Second Union

Second Union

STAR TREK REWIND: “Learning Curve”

“Get the cheese to sickbay.”

Though there were four episodes yet to air, UPN chose to end Star Trek: Voyager’s first season with “Learning Curve,” the point of which was to stress that this crew must work together in order to survive. There are some trouble-makers on board; members of the Maquis who served under Chakotay. They had no previous experience working with Starfleet, so they had not taken to rules and regulations where Chakotay had that experience (since he was a Starfleet officer before joining the Maquis). Janeway gives Tuvok the assignment of building up these raw trainees into Starfleet killing machines. I don’t know that I agree with her choice of Tuvok. It seems to me those Maquis kids would harbor a little resentment at the double agent sent to infiltrate them and discover their secrets. They immediately rebel and walk away from their training. Chakotay sets their leader, Dalby, straight with a left hook and tells the group it’s the Starfleet way or the highway. Well, since you put it that way…

Chakotay’s effective leadership motivates Dalby and the other three miscreants to try Tuvok’s system. Tuvok puts them through the paces; forced jogging with heavy packs in low gravity and combat simulations. He even reprimands them for wearing adornments and not keeping their boots polished. He becomes frustrated (or as frustrated as Tuvok can be). Neelix tells him he should bend like the stem of a flower or something like that. Neelix always has these home-spun platitudes at the ready. He must keep them in a box under his bed. Tuvok does try to take his advice. He invites Dalby to the holodeck for a friendly game of pool. Dalby gives him a sob story about his hard life, and everybody in the Maquis’ hard life – them’s the breaks! Something strange is happening to the ship’s bio-neural gel-packs. They’re getting sick (hell of a design flaw) from a bacterial infection. B’Elanna traces it to THE CHEESE! It is THE CHEESE!

It’s not quite cheese. It’s an alien space spore that looks like cheese and has to cure from active enzymes like cheese, and it is pungent. In order to stretch supplies, Neelix goes off to find substitutes that often taste terrible to the crew, but are not dangerous in and of themselves. It resembles some kind of curd or cottage cheese, but the spores from the stuff make their way through the vents and infect the gel-packs causing major system shutdowns. It’s weird that we get cheese as the enemy. I would think mushrooms posed more of a concern, but I do remember seeing an episode of House M.D. wherein the ultimate culprit was an exotic cheese that took down Dr. Johnny Fever! Janeway decides to turn the heat up to kill off the bacteria, which nearly kills Tuvok and his trainees in the middle of an exercise, but after the crew has dropped 20 pounds in sweat, the gel-packs are cured, and Voyager continues its long journey home.

Twice a week, Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Janeway, Kirk to Picard, and Georgiou to Sisko — boldly read what no one has read before!

For more insane Star Trek babble, check out my podcast (with co-host David B. Anderson), Ship to Ship: A Star Trek Podcast.

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