It all seems very straightforward, a Vulcan monastery is being held hostage by a quartet of Andorians (with the cutest little expressive antennae you’ve ever seen). Until it isn’t.
Here’s the thing: time and again Vulcans are reported to purge themselves of emotion for the greater good and then – for whatever reason – they just seem really annoyed all the time. Not free of emotion, just perpetually annoyed.
Loving Spock as I do I try to give their species the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, having come so far in emotional maturity (reaching “expert” status as it were) they’ve lost sight of how much farther everyone else has to go and are struggling to be patient with those species they meet. Perhaps we love Spock as much as we do because – being half human – he had a very active touchstone within his own sense of self.
It’s as though they’re too emotionally evolved and going too far in maturity leads to perpetual annoyance with just a touch of arrogance. Which all sounds like moral license: we did this one really good thing by learning to control our emotions so we must always be in control and if we’re always in control we’re always right so questioning anything we do would be illogical.
This episode actually managed to address that without compromising the integrity of T’Pol, the series’ primary Vulcan. In fact, it reinforced her integrity. As usual she spent most of the episode with that look of constant annoyance on her face (though judging from dialogue it may be more annoyance at their smell than their evolutionary shortcomings), but at the end of the episode there’s a very subtle shift and – given that she is wholly Vulcan – it has so much more weight because for that subtle shift to occur there would have to be something along the lines of heartbreak when she sees what she sees.
Of course, all this just makes humans look good because at least, in fiction, we can manage to admit when we’re wrong. And, of course, it’s easy for our science fiction to be so human-centric because they’re are no extra-terrestrials around to point out to us how far behind our “contemporaries” we are.
All this is to say that we this show really likes to use Vulcans as a high-and-mighty punching bag, when the truth is we aspire to be the humans who exist in this fictional universe but are actually the Vulcans.