"Learning Curve" is the fifth episode of the third season of Stargate SG-1.


SG-1 is impressed with the learning power of Orbanian children but soon learns that the children eventually go through a ceremony which removes the nanites from the children in order to take away what they learned. Colonel Jack O'Neill decides to take Merrin away from them and teach her how to become a true kid.


Stargate Command is participating in an exchange of information and technology. The SGC has made contact with another world, Orban, the Orbanians are more technologically advanced than Earth, but know little of the Stargate or Goa'uld. The SGC provides them knowledge of both, in exchange for Naquadah generator technology. Teal'c and Dr. Daniel Jackson remain on Orban while Major Samantha Carter and Colonel Jack O'Neill return to Earth. Teal'c relates all his knowledge of the Goa'uld to a boy named Tomin, who is "Urrone", an Orbanian apprentice. Daniel works with other Urrone to investigate the ancient temple where the Orbanian Stargate was discovered. On Earth, Kalan, the Orbanian liaison, and an Urrone girl, Merrin, present Sam with a Naquadah generator, and Merrin remains behind to explain the generator technology to Sam.

On Orban, Daniel realizes the Orbanians are not of Aztec but Teotihuacan descent, and theorizes that the arrival of the Goa'uld caused Teotihuacan's downfall. Daniel is directed by Kalan to explain this to Tomin. Back on Earth, Sam is having trouble understanding Merrin's explanation of the generator technology. She attempts to have Merrin simplify her explanations, but Dr. Janet Fraiser interrupts and asks to conduct "Follow-up tests" on Merrin. When the tests are complete, Fraiser calls a meeting with Major General George S. Hammond, Jack, and Sam, explaining that she has discovered Merrin has nanites in her bloodstream and brain, superseding her normal brain synapses. General Hammond quickly begins preparing for a crisis, but Merrin explains that the nanites were designed on Orban, that all Orbanians carry them as a means to gather information, and that each Urrone is given millions of nanites to assist them in learning large amounts of information very quickly, accounting for the high intelligence of the Urrone children that had been observed. Merrin also tells the group that each Urrone must undergo the Averium and that at each Averium all of the Orbanians are given one nanite, but does not explain any further. General Hammond is mollified and allows Carter to continue studying the Naquadah generator with Merrin's help.

The next morning on Orban, Daniel recovers evidence of Goa'uld occupation, and Kalan gives Daniel more tools to continue excavation. Kalan also directs Teal'c to teach a new Urrone boy, Solen, of methods to combat the Goa'uld. Teal'c asks to teach Tomin instead, but Kalan tells Teal'c he is unavailable. Teal'c and Daniel point out that Tomin is already familiar with the subject, but Kalan insists it is impossible as Tomin has undergone the Averium, and Teal'c demands to see Tomin. Kalan takes Teal'c and Daniel to see Tomin, but Tomin does not respond or interact with them. Teal'c asks Kalan to explain the Averium, and Kalan tells him that an Averium is a ceremony where an Urrone's nanites are removed and dispersed among the population to increase the Orbanians' knowledge. Daniel asks Kalan what will happen to Tomin, and Kalan replies that he will remain with the other past Urrone in an institution as he cannot be taught because his brain will reject nanites. Daniel asks if it has been attempted to teach Urrone children without nanites, but Kalan appears confused. Teal'c returns to Earth and tells General Hammond what he has learned, where Fraiser hypothesizes that as nanites replace natural synapses in a the brain, the Averium reverts an Urrone's mind back to an infant state. As Merrin will be required to undergo the Averium when she returns to Orban, SG-1 and General Hammond attempt to have the Orbanians not remove Merrin's nanites in an attempt to retain her personality. The Orbanians, however, refuse and Merrin does not accept the offer of amnesty. Daniel, who remained on Orban, prevents Kalan from attempting to travel to Earth without first sending an IDC, but Kalan insists he must retrieve Merrin, as without her the Orbanian scientists waiting for her nanites will be forced to wait another twelve years as another Urrone is chosen to specialize in Naquadah generators. Daniel realizes the effect that withholding Merrin is having, and takes Kalan to the SGC with him. General Hammond agrees to allow Merrin to return to Orban and undergo the Averium, but Jack intervenes and takes Merrin from the base, without permission.

Jack takes Merrin to a nearby school and the teacher allows her to participate in an art class, where the students are asked to paint something they love. Merrin, displaying a characteristic of the Orbanians, struggles with the concept of 'fun', and begins to paint a Naquadah generator. Jack gives Merrin a new sheet of paper to paint on and directs her to paint the flowers in Samantha Carter's lab. Merrin struggles with this task as well, as Jack attempts to break her mindset by asking her to paint a garden without the correct colors or brushes to paint fine lines. Eventually, Merrin comprehends the task and enjoys painting, thanking Jack for giving her the opportunity. Jack offers her amnesty again, but Merrin insists she must return to Orban and undergo the Averium to help her people. Jack takes Merrin back to the SGC and gives her a box of crayons before she returns to Orban. General Hammond threatens to Court-martial Jack, but he merely replies that he was giving Merrin a chance to be a normal child and will accept any punishment General Hammond decides to give him, which sways him into giving Jack no punishment.

Several days later Kalan asks SG-1 to return to Orban, and SG-1 is taken to the institution for past Urrone. The institution is now filled with children playing, rather than sitting around in an infant state, and SG-1 is informed that all past Urrone children will now learn, without nanites, after their Averium, as a result of changes that Merrin has brought about.


Appearances for Learning Curve





Sentient Species


  • Dog (Mentioned)



Notable quotes[]

Kalan: Colonel O'Neill. You are most punctual. Both Merrin and I are eager to participate in this exchange between our worlds.
O'Neill: Major Carter's eager as well. She's really looking forward to it. So's Teal'c.
Teal'c: I will share my knowledge of the Goa'uld freely.
O'Neill: Teal'c's eager on the inside.

O'Neill: So, Merrin, I understand you're a reactor expert.
Merrin: Yes.
O'Neill: How old are you?
Merrin: I'm eleven. How old are you?
O'Neill: So Merrin, I understand you're a reactor expert.

Merrin: So this is how you and Dr. Fraiser became scientists?
Carter: (nods) Mm-hm
Merrin: (to O'Neill) You aren't a scientist?
O'Neill: Oh, no.
Merrin: Then you are not as smart as Major Carter and Doctor Fraiser?
O'Neill: Well it depends on... Okay, no. I'm not. But while they were stuck in school I was out doing other things. Like having fun. You do know what fun is, don't you? Okay. Ah. Fun is what you do to make yourself happy. Like music, games. It's whatever you do when you're not learning to be a rocket scientist.
Merrin: I am here to teach Major Carter about the reactor.
Carter: Sounds like fun to me.

Hammond: So once Merrin returns to Orban she will undergo this Averium and her nanites will be removed.
Fraiser: Yes sir.
O'Neill: Then maybe she won't return to Orban.
Hammond: Colonel.
O'Neill: General! She's going back to get her brain sucked out. And I dare anybody to phrase it more delicately.


Main Characters

Guest Stars


  • It is never explained what the mural under the Dial Home Device showed or why the people were freed.


  • Merrin makes a mistake in the scene where she asks Colonel Jack O'Neill for paper. She first says that she needs "fifteen sheets of paper at least 48 centimeters by 23 centimeters," but then she says that she needs "fifteen sheets of paper at least 43 centimeters by 28 centimeters." In the Czech version, this mistake was corrected as Merrin asked again for "fifteen sheets of paper at least 48 centimeters by 23 centimeters,".
  • When Major Samantha Carter shows Merrin how to draw, she draws a simple stick figure. A circle for the head, stick body, stick legs, stick arms, and a smiley face in the circle but when she shows the picture, the stick figure has hair on the head. You can clearly see before that she never drew hair on the picture.
  • When the Stargate is dialed in at the start of the episode the top chevron is not lit up while the wormhole is connected.
  • When Dr. Daniel Jackson is describing Teotihuacan to Kalan, Dr. Jackson describes it in Pre-Columbian South America, when Teotihuacan is in fact in North America.

Other languages[]

  • French: Méthodes d'apprentissage (Learning Methods)
  • Italian: Curva di apprendimento (Learning Curve)
  • Spanish: La curva del aprendizaje (Learning Curve)
  • Czech: Zrychlené učení (Accelerated Learning)
  • Hungarian: Fejlődési görbe (Evolutionary Curve)
  • Russian: Цикл обучения (Learning cycle)

Links and navigation[]

v  e
Episodes and Seasons
Season 1 12345678910111213141516171819202122
Season 2 12345678910111213141516171819202122
Season 3 12345678910111213141516171819202122
Season 4 12345678910111213141516171819202122
Season 5 12345678910111213141516171819202122
Season 6 12345678910111213141516171819202122
Season 7 12345678910111213141516171819202122
Season 8 1234567891011121314151617181920
Season 9 1234567891011121314151617181920
Season 10 1234567891011121314151617181920
Season 1 1234567891011121314151617181920
Season 2 1234567891011121314151617181920
Season 3 1234567891011121314151617181920
Season 4 1234567891011121314151617181920
Season 5 1234567891011121314151617181920
Season 1 1234567891011121314151617181920
Season 2 1234567891011121314151617181920
Season 1 12345678910