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reviewed by Kevin Thomas Riley
Thus concludes the final chapter in the Vulcan arc - and it was the Romulans that were behind it, at least to a degree. Spoiler hound as I am I wasn't really surprised but I can imagine many viewers who thought that revelation came out of left field - in a good way. Kir'Shara gets the grade of 10 and since it was slightly better than the previous episode in the arc, that one gets retroactively downgraded to a 9. All in all, this arc was truly excellent stuff and taken together it also gets a grade of 10.
The main purpose of this arc is to tell the story about how the Vulcans of the 22nd century eventually became Vulcans we know from the original series. While some see this just as damage control in order to fix what was wrong from the start I don't see it that way. The intentions from the beginning were to depict Vulcans somewhat different than we were used to. Sure, the show's creators probably had no idea how to they would reconcile that with future the Vulcans. That job has now befallen the new show-runners this season. Like most civilizations even Vulcans can change and showing that change is far more interesting than if they from the very beginning had been a static society very much like the Vulcans from the 23rd-24th centuries. At any rate this gave us this arc, which might just be the best Trek we've seen in years, so I'm definitely not complaining.
That said, it is really precious little we know about the Syrrannites that now have gotten control of the Vulcan government. Thanks to the Kir'Shara they now have the original texts of Surak, but what they contain and how that will affect Vulcan in the future remains to be seen. I see the possibilities for Star Trek: Enterprise to further delve into the intricate politics of Vulcan. We know that the Syrrannites are mind melders and that they take a less hands-on approach to interstellar affairs - Earth will now have to stand on its own without the High Command looking over their shoulder. But how isolationist are they? How will the eventual rediscovery of the concept of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) affect them? Will they now take a greater interest in exploration? How can they combine the somewhat contradictory concepts that lies within the teachings that are bth new and old at the same time?
One thing is for sure and that is that whatever the Syrrannites are, or claim they are, they're not opposed to violence and they do lie, just as the later Vulcans are. They do martial arts stuff just like everyone else. And for them to have worked in secret they had to have lied on numerous occasions. It might be a neat trick to play on your enemies though, claiming that Syrrannites don't lie. I'm glad the writers didn't but the fannish nonsense that Vulcans/Syrrannites are pacifists how always tells the truth, because there's nothing in previous (chronologically later) Treks that suggests that.
Complaints about the rather open display of emotions on even the allegedly "purer" Syrrannites in Awakening were heard but I never had that much problem with it. In retrospect it might have been a bit over the top. In this episode T'Pau seemed more aloof. However the key to Vulcans is that they control their emotions and that they did. Besides, even the opposition of the 22nd century must be affected by the current trends in society. Also, they were probably stressed from being persecuted and in hiding for such a long time. Only Arev/Syrran seemed more reserved and you might chalk that up to the influence of Surak's katra.
Another thing that some people tried to interpret in the previous episode that I never got was an intentional and somewhat veiled criticism of the Bush administration and the issue of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. I guess some people just want to see that and have Trek reinforce their political beliefs. All I can say about this is that even if the Vulcan administrator V'Las was a villain that used the fear of Xindi weapons technology in Andorian hands as an excuse to launch a sneak attack at Andoria, he may have been right. We now that Shran took the schematics of the Xindi Planet Killer back from the Expanse (Proving Ground). We don't know the true nature about the Andorian regime besides that they've been depicted as hostile. Even our favourite badass Shran didn't shun away from torture. So this episode proves nothing in either direction. And I like the fact that Reed was critical about them going to warn the Andorians and that Trip also was hesitant. The scene between them were great. I wish we could have more scenes between those two.
Seeing Shran again was a blast. He's one of the most popular recurring characters on the show and it's a safe bet that we'll see more of him in the future. I have a distinct feeling that he will be one of the Andorians that will influence the change that is inevitable in that society too. The fact that he still acts like bad guy is rather refreshing. At first he has no qualms about abducting and torture Soval just to be sure that the information is correct. In the end he relents and it's not everyday we see a "compassionate" torturer that manages to get the viewers' sympathy. I like the fact that the ENT doesn't feel the need to be too kiddie friendly. We've seen violence and torture/interrogation scenes before that hasn't been gratuitous. And even after all that he and the NX-01 team up to intercept the Vulcan task force. Shran's line "that's two Archer owes me" was also very much in character. I hope he isn't softened up too much in the future.
Seeing Archer in this episode elicited mixed feelings. In possession of (or even possessed by) Surak's katra he eerily reminded me of Hatchery and that is not good. T'Pol was right in questioning what he was doing and why. And while I can buy that he learned a lot from what was in his mind it seemed too much. For instance how did he know about V'Las's intention to attack Andoria? How could Syrran - in exile for 17 years - have known about it when it was even a secret from members of the High Command? Archer's proficiency in fighting Vulcan commandos (with mini-lirpas no less), not to mention giving the famous neck pinch, also boggles the mind. What's in his mind doesn't change that he's still in a Human body and yet he took out several Vulcans where Kirk had problems just fighting Spock in Amok Time. It was very nice to see T'Pol going Vulcan kung fu again (I love that) and even T'Pau kicked some major ass. But Archer? It should've been he and not T'Pol that was knocked unconscious. Nah, I wish I could say back to the writing board. I'm sad to say that this Super Archer stuff is not what I want to see.
Another thing that didn't help was his very insensitive and nosy remarks to T'Pol about finding the true Surakian/Syrrannite path just some hours after the death of her mother. Maybe it was the katra speaking again but he came of as a real jerk there. I'm glad T'Pol called him on it.
T'Pol's capture by the commandos was also a bit odd. It served no other use for the plot than to have her confront one of the commandos that previously had been under her command. When she was brought before the High Command I thought she was going to play a role in the resolution there but no, that job went to Archer and T'Pau, with a little help from the dissident minister Kuvak.
T'Pol's neurological disorder, the pa'nar syndrome (Stigma), was also dealt with in this episode. My suspicions about it turned out to be true (yay!). It was not an incurable disease but just a ruse precipitated by the Vulcan rulers to discourage mind melds. Pa'nar turned out to be nothing more than the effects of an improperly done meld (Fusion) that could be rectified by a trained melder. Conveniently T'Pau then cured T'Pol. While I liked the fact that it was addressed in a believable manner it did felt rushed. T'Pol's Trellium-D addiction is now forgotten (thank God, I've always hated that in my opinion unnecessary plot device from season 3) and the pa'nar has been dealt with. This undoubtedly will have consequences for the character.
Shippers (well some of them) will rejoice in the fact that T'Pol's marriage to Koss is now over. He released her from it and turned out to be a good guy after all. I rather like that fact. It would have been too easy and predictable for him to come of as a quintessential bad guy that had to die. Spoiler:
However I won't hold my breath about everything going back to normal (whatever that is) between Trip and T'Pol. The spoilers indicate otherwise.
It seems that Vulcan divorces can be pretty undramatic and non-messy. No need for something like the kal-if-fee. It does tie into what we learned in Amok Time when Spock released T'Pring from the betrothal even after he won the challenge. Vulcan males apparently have the possibility to release fiancÚs and wives from their obligations. However, Vulcan females only seem to have the challenge to resort to. Women's lib has yet to reach Vulcan! So barring Koss's death this was the only option.
But we still don't have an answer as to Koss's and his family's motivations for forcing the marriage on T'Pol. Koss is here seen as a Syrrannite sympathizer but is he just recently that or has he (or his family for that matter) been Syrrannite all along? Somehow I think we'll never get a definite answer to that, which would be a shame.
The outrageous behaviour of administrator V'Las fuelled suspicions among viewers that he was a Romulan and indeed he was. And remember that it's not until a hundred more years that Vulcans learn about the existence of their distant Romulan cousins so it's no wonder that no one suspected him. The Romulan at the end (with a slightly bumpy forehead) gave us an ill foreboding of what is to come. I'm no fan of the Romulan foreheads but I guess they have to distinguish Romulans from Vulcans in some way when a different uniform isn't enough.
The special effects were very good. The Andorian ships coming out of the nebula, the Vulcan ships coming out of warp, the space battle, the view of the Vulcan capitol and the Kir'Shara demonstration shows that this is still one of the best science fictions show in terms of effects. Great stuff indeed.
My main complaint about this episode is that the ending felt very rushed. All too many things had to be resolved in too short a time, and I'm not just talking about the overthrow of the Vulcan High Command and the end to Vulcan-Andorian hostilities. We have the Koss marriage, the pa'nar, getting Surak's katra out of Archer's head. Maybe the episode would have benefited from scrapping the rather unnecessary capture of T'Pol?
Oh well, don't let my nit picks fool you into believing that I didn't like this. As I have said, this is the best Trek I've seen in a very long time. Taken as a whole this arc could just as well have been one of the better Star Trek movies.
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Two folks have made comments
Great comments Kevin but unfortunately I cannot say that the Vulcan Arc was Trek at its best. There were certainly great moments but obnoxious Super Archer, carrrier of Katras, trekking through the desert and saving another world with T'pol reduced to his side kick just ruined it for me.
Belive it or not but in hindsight I kinda agree with you, Ocean! I wrote these reviews right after seeing the episodes for the first time, but sometimes, after rewatching them, I find my views to have changed somewhat. In retrospect I would probably re-grade some of the episodes and/or add some new comments. While I very much enjoyed the Vulcan arc (I would still give it very high grades) I too didn't care much for the Super Archer/Sidekick T'Pol thing.