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Recap / Star Trek Voyager S 1 E 15 "Learning Curve"

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You call this a PADD, maggot?! It's barely a Game Boy!
Get the cheese to Sickbay!

Captain Janeway is playing through her gothic romance holonovel when the characters start disappearing. She messages the bridge for an explanation and learns that the ship is having issues with its power. Tuvok tracks down the issue and finds a former Maquis crewman, Dalby, completing a repair to a broken gelpack. Tuvok reprimands him for making an unscheduled repair, but Dalby thinks he was displaying Maquis-style initiative and brusquely tells Tuvok to leave him alone. After Tuvok reports the confrontation, Janeway admits that some Maquis are not adapting well to Starfleet life and need to be taught how to think like a Starfleet officer. She puts Tuvok in charge of teaching the worst offenders in the ways of Starfleet.

Tuvok meets his new charges: the standoffish Henley, the chatterbug Chell, the sullen Gerron, and the combative Dalby himself. Insulted by their assignment to the class, the group refuses to heed Tuvok's orders and walk out. Chakotay meets the foursome in the mess hall, and they complain about not being allowed to follow their old ways rather than Starfleet's. In Maquis fashion, Chakotay decks Dalby and orders the foursome to return to the class. Tuvok quickly puts the class through a grueling regimen of physical training and technical education. During a battle simulation, Dalby orders a Last Stand against impossible odds, and Tuvok criticizes him for not simply retreating.

Meanwhile, Torres has been puzzling over the increasing problems they've been having with the ship's gel packs. Since the gel packs use bio-neural technology, she gives one to the Doctor to diagnose. He discovers that it's been infected with something, but he needs to know the origin of the infection to stop it. While he and Kes investigate the mystery, Tuvok stops by the mess hall and grouses about his class's lack of progress to Neelix, who suggests that he try to be more flexible and find out more about his students. Before leaving the kitchen, Tuvok identifies a block of cheese as the source of the gel packs' infection. It's beamed to sick bay for analysis.

Tuvok invites Dalby to the holodeck in an effort to get to know him, but Dalby rebuffs him. Later, Tuvok leads the quartet in another training exercise, but the ship begins the shut down. The infection is spreading and knocking out all the ship's systems one by one. Their compartment will soon fill with noxious gas, so Tuvok orders everyone out. As they try to escape, Gerron falls unconscious, and Dalby moves to save him, but Starfleet protocol dictates that it is too dangerous to go back, so Tuvok physically forces Dalby to leave. Instead, Tuvok himself stays behind and attempts to rescue Gerron, but after carrying the man most of the way to safety, he collapses.

In sick bay, the Doctor and Kes are running out to time to diagnose the infection. Kes asks whether bacteria can get infected with a virus, and the Doctor realizes that yes, a virus within the bacteria may be causing the infection rather than the bacteria itself. They whip up a cure and defeat the infection, saving the ship. Afterwards, the remaining classmates rescue Tuvok and Gerron. Tuvok admits that he is learning to bend rules when necessary. Dalby says that if Tuvok can learn to bend rules, then he can learn to follow them.


This episode provides examples of

  • A Day in the Limelight: For Tuvok.
  • Aborted Arc:
    • This episode is more or less the last episode that plays up any significant hostility between Starfleet and the Maquis, for better or for worse.note  From here, it becomes such a non-issue that it becomes a plot point in a season 3 episode.
    • Janeway's Gothic holonovel would appear one more time (in "Persistence of Vision"), then get dropped without resolution.
  • All Is Well That Ends Well: The Maquis crewman all work together to rescue Tuvok and Gerron. Dalby says that if Tuvok is willing to ignore regulations to save Gerron, then they can follow them.
  • Artificial Gravity: Increased by 10% while the trainees do laps on the deck and crawl through the Jeffries tubes.
  • Artistic License Engineering: We learn in this episode that the bio-neural gel packs can get sick from a viral infection. In addition, the manual overrides don't open the doors if they don't have power, which is the entire purpose of a manual override.
  • Artistic License Military: The futuristic "scrubbing the deck with a toothbrush" scene makes no sense in what is a crash-course in Starfleet operations and protocol, not Starfleet Academy where the instructors can spend years breaking down and reconstructing recruits.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: The "Maquis way" apparently runs on this, given that Chakotay decks Dalby to make him follow his orders.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: Evasive Sequence Beta Nine Three.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: So what were you saying about doing things the "Maquis way", Dalby?
  • Blunt "Yes":
    Dalby: We didn't ask to come aboard this ship, but we understand the situation we're in, and we've done the best job we can, and now you're telling us that's not good enough.
    Tuvok: That is correct.
  • Boot Camp Episode: For some lingering Maquis members that still hold a grudge against Starfleet.
  • Bottle Episode: The whole episode takes place on Voyager, with only a few new actors and no notable special effects.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Henry Burleigh, Viscount Timmons from Janeway's holoprogram. He's unbelievably full of himself, despite being no older than eight, and even talks down to Janeway.
  • Call-Back: Gerron takes off his Bajoran earring because it's against Starfleet regulations, as we saw in the TNG episode "Ensign Ro".
  • Chekhov's Gun: While he and Torres trying to figure out the source of the infection, Kim lists the food supplies Neelix recently brought on board, which included "schplict" (grakel milk), though he states that everything checked out on the logs. While the schplict itself isn't the source of the infection, the cheese Neelix went on to make from it was — he had to cultivate bacteria as part of the process.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Neelix gives Tuvok the old-as-Aesop speech on flexibility vs. rigidity. Tuvok agrees with him that the trainees are too set in their Maquis ways, until Neelix awkwardly points out that no, Tuvok is the one with the stick up his rear.
  • Conflict Ball:
  • Continuity Snarl: At the beginning, Dalby's unauthorized replacement of a gel-pack causes disruption to the energy grid, interrupting a number of ship systems — including the holodeck. Despite the fact that we were previously told that the holodeck has its own separate power matrix, which is for some reason incompatible with the rest of the ship's systems.
  • Crusading Widow: Dalby joined the Maquis after his lover was raped and murdered by three Cardassians.
  • Deadpan Snarker: B'Elanna brings a bio-neural gel pack to Sick Bay and calls it the Doctor and Kes' "new patient". The Doctor can't help himself.
    Doctor: The patient is sick.
    B'Elanna: Can you be more specific?
    Doctor: To discuss the patient's condition in front of the patient would be a serious breach of professional etiquette. [B'Elanna gives Kes a "really?" look] It's been suggested that I cultivate a greater sensitivity to my patients' needs. [to gel pack] Don't worry, my little friend!
  • Dissonant Serenity: The Doctor eventually gets the idea to deal with the infection like a human body would: roast it with a fever. After dialing up the heat on the ship to cleanse the gel-packs, he proudly announces success. Then the camera pans over to a Death Glaring Kes, who is dripping with sweat while the holo-Doc is no worse for wear.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Lt. Tuvok turns into this, including expecting one of trainees to degauss the transporter pads with a hand-held device (the 24th century version of scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush). However, The real Drill Sergeant Nasty in the episode is actually Chakotay. The crewmen that Tuvok is training opt to leave mid-drill as Tuvok's logical Vulcan approach does little to enforce compliance. When Dalby (the ringleader) says to Chakotay that "There's the Starfleet way, and there's the Maquis way," Chakotay sucker punches him.
    Chakotay: That's the Maquis way too, isn't it? And if you want to keep doing it the Maquis way, that's fine with me. We can do that tomorrow, the next day, and every day until you report to Lieutenant Tuvok. You understand me? [smacks Dalby in the face] How does a Starfleet officer answer a question?
  • "Eureka!" Moment: "Get the cheese to Sickbay."
  • Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: Beatrice gives a curtsey to Janeway, matching her brother's formal bow.
  • Excessive Steam Syndrome: Plasma gas.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: An explosion in the Cargo Bay where the trainees are causes the requisite conflict-resolving crisis.
  • The Gadfly:
    • Tuvok says Chakotay is a more logical choice to teach the Maquis, but Janeway wants them getting used to Starfleet authority figures. Chakotay smirks and says he'll tell them to take it easy on Tuvok.
    • B'Elanna takes a gel pack to Sickbay for a diagnosis. The Doctor trolls B'Elanna by saying he can't discuss the patient's condition for privacy reasons.
    • When Chell is stuck spending a full day degaussing the transporter room, Harry "helpfully" points out that he missed a spot.
  • Gratuitous Latin: Henry says "In ullam rem ne properemus" which translates to "Let's not rush into anything" in Latin.
  • Handshake Refusal: Janeway, not having a complete understanding of 19th century etiquette (along with Latin), offers a handshake to Lord Henry Burleigh, who formally bows instead.
  • Homage: While Janeway's holonovel's previous appearance obviously cribbed from Jane Eyre, in this episode, its plot swings hard into The Turn of the Screw.
  • Inertial Dampening:
    Dalby: I think the inertial dampeners are malfunctioning.
    Henley: Along with a lot of other things.
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    • Tuvok somehow interprets "show the Maquis why Starfleet does things the way they do" to mean "subject the Maquis to pointless arduous tasks without offering any explanation why". Chakotay, on the other hand, interprets it to mean "punch one of them in the face and then blackmail them until they give in to our demands".
    • B'Elanna then concludes that the only possible reason why Dalby could be annoyed by Tuvok's aforementioned concept is because he's afraid of failing Tuvok's training.
  • It's All My Fault: Neelix feels terrible about causing such a shipwide problem, though B'Elanna tries to reassure him.
  • Last Stand: During the training mission, Dalby orders the ship to go out guns blazing. He doesn't so much refuse to retreat as never even consider it as an option.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: Several Maquis who aren't fitting into Voyager's crew well are selected for special training.
  • Ludicrous Precision: Lampshaded.
    Chell: Mister Tuvok estimated 26.3 hours.
    Kim: Sounds like a Tuvok estimate.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Tuvok's first training mission was testing simply whether the crew would know when retreat was the most prudent option.
  • Motor Mouth: Crewman Chell is so much this trope that it puts him in with the other Maquis being disciplined.
    Tuvok: Your report indicates that you are talkative, disruptive and unreliable. You promise to do tasks which then go undone.
    Chell: That is a complete exaggeration. Just yesterday I overhauled a servicing system—
    Tuvok: Crewman! From this point on you will speak only if you are spoken to.
    Tuvok: Forty laps around the cargo bay. Start running now.
    Chell: But—
    Tuvok: Fifty laps.
  • Organic Technology: We see some of the downsides of Voyagers's state-of-the-art bio-tech. Their gel packs, which cannot be replicated, are also susceptible to viral infection from something as innocent as cheese.
  • Over-the-Shoulder Carry: Tuvok rescuing Gerron.
  • Rape as Backstory: A vicarious version. Dalby tells Tuvok how his girlfriend was brutally raped and murdered by three Cardassians.
  • Right Behind Me: Janeway is practicing what to say to the children when they do a Walk-In Chime-In.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Day 1 of the Starfleet crash-course ends with the four Maquis walking out on Tuvok. Chakotay makes sure they regret it.
  • Season Finale: But not intended as one, so instead of a Big Badass Battle Sequence, we get a lower-deck bottle episode.
  • Shrinking Violet: Gerron. He keeps his eyes downcast and speaks very softly.
  • Show Within a Show: Janeway's Ghost Story holonovel.
  • Talk to the Fist: Chakotay decks Dalby when the crewmen insists on doing things the "Maquis way."
  • Techno Babble: What's used to increase the temperature instead of merely adjusting the environmental controls.
  • Toothbrush Floor Scrubbing: Future tech variant: Tuvok orders Crewman Chell to degauss a transporter pad with a micro-resonator. Tuvok intends that Chell will learn patience from the twenty-six-hour task; Torres says it would be done in five minutes with a magneton scanner.
  • Training from Hell: It involves jogging ten kilometers and climbing through 50 Jefferies tubes.
  • Unwinnable Training Simulation: One of the tests for the four Maquis involves a Kobayashi Maru-type test using a holo-replica of Voyager's bridge. Subverted in that there actually is a simple solution; this variant is supposed to test if you Know When to Fold 'Em instead of dying pointlessly.
  • Weird World, Weird Food: Varmeliate fibre, whole green putillos and schplict.
  • You Talk Too Much!: Tuvok says that Chell's report describes him as being "talkative" and makes him run laps when he won't shut up.

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