Thursday, 12 December 2013

Review: Voyager 1.16: Learning Curve
Tuvok is usually a cool badass. This week he's a tit.
Star Trek Voyager - Season One, Episode Sixteen - Learning Curve
Written 16/6/13

For reasons currently unknown to science, US Voyager broadcaster UPN decided to hold back four episodes from the end of Season One - Projections, Elogium, Twisted and The '37s, chronologically. Robbing the season of the episode written as its finale, we instead end on this slightly unimpressive bottle episode about minor characters. Its plot is somewhat silly and odd, and due to that it has barrells of charm which, despite its total about-turn in tone since last week's episode, still manages to make me raise a smile.
      Janeway get pissy when a former Maquis crewman's repair-work temporarily messes up her Holonovel, and she tasks Tuvok with training four Maquis crew members to conform to Starfleet rules. This includes, in Tuvok's world: ridiculously extensive training sessions where he increases the gravity on the decks, draconian uniform rules considering the fact that they're 70,000 lightyears from home, and picking on shy people. Tuvok ends up unintentionally going to Neelix for help, and as a result Tuvok's methods get better, allowing him to be more flexible. His recruits gang up to save him when there's an incidence in the cargo bay, and it turns out that everyone learnt something after all.
     The problems affecting this ship in this episode were caused entirely by Neelix. How about that that, eh? I don't think I've ever heard of a more ridiculous Star Trek premise than a starship being infected by cheese-borne bacteria, but this is Voyager, so there you go. The episode's namby-pamby, everyone-learns-a-lesson attitude makes it feel a little more Saturday-morning-cartoon than serious science fiction, and this feels especially baffling when one considers that this is one of the last few episodes in the early seasons that discuss the Maquis/Starfleet divide.
I did that gif I mentioned.
Makes a fun reaction gif for all the family!
Another gif, I know! Mine this time.
     And, on that issue, this episode highlights my position on the matter. Despite some badass points by Chakotay (as seen giffed here), I do think that some of the Starfleet rules are pretty shitty. Of course, living on a starship which seems to be able to fall apart when you press the wrong button means that there has to be a certain amount of discipline, but when it comes to things like dress code (I'm sure that hair-band will really affect the functioning of the ship, Tuvok) I agree with the former Maquis crewmembers in saying that, hey, fuck that. I understand what a draconian dress code feels like, and it feels a bit shitting in this futuristic world of great possibility and wonder that all individuality amongst those responsible for that society's representatives in the galaxy is stripped from them.
     Learning Curve should not have ended the season, as it leaves us with a Voyager whose future is uncertain and off. Had I been watching in 1995, I would have probably wondered what the hell had just happened to my show. As a low-budget episode (it re-uses the same tiny set on ten different occasions, man.) it's fair enough that we're not expecting some high-concept sci-fi or even some tense action and suspense, but they could have at least chosen to end on a decent fecking episode. What about last week, or episode seventeen, Projections, which is a brilliant ep and happens to be my favourite of the next season? Learning Curve is quirky little episode that was Screwed by the Network, and doesn't bode well for people's attitudes towards the show in years to come.


IN TWO WEEKS: It's Boxing Day. Why not start a new season of Voyager?

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