You guessed it, guest post time. We talking more Star Trek, until I run out of things to say, so see ya at part 12. As the title says, this is part 3, so feel free to read up on part one and two. Or just click my username, I don’t know man. Every time I’m
forced asked to write one of these it turns into a big mess of words that hold some meaning for me, I just hope it’s mildly entertaining or informative enough for people to read. One of these days I’ll actually tell you what I think it should’ve been.
T’pol and Vulcan depiction
Sex sells, that’s no secret. So why don’t we just cast a model for an acting role where she barely has to do any emoting? Maybe I’m too harsh with that sentence. Look, I like a sexy Vulcan in spandex as much as the next guy (though I prefer T’Pau myself), but she’s really a repeat of Tuvok which was a repeat of Spock. Vulcan science officers are a staple, but it took a long time for her character to bring anything new to the table apart from early ENT Vulcan snobbishness and not liking the smell of humans.
The weird portrayal of the Vulcans before season 4 hurt her, and every other Vulcan character in the series. Sure, you can use that as a steppingstone to create character growth, but that was not what was intended, they were created as assholes. In this regard, Soval got the better deal, but we’ll talk about him another time.
Let’s start with mind melds first, another core staple of Star Trek, especially The Original Series. It’s one of those things people who aren’t that much into Star Trek have heard of, along with the Vulcan salute and the Vulcan nerve pinch. It’s classic, and iconic.
So let’s fuck that up (which they’ll do again in Star Trek Discovery) and add an element of rape and HIV into the mix. She was mind melded with against her will, and because of that she got the condition Pa’nar Syndrome (a neural disease that resulted in the degradation of the synaptic pathways). Am I saying it’s wrong to raise awareness for these things in media? No, not at all. But attaching it to a beloved concept just feels tacked on, without any respect for the source material. The Pa’nar Syndrome was even introduced a whole season after the mind meld happened, giving me the impression that the writers were looking for something to attach an HIV storyline onto (as part of a Viacom’s HIV awareness campaign).
But enough of that. What about her character? Vulcans are notoriously to get likable if you play them straight. An actor has to emote, after all (another lesson they forgot in Star Trek Discovery, with the main character) to come across as believable. One can obviously play with this concept a lot – as there can be moments when a Vulcan does emote. Spock is the most obvious example, even if he was half Vulcan and that was what made him so interesting in the first place: the battle between his human side and his Vulcan side. Then you have Sarek, his dad, which actor ages along with the shows he’s in. In The Next Generation, he’s an old man with an illness that hampers his emotional control. He cannot accept that, one could almost say his pride prevents him from doing that. Then we move to Tuvok. He’s Vulcan. And.. yeah. He’s one of the most boring characters on Voyager (not that that’s a feat). There’s just not much going for him.
So with that lesson learned, how was T’Pol different? OK, sexy, check. She comes from the technologically superior Vulcans (in this era), and comes along as an observer of sorts while also filling the Science Officer role. She’s very skeptical. She doesn’t really like humans. She wants to do her job and meditate. Her being Vulcan helped her on numerous occasions because of her different physiology, but nothing really happened to her until episode 17 of the first season: Fusion. This is the episode where a mind meld is forced upon her by a group of Vulcans who, instead of suppressing emotions embrace them. I’ve liked this concept as a whole: it expands the Vulcan culture with this ‘weird’ band of misfits.
As much as I dislike the idea of the whole Pa’nar Syndrome in season 2, it does give T’Pol some development. It isn’t easy to live with serious illnesses and a stigma that surrounds it (as is/was with HIV). But this episode was just too on the nose with it, it could’ve used some subtlety, and it felt out of place for Vulcans to shun an illness. Why would you ban researching an illness? Of course, this is traced back to the changes brought to the Vulcans as a whole, and the governing body of the High Command. First only in charge of space exploration, but transforming into a government over time.
During all this stuff, the writers are really trying to push the T’Pol and Trip shipping. By making her massage Trip to help him sleep, or something. But it’s just to show a scantily clad T’Pol touch a scantily clad Trip. It’s just to make people think about sex. IT’S SEX! BUT NOT SEX!
In the Expanse (Season 3), it was found that a substance called trellium-D could shield the Enterprise against dangers unique to the Expanse. Unfortunately, this was also a neurotoxin for Vulcans. It’s never made clear how it’s a toxin, as you’d normally scan something like this before using it. Or why there’s a toxin in a rock. Would’ve made more sense as radiation. Anyway, the constant exposure to trellium-D lowers her emotional barriers, causing her to have outbursts of (negative) emotions. The more it happens, the more she wants to explore these emotions, as it’s functioning as a release for her. To do this, she injects herself with processed liquid trellium-D. Drug awareness anyone? On it’s own, I like the ideas and the setting, but again feels too on the nose. She eventually has to go through withdrawal and recovers, but she’ll always have a lower emotional barrier. She can finally use some emotions for the writers to make use of. Only took 3 seasons.
And now, we finally arrive at season four. She goes back to Vulcan with Trip, only to be guilt-tripped into an (arranged) marriage with Koss. Due to her actions while on board the Enterprise, her mother got fired from the Vulcan Science Academy, but with Koss’ family’s help and influence she can get it back. Should they get married, of course. Meanwhile she’s still kind of involved with Trip, so this is all a bit awkward.
“You’re sorry? You brought me sixteen light years just to watch you get married to someone you barely know.“
For me, T’Pol never became much more than eyecandy. She provided technobabble and had some good moments with Trip (especially season four), but we got too little too late.
Enterprise has no shortage in reoccurring guest stars. As far as I’m concerned, the three most important ones are Maxwell Forrest (Starfleet vice admiral, Archers’ superior officer), Shran (Andorian captain and ally of Archer) and finally Ambassador Soval (Vulcan ambassador to the United Earth). This arc sadly ends the life of one, and lifts the others up to new heights. This arc is where the Vulcans finally get ‘fixed’. This is the arc where the new showrunner, Manny Coto, takes over the reigns and does fucking amazing work with what he’s handed. Kudos to you, Manny.
The first thing this episode does is to take another look at Vulcan – United Earth relations. We’re on Vulcan for once, with Maxwell Forrest visiting the United Earth embassy along with Ambassador Soval. First, it’s addressed why the Vulcans act the way they do against humans.
“We don’t know what to do about Humans. Of all the species we’ve made contact with, yours is the only one we can’t define. You have the arrogance of Andorians, the stubborn pride of Tellarites. One moment you’re as driven by your emotions as Klingons, and the next you confound us by suddenly embracing logic!”
“I’m sure those qualities are found in every species.”
“Not in such confusing abundance.”
“Ambassador … are Vulcans afraid of Humans?”
“Because there is one species you remind us of.”
Moreover, it’s also set up how much the Vulcan High Command operates on a need-to-know basis and how long Forrest and Soval have been working together, clarifying the working relationship, but also their friendship. After this scene, of what I believe is the best scene in the whole arc, the embassy gets bombed and Soval is pushed out of the way by Forrest at the cost of his own life.
The Enterprise is called to Vulcan to investigate along with the Vulcans since the embassy is technically United Earth soil. The head of state, Administrator V’Las and his entourage boards and explain they have two suspects: the Andorians, or the Syrranites– a fringe group opposed to the current government but not violent. The Andorians are dismissed right away (for good reason, as they are on good relations), so the search for the Syrranites begins with Archer and T’Pol looking for them in The Forge: a hellish desert landscape.
Before this, Soval also has a scene with Archer, where Soval talks about Forrest’s hopes for more cooperation between Earth and Vulcan but also to warn him to not trust everything that the High Command tells them. In the desert they meet Arev, which takes them along on a pilgrimage of the path of Surak. On their journey, they encounter a fierce desert storm filled with lightning, a sandfire. They have to take shelter, but Arev gets mortally wounded by a lighting strike, but before he dies, he performs a mind meld with Archer. Although Archer and T’Pol lost their guide, Archer keeps on going, somehow knowing where to go. They make it to the sanctuary of the Syrrantites and promptly get captured.
Meanwhile, on the ship, the crew analyze some Vulcan DNA they found on one of the bombs that didn’t detonate. While the DNA does belong to a Syrranite, T’Pau, it’s revealed it has been tempered with. They also have one survivor from the explosion, the guard at the entrance. He’s in a coma so they can’t question him, but a mind meld might be able to reach him. Soval reveals that he is a Syrranite, and performs his first meld and sees that the one that planted the bomb is someone from T’Las’ entourage – Stel, the Vulcan chief investigator.
Meanwhile, it’s revealed that Archer carries the Katra of Surak, his spirit or essence. It cannot be removed and so is stuck in Archer, who starts having visions and conversations with him. He insists that Archer has to find the Kir’Shara, his original teachings so that the Vulcan people can find a new path of enlightenment. So, of course Archer goes and finds it, ready to bring it to the capital. But oh no! They are discovered by Administrator V’Las and he just decides to carpet bomb the whole area to be fucking done with these mind melding deviants. Other ministers think this is kind of crazy, but hey, he’s the boss.
T’Pol’s mother (T’Les) is also revealed to be a Syrranite, and she tries to reconnect with T’Pol. She’s rejected, as she just sees this group as a cult. After the area gets bombed, she dies while T’Pol holds her in her arms. In the long term, this means the grounds for her marriage with Koss are void.
Archer, T’Pol and T’Las now need to bring the Kir’Shara to the capital to bring in this new path of enlightenment, but they are constantly under attack by Vulcan commandos. Will they ever reach their destination?!
Quite frankly, I can’t bring myself to keep writing episode synopsis. It was a bad idea in the first place. I hope you kinda get the picture. Sorry.
They do make it to the Vulcan HQ, revealing the true teachings of Surak which had been lost for ages, and revealing that V’Las was not acting very rationally. Especially as he was also orchestrating an attack against the Andorians while the whole Kir’Shara thing was going on. A battle between their fleets was actually ongoing – with Enterprise in the middle. Trip was trying to prevent a war, by ‘betraying’ the alliance with Vulcan to warn the Andorians. The episode ends with V’Las reporting on his failure to someone.. and that was.. a Romulan!
It’s no secret that the portrayal of the Vulcans was vastly different in Enterprise in comparison to the later series and this arc tried to explain why. Although they can never make a scene where a Romulan and a Human see each other (due to canon) – showing the Romulans interfering in Vulcan affairs is fair game, and a good idea too. It gives the hardcore fan a little more background as to what the Romulans were doing before their debut episode Balance of Terror that doesn’t hurt canon by bringing back a classic villain faction (unlike what happened to the pretty bad Ferengi episode). This also was the setup for my favourite arc of the series, the Babel Crisis.
The previous arc with the Augments was more of a love letter to, well, The Original Series. This arc was to fix one of the many faults this series had and bring it more in line with TOS, and I applaud that. Sadly, as good as it is, if the Vulcans hadn’t be fucked in early Enterprise, this episode would’ve been pointless. It’s a great solution to a stupid portrayal.
It also shows us the Romulans for the first time in Enterprise since Minefield, in which only the ships were shown along with some audio-only communication. This time, however, the Romulans have a purpose in the story. We only get a glimpse of the single Romulan and not a silly firefight with Archer or something. Moreover, we also get an idea about what four factions are doing in this arc:
- The Romulans want to interfere in Vulcan affairs to unify their species once again (under their rule)
- The Vulcans were being controlled by a Romulan puppet that wanted to wipe out dissidents and wanted another war with the Andorians to weaken both powers
- The Andorians were preparing for another war with Vulcan, because they were expecting another attack
- The Humans are trying to prevent war, in all forms. Be it a civil war or space war, they’re trying to prevent everyone from blowing up.
This was your Alpha Quadrant News Bulletin, thank you for reading. Next time, we’re looking at the only three loose episodes in this season, and I’ll pick a random character to feature. Maybe Reed. I’ve always liked him.