Star Trek: Discovery, Episode 6
Posted by Clinton
In Greek mythology, it is said the river Lethe flowed through the underworld. The souls of the dead would drink from its waters and forget their past. In the episode “Lethe,” it appears Sarek (James Frain) has also attempted to forget his past. Years ago he lied to Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). It is a lie that still haunts him. He wishes to drown this memory in the river of logic — but he can not.
Based on a discussion I had with a friend about the actions of Vulcans in this episode, I think it is important that we, the viewers, also not forget the past when it comes to Vulcans and “Star Trek” canon.
If one were to use a single word to represent Vulcans, it would be “logical.” It is only when we expand that vocabulary, that other, potentially disturbing characteristics begin to show through: cold, calculating, repressed, condescending, primal.
With that in mind, the fact that Sarek finds himself unwittingly in the company of a “logic extremist” who attempts to kill him, should not come as a total surprise. Vulcans can most certainly be fanatical. We need look no farther than Sybok, Sarek’s son by his Vulcan priestess first wife. Sybok is also the only fully-Vulcan child nurtured by Sarek.
In “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” we meet Sybok, a Vulcan who is filled with an all-consuming desire to reach Sha Ka Ree — the planet which Vulcan mythology claims is the source of all life, the Vulcan equivalent of Eden. It is a planet the location of which he claims came to him in a vision from God. To achieve his goal of reaching Sha Ka Ree and meeting God, Sybok takes hostages, steals a starship (the U.S.S. Enterprise) and threatens the safety of the crew of the ship by passing through the Great Barrier at the center of the galaxy. We eventually learn that Sybok was being manipulated by an evil entity. Nevertheless, the fact remains — Vulcans can be driven to do questionable things by their passions.
Speaking of passion, let us not forget pon farr. This is the primal mating drive all Vulcans experience. During the height of their blood fever, plak tow, a Vulcan can blindly kill. While this most often involves another Vulcan, we see in the original series episode “Amok Time” that the target can be anyone — even a human.
Both of these instances are the result of internal or biological conflict. What about ideology? Admiral Terral (Conrad Coates) tells Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs), “Ambassador Sarek’s ship was sabotaged by logic extremists.” On board the shuttle, Adjunct V’Latak (Luke Humphrey) tells Sarek “Your fascination with humans can no longer be tolerated. Your obsession has blinded you to the truth — humans are inferior. My sacrifice will be a rallying cry to those who value logic above all. Vulcans will soon recognize and withdraw from the failed experiment known as the Federation.”
Woah! Where did that come from? Can Vulcan emotions run that deep? Are they willing to kill for such a xenophobic cause?
This sentiment is actually a direct outgrowth of the overwhelming Vulcan position we see demonstrated in “Star Trek: Enterprise.” After Vulcans made first contact with humanity and offered assistance, it appears they began to question their decision. They withheld their technology, holding back humanity. They did not even bother to mention the Klingons until one was killed in Broken Bow, Oklahoma in 2151, forcing their hand.
This Vulcan attitude towards humans was an undercurrent throughout “Star Trek: Enterprise.” It culminated in the bombing of the United Earth Embassy, just as the Vulcan High Command was preparing to render a decision on operating joint missions with Starfleet. The bombing killed 43 souls, including Vice Admiral Maxwell Forrest.
Just prior to the explosion, Ambassador Soval and Forrest walked the corridors of the embassy, discussing the upcoming High Command decision. When Soval explained some of the Command’s concerns, Vice Admiral Forrest replied, “Are Vulcans afraid of humans? Why?”
“Because there is one species you remind us of.”
Soval states that, as we know, Vulcans had a savage past. They nearly destroyed their own civilization. Logic saved them, but it took almost 1500 years for them to rebuild their world and then travel to the stars. Humanity accomplished the same feat in less than 100 years. “There are those on the High Command who wonder what humans would achieve in the century to come. And they don’t like the answer.”
In addition, not only were Vulcans responsible for the embassy bombing, they fabricated stories to first blame the Andorians and then a fellow group of Vulcans, whom they later attempted to destroy.
But that’s “Enterprise,” you say. After 100 years the Vulcans settled down; humans and Vulcans were inseparable. Well, yes and no. Consider “Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country,” which is set some 140 years after “Enterprise.” In that film, it is revealed that a group of humans, Romulans, Klingons and at least one Vulcan were involved in the assassination of Klingon Chancellor Gorkon. The group then framed the crew of the Enterprise for his death and attempted to assassinate the Federation President. In addition, the Vulcan, Lt. Valeris, is discovered to have hired, then killed the two human Federation operatives who assassinated Ambassador Gorkon. And all this was done because there was mistrust of impending peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. “Klingons can not be trusted.”
It might also be of interest to point out that Valeris was a protege of Captain Spock. The same Spock who was once court martialed for unlawfully taking control of the Enterprise. This would mean that Spock, Burnham, Sybok and Spock’s trainee were all responsible for acts of mutiny, treason or high crimes against the Federation. Clearly this is all Sarek’s fault.
As we continue to explore the world of “10 years before the time of Kirk and Spock,” keep in mind that “Star Trek’s” history is not flat colors, but subtle shades. It is not a shallow river, but a deep ocean.
Next episode: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”
Random Thoughts and Observations:
- Those remaining powerful women I spoke of in my review of episode 4? One of them, Admiral Katrina Cornwell, is purposefully sent into a trap by Captain Gabriel Lorca.
- How is Dr. Culber dealing with “groovy” Stamets?
- Speaking of Culber, he is the doctor we always see on Discovery, even though he is not the Chief Medical Officer (CMO). Why is that?
- I appreciate how the look of Vulcan has remained fairly consistent through all the series and movies.
- The “holodeck” is described by the computer as a “holographic battle simulation.” In the “Practical Joker” episode of animated “Star Trek” series, the Enterprise had a holographic projection room.
- Lorca says that Ash Tyler “checks out.” Did Tyler get a physical examination, or was the extent of his exam Lorca’s questioning during the battle simulation?
- Nice effects for the transition from Discovery, through the mind meld, to Vulcan.
- The scene in sickbay, when Burnham first comes out of the mind meld, felt very “Trek.”