Star Trek: Voyager

"Learning Curve"

**1/2

Air date: 5/22/1995
Written by Ronald Wilkerson and Jean Louise Matthias
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I cannot imagine that there are visible emanations which allow you to interpret my mood." — Tuvok to Neelix

I'm beginning to think the Delta Quadrant is the character on Voyager that most urgently needs development. One thing that is beginning to frustrate me about the series is how little the USS Voyager is finding in the vast unknowns of this new territory. Don't get me wrong. The series is doing a fine job of developing its personality and cast. But one thing it hasn't done that it should've by now is take advantage of the fact it has alienated the TNG/DS9 lore in favor of lore of its own.

Instead of a story that in some way develops the Delta Quadrant, we get "Learning Curve"—a basically lightweight Trek outing with a decent A-story and a fairly flat B-story jeopardy premise. Tuvok is placed in charge of putting four insubordinate former-Maquis officers through a basic Starfleet attitude training. Meanwhile, the ship's bio-neural circuitry begins malfunctioning when it literally catches a virus.

It's another nice vehicle to see Tuvok in action, though his character doesn't benefit much in terms of meaty development. His trainees prove willfully stubborn. They didn't ask to be integrated into a Starfleet crew, and they feel justified in continuing to do things the "Maquis way." Starfleet/Maquis conflict is a relevant issue that hasn't been looked at since "Parallax" and it's nice to see that not everybody has fully accepted the situation.

Included in the "Maquis way" is an unwritten rule that removes retreat as an option in battle situations—a definite rule that Tuvok has to remove from their thinking patterns. When he tests them in a holodeck Kobayashi Maru type simulation, they go up against insurmountable odds and die. "At least we went out with our phasers firing," comments Henley (Catherine MacNeal).

However, I question Tuvok's initial methods for breaking in these trainees. He treats them like teenage cadets at the academy. He makes Chell (Derek McGrath) run laps around the cargo bay and degauss the transporter room by means of the slowest method available. It seems like pointless punishment used for comedy rather than a realistic procedure in light of the extreme situations facing the Voyager.

On the other hand, I see no reason why these Maquis officers are so adamant to make the worst out of a bad situation.

It is reassuring to see Tuvok question his own methods. Neelix helps Tuvok realize that his inflexibility, in addition to the Maquis', doesn't make the situation better. This leads Tuvok to attempt to get to know Dalby (Armand Schultz) by playing the pool holodeck program—a scene that ends with realistic results.

This story works fine despite its lightweight nature. Unfortunately, there's also a fairly laughable jeopardy premise in which the ship's bio-neural gel packs begin malfunctioning. The only storytelling point in this plot is the further conveyance that being far from home will continue to have a serious impact on the ship and crew. When these gel packs are damaged, they cannot be repaired. They must be replaced, and there is a limited backup supply of only 47 of them.

The Doctor discovers that the gel packs have a bacterial infection that is destroying them. As it spreads through the ship, systems begin failing like crazy. Tuvok discovers that some cheese Neelix has sitting out in his galley possibly contains the bacteria growth.

Excuse me? A plot in which cheese is the culprit? They're saying that if cheese is left out on the Voyager, the ship's gel packs will come down with a disease? This plot revelation belongs up there with Tuvok's dog/witness in "Ex Post Facto."

And with all the system failures the malfunctions cause, is it too much to ask why the Doctor wasn't affected by them? Maybe that would prove a little too inconvenient for the lazy plot, but it is a valid point to address. No power, no Doctor.

As for character development, Janeway's holodeck novel is not doing the job. It has no relevance to anything on the show. I need to see Janeway interacting with her crew on a personal or social level. She said herself in "Caretaker" that she needs to take time to get to know the crew better. The writers need to find something to do with Janeway apart from commanding the ship, and the holodeck is not the answer.

All in all, "Learning Curve" is an entertaining but underwhelming show. Time to move on.

Previous episode: Jetrel
Next episode: The 37's

◄ Season Index

55 comments on this review

Rob in Michigan
Sun, Sep 21, 2008, 5:15pm (UTC -6)
Alas, despite my liking of the series and its characters, it has some truly reprehensible flaws: no regularly recurring tertiary characters (despite the limited number of crewman on board), the destroyed shuttle count (frustrating and just plain lazily stupid) and the lack of real consequences of being short on supplies that cannot be replicated/replenished easily... especially as Voyager becomes more and more damaged... again, lazily stupid.
Remco
Sun, Nov 30, 2008, 9:29pm (UTC -6)
I don't really care about the cheese of the cheese. I like the fact that Voyager is essentially biologically alive. It can get sick. It makes sense to use biological neural parts in a ship, since it is very efficient. It's really hard to make traditional hardware that is as powerful. But I guess they need high-tech facilities to replenish those gel packs. Voyager was definitely not meant for lifetime trips.

But apart from this, the episode is an underwhelming season finale. There is no sense of development beyond the ship, whereas DS9 seems to be slipping into inter-stellar war at the same time.
Will
Mon, Nov 9, 2009, 2:01pm (UTC -6)
Don't get me wrong, I like Voyager an awful lot, in fact, I love it. It has some of the most entertaining stories and premises in all of Trek. But I do have problems with it and one of those problems is no fault of the series, but merely of Brannon Braga.

Now I don't subsrcibe to the Star Trek nerd's theory that Braga is everything that's wrong with Trek as I believe he's part of what made TNG and Voyager great, but his underlying arrogance really pisses me off. Whenever he's interviewed for Voyager he has a silent, subliminal smug superiority, even when talking about crap or mediocre episodes of Voyager he possesses a certain misguided assurance that Voyager is the best Trek out there.

Now I've already said I love Voyager, but it would be foolish and going against the truth if I said it was more well written that Deep Space Nine. It isn't, and episodes like these when there is inconsistent character development and the bloody reset button just confirm that theory, as well as the underwhelming series finale theme which would later return with 'These are the voyages'.

Braga never wrote for DS9. He obviously didn't have the creative talent or writing skills required. Either that or he just plain hated the show becaue it wasn't on a space station, or his delusions that Voyager was better written got in the way. That's what annoys me about him and Voyager.
Eduardo
Tue, Jan 5, 2010, 4:39pm (UTC -6)
Will,

You should listen to the DVD commentary for Star Trek Generations. Braga is surprisingly honest and candid about what's worked and what hasn't worked in Trek scripts over the years.

Along with Ron Moore, both point out many of the flaws in that film, while also pointing out the good parts. Braga is surprisingly critical of the Nexus storyline.

Since then, Braga has delivered some solid work on 24, this past season. Season 8 also looks promising.
Nic
Thu, Mar 4, 2010, 11:42am (UTC -6)
Interesting comments, though in the end does it really matter whose "fault" it is that any given episode (or series) didn't work? It's all a matter of taste in the first place, and I am convinced that every Star Trek writer (including Braga) has tried to make the best show they possibly could. Some were better than others at it, yes. But what really should matter to viewers is the end product.

That being said, my one defense for this episode was that it was NOT supposed to be the season finale. It was supposed to be episode 16 of a 20-episode season and was written and produced as such. Add "Projections", "Elogium", "Twisted" and "The 37s" to the season (in that order) and you get a much better big picture (in my opinion) with a theme string running through the whole season, and a final resolution made by the crew to perservere in their journey for as long as it takes. As Jammer said, the Delta Quadrant hadn't got much development yet at this point (just as the Gamma Quadrant hadn't got much development on DS9 at the end of its first season), but all in all I sincerely believe that Voyager had the best FIRST season of all the Trek series.
Rob in Michigan
Fri, Mar 5, 2010, 1:50am (UTC -6)
I would absolutely agree with "but all in all I sincerely believe that Voyager had the best FIRST season of all the Trek series".
Ken
Wed, Feb 2, 2011, 9:49pm (UTC -6)
I think the season overall was "okay", but the overall season was aimless.

There were even 2 times out of 16 episodes where the crew mistakenly does something wrong to an innocent life form.

The show didn't have much character. Only a few times where the maquis vs. starfleet conflict ever brought up. None of this was really explored like it could/should have been. It would have been nice to see conflicts and integration taking place over 16 or 20 episodes at least.

And I think Battlestar Galactica did the "stranded in space" and "trying to find home" bits a lot better. There was a lot of cohesion to BSG - none on this show.

The episodic format worked on TNG, because everything was fresh. A lot of the stuff on this season seems forced and a little hokey.
Byron Whaler
Wed, Feb 9, 2011, 4:51am (UTC -6)
i have to be reading these comments wrong you are saying that season one of voyager compares to and is better season one of TOS you are a out of your mind. maybe you actually need to watch season one of TOS it is far better in every way.
Nic
Fri, Feb 25, 2011, 12:45pm (UTC -6)
No, you didn't read wrong. I have watched every episode of TOS's first season and don't think it was as good as Voyager's. Of course, I can only make that judgement based on the entertainment I get out of it today in 2009. Star Trek TOS was without a ground-breaking series for its time, and there were a lot of episoeds I enjoyed. But the pacing was waaay too slow for my taste, and I was bothered by the bareley-hidden sexism.
Destructor
Sun, Mar 6, 2011, 11:10pm (UTC -6)
I just watched this last night and CALM DOWN, everyone. It's a comedy episode, and on that level, it works. I like it when there's not some grand trumped up threat, just some cheese (c'mon, who can't laugh at "Get this cheese to sickbay."?)

I thought it was a fun episode and fun way to end the season.
Carbetarian
Sat, Apr 9, 2011, 9:43pm (UTC -6)
@Will I cosign everything you wrote! That is exactly how I feel about Braga myself. I don't think he is everything that's wrong with Star Trek, or that he has never written good material. I just think he's arrogant, smug and totally out of touch with the show's audience. Just browsing through some of the background information on Voyager's first season on Memory Alpha is enough to make me completely agree with you.

@Nic I tend to agree with you about the sexism on TOS. I do generally enjoy the show, and I love the original crew. But, as a woman, sometimes those old episodes are a little hard for me to watch. The TOS movies were much better about treating women like equals.

I don't know about this episode. I kind of liked it. I laughed several times. BUT, I am really hating all these holodeck programs.

WTF is with Janeway's British nanny holonovel? Who wants to spend their spare time watching two Victorian brats? I mean, Janeway searched her brain for the activity she would most like to do in her downtime and came up with having her Latin skills insulted by a 9 year old? I question that.

Tom Paris's bar is less offensive to me. But, I don't particularly like that program either. I find myself hating it less as it shows up more often. But, something about it still feels totally cheesy and forced to me. It just feels too much like the writers sat down one day and said "TNG had poker, DS9 has darts... Let's do pool!". In fact, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what happened.

Still, this episode was generally pretty fun. I'd say this was a two or two and half star outing for me too.
Dan
Mon, May 23, 2011, 12:18pm (UTC -6)
I actually thought that this episode was very related to the Delta Quadrant premise of the show. It explores the idea of cabin fever among Maquis and Federation working together. They are forced into this relationship because they are stuck all the way out here in the Delta. Chakotay is used well in this respect and I especially enjoyed watching him whip the insubordinates into line. I do agree that they could have done a better job with Tuvok's role. His 'punishments' were overkill after Chakotay's intervention, and a missed opportunity for some interesting morality dilemmas: What to do with an insubordinate crew when you cannot simply throw them in the brig and still, they won't cooperate?
Laroquod
Sun, Jun 10, 2012, 2:15pm (UTC -6)
"It just feels too much like the writers sat down one day and said "TNG had poker, DS9 has darts... Let's do pool!". In fact, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what happened."

You've got that partially backwards. This episode wasn't the first appearance on VOY of the pool table and DS9 didn't do darts until season 3 -- so actually the pool-playing appeared on VOY before they ever played darts on DS9. In fact I read a production note at Memory Alpha for the first dart episode that said they purposely avoided pool because it had already been done on Voyager, so for better or worse the thought process you ascribe to the Voyager pool thing is actually a better description of the thought process that led to the DS9 dart thing.
Arachnea
Mon, Dec 17, 2012, 8:09pm (UTC -6)
There's good and bad in this episode.
Most of the good is the acknowledgement that:
1. Voyager is partially run by new bio-tech;
2. Any non-Starfleet people (wether they're Maquis or not)would have a hard time adapting to heavy protocols on a starfleet ship.

The comic factors - the doc practising his bedside manners on the biogel packs or the cheese - didn't bother me. What felt totally wrong was the captain assigning a Vulcan for a task best suited for a counsellor. The military boot-camp was so so wrong... If you seek respect, you don't make the rebels do what Tuvok made them do (I would have mutinied against Tuvok too !)

What came right was the simulation and the pool discussion.

What I mean is that those two points should have been more developped, but not in one episode only. It's a shame because the bits of character developpement we had so far were pretty good.
Ken DFW
Fri, Apr 5, 2013, 2:19pm (UTC -6)
I absolutely despise this episode. I've worked for someone who acted Tuvok in this episode, and it wasn't very long before I quit and went to work somewhere else where I would be treated with more respect.

This episode is an excellent example of what's wrong with this series. It's supposed to be different than all the others, and yet here we are, witnessing Tuvok's efforts in forcing everyone to follow the same Starfleet rules that they have. The only two options seem to be 1) join Starfleet or 2) go to the brig.

Let's assume the brig just isn't big enough. Well, why isn't it? Wasn't Voyager's original mission to track down the Maquis and apprehend them? Shouldn't the ship have a brig large enough for all those Maquis? If that's not the reason why you can't just throw everyone in the brig, then why not? The way Tuvok was treating the Maquis reminded me of the argonizer in the Mirror universe. Maybe if they had one of those, they wouldn't need a brig at all.

But back to the point. Why are these their only two options? Why not allow the Maquis to stay on board as civilians? Aren't there things that need to be done on the ship that can be handled by civilians? Or here's an idea - why not allow them to colonize an M-class planet that they find along the way? They could have stayed on that planet that had the 40,000 LY transporter. Or maybe Janeway could have allowed them to take Dr. Jetrel's ship that was left in the shuttle bay after the previous episode. Then they could go off on their own and have their own adventures. If this series is really supposed to be different, why not take some risks?
inline79
Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 6:37pm (UTC -6)
This episode was an opportunity to show us how 24th Century Starfleet humans react when forced to deal with other humans who, basically, have bad, non-UFP attitudes. There's no need to criticise Tuvok's "Full Metal Jacket" style approach to the problem - it is a method that, from my own military experience, works. But it's the 24th Century... there must have been another alternative that could have been offered to these people like:
A. go through quasi-Academy training and get to wear the uniform.
B. skip the training, wear the Wesley Crusher boyscout jumpsuit, and go watch the plants grow in the hydroponic farm, etc.

So while I disagree with Jammer's take on Tuvok, I agree this was a lost opportunity. However, I do not consider it to be the "real" season finale as the production company intended 4 more episodes to follow for Season One. Somewhere the "Powers That Be" decided otherwise. For a late-season, low budget bottle-show, it was OK.
T'Paul
Wed, Sep 4, 2013, 8:48am (UTC -6)
Agree that this was a fairly solid first season in comparison with some of the other series.

I insist that there was more continuity than is commonly held.

I also add myself the "what the hell was that!" group of Janeway and her holonovel... obviously an idea that was abandoned halfway through.

But I strongly believe that the first season had none too wrong with it.
T'Paul
Wed, Sep 4, 2013, 8:56am (UTC -6)
I must add that this episode as far as Tuvok and the malcontents was entirely necessary and well thought-out as far as Maquis integration and Tuvok character development goes... it tells us that we're still in the first season and still integrating two groups together.

And as far as Tuvok's perhaps too harsh attitude, actually the episode does show us how he comes around a bit in the end, but I agree that he does have to be a bit of a hard-arse given the circumstances.

Doc and Kes and even Chakotay even grow a bit more in this one
Caine
Sun, Oct 13, 2013, 10:42am (UTC -6)
There's no season 1 recap, so I guess this is the best place to post my thoughts on the first season as a whole:

THE GOOD:

1) GREAT PREMISE.
"Lost in space", 70-75 years from home, desperately trying to make their way back. Now THAT'S a real trek through the stars! None of that "to boldly go where no man has gone before - back and forth between already discovered planets" crap we see in TNG - here we have completely unchartered territory and an opportunity to really come up with some stuff that's completely different from what we've seen before! The fact that the crew is made up of two adversarial parties promises great dramatic conflict - excellent!

2) FANTASTIC INTRO
Best intro of all the trek series! Gorgeous visuals of Voayger cruisng through nebulas adn what have we, and a superb musical score! Really sets the mood leading into each episode!

3) THE DOCTOR
Hands down the best character of the show! Making him a hologram was a great idea, and the writers pretty much use that idea to the fullest og it's potential. Robert Picardo is magnificent in that role! To me, The Doctor often saves an entire episode just by showing up in a few scenes.


THE BAD (I'll keep it to a minimum):

1) ABANDONED PREMISE AND CHARACTERS
Um ... yeah. New and exciting stuff that we've never seen before? Guess again: recycling of a bunch of trek plots we've seen many times before .. sometimes to the point that they seem like remakes of TOS or TNG episodes. Drama and conflict between Maquis and Federation cre wmembers? No, not at all. The two crews are instantly integrated, Maquis even wearing Starfleet uniforms. The conflict is rarely touched upon in the story. But at least we get to know the characters, right? Well, sort of ... along the way. Every single character is introduced very haphazardly and then not really revisited during the first handfull of episodes. Sloppy characterization at best!

2) PLOT HOLES
.. that you could drive a truck through. Sure, Star Trek shows have always had story elements that didn't really make sense - for example: why is every Federation officer who's NOT a main character on a show mute, incompetent and/or without any kind of initiative? But on Voyager, enormous, glaring plot holes that make no kind of sense are abundant beyond comprehension.

3) BAD STORYTELLING
Many of the episodes have great potential, but never become truly exciting, thrilling or funny. We see lots of bad dialogue, slow or badly timed pacing, plot points explained in throw-away lines instead of shown ("I made Chakotay my first officer" Um ... okay, good to know), inexplicable decisions made by commanding officers ("Let's put the whole ship at risk for barely any reason at all, we haven't done that in two whole weeks!") ... and the list goes on, also including plot holes (see above). How could a show made by so many people have so many obvious flaws without anyone going "Hey, wait a second ..."?



Overall I find the show quite entertaining, but that's in spite of all it's huge flaws. To me, the premise (although very underutilized) and some of the characters/actors carry the show. The most deciding factor that makes me (usually) pretty much enjoy the show is that it's Star Trek - I'm such a big fan of TNG and DS9 that Voyager gets by in my book by having that Trekkian look and feel to it, that I know and lve from those shows.

I'm really hoping the writing on Voyager picks up in season 2 and forward!
inline79
Mon, Oct 14, 2013, 1:31am (UTC -6)
Go Mr. Caine! You pretty much nailed it. Thanks ks!
This is our last taste of the 24th Century on TV so I'm also sucking it up (for better or worse) like you, albeit not at a season a week!
Travis
Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 6:54pm (UTC -6)
This was a great premise for an episode. In fact, the first couple seasons should have been full of stories like these. It pissed me off that the premise of the series was the combined crew striving to get home, but everyone was in uniform by the end of the first episode. Not all Maquis were Starfleet trained and no way would they all want to be back in uniform within a couple days of being in the Delta Quadrant. There should have been constant conflict amongst the crews and this episode should have been the 3rd or 4th, not at the end of the season.
Susan
Sun, Nov 10, 2013, 9:33am (UTC -6)
I just started watching Voyager and I definitely agree with some of your points, especially about not developing it's own lore. I think what they're doing with the holodeck is trying to copy Picard and Data in their outings of Picards crime novels and Datas Sherlock Holmes, but it's not working. As for the cheese infecting the ship, I think it was just that particular type of cheese he made, not all cheese, lol. Also wouldn't medical be the most protected area of the ship and the last, besides life support, to be affected? You could say no power no doctor, but also no power no life support. All in all though I'm really enjoying Voyager, much more than DS9 which I finally gave up on.
Ric
Fri, Mar 7, 2014, 4:41am (UTC -6)
My comment in the last episode's review was fairly in favor of season 1. And I repeat it: this was a very satisfactory first season, certainly the most consistente of all Trek's first season. And probably the second best season 1, just after TOS for me. Good premise and, actually, much more character development than any other season 1 in Trek shos, with the exception of DS9 of course, where the whole point was to have continuity throughout the show.

That said, I was chocked how weakly and poorly they ended this first season. This episode is really bad. Actually it is even childish: cheese? Really? And what about that small bag of neuro-technobabble gel? For god sake, hehehe... I don't think the idea was to make it a comic episode. There is not a comic tone whatsoever. I really think it was serious. And paradoxically, that is what made ​​the episode laughable.

But worse: training troops in a week? Soling everything is a snap, magically like in a sopa opera, just because Tuvok risked his life to save one of Maquis? Don't get me wrong, of course it should earn more respect from the Maquis people, but magically convince them that now they are going to follow rules? This was cartoonish.

Oh yes and what about this: one of the selected trainees was chosen because he is young and could have a good motivation if challenged. The other (the blue fellow) is so ridiculously dumb, so Já Jar Binks, a real comic relief, that it makes me think that if all the other possible choices were worse... well, then the Maquis were mere jokes. There is, however, more bad stuff: as Jammer has pointed out, a hologram that Works without energy or when all system fail can really be possible in this Voyager where holodecks Works with "a diferente energy". So stupid that is enfuriating to see any holo-scene on this show. These very pontless ones with the captain.... pff, just even worse.

Not to mention: what is the relevant stuff here for a season finale? Really nothing. Did writers run out of ideas? Gesus, this was really weak in comparison to the rest of this very good season. More: if this is the most consistente and one of the best season 1 I've seen in Trek, this episode is probably the worst season finale with exception of DS9's last episode of season 6 (which is better executed, but is atrocious to Star Trek as franchise).
Jammer
Fri, Mar 7, 2014, 12:33pm (UTC -6)
Worth noting: The first four episodes of season 2 were actually supposed to be the last four episodes of season 1, with "The 37s" being the season finale. For some production or scheduling reason, the eps, which were already produced, were held until the following fall for airing.
Ric
Fri, Mar 7, 2014, 1:36pm (UTC -6)
Jammer, thanks for the clarification. I have read something like that elsewhere, but in fact not mentioning it does not do justice to the show.

Even though, the decision to leave this episode as the last was really poor.
stallion
Wed, Apr 9, 2014, 11:09am (UTC -6)
While rewatching season one I skipped Time and Again, Ex Post Facto, Emantions, Cathexis, Jetrel, and Heores and Demons. I didn't skip those episodes because they were awful( I actually enjoyed a few of them) I just skipped them because it's disappointing to see Voyager have adventures that could had easily be done on TNG. If you skip those episodes Season one was pretty good.

The Recurring - Seska, Carey, and Durst made great recurring characters for season one. The Kazons and the Vidiians made great villians for the season. When it comes to scare factor I place the vidiians second with the borg being first.

If TNG had a rule that each episode must have a sci fi angle than Voyager obviously had a rule that each voyager episode must have an action adventure angle. At the time Voyager was airing UPN was advertising it network as an action adventure network with shows like Hercules, Seven Days, Xena, The Sentinel and so on. Voyager was probably presurre to go in that direction.

I like the main cast for the show. They were the reason I was able to stick with Voyager. Tom and Torres are two of my favorite characters.
Robert
Wed, Apr 9, 2014, 2:53pm (UTC -6)
Actually, I'd argue that several of the episodes you skipped couldn't have been successful on TNG.

I'm often quick to bash Voyager not staying true to it's premise... but Jetrel and Heroes and Demons actually do flesh out the premise pretty nicely. Jetrel gives nice back story to aliens that we met in the Delta Quadrant (so it's good for a bit of world/character building, especially in relation to one of our main characters) and Heroes and Demons especially keeps true to the premise of a character that can't leave an area with holoemitters going on his first away mission.

Sure they chuck THAT premise later, but this is good bit of "only doable on Voyager" that actually doesn't suffer from TNG squared (like later seasons do). Sure the episode is only a mediocre bit of writing, but Picardo sells the wonder of a "holograms first away mission" hard enough that I buy it.
HolographicAndrew
Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 2:53am (UTC -6)
I despise this episode a lot. "I guess if you can learn break the rules, we can learn to follow them." What is this, Leave it to Beaver?

Then you have this really odd shift in tone from a ridiculously silly episode to that one guy talking about how his lover got brutally murdered.

Maybe Trek can handle that dark subject matter, like it did with Neelix's planet, but definitely not in a corny episode like this. You don't put a line like "raped and murdered by Cardassians" in the same episode as "the ship is crippled by a block of cheese."

As far as season one goes, this has to be at the very bottom of my list.
Vylora
Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 3:57pm (UTC -6)
I like some of the concepts put forth here. The further insights into integration of the Maquis. Tuvok being placed in charge of them. The issues with the bio-neural gel packs. Unfortunately the execution of it all ranged from partially entertaining at its best to mostly banal at its worst. The dialogue in spots was cringeworthy which didn't help matters.

I realize this wasn't supposed to be the actual season finale, but that's what it ultimately became. Thus ends a very mixed first season on a slightly entertaining, yet disappointing, low note.

2 stars.
Skeptical
Thu, Nov 6, 2014, 8:10pm (UTC -6)
Here's what I don't get. Janeway decided to set up this school to help integrate the Maquis, to help them understand the reasons why Starfleet does things the way they do. Therefore, Tuvok decides to play the role of the nasty drill sergeant. Can anyone explain the logic behind this?

I'm not trying to tear down the idea of a nasty military drilling. It has its time and place. But I just don't see it here. After all, these are already reasonably well trained soldiers. They aren't newbies. They've already built up a comradery among themselves. And they didn't volunteer for this. I'm pretty sure making them run a marathon and clean the transporter room with a toothbrush isn't going to help anything.

Surely that isn't going to cause bonding and understanding of the Starfleet way!

I don't mind the idea of the episode, but I do complain about the execution. I like the idea that these Maquis weren't even being rebels or anything; they just didn't care to follow all of Starfleet's rules. Even the token antagonist was just trying to help by fixing the bag of goo or whatever. Perhaps they should have explored that more. Perhaps they should have had a show examining whether or not the stuffy rules (like uniform regulations) are important when 1/4 of the crew are essentially draftees. That would have been far more interesting than a show about the nasty drill sergeant and the hackneyed ending.

The more I watch Voyager, the more I wonder if the writers ever watched MASH. The premise is similar: a bunch of people stuck in a faraway land, alone and without the luxuries they are used to, forced to live together, and even a little bit of conflict between the draftees and the volunteers. Obviously there are differences too, but I think this show would have benefited by following the MASH model a bit. See, I'm probably the only person that doesn't mind that the Maquis tension thing got dropped relatively quickly; people are remarkably adaptable. But plots like this, that the Maquis can get along with Starfleet but still aren't completely Starfleet, should have continued. Seeing the same 140 people every day should have made the whole ship more relaxed, not still rigid and formal. Perhaps not as relaxed as the 4077, but there should have gradually been more comradery than was actually present.

Anyway, as for the season itself... I like Caine's summation (and I agree; this is probably the best opening sequence). However, I disagree that the premise was abandoned in the first season. Perhaps I'm alone in this, but I thought they handled the premise reasonably well. Other than Janeway's curiosity about spatial anomalies and the like, they did the lost in space theme and the Maquis theme throughout the season. This is a good example of it; showing the Maquis crew adapting reasonably well (no mutinies or resentments) but still not wanting to be 100% Starfleet. We also have Chakotay's struggles with how to look out for "his" crew as well as the overall crew. We had a few good scavenger episodes. We had an overarching theme to the season as well: Janeway's willingness to compromise. Should she bend the rules a bit in order to help them survive? We saw it in Caretaker, Prime Factors, and State of Flux. We also saw her wondering about how to act when unable to just throw troublemakers in the brig. She gave practically the same speech in Parallax and Phage, and the hardheaded ensign in this episode tried to use this to his advantage. So really, the show felt ok so far.

But I agree, storytelling problems are the biggest concern. Ever hear of Fridge Logic? It's when a show or movie or whatever seems to be logically consistent when you watch it, but afterwards (perhaps while thinking about it while rummaging through your fridge), you realize that stuff didn't really make sense. Well, Voyager skips the "afterwards" part; it's painfully obvious that the plot and characters don't make sense while the episode is ongoing. That Tuvok should not have started as a drill sergeant is obvious; and yet that is what he does. The Chakotay ghost should have tried to communicate in Cathexis. The magic mirror asteroid in Phage was just there to pad the episode.

And, of course, the science is a joke. They would have better luck just streaming random words together. I don't expect too much out of Trek, but these are laughably bad. Yes, TNG had episodes like Rascals and Genesis, but those were the exceptions, not the rules.

The other major problem with Voyager is Neelix. I didn't remember any strong feelings towards him when I watched the show 20 years ago, but I can see why people hate him now. Every scene he is in since Caretaker just oozes hatred. He is incredibly brash and uncouth towards everyone else. He has random temper tantrums and mood swings. His "relationship" feels more stalkerish than true love, as he is condescending towards Kes and absurdly protective of her. He butts in where he doesn't belong. In short, he really, really needs to be toned down.

So a rocky start, but honestly a pretty decent one. I found 6 of the 15 episodes to be at least pretty good. That's a better percentage than TNG's first season at least. At least we had State of Flux, which is by far the most entertaining episode so far.
Amanda
Mon, Dec 22, 2014, 12:35am (UTC -6)
I tried to like this. I tried to sympathize but gah, I didn't t like them!

stallion
Thu, Mar 26, 2015, 2:25pm (UTC -6)
My top Ten

The Caretaker - I understand that people have a problem with Janeway decision at the end which is understandable, but this episode was a great introduction. Voyager probably had the best pilot out of all of Trek.

Parallax - The character drama is good in this episode. It probably would had been better if they replaced the special analomy (excuse spelling) with something more fitting to it's premise like being attacked by space Pirate or something like that or they debate how much resources they can afford to share. Only the second episode in and the cast comes off likeable.

The Phage - A great introduction to a new bad guy. I personally place the vidiian under the Borg as the most terrifying villians into the franchise.

The Cloud - Go drama that goes into the premise. The Cloud being actually being a life form is to TNG for my taste, but it's work.

Eye Of the Needle.
Prime Factors
State of Flux.
Horoes and Demon - A nice stand alone character episode.
Faces.
Learning Curves - It's not on the same level of Lower Deck and Good Sheppard, but still an effective episode.
Honorable mention goes to Emantion.

Seska, Durst and Carey made great recurring characters for season one.

Janeway - I like this version of Janeway better instead of the Mel Gibson type they will make her later on.
Chakotay - A nice mix of Riker and Kira.
Tuvok - Effective Character. I like his friendship with Janeway.
Tom Paris - One of my favorite character who they don't do much with in season one. I like his friendship with Harry.
Neelix - A like the idea of having a guide, but some of the comedic element is force.
Kes - Made a great nurse.
The Doctor - Break out star.
Torres - Another break out star.

Despite knowing that some of them will go on to be undeveloped I have to say the main cast came off well.
Yanks
Wed, Aug 5, 2015, 5:05pm (UTC -6)
But Jammer, it's "Alien" cheese :-)

A thought on that... I don't think Voyager, or any 24th century star ship for that matter, employed a kitchen :-) I'm sure those jel-pak engineers didn't foresee Neelix creating his concoctions with vegetation from alien worlds. :-)

So while on the surface it sounds pretty silly, I can see where this infection might be plausible under the current unforeseen circumstances.

A normal season ender? Hell no, but that shouldn't detract from this episode. The writers never intended this to be a season closer/cliff-hanger obviously. Be mad at the front office, not this episode.

Reading these comments, it seems not many understand why the military's have boot camp. It isn't for the fun of making folks do stuff. It's the art of breaking one down so you can build them back up and more readily conform to the rules and regulations and conduct appropriately as expected and needed to be part of a unit and complete the mission. We hear "star fleet protocols" thrown around allot in Voyager; those rules are needed, not just drummed up. Tuvok wasn't being a jerk or nasty, he was doing his job. My only issue was that he was an instructor at Star Fleet Academy... I don't think joe-blow enlisted go to the academy. (not really sure about this one). So the academic side of what he's used to might have to be tailored.

Janeway had some folks that weren't adjusting and she did the right thing. She's right, she can't just throw them in the brig or put them to bed early without chocolate milk. She has to find ways to integrate them so they are useful and not a burden to the crew or the mission. I have no problem with this solution.

As to letting them take someone's shuttle and leave... we'll see later when this option is presented that they all want to stay. I would say that might be, at least in part, a result of her decision here. As to letting them be a civilian? I don't see that as an option because they will either get tired of doing nothing, or everyone else will get tired of them freeloading. They all need to be a part of the crew. This isn't a Galaxy Class star ship.

An enjoyable episode. Always fun to rewatch. We learn that Tuvok isn't that "nasty" guy and truly cares for his students to the point of sacrificing his life to save one. I get a kick out of the blue guy every time.

I'll go 3 stars here... nothing revolutionary, but a good episode nonetheless. It's nice to know that Voyager does have something inboard that isn't replaceable.
Yanks
Thu, Aug 6, 2015, 9:29am (UTC -6)
Since there is no "Season One Recap", I'll summarize here.

Here are my ratings for season one from best to worst:

Eye of the Needle, 4.00
State of Flux, 4.00
Phage, 3.50
Prime Factors, 3.50
Faces, 3.50
Caretaker, 3.00
The Cloud, 3.00
Emanations, 3.00
Heroes and Demons, 3.00
Jetrel, 3.00
Learning Curve, 3.00
Parallax, 2.50
Ex Post Facto, 2.50
Cathexis, 2.50
Time and Again, 2.00

Total: 46 for a 3.06 average.

This is not really surprising to me as I've always thought that Voyager seasons 1 & 2 are much higher quality than DS9 or TNG.

When I rated DS9, the average was 2.08 for the first season. (I haven't done TNG yet)

Things I love about this show? I love how Kate plays Janeway, I love how she relates to her crew, I love the Janeway/Tuvok relationship, Tim Russ as Tuvok, I love the EMH and the Kes/EMH interactions, way above par acting across the board for a trek series, Tom/Harry friendship, the humor, the emotional tug this series gives me right out of the gate.

Things I don't love so much? How they portrayed Janeway's decision to blow up the array, how fast Chakotay and Torres got their positions - especially Chakotay, Janeways holonovel, Neelix-Kes "love" thing, Neelix's jealous tirades, little mention of rationing things, when they do mention rationing - the holodecks can run all the time?, Voyager's nacelles, Jennifer's acting at times.

All in all a very enjoyable opening season.

Looking forward to chatting about season 2.
FromHolland
Tue, Aug 11, 2015, 8:00am (UTC -6)
Watching the Voyager series all over again and here are my ratings, using the same system as Jammer does (1 to 4), for the first season:


Caretaker: 3
Parallax: 3
Time and Again: 2
Phage: 2
The Cloud: 2
Eye of the Needle: 3.5
Ex Post Facto: 3.5
Emanations: 2
Prime Factors: 2
State of Flux: 2.5
Heroes and Demons: 3
Cathexis: 2.5
Faces: 2.5
Jetrel: 3
Learning Curve: 2
JD
Fri, Sep 25, 2015, 3:50pm (UTC -6)
I just have to ask, are ALL Bolians such whiny little bitches? It seems like every trek has at LEAST one episode with a Bolian in it whining because he's uncomfortable or tired or scared or doesn't trust someone or something. How did all these blue man group rejects make it through Starfleet Academy? I'll give Chel a pass on that but why did Chakotay put up with such a sniveling sap?
Diamond Dave
Tue, Dec 15, 2015, 4:37pm (UTC -6)
Even accepting that this wasn't intended to be the final episode of Season 1, it seems a bit of a shame to go out on this note. A curious mix of ideas - again, just what the hell is Janeway's holodeck novel all about - that doesn't really hang together.

Tuvok runs boot camp is just such a well-trodden path that even a welcome exploration of Maquis integration into the crew comes over trite - the final moral growth is as cheesy as it gets. Just as well this episode also features a cheese then - "Take this cheese to sickbay" enters the pantheon of immortal Trek phrases. 2 stars.

===================

Overall I scored this series at an average of 2.5, which puts it above the first two TNG series but a hair behind DS9 series 1. Up until the mid-point it looked like scoring more than that with a remarkable run of consistent high-scoring episodes - one might expect that at this point in the Trek line the writers and show runners know how to get a show off the ground.

But the disappointing tail off towards the end of the series showed that some problems clearly remain. Voyager at this point seemed at its best when doing something uniquely Voyager. As a low rent 'spacial anomaly of the week' we might just as well be watching TNG. I think also we have the least interesting set of characters of any of the three new series at this point - really only the Doctor stands out, and while the others all have moments in the sun all need further development. But a good start.
MartinB
Sat, Dec 19, 2015, 1:51pm (UTC -6)
Yet another reason why Neelix should have been put out an airlock as soon as he betrayed the Voyager crew in "Caretaker"... He nearly destroyed the ship with cheese!

Shame we never saw how the recruits got on after this episode. Only Chell is ever mentioned and briefly reappears later. Another missed opportunity.

I like the exercise uniforms they wear here, although I wonder why they need to have their division colours on them, given that they wouldn't be on duty while working out...
JC
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 8:00am (UTC -6)
This really should have been like the 2nd or 3rd episode of the season.

I'm a little surprised that Starfleet makes Bajorans take off their earrings. Voyager is the only series I've seen actually enforce this policy.

Somebody needs to inform DS9 that a punch in the face and a romp through some Jefferies tubes is all it takes to turn the Maquis into proper Starfleet crew.

I think we can make a drinking game out of tight shots of people giving concerned stares with the sound of a closing door in the background.

I had to laugh a little at Neelix's food making the ship itself sick (and "get the cheese to sickbay" isn't a line I ever expected to hear on a trek episode). He's definitely not getting an "A" from the health department.

Still, it was a slight stretch for me to accept that Starfleet doesn't have the tech to filter even the most "pernicious" bacteria and tiniest viruses through the ventilation system. I am also constantly baffled by Federation technology design in terms of robustness; you'd think they'd have learned something by now from all the instances of failed "manual" door overrides and inability to shut things off in a crunch (how many times in all the Treks have we seen something out of control that can't be turned off).

I enjoyed this episode more than I thought I would (even with Tuvok and company trapped in a trapped-in-a-room-together cliche together, although the corniness increased exponentially after that), I just don't think it was appropriate as a season ender.

Also it was kind of cheesy ha ha ha.
K
Wed, Mar 16, 2016, 11:33pm (UTC -6)
I loved the fact that cheese was the culprit, but maybe that's because I'm lactose intolerant.
Nathan W.
Thu, Mar 31, 2016, 6:23pm (UTC -6)
Yet another terrible review from Jammer. You really need to quit reviewing shows that you do not like to begin with. Go watch and review something else. Thanks
Grumpy
Thu, Mar 31, 2016, 8:10pm (UTC -6)
Heh.

Yeah, Jammer! Go back in time 21 years and spare your younger self some misery.
Jammer
Thu, Mar 31, 2016, 8:34pm (UTC -6)
@Grumpy: LOL. Exactly.
Starik
Mon, May 2, 2016, 10:24pm (UTC -6)
That little boy in the cold open could act!
Luka
Wed, May 11, 2016, 4:22pm (UTC -6)
"If you can learn to bend the rules, we can learn to follow them."

Skywalker
Fri, May 27, 2016, 3:49pm (UTC -6)
A Vulcan teaching at the Academy with a Kobayashi Maru situation? Reminds me a lot of ST2009!

I like the contrast of the Maquis not wanting to retreat versus normal Starfleet tactics, but now that I think about it, that doesn't make a lot of sense. As a force with inferior firepower and defenses, the Maquis must have made combat careers out of retreat! Just like any other guerilla fighters.

Regarding Janeway's holonovel, Jammer said, "It has no relevance to anything on the show." Is it really that hard to make the connexion? Janeway is playing the character of a governess, needing to become a mother suddenly to children who weren't expecting her. It's a metaphor for Voyager! Janeway as a character so far has excellently been portrayed by Mulgrew and the writers as a very intelligent, strong, decisive, modern woman, but still a *woman*, now forced into fulfilling the role of surrogate mother to all the people on the ship. Her warm empathy for the suffering of her crew is distinctly motherly and almost tender.

Speaking of which, in case anyone was wondering what the little boy said in Latin in the holonovel, he said, "in ullam rem ne properemus," which sounds like the bastardized schoolboy Latin of Englishmen of the 19th century. Literally the intended translation seems to be, "Let's not rush into anything," as a response to Janeway hoping she would become the children's friend. Pretty funny! Unfortunately Latin wouldn't phrase it that way (simply "ne properemus" would have been fine).
mephyve
Mon, Aug 15, 2016, 8:24pm (UTC -6)
if you need some background noise, play this episode. Voyager boot camp
Tidesfromnebula
Wed, Oct 26, 2016, 4:29pm (UTC -6)
I can't believe that hardly anyone has picked up on the worst offense of this episode...

WE NEVER SEE THESE CHARACTERS AGAIN!

Except maybe Chell, who was utilised really well in the computer game Elite Force.

It reminds me of the TNG episode 'Lower Decks' where practically the same thing happened!

Voyager suffered from not establishing a fantastic cast of 'supporting' characters, DS9 did this far better and came before Voyager so its a bit annoying!

BSG gets it right BIGTIME - I always get feeling Voyager would have been better without Braga/Berman and lead by Moore/Behr.

What a treat we'd have witnessed!
Robert
Wed, Oct 26, 2016, 8:30pm (UTC -6)
@Tides - We never see the Lower Decks characters again because the series ended 10 episodes later. The fact that Voyager couldn't run a few recurring characters over 7 years was terrible.
William B
Wed, Oct 26, 2016, 9:31pm (UTC -6)
I dunno. I do think Voyager could have benefitted from a more robust supporting cast. But there is a long tradition of episodic television, and in general of short-form narratives generally. I don't think this episode is great or anything, but it still seems to some extent like the story that they were telling for Chell or whoever was concluded. The story is also mostly about Tuvok, who *is* a regular and who returns. Yes, it would be neat to follow Tuvok's relationships with the recruits to whip into shape here, and the episode's drama is a little blunted because it's hard to believe he could make such progress in such a limited amount of time and then that the Maquis recruits are all good now that he's left them. But I think even a very small rewrite of the episode could still be done to smooth over these problems which are internal to the story, and the episode could more clearly be about Tuvok having a certain task to help some people become better officers, before going back to his regularly scheduled duties, where Tuvok learns something and we learn something about Tuvok along the way.

And with "Lower Decks," it is certainly true that the series was about to end. But I don't think that's the most important reason why the characters (save Ogawa) didn't return. They didn't return because the whole episode is specifically about the experiences of all crew members on the ship who are not seen every week. The episode suggests that there are all kinds of stories that are littering the halls of the ship -- and in fact, far too many for us to be able to keep track of even if the show did expand its cast out further. The drama of the episode also focuses on the escalation from what we would normally not care about at all -- junior officer promotions to off-screen ops? -- and eventually revealing that one of the characters we got to know over the hour died taking part in an anonymous mission, where, presumably, her death stands in for *many other deaths* which are heroic but due to the circumstances are not widely known in universe, or without. That we had seen Sito before (in "The First Duty") is a nice touch, but the episode would not have the same power or meaning if Sito were replaced with someone we actually knew quite well, because then her anonymity would only be to other characters in the show and not to the audience.
Peter G.
Thu, Oct 27, 2016, 1:06am (UTC -6)
@ William,

Those are plausible reasons why those *particular* characters shouldn't have become recurring, but it doesn't quite answer Robert's reasonable complaint that the series simply showed no interest in developing any kind of supporting cast. By the later seasons it somewhat remedied this by introducing (SPOILERS) the Borg children and Naomi Wildman, and even on rare occasion Vorik. But even so none of those characters could carry an episode like Dukat, Weyoun, Martok, or Garak could. There is no disputing that the loss of them from DS9 would be catastrophic. They helped turn what would otherwise have been a solid character-driven show (including material like Crossfire and Duet) into an almost legendary myth-like setting. Just by way of analogy, DS9 ended up in Lord of the Rings territory in terms of creating characters that the audience would never forget, that colored the world of the main characters and gave their everyday troubles a heightened context.

This is a high bar to set, but why sabotage even the chance of the audience being brought into the Delta Quadrant world like this by not even trying? Heck, they even came up with occasional possibilities like the crew in "Good Shepherd" and decided not to re-use them. At that point it seems almost deliberate. Considering how much the show spent on production you'd think they could shell out for some guest actors.
William B
Thu, Oct 27, 2016, 2:19pm (UTC -6)
@Peter (& Robert)

Well, I was mostly responding to Tidesfromnebula's point, and Robert's implicit agreement by saying that these characters appeared more than ten episodes from the end of the series, unlike the "Lower Decks" characters. And even then, unlike with "Lower Decks" where I genuinely do think that having those characters remain backgrounded (or absent entirely) is part of what makes the episode work, I'm not saying it's necessarily better that Tuvok's charges in this episode don't return, just that I don't think it's any real mark against the episode (which, again, I don't really think is great or anything -- I haven't seen it in around two decades though, so...).

And...I mean, yes. While (spoiler) Naomi Wildman, Icheb by the time we got to the last season, and a few others were good additions to the Voyager recurring cast, none of them added as much to the show as Garak, Dukat, Martok, Weyoun, Nog, Rom when the show wasn't specifically doing the bad Ferengi stuff, Damar eventually, etc. did to DS9. It is even possible to have a vibrant supporting/recurring cast without long-term storytelling, and I think that Q, Guinan and Ro added a lot more to TNG than Voyager's supporting players...and then when Barclay eventually became a recurring who could carry an episode on Voyager, well, even that was basically just porting over a character that was established as being able to do the same on TNG! Voyager didn't end up working that much for me as a series and having a larger set of supporting players would probably have helped a lot, and even if it did not work it would have demonstrated a kind of effort and commitment that the show maybe needed.

So I don't think they should have closed up the possibilities offered by a large supporting cast by not particularly trying for a long time. I don't entirely know why they didn't. It is possible that their early attempts, with someone like Seska, didn't quite work out for them. But still, TOS was a very, very good show which worked in an anthology-esque format, with minimal connecting tissue between episodes. That serialization became more popular, and that its advantages became clearer, does not necessarily mean that every show has to be so serialized in order to be good. As it happens, I don't think that Voyager really succeeded at what the artists behind it were apparently trying to do (a kind of TOS/TNG-ish combination of main cast character pieces with sci-fi anthology stories), though I'm mostly operating off memory from a long time ago.
Robert
Thu, Oct 27, 2016, 5:47pm (UTC -6)
@William - FWIW I also don't see it as a knock against the episode. I just think that in cases like this (and Good Shepard) the show runners had a great opportunity to see which characters connected with viewers and offer them recurring roles. I'm not sure why they never built a cast of side characters and shows like this were just good opportunities to pick from.

And when they did have them they often squandered them as you said. I also don't think a show needs to be serialized to be good, but this one did. You had 100 crew and no star bases. We needed more life here.
William B
Thu, Oct 27, 2016, 7:47pm (UTC -6)
@Robert -- fair enough! I just wanted to defend the right of shows to introduce one-episode characters without exploring them, and I think "Lower Decks" is a particularly good example of why it can be good to do so.

It's a very good point that Voyager really does seem to need serialization. I think part of the frustration is not just that it's in the Delta Quadrant and isolated, but the way the show really sets it up that they are On the Edge and also against their will. By contrast, in TOS there were very rarely starbases or other ships, because the Enterprise was very much meant to be on the frontier, often far from other humans (not counting the dozens of Alternate Earths they landed on) and sometimes far from Federation. And this wasn't a problem, first because it's a 60's show, but also because it made sense for the crew to be very outward-facing because that's what they signed up for.

I should also add -- though you didn't point this out -- that I was sort of conflating "serialization" with "robust supporting cast," and those are two slightly different things, though they are related.
Robert
Fri, Oct 28, 2016, 8:39am (UTC -6)
Agreed! The show needed serialization in relationships, character growth and a supporting cast that makes the crew feel more "lived in".

As far as long story arcs... I think they could have benefited from short story arcs. Like... we could have used MORE Kazon/Vidiaans in S1 and then left them behind entirely.

The show would have benefited from having each season by a unique region of space with it's own aliens and it's own feel. Something like...

S1 - Kazon/Vidiaan Space
S2 - ????
S3 - Nekrit Expanse
S4 - The Outskirts Of Borg Space (after Kes' jump)
S5 - The Year Of Hell/Krenim Space
S6 - Hirogen Space
S7 - ????

Plenty of room for non-serialization, I don't mean to say that the Kazon should have an "arc" either. Just that those are the things we should a lot of that year.

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