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The Forge
Date: Unknown
Original Airdate: November 19, 2004
By Diesel Micky Dolenz

The Story
The episode opens on Vulcan, seventeen years prior to current series time. A man, presumably Vulcan, makes his way through a long passageway carved through the rock. In a chamber, he finds a small statue. It is a bust of a
Vulcan with runes etched into its base. The man dusts off the runes and says, “Surak.” Cue dopey theme song. I think we've just set a record for the shortest teaser in Trek history.

Following the rock ballad, we find Admiral Forrest chatting with Ambassador Soval. Forrest has come to Vulcan to meet with the Vulcan High Command on the issue of performing joint missions between the VHC and Starfleet. Forrest is hopeful, but Soval seems to expect the Admiral to leave empty handed. Soval confesses that the Vulcans don't quite know what to make of humans, saying they have the arrogance of Andorians and stubborn pride of Tellarites." Humans can be as ruled by emotions as Klingons, then suddenly embrace logic. The only race they remind the Vulcans of is themselves before they turned to following logic. It took 1,500 years to rebuild and return to the stars after they almost destroyed themselves. Humans did it in 100. Some Vulcans fear what the next 100 years might bring. As Forrest tries to reassure Soval, an explosion rocks the Embassy building. Forrest pushes Soval to the floor. From an exterior shot, we see a significant portion of the building gets destroyed.

Cut to the NX-01. Most of the senior crew is playing basketball. Phlox, it turns out, is a good shot. In what probably counts as too much information, he says the game reminds him of a Denobulan fertility contest. Fortunately for us, basketball is played fully clothed. T’Pol interrupts the game to deliver the news of the Embassy bombing. The Enterprise goes to Vulcan. We learn that the death toll at Earth's Embassy stands at 43, including Admiral Forrest. As yet, there are no leads. Administrator V’Las, head of Vulcan High Command, Ambassador Soval and Chief Investigator Stell come aboard to brief Archer on the investigation. The look on T’Pol's face when she sees V'Las suggests that she is quite intimidated by his presence.

Naturally, the Andorians are the first suspects in the bombing, given the hostile relationship between Vulcan and Andoria, and the way humans have ended up in between the two. Archer is doubtful. What would Andorians have to gain? The other suspects are the Syrrannites. T'Pol informs Archer that the Syrrannites are followers of a “corrupted” form of Surak’s teachings. For those viewers unfamiliar with Surak (and shame on you if you're one of them), further exposition reveals that Surak was the father of Vulcan logic and lived 1,800 years ago. The Syrrannites been peaceful, but their leader has become a zealot. Since the embassy is technically on Earth soil, it has been left for Archer to investigate.

In the bombed out embassy, Mayweather and Reed find the junction room. Apparently, Mayweather will be allowed to speak this week. A power signal is detected under some wreckage. The signal comes from an unexploded but armed bomb. Reed requests a transporter lock just in case their scans trigger the bomb. Reed scans it and finds Vulcan DNA on the bomb. Scanning conveniently doesn't trigger an immediate explosion, but does start a countdown. The bomb explodes just as the transporter takes Reed and Mayweather to safety.

In sickbay, Phlox compares the DNA from the bomb with a Vulcan DNA database. All Vulcans infants have their DNA put on record. The DNA scanned belongs to T’Pau. She is identified as a well-known Syrrannite. With this revelation, Stell takes control of the investigation; no further assistance from NX is required or welcome. The Vulcan security directorate will inform Soval if anything that concerns Archer come up.

Soval finds Archer standing among many flag draped coffins. The two briefly discuss Forrest, and Soval tells Archer that Forrest saved his life in the explosion. Soval says it makes no sense for the bombers to be Syrrannites. He advises Archer to question everything and go to Vulcan to find answers himself. Whatever measures Archer has to take, he has Soval’s support. Can this really be the Soval we've come to know and loathe?

T’Pol’s husband, Koss, pays her a visit on the Enterprise after sending a cryptic message. He brings T’Pol an IDIC symbol from her mother, something T’Les said was a family heirloom. He tells T'Pol that T'Les is a Syrrannite, and has been forced into hiding to avoid arrest.

Later, T'Pol goes to Archer and shows him that the IDIC symbol contains a map. T’Pol’s mom lied about it being a family heirloom. The map shows the path Surak followed while seeking enlightenment. Archer and T’Pol decide to go to Vulcan and follow the map, believing it will take them to T'Les and, likely, T’Pau. Soval sees them off and gives the information on the gaps in Vulcan satellite surveillance. With that information, they should be able to beam down undetected. They'll be venturing into "The Forge," an area where technology doesn’t work, and they'll have to make their way in on foot.

The two Enterprise officers beam down to Gateway, just outside the Forge. T'Pol tells Archer that Surak’s original writings no longer exist. Copies were made, since they are only copies, they are open to interpretation. Archer finds the situation familiar. At night, a large cat-like creature called a Sehlat chases T’Pol and Archer. The two run to higher ground, as the Sehlat won't climb. T’Pol had a domesticated one as a pet, a choice Archer finds questionable at the moment.

Back on the NX-01, Phlox reexamines the DNA from bomb. It turns out that this sample was identical to the one taken when T’Pau’s a baby. She’s now 32, and her DNA should reflect that, meaning that the DNA was planted there to frame T'Pau. From a camera placed in the Embassy, the guard at the front desk recognized whoever brought in the bomb. The guard, Corporal Askwith, is one of Phlox’s patients. Unfortunately, he's in a coma and not expected to recover.

T'Pol and Archer are saved by Arev, a Vulcan following Surak’s path in meditation. Archer says he is there to study Surak and logic with T'Pol as his teacher. Arev welcomes T'Pol to join him, but suggests that Archer turn back. The Forge, he says, will test you and destroy you. The next day finds the three on the Plane of Blood, an area that was said to run hot with the blood of battle when Surak cooled it with logic. Vulcans can go for days without water, and we get a nice bit of continuity when T'Pol tells Archer that she doesn't need sunglasses because her inner eyelids will protect her. Eventually, Arev has questions Archer that any student of Surak's should know. It's more nice continuity with the questions being from The Voyage Home. Arev points out that Archer is clearly lying. Archer questions whether Arev is lying as well. Arev responds that Vulcans don’t lie. Archer has seen far too many lies come from the Vulcan High Command to believe that. Arev says the VHC doesn’t follow Surak’s true path. Archer and T'Pol decide that Arev is a Syrrannite, and will never lead them to T'Pau. Archer suggests telling the truth, but before they can do that, they are faced with a "sandfire" storm.

In sickbay, Reed and Trip try to convince Soval to find someone to mind meld with Askwith. At first Soval declines, stating that no one would be willing to sacrifice their position by letting it be known that they could mind meld. When they reveal that the DNA evidence was planted, Soval changes his mind. Not only will he find someone to perform the meld, he’ll do it himself.

Back in the Forge, we find the three travelers running from the sandfire, a sort of electrical sandstorm. Arev leads them to a cave for safety. They seal the entrance to protect themselves. Arev sees the IDIC, and recognizes it. He knows T’Les. He also knows about what happened on P’Jem and seems to approve of its destruction. Using it as a listening post had defied it. Arev will lead them to T'Les and T'Pau in T’Karath Sanctuary.

Soval attempts the mind meld. Through Askwith’s eyes, he sees the person who carried the package containing the bombs. When he recognizes that person, he immediately breaks the meld.

Waiting out the storm, Arev tells Archer that the story of the IDIC starts at Mt, Seleya, where Surak died. His katra was saved before death and stored there (according to legend, says T’Pol). It is believed that the katra was found and is now in the body of a Syrrannite. All those that meld with that person can touch the mind of Surak. Syrrannites believe it is Vulcan heritage for all Vulcans to meld, even those that don’t believe in its practice.

Stell and V'Las return to the Enterprise to meet with Trip, Soval and Phlox. They reveal that Stell brought in the bomb. Stell asks to question the witness. Phlox responds that they can’t, he’s in a coma. Soval reveals that he performed a mind meld to access Askwith's memories. Stell says that such evidence is inadmissible. V’Las opines that it is not evidence at all. Soval will be called before VHC to answer for this "despicable" act.

Back in the cave, Arev tells us that the VHC was once only in charge of space exploration. Archer says he’s been told that Vulcans were never explorers. Arev says Archer’s been told many things that aren’t true. The storm breaks through the cave entrance. Archer and Arev try to reseal entrance, but T’Pol is struck by lightning. As Archer sees to T’Pol, Arev is also struck. He tells Archer he must take “it” to the sanctuary then melds with him. His last word to Archer is, "Vokau". Archer collapses.

On the Enterprise, Soval decides to turn himself over to Stell. He sees it as his only chance to reach the full High Command. And what if the whole VHC was in on it? No answer.

The storm is over, Arev is dead, and T’Pol cares for Archer. T'Pol translates "Vokau" as "remember". Archer just thinks Arev punched him. Overhead, Patrol craft sound like they’re closing in. They decide to find the sanctuary after burying Arev. Archer says the Partrol craft are on a grid search pattern. They can’t be found with sensors, but can be spotted visually. Archer sees something and says that’s where the Syrrannites are. T'Pol doesn't see anything special and asks how Archer knows. T'Pol offers Archer water, but he turns it down, insisting that he's good for a few more days. T’Pol reminds him he’s not Vulcan. Archer walks up to a stone wall, and walks right through it. T'Pol follows and Archer tells her not to resist. She doesn't understand but moments later they're surrounded.

"To be continued..."


Analysis
Ah, the Vulcans. They've been around in one form or another since Gene Roddenberry produced Star Trek's first pilot, "The Cage". Each succeeding Trek series has given them its own take, though Vulcans were rarely seen on The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. Voyager gave us Tuvok, the Vulcan tactical officer. Enterprise has featured more Vulcan characters than any other series, and created quite a controversy among the Trek faithful along the way. To some, though certainly not all, these Vulcans weren't simply different, they were (for lack of a better term) wrong. These Vulcans were deceitful at best, and outright liars at worst. When a team of Vulcan storm troopers led an assault on Andorian hostage takers, any thought that these Vulcans were pacifists were put to rest. To be sure, Spock wasn't shy about using his phaser, and was known to lie (or exaggerate, as Kirk put it) when necessary and logical. Even Sarek, a full-blooded Vulcan was quite capable of killing. Still, these were character traits that weren't apparent in normal encounters. Perhaps even in Spock or Tuvok's time, there was a faction of Vulcan society that behaved the way Enterprise Vulcans did. How, then, did those Vulcans fall from grace?

"The Forge" begins to address that issue. The Syrrannites are a sect that believes in what the mainstream consider to be a "corrupted" form of Sarek's teachings. The bombing of the Earth Embassy is marked up as a terrorist act on their part. The immediate parallel we 21st Century Humans make is to today's Islamists, who follow what is often referred to as a corrupted view of the teachings of Mohammed. That connection, though, turns out to be a fleeting one. The first acknowledged Syrrannite we meet is a Vulcan in the mold of Spock or Sarek. When Stell is revealed as the bomber, it becomes clear that by Kirk's time, the Syrranites are not just a small sect, but the dominant face of Vulcan society. What we'll get over the course of this arc is at least a part of the story of how the transformation of Vulcan society began.

With long-time Trek authors Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens penning this episode, it's no surprise that it's rife with references that tie into other Trek series. Perhaps the most obscure reference, the sehlat, came from an episode of the animated Star Trek. The line we get from a defensive T'Pol when Archer questions the wisdom of having a sehlat as a pet, "you have Porthos," is one of the lighter moments in the episode. The most important tie-in will no doubt be the idea of the katra. Just before Arev dies, he melds with Archer, and gives the equivalent of the classic Wrath of Khan moment between Spock and McCoy. The question now is, just who's katra will Archer be carrying, anyway?

What might have been one of the bigger surprises of the episode, the death of Admiral Forrest (at least, if you don't read spoilers), is trumped by the behavior of Soval. That's probably just as well, as Forrest's death barely registered as a blip in the episode. Archer takes a moment to grieve for his friend, but he seems to be the only one who cares. Soval's emergence from the dark side, however, was quite puzzling to me. For him to be a closet Syrrannite seems unlikely based on his past behavior, but it was probably necessary for the episode to work. His volunteering to be the one to meld with Askew was somewhat telegraphed, but no less important in verifying that Soval isn't just leading us on here.

All together, I found the episode quite enjoyable. (One exception was the sandfire, which left me with nightmares of Corey Feldman and the Sliders episode, “Electric Twister Acid Test,” *shudder*) It’s gratifying to see Enterprise finally embracing Trek's history, rather than trying to distance itself from or work around it. With two episodes left to go, there are sure to be more twists and turns along the way. I look forward to them, and also to meeting T'Pau, the woman Kirk will someday describe as "all of Vulcan in one package.“

Grade: 8.5/10 (B+)

Click on the below thumbnails for the full image.

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Cast:
Scott Bakula as Jonathan Archer
John Billingsley as Dr. Phlox
Jolene Blalock as T'Pol
Dominic Keating as Malcolm Reed
Anthony Montgomery as Travis Mayweather
Linda Park as Hoshi Sato
Connor Trinneer as Charles Tucker

Guest Cast:
Robert Foxworth as V'Las
Vaughn Armstrong as Admiral Forrest
Gary Graham as Soval
Michael Reilly Burke as Koss
Michael Nouri as Arev
Larc Spies as Stel

Creative Staff:
Director:  Michael Grossman
Written By: Judith Reeves-Stevens & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

 

 

 

 

 

 

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