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The Trek Nation - Learning Curve

Learning Curve

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 1:56 PM GMT

See Also: 'Learning Curve' Episode Guide

When Lieutenant Dalby circumvents procedure and sparks a conflict with Tuvok, he asks Janeway about the possibility of remedial training for the Maquis who never received formal Starfleet training. Chakotay gives him a list of possible candidates, and Tuvok assembles four junior officers - Dalby, the tough-talking Henley, the lazy Bolian Chell, and the young Bajoran Geron - to teach a seminar on protocol and fitness. The four are very resistant, and complain vociferously when Tuvok makes them remove their personal identifying effects and has them exercise all over the ship.

Neelix suggests to Tuvok that a less aggressive stance might work better, so he tries to get to know Dalby during a game of pool at Sandrine's. Dalby tells Tuvok that he joined the Maquis after several Cardassians raped and murdered his first love. Tuvok realizes that understanding alone is not going to make these people happy, well-adjusted crewmembers overnight. During a series of training drills on the holodeck, they all complain that he seems to enjoy making them look bad.

Tuvok tries to make the group work as a team, but a shipwide catastrophe strikes when the cheese Neelix has been making infects the bioneural gelpacks. As temperatures rise all over the ship, the holodeck malfuctions, trapping Tuvok with Dalby and the injured Gerron. Tuvok orders Dalby to safety and saves the Bajoran at great personal risk, even though his risk violates procedure. The Maquis are impressed by his commitment to them and promise to work to obey the rules.

Analysis:

"Learning Curve" is a pretty straightforward riff on TNG's "Lower Decks," except in this case the story is told from the perspective of a senior officer instead of the young recruits. I think that was a mistake. We never really get to know the four Maquis as we got to know the Starfleet recruits in the TNG episode, and Tuvok's consdescending attitude carries over even though he seems insensitive and pompous. How dare he order a Bajoran to stop wearing an earring, one of his only ties to his Alpha Quadrant kin? Would he ask Chakotay to have the tattoo removed? Tuvok strikes me as a Vulcan by rote: he recites all the right lines, but there's a nasty edge and a lack of compassion which even full Vulcans like Sarek afforded.

The Maquis crewmembers were fun to get to know, though we learned little about Henley and less about Chell. I'm glad Dalby was belligerent but disappointed at how quickly he came around; I'd think that as time goes on, a lot of crewmembers, Starfleet as well as Maquis, will start to rebel against Starfleet restrictions which serve little purpose in the Delta Quadrant, like the rigid dress code. In the Federation, the common Starfleet uniform serves to bond a crew, but here it homogenizes them. These people should be allowed to keep their discrete traditions and cultures to whatever extent is possible.

I didn't like the speed with which Chakotay agreed to Tuvok's plan for remedial education: Tom Paris was as much of a screw-up as Dalby a few months ago, and he's now fourth in command of the ship. One might wish for a more hands-on Janeway in cases like this; sometimes a few words from the captain can work wonders. Still, I hope we see these characters again.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.