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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 26 September 2019 at 11:37am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Let's discuss Vulcans and Vulcanians a moment. I'm pretty sure that Vulcans were created by Gene Roddenberry to appear near human, but obviously be aliens, to emphasize the nature of their being aliens. 

They come from a larger planet from Earth as I infer it - the easiest way to address strength much greater than an ordinary human. We know the atmosphere is hotter, dryer, and lower in oxygen content than Earth's.

It would seem that Vulcan and Earth are on very good relations, and I've concluded that they were the ones who were instrumental in forming The Federation of Planets and Starfleet. The intent was to form an interstellar United Nations, and a semi-military to enforce their edicts.

The questions I have begin with logic and emotion. We know that Vulcanians base their lives on logic. They also seem somewhat smarter than humans - so why is so much of their culture invested in ritual and religion? It would appear that there a lot of churches and religions on Vulcan. Has anyone ever delved further into the reason for such a large influence on a seemingly rational pilot?

Also, not all Vulcans appear to be quite as smart as Mr. Spock. Tuvok is quite a mind, and I believe that T'Pol was also. Surak and Sarek also seemed genius... but T'Pau, perhaps not so much ("How can dis be? De air is de air.") T'Pring and Stonn also did not appear as braintrusts, so is a generally higher intelligence typical of Vulcanians and we've seen some smarter and some lesser? Or are Spock, Tuvok, and T'Pol exceptions?

Further, Vulcan seemed two or three generations technologically advanced of Earth, as the first contact was the Vulcan landing. But I've never seen anything to differentiate, and I can't imagine Vulcans violating the Prime Directive to give Earth more advanced devices and science.

What ideas on your parts, friends?
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 26 September 2019 at 5:57pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Eric, I don't think you're properly remembering or crediting the Vulcans* who appeared in Amok Time. T'Pau does not ask a question concerning the air. She responds to McCoy's challenge that the air is too hot and thin for Kirk with a statement that the situation it is what it is, and then asks him what he thinks can be done about it. She is not puzzled by anything taking place. She is hearing his complaint and then allowing him to address it. She is not shown as foolish in any way. 

She's also a Horta-level master of the double-inverse statement. "Do not interfere, Kirk. Keep thy place." What place? Is she saying stay out of the fight, or is she telling him to remain as T'Pring's champion? Seriously, Kirk needed to ask her what she meant by that. That ambiguity on her part seems downright deliberate. 

And T'Pring may be the cagiest, fastest thinking Vulcan yet to appear onscreen. She walks into the arena with no plan in place whatsoever and upon seeing Kirk and McCoy quickly conceives one. And not just any plan, but one that Spock himself describes as "logical. Flawlessly logical." She is a game player, willing to throw aside her existing, agreed-upon strategy of pitting Stonn against Spock for something better the minute she works out the angles of it, something no one else present is doing. 

I've joked that her plan had one major flaw ("If your Captain had won, he would not want me...") Are you sure, T'Pring? He does have quite rep, y'know. In any case, joking aside, she is correct. He's not going to take kindly to a woman who arranged for the death of his best friend at Kirk's hands no less. She figures out the logical consequences of every outcome and sees herself winning in all of them and then acts immediately and decisively to put her plan into play. You can watch Arlene Martel's eyes sparkle as she conceives her plan and looks Kirk up and down while devising it. 

Stonn doesn't make a good impression, true, but he's caught up in a sordid love affair with a woman whose husband he's just obligated himself to kill. How do these fights usually go on Vulcan? Does the crazed, blood fever-enraged Pon Farr sufferer have the advantage or does the champion of the bride usually win, being the more controlled and rational one? Has Stonn ever been in a fight before? He has other things on his mind, especially once T'Pring springs into action without consulting him. 

And I really like T'Pol. Really I do. I seriously respect the integrity Jolene Blalock brought to that role. But she has got to be the dumbest Vulcan since that rapist with the polyester haircut on Voyager. She is constantly making bad decisions in regards to her own mental health and addictions, endangering herself and the ship time and time again because she is unable to get or keep her act together. 

Roddenberry's original plan was to have Spock as a red-skinned, Satanic-seeming tempter with a wicked sense of humor who eats by placing food against a metallic plate in his abdomen. He offered the part at one point to DeForest Kelley, who wisely stepped away from it. 

By the time the Cage was filming, Spock had become a brash outsider ruled by his curiosity. Nimoy needed to play volatile and fiery to be seen as interesting against Jeffrey Hunter and Majel Barrett's "cool." Once Shatner came aboard, suddenly all that dynamic energy was embodied in the Captain and Nimoy was left with the task of underplaying his role to provide contrast. Barrett's computer mind and lack of emotion were transferred over to his character. The more that interplay between Kirk and Spock worked, the more the writers leaned into it, creating the aloof, scientifically brilliant, mathematically gifted race of nearly-super-powered beings the Vulcans eventually became. (Mutating further under Berman to become a race of lying, posturing dicks whose hypocrisy knew no bounds.) 

Their cultural history and sense of racial memory goes back considerably farther than ours. I have no doubt that many ages and eras were spent in denial of those "animal passions" they cast out "on these sands" so long ago. The dirty truth of it, they've acknowledged to themselves, is that they are not so different after all from their ancestors. Centuries of discipline and rigid control have enabled them to master their emotions, to a degree we cannot readily imagine, but the hidden cost of it all is to return to those ancestral grounds and face their inner selves on a basic, biological level. It isn't a question of philosophy or imperfect thinking. Their bodies react this way to certain stimuli and denying it does not make it go away. 

They therefore accept it in themselves, even if they do not advertise it to others. "The air is the air. What can be done about it?" They've struggled with their dual heritage for some time now. If there were a pill they could take to make themselves 100% in keeping with Surak's ideals, they'd have taken it by now. And probably have, countless times over their history. And found that denying essential truths about themselves on a genetic level does not work. 

Another point regarding all of their superstition and mumbo-jumbo, psuedo-religious conduct. Unlike ours, the tenets of theirs is borne out as truth on a daily basis. Those souls deposited in the libraries of Mt. Seleya? They're actually there. You can talk with them. Consult their wisdom and accumulated knowledge. Vulcans accept the loss of their physical forms and transference into pure thought because they can see their future in what has taken place with all those in the past. They can reach out and touch those minds. Commune with them. Know what they know. Even the weirdest, left-field rituals from the distant past work. We know because we saw one work in the third movie.

It does not take faith to believe in the spirituality of the Vulcans. It is clearly something they hold close to themselves and only share reluctantly with others, but it is definitely real in the context of the series. Why not just give up the priesthoods and the robes and take it all into the laboratory where it belongs? We don't know that they haven't. But something deep in the "Vulcan heart, the Vulcan soul" still responds to it in this fashion. And uncomfortable as it may be for them at times, they accept that as a truth about themselves as a people and deal with it accordingly.

As for whether or not the early Vulcans helped us technologically, we don't know how old the Prime Directive is by the time we see it on Star Trek. It may not have been in place when the two cultures first met. Or they may have judged us worthy of assistance by their standards. Or maybe we did it all on our own and they, while never admitting to being surprised, were still respectful of our accomplishments. 

This is certainly how I would have preferred the premise of Enterprise to have gone. While that creatively dead and dreary mess droned endlessly on about Warp Five culture and Warp Five this and Warp Five that, I'd have had the Earthlings bust out into space with a Warp Seven engine, skipping Six entirely. Suddenly our ship being the only one that could travel to the Klingon Homeworld (not outpost. Homeworld.) in such-and-such amount of time would have made sense. Also, the question of why we aren't already conquered by the Klingons if their homeworld (not outpost, Homeworld) is only five days away is answered. They can only go Warp Five. At Warp Five, we'd be much further away. Going there in five days at Warp Seven makes a lot more sense, and puts the Klingons on notice that a new, crafty bunch of space monkeys is out there making them look bad. 

The Earth as the center of the Federation makes sense if we have an engine no one else has. It makes no g*dd*mn sense for us to be the center of everything if all we have is what everyone else (including the Pakleds) got one-hundred and fifty years ago. Humans as uppity little noisemakers demanding full run of the playground when all we've done is nothing more than everyone else (including those Pakleds) is a bad television show. Nothing can be done with that that is of the slightest interest. A Warp Seven Enterprise with us whipping about and zooming everywhere two hundred times faster than everyone else...? Now there you have something. At least we bring something to the table with that premise. 

In any case, I don't think the idea originally was that the Vulcans wiped the milk off our chins and put us in fresh Pampers whenever we needed it. I think we sent out a few brave Marco Polos and Vulcan was our China**. They gave us someplace to go and someplace to come back from. And on the way, we continued to meet others. And so it grew... 

* "Vulcanians" was a term that went away quickly on the Original Series, much like the terms "United Earth Space Probe Agency" and "Space Central" to refer to Starfleet or the Federation.

** No, scratch that. Old Vulcan Proverb: "Only Nixon Could Go To China." Marco Polo is not allowed for in that... :-)


Edited by Brian Hague on 26 September 2019 at 6:10pm
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 27 September 2019 at 8:07am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

ITEM: You note that Kirk might well have desired T'Pring. I recall a footnote (God help us) in the novelization of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" asking why there was never a sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock, and Kirk's response was, "I wouldn't have been too interested in a partner who only came into heat every seven years."

ITEM: I have to wonder if a sordid love affair is logical. It surely doesn't seem so to me...

ITEM: You might be right about T'Pao playing a DEEP finesse with Kirk and McCoy about the air. I had thought, "How could she not know that the Vulcan environment is so very different from Terra's?" when McCoy asks to help Kirk. She might have known about T'Pring and Stonn, and the way out of it... after all, they are geniuses on Vulcan.

ITEM: Regarding emotionless Vulcans... as soon as I could understand the concept, I didn't think the Vulcans had no emotions. Rather, I figured that they had all the human emotions, but had them so tightly repressed and held down and shunted away that they could claim to be emotionless. But under the right stress and circumstances, they could be just as emotional as any race.

Good thoughts! Thanks for the discussion!
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John Byrne
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Posted: 27 September 2019 at 8:20am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

WAY too much archeology here! The air is the air--and the stories are the stories!
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Brian Rhodes
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Posted: 27 September 2019 at 10:21am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

My theory on Vulcan genius is based in mental discipline. They train their minds to keep their emotions at bay. They use that same focus in the development of logic and knowledge, perhaps to aid in mitigating emotional development. 

While they may have a genetic predisposition to greater (than human) intelligence, I believe it's also in how they use that brain power. They are born with certain abilities, but master of them is achieved thru training, wherein the traditions and rituals may play a part. I'm not sure just any Vulcan can do a mind meld ("properly").

Edited by Brian Rhodes on 27 September 2019 at 10:29am
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 27 September 2019 at 1:50pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

D.C. Fontana has noted that fans' interpretation of the Pon Farr seven-year-cycle is much too narrow, and that Vulcans probably have sex as often as they feel inclined to. It's just that every seven years, it goes into overdrive and becomes an overwhelming biological compulsion. Kirk and T'Pring could have relations, but T'Pring would likely not be as into it as Kirk. Doesn't mean it wouldn't happen. 

I originally put the term "sordid love affair" in quotes. Clearly I should have left them there. Whether T'Pau knows about the arrangement seems beside the point since they both quickly and publicly announce their involvement, T'Pring with her challenge and Stonn with his protest.

There was no finesse regarding T'Pau and the hot, thin air of Vulcan. Initially, it is of no concern to her. If Spock's alien guppy friend wants to involve himself in a fight outside of his fishbowl, it's well within the rules of the conflict and no matter to her. When McCoy raises the question of unfairness, she understands his complaint, but asks what can be done about it when the situation is what it is. She hears his solution to the problem and allows him to proceed. 

Her ambiguous statement regarding Kirk's "place" in all this, that raises questions, but really, the issue regarding the air could not be more clear.  :-)


Edited by Brian Hague on 27 September 2019 at 1:59pm
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 28 September 2019 at 6:54am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

 Brian Hague wrote:
While that creatively dead and dreary mess droned endlessly on about Warp Five culture and Warp Five this and Warp Five that, I'd have had the Earthlings bust out into space with a Warp Seven engine, skipping Six entirely. Suddenly our ship being the only one that could travel to the Klingon Homeworld (not outpost. Homeworld.) in such-and-such amount of time would have made sense. Also, the question of why we aren't already conquered by the Klingons if their homeworld (not outpost, Homeworld) is only five days away is answered. They can only go Warp Five. At Warp Five, we'd be much further away. Going there in five days at Warp Seven makes a lot more sense, and puts the Klingons on notice that a new, crafty bunch of space monkeys is out there making them look bad.

I believe this explanation was offered in-show...

Vulcans took over 1000 years to recover from a devestating global war and (re)developed warp travel** by adhering to a paradigm of discipline and logic.   A similar thing happened to Humans but they were able to turn things around in a tenth of the time -- without the need to become the equivalent of pious space monks.   In fact, that seemed to be the key to how Humans were able to advance so quickly.  That both impressed and intrigued the Vulcans as much as it scared the crap out of them.  Humans got shit done, basically.   ENT makes it out that warp 5 was a technological glass ceiling among the alpha/beta quadrant species for decades (if not more than a century) and humans seemed poised to be the ones to crack that nut first.  Vulcan chose to buddy up with the new potentual bully and perhaps try to temper them rather than fight them.

All of that makes sense to me on paper.   However, the execution of that premise onscreen in ENT left much to be desired and the Vulcans come off as holding back/oppressing humans and generally being enormous dicks.

I like your Warp 5 vs Warp 7 premise though.   It fits in well with the setup we see in TOS.  


**For the timescales to work the Vulcans would have needed to have either warp or sub-light travel at the time of the exodus of the people who eventually became the Romulans, unless they were using something like sleeper ships.


Edited by Rob Ocelot on 28 September 2019 at 9:21am
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