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reviewed by Kevin Thomas Riley
Before seeing this episode I harboured a fear that it would suffer from being the middle act in a three-parter, that it would be dragging and without a clear story just hanging loose. But those fears were ungrounded. This was an excellent continuation of The Forge and managed to get us even deeper into the power struggles of Vulcan. This is a clear 10. The most thrilling saga of Star Trek to come in a very long time hasn't disappointed us.
The stakes are raised when the katra - the Vulcan equivalent of a "soul" - of Surak is revealed to inhabit Captain Archer's mind. That comes as no surprise to those who paid attention in the last episode when Arev transferred something to Archer before he died. Arev is revealed to be Syrran himself, which again comes as no surprise to those paying attention. Archer "meets" Surak and witnesses the atomic horrors of 1 800 years ago after which the Vulcans finally embraced Surak's teachings - the time of the Awakening, incidentally the same time when the Romulans split from the Vulcans.
While an interesting development there it is still unclear as to why Surak's katra chooses to remain in Archer even after it gets the chance to inhabit a Vulcan instead. While Archer may not be corrupted by current Vulcan beliefs he is still an alien, and a very emotional alien to boot. And the alternative was no ordinary Vulcan, but T'Pau herself, now the leader of the Syrrannite resistance. Having Archer as keeper of the katra is, well, illogical! We'll see how this develops but having Archer playing Lawrence of Vulcania is not something I'd like to see. Sure he can help and everything but ultimately I think it should be Vulcans helping Vulcan. One wonders about how Archer-with-Surak's-katra could find the Kir'Shara artefact in a couple of minutes while Syrran-with-Surak's-katra couldn't in 17 years? Or perhaps Syrran could but for some reason decided not to tell his followers? Intriguing possibilities!
Yes, we are finally introduced to legend-to-be T'Pau, first seen in the original Amok Time. Here she is very young and pixie-like. It is a bit difficult to grasp that this is the same woman that in a hundred years will officiate at Spock's wedding. No complaints about the actress but the casting could have been different. Besides the fact that the archaic accent of Celia Lovsky is sadly missing, the regal quality of the original T'Pau is also not present. I suppose persons change over time, even Vulcans, but this much change is a bit of a stretch. Still, the young T'Pau does a good job on her own.
Another thing that's not quite clear, at least not yet, is what separates the Syrrannites from the current rulers. We are told they're pacifists but they don't hesitate to imprison Archer and T'Pol and even use force if necessary. That is not pacifism. It may be that they only resort to the use of force as a last resort. The current Vulcan High Command is clearly aggressive, with no qualms about carpet-bombing the rebels or launch a sneak attack on Andoria. Still, the Syrrannites don't seem to be so clear cut "good" either. The also use logic to motivate whatever they feel is necessary to do when "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few". I rather like the shades of grey.
Those "Vulcan purists" (for lack of a better term) that feels that the Vulcans of the 22nd century are acting too emotional will still have a lot to complain about. Both the Syrrannites and the High Command have no problem letting their emotions show. Administrator V'Las is hostile and angry. T'Pau is upset and mad at both Archer and T'Les, the mother of T'Pol. While I think it's good to know that Vulcans aren't supposed to be stoic stiffs I can see if this makes some uncomfortable. I've come to believe that whatever kind of Vulcan you are the first order of business is not as much suppressing your emotions but to control them. If you don't control them, then the aggressive tendencies of 1 800 years ago will surface again. Certain suppression techniques are obviously necessary but hiding or completely repressing them is not feasible, except perhaps for the masters of Kolinahr.
Yes, as promised, T'Les is back but her daughter T'Pol is not happy about it. She still can't forgive her mother for forcing her to marry Koss when she's still in love with Trip. One wonders if it was all for naught since it didn't take long for T'Les to seek refuge with the Syrrannites in the Forge. What of the importance of reinstating T'Les's position at the Science Academy? In the end, T'Les is killed in the bombing raid but not before coming to terms with her daughter again. Her last words indicates that one of her reasons for joining the Syrrannites was to help T'Pol, who's always been struggling with her emotions. Now this strongly indicates the advertised return of a more "Vulcan" T'Pol. The Syrrannites and the teachings of Surak will presumably aid her in that. What this means for the future with her and Trip remains to be seen. At present though, her emotions were in full force as she held her dead mother in her arms, even showing tears. Too bad T'Les had to die already. There were many things she needed to say to T'Pol, including what happened in Home. Now, not counting Koss, there seems T'Pol no longer has any family ties to her native Vulcan. She is truly alone.
Another worry before seeing this episode was that it was all going to be Archer on T'Pol on Vulcan. Well, thankfully it's not. We have some outstanding scenes with Trip and now former ambassador Soval onboard the Enterprise in this episode too. Those two really play off each other well and it's good to see the mutual trust and respect that develops between them. They have both indeed challenged their preconceptions. Soval admits that he during his 30-year tenure as ambassador to Earth has developed an affinity towards Humans. I cracked up when he thanked Trip for saying that he had done a pretty good job hiding it!
Soval has really come full circle. He's now actively opposed to the High Command, he serves as acting science officer on the Bridge and is revealing secrets, the biggest being that Vulcan plans to launch a sneak attack on Andoria, thus breaking the cease fire agreement made two years ago. It seems letting Soval go was a grave tactical error on Administrator V'Las's part. I really hope nothing bad happens to Soval, like getting killed or something. I've come to develop an affinity for the grumpy old Vulcan.
As for the planned attack on Andoria, it looks like it could just be some aggression on the Vulcans' part, lying about Andorians in possession of a Xindi weapon. But then again, remember Proving Ground where Shran actually escaped with a Xindi weapon. Aside from Shran the Andorians have been portrayed as rather violent themselves. This will be quite interesting.
Trip is handling his acting captaincy very well. He knows what's at stake and stands up to V'Las. While he may not be aware of it, his attempted rescue maneuver using a modified - and armed - shuttle helps to buy the Syrrannite some time to evacuate before the High Command sends in the bombers. And I never thought I'd see the day when we had Vulcan ships firing on the Enterprise. Those were some great, if gut-wrenching, scenes but yet another diversion.
Seeing the Vulcan High Command sends some strong Romulan vibes. Is there a purpose for this? While many a 22nd century Vulcan has seemed unlikable, V'Las acts in a very Romulan way. Only one dissident voice, Kuvak, is heard on the High Command. Hopefully he'll eventually play a part in the overthrow of the current regime. One thing is certain and that is that Vulcan isn't a democracy. V'Las got his position through merit - he can govern. It will be interesting to see what kind of government the Syrrannites will introduce. I don't think it'll be a democracy in the Human sense but probably wiser than the High Command.
Finally this brings up the question what the Syrrannites really want. What exactly are the ancient teachings of Surak when applied to practical policy? Speculations abound about isolationism, non-interference, a newfound sense of exploration, infinite diversity in infinite combinations etc. But sometimes these can be mutually exclusive. To isolate oneself is not practicing exploration. While abdicating the role of "Big Brother" to this part of the galaxy could foster other civilizations to grow it might also lead to chaos and unrest. There must be layers and factions even among the Syrrannites. There's stuff in there for many other story arcs so lets hope that we'll have many more seasons to explore and expand upon the changing Vulcans.
At any rate the concluding episode of this arc is called Kir'Shara after the ancient Surakian artefact retrieved by Archer with a little help from Surak's katra. This is obviously something that will help sway the Vulcans in right direction, but how? Tune in next time and find out. This will be awesome.
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