’s the logic in Tuvok’s actions?

Fifth, Tuvok commands this crewman to clean the transporter pad with something about as big as a toothbrush. Again, no logic there at all.

Sixth, B’Elanna Torres says something about how the infection spread from one gelpack to another through bacteria spores. But bacteria do not spread this way. Spores of bacteria are created to keep it alive during an unfavorable condition. Once conditions improve, the bacteria revives and continues to grow. OK, maybe this is a bit nit-picky, but by this time, I was just angry at this episode.

I did give it some positive points for finally addressing the issue of integrating the Maquis officers into Starfleet. But what would really have been better is if some of the Maquis officers, when presented with Tuvok’s “My way or take some laps” teaching methods would have instead commandeered Dr Jetrel’s ship that was left on board at the end of the previous episode. Now THAT would have really been interesting.

I can just imagine it now. Several Maquis officers meet secretly to discuss their working conditions and the stupidity of the Starfleet officers. One of them suggests using Jetrel’s ship to escape and take their own way back home. They go about recruiting other former Maquis rebels, and maybe some of them don’t want to take Jetrel’s ship. Maybe one of them (like Torres, for example), has to make a decision between just allowing them to escape or telling the captain about it. Then how would the Maquis respond?

Eventually, you could even have these Maquis people show up in later episodes and Captain Janeway would have to decide if she should rescue them from something or allow them to be on their own. Maybe the Maquis someday come to the aid of Voyager. Or maybe the Maquis actually make it back home to Earth before Voyager does. The possibilities here are endless – like the series was supposed to be anyway.

In effect, this episode is a microcosm of all that was wrong with this series and with Starfleet. At one point, Chakotay takes matters into his own hands by sucker-punching Dalby in the mess hall. Then he helps Dalby back up but tells him that he will obey Tuvok or else fight over it every time. I thought Starfleet and the Federation were about self-determination and individual rights. Many of these Maquis have decided to join Starfleet, but others haven’t. So in other words, Starfleet is telling the Maquis that they will either join Starfleet or they’ll be subjected to excess discipline, brute force, petty cleanup duties, etc. They’re saying “everything will be tolerated as long as it fits into what we want you to do.” This series was supposed to be different than all the others. But we’re ending up with some lame series in which absolutely no risks are taken whatsoever. In the long run, there is almost no difference in the episodes that Voyager produced compared to any other series.

At one point, it is said they can’t put all the Maquis in the brig, but this is stated as if it were fact and no reasons were given why this was true. Is the brig too small for all the Maquis? Is the brig being used for something else?

I think they could have put them in the brig, if they wanted to. Voyager’s original mission was to stop the Maquis and apprehend them. So you’d think this ship would have had a large enough brig to house everyone on that Maquis ship. Oops. I guess Berman and Braga never thought that. They came up with the premise and then totally forgot about that minor detail.

But they have more options than either “join us or brig”. Why not keep them on board as civilians? Put them in non-Starfleet roles like cooking, janitorial, etc. Oh, here’s an idea. Why not allow them to leave? Why not allow them to take Dr Jetrel’s ship and go off on their own? Or why not put them on an M-class planet someplace and let them stay there? But at least give them other choices besides just “join us or die”.

Of Note

In this season, the two least memorable episodes are the ones that involve Janeway’s Victorian England Holodeck program. I don’t believe that’s a coincidence.