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July 22 2024


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The Forge

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at November 20, 2004 - 4:57 AM GMT

See Also: 'The Forge' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Seventeen years in the past on Vulcan, a man in a cave lifts a small statue engraved with Surak's name. In the present on Vulcan, Admiral Forrest tells Ambassador Soval that he is hopeful the High Command will conduct joint missions with Starfleet in the future, but Soval warns him that many on Vulcan are concerned about working with humans. Suddenly an explosion rocks the embassy; Forrest dives to protect Soval. Three days later when Enterprise arrives, 12 Vulcans and 31 humans - including Forrest - have died. Archer is told that the Vulcans have two groups of suspects: the Andorians and the Syrannites, a group of Vulcans who follow a radical form of the teachings of Surak, the father of Vulcan logic.

In the embassy wreckage, Reed and Mayweather uncover an undetonated explosive. Reed is able to scan it and finds Vulcan DNA, which Phlox identifies as belonging to T'Pau, whom the Vulcans identify as a well-known Syrannite. Soval warns Archer not to trust the High Command, which is refusing to let the humans assist in the investigation, but to go to Vulcan and try to piece together what happened on his own. Meanwhile T'Pol's husband visits her with the disquieting news that her mother was a Syrannite, that she has gone into hiding, and that she asked him to give her a family heirloom - an IDIC medallion containing a map of the desert known as the Forge. She shows it to Archer, who takes her to the desert, leaving Tucker and Soval to try to piece together what happened at the embassy. No sooner have they left than Phlox discovers that T'Pau did not commit the crime: the DNA on the bomb was taken from her as an infant and was planted there. A human guard who is in a coma may have seen the terrorist enter, but they have no way of questioning him.

On Vulcan, T'Pol tries to explain how Surak brought logic to Vulcan, but their conversation is interrupted by a sehlat that drives them up a hill. Hours later a Vulcan announces that the path is safe and identifies himself as Arev, a follower of the path of Surak in meditation. Archer claims to be on a pilgrimage to study Surak and Arev reluctantly allows him to accompany himself and T'Pol, though he warns that the desert will test and destroy the human. While Archer gives away his ignorance about Vulcan culture, Arev reveals that he does not believe the High Command follows Surak's true path. An electrical sandstorm drives the trio into a cave, where Arev sees T'Pol's IDIC, realizes that she is the daughter of T'Les, and guesses that Archer is the man held responsible for the destruction of the monastery at P'Jem. Because they exposed the High Command's hypocrisy, he agrees to lead them to the sanctuary where T'Pol's mother is hiding.

Soval performs a mind-meld on the comatose guard, in whose mind he sees the head of Vulcan security arriving in disguise at the embassy carrying a package. He accuses the man in front of V'Las, the head of the High Command, but is told that telepathic evidence is not admissible and that he will be summoned before the entire High Command to account for his shameful actions. Back in the cave on Vulcan, Arev tells Archer that the High Command has involved itself in matters beyond the exploration of space. He explains the IDIC, adding that according to the story of infinite diversity in infinite combinations, Surak died on Mt. Seleya but his katra, the essence of the Vulcan mind, was spirited away and transferred to another body, where any Vulcan who performs a mind meld can touch it.

Bolts of lightning from the storm penetrate the cave, striking first T'Pol, then Arev. Realizing that he is dying, Arev says, "You must carry it to the sanctuary," then performs a mind meld with Archer, telling him to remember. When he next opens his eyes, Archer finds Arev dead and T'Pol caring for his injuries. They move quickly into the night once the storm has passed and he leads her through what appears to be solid rock into an underground temple. "Don't resist," he warns her just before they are siezed by a group of presumable Syrannites.

Analysis: "The Forge" beautifully melds together threads from every Star Trek series in a way that's deeply satisfying to this lifelong Trekker, and even if it resorts to the eye-rolling gimmick of having Surak's probable katra deposited in Archer's mind, I can think of no greater shortcut to bring about Vulcan-human understanding. After all, Soval and T'Pol can both touch the minds of humans directly if they wish: we've now seen them both perform mind-melds, despite the stigma attached to that act in their era. But if Archer's got who I think he's got in his head, he's going to understand logic on a level that no other human ever has - at least perhaps not until McCoy, who had a katra as famous in his own head.

If there were a number of "in jokes" in the Augments arc for fans of previous series - Malik's Khan-crawl across the bridge, Archer's talking about Klingons commanding garbage scows, Soong's interest in cybernetics - there are even more in this first installment of the Vulcan arc, which includes everything from an IDIC (first seen in "Is There in Truth No Beauty?") to the Live Long and Prosper salute (from "Amok Time") to the touching-fingers greeting of a married Vulcan couple ("Journey To Babel" and later "Body and Soul") to the path to Mt. Seleya, a mystery we've heard about from the first and third Star Trek films. It's been a couple of years since I've seen some of these sources, but nothing struck me as out of place or significantly altered; what's been altered, as many have commented, is the behavior of the Vulcan High Command, based on what one would expect from how Vulcans behave in later years, so everything about "The Forge" feels like a swing back in the direction of continuity and, well, logic.

Of course, it's all framed by a storyline right out of contemporary headlines: a terrorist attack on an embassy, ostensibly carried out by quasi-religious fanatics whose own government has driven them into hiding in the desert. The biggest shock of the episode isn't Archer getting some else's katra dumped in his brain but finding out that T'Pol's mother is a Syrannite. And T'Pol husband, for reasons yet unknown, is willing to bring his resentful wife a message from her that he surely knows will lead her to the outlaws. Is he genuinely trying to help the new members of his family, or is he trying to ruin either T'Pol's mother or T'Pol herself, with the same twisted logic that made him wish to marry in the first place? Michael Reilly Burke plays Koss so coolly that it's impossible to guess. In fact, he's the most traditionally Vulcan-like of any of the Vulcans we've seen thus far on this series; he reminds me of Sarek. Even Arev shows more overt emotion, expressing skepticism about Archer's claim to be studying Surak.

I have mixed feelings about the killing of Forrest. I suppose it had to be him, because I can't name a single other Starfleet high-up off the top of my head, and it needed to be someone who mattered to Archer as well as someone of importance on Earth. And I suppose he needed to die a hero's death, saving Soval, so we'd believe Soval's complete switch from a guy who didn't trust humans at all in "The Expanse" to a guy who's perform a mind meld and challenge the High Command in Archer's name. (Speaking of which: do all Vulcans have an instinctive understanding of how to do a mind meld despite the stigma attached to the act? Or are we to suspect that Soval is not what he has always seemed?) No matter what happens with this mission, I would imagine this should create a huge power vacuum at Starfleet - which could be a good thing, if the series goes another year. But it's going to be hard for the writers to come up with someone convincing to fill Forrest's shoes, and while his death isn't exactly gratuitous, it's very abrupt, almost as much so as Tasha Yar's.

Most of my points of frustration with this episode were the same as with every single other episode this season: Sato had absolutely nothing to do, Mayweather had very little to do (would it have killed them to let him do the scan instead of Reed, so he could make an important discovery for a change?), and I don't believe the Vulcans are as stupid as we have been led to believe, even if an evil faction is controlling the planet right now - how could they not guess Phlox would realize they'd manufactured evidence against T'Pau? And, okay, for the first time I really felt like I could see the cheaper production values this season: some of the green screens used in the desert scenes were painfully obvious. But there were a number of lovely small things as compensation: the crew basketball game that Phlox compares to a fertility ritual only clothed, the visual impressions of Soval's mind meld, the Indiana Jones style Vulcan map, the sehlat and T'Pol's pet reminiscences, Archer saying that he finds Vulcan problems of interpreting their messianic texts familiar.

It's too soon to know how to feel about the teachings of Surak as they are portrayed here, or about the apparent stupidity of the High Command - we need to see more of the arc for the story's shape to come clearer. But thus far it's been completely engrossing and quite satisfying. If I gave stars, this one would get my maximum.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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