Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 018: Vulcan Racism

Previous: Proud Mama

In a great contrast, this segment makes a sharp cut from the warm light of Winona Horowitz's all-too brief close up appearance with a flash to a slanted, rotating and zooming medium shot in sterile cold blue lighting of a large amphitheater. The closely intimate, loving family interaction supported by soft cellos is juxtaposed with ludicrously high benches occupied by 3 stern-looking ministers and harsh silence. The bench is set against a backdrop of severe, angular architecture with the roof beams giving an appearance of cross-hatched cuts of a scalpel across cadaverous sky beyond. The voice of the male head minister echoes through the high-tech judgment cavern: "You have surpassed the expectations of your instructors. Your final record is flawless with one exception; I see that you have applied to Starfleet as well." It seems reasonable to question the characterization of an application to Starfleet as a "flaw". Without attempting to gather any facts, the graduate's reasoning, or considering possible benefits, a supposedly logical senior science administrator is going to make this kind of poorly founded judgment without ANY qualification? Note to writers: "faith" has no doubts, scientific reasoning is ALWAYS tentative. Another point about the environment for the scene: in a matriarchy, one would think that a least ONE woman would be in this auspicious event in a huge auditorium for their top student? Not here. We must remember this is not our fathers' Star Trek! In this new universe of the future, women have some value for providing and caring for children, and as we see later: seducing and sex, but not much else. Roddenberry would not be pleased with these "improvements", nor are most of your viewers, Paramount.

Spock replies diplomatically that "It was logical to cultivate multiple options."

"Logical but unnecessary" declares the minister who we now get to see. Oh my god, it's a vulcan version of Blank Reg from Max Headroom, and one of TNG's most appropriately named decedents: Dr. Graves! Like a klingon prison superintendent he announces, "You are hereby accepted to the penal asteroid of Rura…" - oops, college acid flashback - actually he said: "…to the Vulcan Science Academy. It is truly remarkable Spock, that you have achieved so much despite your disadvantage. All rise!" This makes little sense. A flawless record is truly remarkable on its own. Does not the esteemed minister, his peers, or even Sarek who is married to Spock's mother for decades now, has not a single Mr. Wizard on the council become curious that Spock's unique and exceptional performance accompanies a unique and exceptional parentage? Is this just waved aside as merely an astronomically unlikely friggin' coincidence? The only way this could be explained is by illogical, unreasoning racism against humans, with sexist overtones as an added plus, amazing!

Spock must have been thinking the same thing when he asks: "If you would clarify Minister, to what disadvantage are you referring?"

Of course, the way these vulcans are written to be snide, irrational bigots, we might expect this minister to answer with something like, "Your human mother," which he does. One thing that deserves accolades on the other hand, is the makeup on these vulcan ears: they are a spectacular match for the chosen complexion of the vulcans, but it would be nice if they could look more chlorophyllian alien.

The idea was that vulcan blood contains a hemoglobin analog that utilizes copper within its prophyrin instead of iron. Oxidized iron is red which makes humans tend toward shades of red appearance, whereas copper is green and Tuvok should have been a swarthy shade of pine forest. If there were a way to make the pointed ears appear as translucent as the non-prosthetic part of the actors' ears, it would be even better than the current absolutely stunning job makeup did on the details. Top marks! The vulcan robes are really terrific as well: stoic, elegant and austere - just perfect!

Spock considers the minister and announces he will decline VSA admission, to which the head minister provides a great setup: "No vulcan has ever declined admission to this academy." Spock slams a spike right back with: "Then as I am half human, your record remains untarnished," a brilliant line! At this point, Sarek speaks up: "Spock, you have made a commitment to honor the vulcan way," and Reg/Ira asks "Why did you you come before this council today, was it to satisfy your emotional need to rebel?"

Here Spock gives another great reply that reminds one of a brilliant jujitsu throw: "The only emotion I wish to convey is gratitude. Thank you ministers for your consideration. Live long and prosper." Well done, if this were in chess, we might end the sentence with "#!!"

Next: Ladies' Night

2 comments:

crone51 said...

My kid got me TOS for my birthday so we are doing a major rewatch ( with discussions and popcorn!) . The Vulcan's are written pretty much like this in TOS as well. Check out " Amok Time". Plus, I am sure you remember ( and are probably trying to forget) the awful birthin' scene in movie number five wherein Sarek looks at his newborn son and says, disdainfully, " So human". Dretch.

John said...

One of the difficulties that arose during the run of Next Gen (according to the writers) was that the show's "heritage" had grown to the point that the universe was perfect. With Gene breathing down their necks always insisting that the people of the 24th century (ie star fleet and all of vulcan) were above things like greed or racism or having faulty memories it was near impossible to write drama. Althought it would have been nice to have Spock told that it was all hunky dory to go be in star fleet (despite the fact TOS spelled out that his dad was disappointed he joined) it would just not have been good drama. There would be no scene. And if they had been "all logical to the point of having nothing to disagree with" they might.... might... have been yet another Post Kirk perfect race who, like the Betazoid, are easily forgotten. For that matter, how logical are a people who act like any of the Vulcans in Amok Time? I think it bears remembering the Vulcans are not perfect machines who lack any biases or base prejudices. They are a race even more passionate in all kinds of emotion than us who have learned to harness and leash it for the good of the universe. And that means that sometimes the races biases are going to hide (as do human biases) behind seemingly flawless logical self justifications. Just a thought... otherwise thanks for the thought provoking item.