Star Trek 711: The Forge

711. The Forge

FORMULA: Desert Crossing + Equilibrium + The Search for Spock + The Undiscovered Country

WHY WE LIKE IT: All the Vulcan background.

WHY WE DON'T: Did Admiral Forrest have to die?

REVIEW: While I'm sure a lot of the Vulcan background shown here was pulled from "non-canon" sources like the Forge novels and Last Unicorn's RPG sourcebook Way of the Kohlinar, it's all new to you if you haven't read them (I haven't). Exploring Vulcan in more detail is really something Trek should have done a long time ago, and this arc promises to bridge the gap between Enterprise's slightly emotional, more militaristic, repressive Vulcans and Spock's ritualistic, move impassive, mindmeld-happy brethren 100 years later.

The episode starts rather shockingly with the terrorist bombing of Earth's embassy on Vulcan and the unceremonious death of Admiral Forrest. While it adds some personal stakes for Archer, and he does die heroically, saving Soval's life, it's still a little random. But such violence IS random, so I'm not really complaining other than to say the character will be missed. The ensuing investigation first lays blame on the Andorians and then on a religious sect called the Syrranites. They're unpopular with the High Command, but are they guilty? The "terrorist" blamed is T'Pau, a name Trekkies will immediately recognize as the old woman who officiated Spock's wedding in Amok Time. In other words, we're told right there that things are not what they seem. T'Pol's mother has also run away and joined the Syrranites, and she's a good guy, right? And Soval, whether out of loyalty for Forrest or smelling the stink of the High Command also tells Archer not to trust what he's been told. We're well on our way to change Vulcan society for the TOS model.

Archer and T'Pol go into the desert to find the Syrranites, and though we've seen desert crossings before, there's the added bonus of this being the most famous desert in Star Trek history. We see a live-action (well, CG) Sehlat for the first time, and it's appropriately fierce - certainly the kind of pet to teach children about discipline. T'Pol serves as a reminder of Vulcans' resilience to the environment, and the discussion turns to Vulcan Messiah Surak, a story which Archer finds "familiar". Meeting a wandering Syrranite called Arev (actually Syrran himself), we get even more the sense that this is the missing link between T'Pol and Spock. He's more stone-faced and "doesn't lie" (though he gives a false name). Through him, we learn more about Surak and how the great man's katra has survived in the leader of the Syrranites, a group that has returned to Surak's true, and peaceful, teachings. The episode also cleverly reveals that the triangle on the idic symbol is the sacred Mount Seleya.

Back on Enterprise, the investigation proceeds apace despite the High Command's shutting it down. Phlox discovers that T'Pau was framed and video is found that shows a now comatose crewman letting the terrorist through. Only a mindmeld might get the information out. Putting a lie to everything we've heard about melds since Fusion, Soval reveals he can do it. Not only is he a Syrranite sympathizer, it seems like anyone with training can make use of Vulcan telepathic skills. This is a necessary link to TOS. Of course, it puts his career in danger, but also reveals that the High Command was behind the bombing. This is obviously rejected by High Command administrator V'Las, who brands Soval a traitor. (A note on casting: While I have nothing against Robert Foxworth per se, didn't he play the same role in DS9? His casting practically telegraphs the culprits from the beginning.)

The episode ends with Syrran dying and putting his katra in Archer... or is that Surak's katra? Certainly, he's acting strangely, and finds the Syrranites' hidden stronghold just on instinct.

LESSON: Basketball is Phlox' game.

REWATCHABILITY - High: An engrossing exploration of Vulcan society as it is and as it will be. Reminded me of the most textured Bajoran episodes.


De said...

Did you find yourself answering Arev's questions to Archer?

Siskoid said...

No. I didn't have ST IV memorized.


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