Recap / Stargate SG-1 S3 E5 "Learning Curve"

The SGC agrees to an information exchange with the technologically advanced planet Orban, but the team discovers a sinister truth about what the Orbanians do with their children.

"Learning Curve" provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adorably Precocious Child: Merrin is eleven years old and an expert on naquadah reactors but has no understanding of concepts such as 'fun'.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Merrin is put through the Averium and her old personality is lost, but the knowledge that she gained on earth about having fun is absorbed by all the other Orbanians so that she and the rest of the children are now able to play games and think creatively.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Calen genuinely doesn't see anything wrong with absorbing the knowledge of the children and can't understand why the team are outraged by it, as it's the only method of learning they know.
  • Child Prodigy: All of the chosen Orbanian children are this due to having nanites implanted in their brains in infancy that increase their capacity for learning.
  • Death of Personality: Because the children receive their nanites before their neural pathways have formed, the process of removing them during the Averium reduces them to an infant-like state where they have no memory of their former lives.
  • Friend to All Children: O'Neill is the most disgusted of all the characters after finding out just what exactly the Orbanians do with their children and decides to take Merrin to the surface to give her a taste of what she's missing out on.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    Carter: Merrin, you're eleven years old. Half the interesting things in my life didn't happen till I was fifteen.
    Merrin: What kind of interesting things?
    Carter: Oh. Um, just... stuff.
  • Going Critical: Lampshaded when Carter tests the naquadah reactor she manages to build with Merrin's help. It doesn't do anything dangerous, but it emits a pulse of harmless energy that sets the base alarms off, something about which Hammond has a few choice words to say:
    Hammond: In the future, Major, before you activate any device that includes the word "reactor", I would appreciate it if you could notify me.
  • Ingesting Knowledge: When a child goes through their Averium, all the other Orbanians are given a nanite containing everything they learned.
  • The Kindnapper: O'Neill essentially kidnaps Merrin for her own good after finding out what will happen if she returns to Orban.
  • Military Maverick: O'Neill takes it upon himself to defy orders in taking Merrin from the base. Hammond does reprimand him for this, but he gets off pretty lightly all things considered.
  • Motor Mouth: Daniel launches into an overexcited, rambling spiel after discovering the significance of the culture the Orbanians may be descended from, something that confuses the hell out of Calen.
  • Nanomachines: The Orbanian children have large numbers of nanites in their brains to help them absorb vast amounts of knowledge quickly. When the children come of age, these nanites are removed in a ceremony called the Averium and distributed among the rest of the Orbanian people.
  • One Steve Limit: An aversion; the Orbanian child that Teal'c befriends is called Tomin; another Tomin would show up much, much later as a recurring character throughout seasons nine and ten.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: The reason the Orbanians have managed to develop such an advanced society in a relatively short amount of time is because they use their children to absorb knowledge and then distribute the information throughout the rest of the population, leaving the children as little more than empty shells.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Orbanian society sees the ideals of The Enlightenment run amok. O'Neill injects some well-needed Romanticism.
  • The Sleepless: Merrin claims that she rarely needs sleep, allowing her to work for over 24 hours straight, past the point at which Carter has crashed out on her desk from exhaustion.
    Carter: Okay, now I am jealous.