The Forge: A bombing occurs at Earth’s new embassy on Vulcan, killing (among others) Admiral Forest (Vaughn Armstrong), Enterprise’s friend and handler back home for the first three seasons. Vulcan’s big boss, Administrator V’Las (Robert Foxworth) tells Archer the bombing was the work of a group of extremists called the Syrannites, who follow a supposedly perverted form of the teachings of Surak (the Vulcan messiah, seen in “The Savage Curtain” and referenced elsewhere). T’Pol learns that her mother (whom we met in “Home”) is among the Syrannites, who live in isolation. Archer and T’Pol go on a dangerous desert journey to find them, and encounter a Vulcan wanderer, who is quickly killed in a sandstorm but seems to mind meld with Archer before he does. Back on Enterprise, Phlox, with the help of a VERY cooperative Ambassador Soval (from the pilot and many other episodes), determines that the evidence pointing to the Syrannites was planted by one of V’Las’ men, but the crew has no way of informing Archer, who, along with T’Pol, have been taken prisoner (because Archer) by the Syrannites.
Awakening: Soval is stripped of his title by for subverting the High Command and using a mind meld to gather information on the bombing. V’Las has also eliminated any linkage between himself and the bomber, and Soval decides to help Tucker in his investigation. Meanwhile, Archer and T’Pol meet up with Syrannite leader T’Pau (Kara Zediker, reprising a character seen way back in “Amok Time”) and T’Pol’s mother T’Les (Joanna Cassidy). Archer begins to see visions, apparently of Surak, thanks to the mind meld in the previous episode. Granted permission to look around some ancient ruins by the Syrannites, Archer finds the Kir’Shara, an artifact that will show that the Syrannites interpretation of Surak’s teaching is correct. But T’Les is killed as V’Las begins bombing the Syrannite compound. The episode ends as Tucker sets course for Andoria — after Soval has informed him that V’Las is planning a major offensive against the Andorians.
Kir’Shara: Archer, T’Pol and T’Pau have escaped with the Kir’Shara and must try to get it to the Vulcan capitol. Tucker and Soval make contact with the Andorians, specifically Commander Shran, who is part of a small fleet hiding in a nebula between Vulcan and Andoria, anticipating an attack. Shran doesn’t initially believe Soval but buys the story after Soval won’t break under torture. Back on Vulcan, T’Pol has been captured, but Archer and T’Pau make their way to the capitol, eventually getting to V’Las’ chambers and showing the Vulcan leaders the Kir’Shara, preventing the Vulcan fleet from a full out attack against the Andorians (Tucker has delayed the battle). Surak’s katra is taken from Archer, there’s some indication the High Command will be disbanded and V’Las is discredited. But the episode ends with V’Las meeting with a shadowy character, apparently a Romulan, discussing how their plan failed.
Why it’s important
One of the key gripes about early Enterprise was that it painted Vulcans as officious at best and almost villainous at worst. Archer and Co. were often at odds with Soval and other Vulcans, making it a major thread of the first two seasons and beyond. Particularly concerning was the duplicitous nature of the Vulcans when interacting with the Andorians.
This three-parter sort of set things right. The “true” teachings of Surak would apparently go on to have a profound impact on Vulcans to make them more in line with what we saw in TOS and beyond (i.e. logical AND honorable). That T’Pau goes on to become leader of the Vulcans — and even shows up more than a century later in TOS — is more proof that the Syrannites’ way was embraced by the entire Vulcan society. Put another way: All Vulcans we see in other series and movies are Syrannites.
This is also another moment where humanity (through Enterprise) became more tied to other species, eventually leading to the Federation. It’s interesting here that Tucker takes point on that with the Andorians and Soval while Archer and T’Pol follow a parallel track on Vulcan. Archer’s place in history, if it wasn’t already, gets further cemented here.
What doesn’t hold up
V’Las’ timing has never made a lot of sense. Apparently, he decided to take out what he views as an extremist faction (the Syrannites) and mount an offensive against Andoria all around the time Earth’s embassy was set to open. As the bombing was orchestrated by V’Las to implicate the Syrannites, why not wait a few weeks or months before attacking Andoria? At the very least, Starfleet wouldn’t have been around to intervene. It’s not as if the Syrannite threat gave V’Las more power to attack the Andorians.
There’s also the matter of what Archer ends up knowing while he possesses Surak’s katra. In part three, he has very specific knowledge of V’Las’ plans, even though Surak had been dead for centuries. The implication is that Surak is ethereal, allowing him to know things from beyond the grave — or that Syran (the Vulcan who passed Surak’s katra on to Archer) knew about V’Las’ plan. Neither scenario makes much sense, especially when you consider that Archer didn’t need more motivation to bring the Kir’Shara to the Vulcan leaders (and that the audience didn’t need the exposition). He could have been trying to get the Kir’Shara to the capitol to supplant V’Las and to start the Vulcan awakening.
Then there’s Soval. Granted, there were some slight indications that he was starting to respect Archer and humans generally. But he goes to friend territory FAR too quickly here. I can buy that he would disagree with V’Las, but not that he’d go rogue and work with Tucker. I think the idea is that his friendship with and death of Forest played a role. But Soval basically acts as impulsively as he accused Archer of doing for three seasons. Hmmm.
Finally, it was cool of the creators to bring back T’Pau, as this episode explains why she was so revered when Kirk and McCoy met her in TOS. But T’Pau the first time we see her speaks like she’s from a Shakespeare revival festival, and doesn’t here. I suppose having her speak as she did in TOS would have been odd/hard to explain, but I still need to note it.
While the season’s first three-parter is classic Trek mythology, this three-parter is more significant in that it shows how the Federation is beginning to take shape and how Earth will be involved. It’s also executed better and doesn’t have the (ahem) logical problems of the Augments trilogy, even accounting for the weirdness with Soval.
The events here show that the Vulcan will become less active players in interstellar events, opening the door for the more neutral humans to build a coalition with the Vulcans, Andorians and (later) the Tellarites. That’s important, as Vulcans had sort of been the big players previously.
The Romulan appearance at the end of the episode is interesting, too, as it shows how the Romulans were working to undermine stability in our corner of the galaxy. That shows up later this season, but we never see the Romulan-Vulcan angle again on Enterprise, which is too bad. I’m guessing it would have happened had their been a fifth season.
Coming next week …
So, you say you want a coalition … well, y’know …