Mark Watches ‘Voyager’: S01E16 – Learning Curve

In the sixteenth and final episode of the first season of Voyager, that was adorable. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Well, that was weird. I worried that maybe because I was starting to get a headache while watching this episode (WHICH I SWEAR HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE EPISODE ITSELF), I’d perceived this differently. But in hindsight, it’s a truly bizarre season finale. I don’t mind a standalone episode, since Voyager is full of them. And I don’t think the show should ever be like… required to end a season in a cliffhanger. I suppose my expectations did play into my feelings on “Learning Curve,” though, and I can’t ignore that. I thought that there’d be something to hint at a future storyline or a tie-in to the larger arc for Voyager.

But there wasn’t much of any of that. Which is okay! I found this episode to be largely clever and charming because it dealt with such an odd idea. To the credit of the script, “Learning Curve” absolutely furthers the development of the Maquis passengers on the ship, and that is really cool. It’s so rare that insubordination happens in the Star Trek universe that this episode was interesting right from the start. How do you deal with non-Starfleet personnel violating protocol they never learned in the first place? Is it even fair to hold them to standard they didn’t agree to?

The early scenes did a couple things for me. First, they established ONCE AGAIN that Captain Janeway is INCREDIBLE. I love how quickly she finds a middle ground, one that acknowledges that you can’t really punish people for the kind of ignorance they have. It’s unfair! Yet something has to be done because these crew members are affecting other people. Thus, the writers come up with the OTHER awesome thing: making Tuvok the teacher. It’s entertaining. IMMENSELY SO. But Chakotay pushes for it to happen so that these other characters can learn to respect someone who wasn’t in the Maquis.

But let’s touch on why this was so entertaining: TUVOK. There’s certainly some fun in watching people consistently argue about Starfleet protocol. I WILL READILY ADMIT THAT. But Tuvok gets to be portrayed in an entirely new light AS A DRILL INSTRUCTOR. IT’S THE BEST THING. His Vulcan nature makes him perfect for the role, and it is so CEASELESSLY FUNNY to watch him bark orders at the four crew members. I won’t ever find it boring! There is a part of me that thought it might have been cool for this to be interpreted through the lens of being a Vulcan, but the script sticks to exploring this through the dichotomy of Starfleet/non-Starfleet crew.

Neelix has a great role in this, too, and I do enjoy the chance for Neelix and Tuvok to get scenes together. The two are such polar opposites that it’s easy to find ways for each character to play off that dynamic. Here, Neelix actually offers Tuvok advice that he’ll later take. He mentions that Tuvok’s rigid adherence to protocol is precisely what makes him so disliked by the Maquis crew. Granted, all four of them stubbornly refuse to admit that they’re doing anything wrong, but in terms of an approach, I thought Neelix hit on why everything Tuvok did was met with constant resistance.

I felt like the episode kind of petered out after that. While the whole “Neelix’s cheese made the whole ship sick” idea was funny and weird, I just didn’t feel excited about the way that a random occurrence forced the Maquis crew to suddenly understand Tuvok. It’s a tough thing to criticize, though, because in the resolution, Tuvok grows. He’s able to admit that sometimes, it’s silly to not break the rules. Protocol can’t account for every scenario or every conceivable variable. Plus, I felt the ending wasn’t as satisfying because it felt rushed. Yet I wouldn’t want to take away from the length of the earlier scenes! They worked so well!

So, complicated thoughts on the finale. I definitely had a good time watching season one (HOW IS IT ALREADY OVER), and I’m looking forward to how the show might improve in season 2.

The video for “Learning Curve” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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