Voyager rewatch 1.16 – “Learning Curve”

Tuvok has to bring four recalcitrant Maquis up to scratch while Voyager suffers a series of cheese-related systems failures.

Can I make a joke about Voyager being lactose intolerant? TOO LATE, I ALREADY DID.

This is the final episode of Voyager‘s first season, and a decidedly odd choice for a finale. Network interference again — the writers and producers didn’t intend for this to close out the season, but UPN made the choice for them.

On the other hand, a few episodes were filmed in season one and held back for season two, and none of those seemed like finale material either. So once again, I’m left wondering just what the showrunners were going for.

This is not a great episode, but I’m fond of it — mostly because the twist in the A-plot (that the bacteria from Neelix’s cheesemaking project has infected Voyager’s organic systems and is causing all the shutdowns) is silly and funny, yet completely mundane.

And, of course, it gives us B’Elanna’s immortal line: “Get this cheese to sickbay”, and such scenes as the Doctor trying out his new, improved bedside manner on an inanimate gel pack.

Much weaker is the A plot, in which Tuvok plays drill sergeant to four Maquis, who are apparently the only ones left not conforming to Starfleet rules now that Seska’s gone.

(You know who I miss? Seska.)

Their crimes? Dalby performs unauthorised repairs, and is rude and verbally aggressive on account of The Only Woman He Ever Loved having been fridged. The other three combine minor uniform violations with one-note personality traits: one is shy, one is chatty, one’s a woman.

(Okay, Henley is also argumentative. But less than, say, B’Elanna.)

Needless to say, the quartet are deeply unhappy to be sent to Tuvok’s boot camp. And he, despite his experience teaching at the Academy, is predictably unable to connect with his students, but no one points out the actual reason: all of Tuvok’s previous students were volunteers. These guys are just civilians, and throwing them straight into a ten kilometre run (in high gravity!) is nothing short of sadistic.

(I would gladly sign up for a daily punch in the face from Chakotay rather than do any type of running. Although, given the state of my ankles, I could probably get a note from the Doctor.)

This is another one of Voyager’s missed opportunities — it could have been a chance to re-examine the decision to keep this a purely Starfleet ship. With Neelix and Kes on board, surely there are grounds to argue that Maquis who prefer civilian life should be free to do so? Which is not to say theywouldn’t have duties, but if Seven of Nine can be a Borg of all trades in a few years’ time, why not some Maquis now?

Alas. The reluctant recruits come together as a team in a crisis, and save Tuvok, all is well, and we’ll not hear about the Maquis issue for another two seasons.

Looking back at season 1

Fun fact: Discovery and Voyager‘s first seasons are roughly the same length! Voyager‘s is a little longer, since “Caretaker” is a double episode and Discovery had two of the shortest episodes in Trek history, but it’s close.

So how do they compare?

Well, Discovery tells a mostly coherent serialised story about choices, loss, and principles. It has some wonky pacing and makes a few missteps, especially in the execution of the ending, but it’s overall solid.

Voyager, on the other hand, has coffee in that nebula and healthcare for cheese. So it’s really impossible to say which series is better.

In all seriousness, the comparison is unfair. We’ve had twenty-odd years to think about ways Voyager could have been improved, and the television landscape has changed dramatically in that time. Voyager‘s episodic storytelling and preference for maintaining the status quo was criticised even while it was being aired, but has aged especially badly.

But I love Voyager less for its storytelling than for its characters, its crew of nerds, misfits, outsiders, criminals, weirdos and Actual Human Angel Harry Kim. It’s still limping along in this early stage, but it’s building foundations for the show it will become.

Other observations

  • We return to Janeway’s holonovel, Help I Married A Vampire, I Sure Hope The New Governess Is A Slayer, and once again, I have to ask, how is this even fun?! 
  • The obnoxious evil half-vampire boy is played by Thomas Dekker, who would go on to appear as John Connor in the eternally-lamented Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and various Bryan Fuller shows. Needless to say, his acting improved.
  • The director thought the surprise appearance of the fourth member of Team Terrible was funny. I’m not sure why.
  • It’s super dodgy that Bajoran earrings aren’t by default permitted to be worn with Starfleet uniforms. Like, no wonder the Emissary of the Prophets stopped them from joining the Federation.


Would I recommend this to a n00b? It has a couple of iconic moments, and there are certainly worse things to have on in the background of an evening. But it’s certainly not essential. Two bioneural gel packs out of five.

What happens next?

I can’t believe I got through the entire first season of Voyager! I didn’t miss a single week!

I’m going to take a couple of weeks off my rewatch — season 5 of Brooklyn 99 has hit Netflix, so I’ve got some toit nups to catch. But I do have a couple of other things to blog about, and then we’ll pick up Voyager again in November.

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