In brief: Plenty of illogical turns of the plot, but a pretty entertaining hour nonetheless.
There's less to discover in "Awakening" than in "The Forge," but then how couldn't there be? "The Forge" gave us a truckload of pieces, and now "Awakening" puts them into play. The results are entertaining, although not great, and certainly not logical.
For having performed a prohibited mind-meld to uncover the truth of Stel's involvement in the Earth embassy bombing, Soval is promptly cashiered from the High Command by Administrator V'Las. As for Soval's allegation of Stel's involvement in the bombing — which was a frame-up falsely implicating the Syrrannites — V'Las has a convenient answer: Stel was also a Syrrannite; "numerous documents" were found in his home. The only remaining question: Did Stel agree to the role of fall guy? I suppose it hardly matters, because no one is hearing any of this evidence anyway. V'Las practically runs the High Command unilaterally, and he won't have it.
Meanwhile, Archer and T'Pol are captured and held prisoner by the Syrrannites at their camp in the Forge. This gives them the opportunity to finally meet T'Pau (Kara Zediker), whom Archer quickly accuses of having bombed the embassy and murdered his friend. It's an emotionally charged reaction — perhaps foolishly so — to which T'Pau tells him, "You traverse vast wastelands based on false information." Funny — that's something I might've expected to hear at the beginning of last season's arc into the Delphic Expanse (only I suppose that information didn't turn out to be false after all).
It turns out that Arev was actually Syrran, the Syrrannite leader, traveling under an assumed name. And, yes, Syrran was in fact carrying the Katra of Surak, the father of Vulcan logic. T'Pau laments that the death of Syrran and the loss of the Katra represents the loss of everything the Syrrannites have worked for. Of course, as a person who must bring too much logic to this situation, I have to ask why Syrran, knowing he carried the crucial Katra, would be out in the Forge at the height of the deadly Sandfire season. Wouldn't it have been more logical for him to be tucked away in a bunker somewhere?
Never mind, because then we wouldn't have a story. As we know, the Katra has actually been passed to Archer, who now begins having visions of Surak (Bruce Gray), 1,800 years in the past, when a war devastated Vulcan but paved the way to the Awakening, where logic would prevail and society would move forward into a new era. "My people have strayed," Surak says to Archer. Surak asks that Archer do what he can to help the Vulcans back onto the right path. Archer doesn't really want the job, but Surak is adamant: "We're stuck with each other. Don't fight what's been given to you." Later, Surak tells Archer that he must find the Kir'Shara, which is an ancient artifact that holds the original teachings of Surak and may be able to bring Vulcan back to the proper path (or is that Path?).
To recap: Now that the Prophets have given the Emissary his mission to help a Bajor that's in danger from its own government-induced turmoil, the Emissary must reluctantly embark on this mission by finding and using the Orb and its vast wisdom. (Okay, it's not a synopsis for "Emissary" exactly, but it plays like a distillation of several Bajoran episodes. I for one would be interested to know how many people involved with this storyline were — or weren't — familiar with DS9's Bajor stories.)
I digress. Interestingly, like with mind-melds, the notion of the Katra is not embraced by much of Vulcan society. The High Command dismisses it as myth, and so does T'Pol. But Archer is quick to point out how the Vulcan Science Directorate deemed time-travel impossible. Besides, he can't argue with what's in his head, which is giving him visions, insights, and knowledge about Vulcan facts he would otherwise not know.
Among the Syrrannites is T'Pol's mother, T'Les (Joanna Cassidy), who explains to a not-exactly-understanding T'Pol that she has joined the Syrrannites because she understands their motives and intentions to return to the true teachings of Surak. T'Les has become disillusioned about Vulcan society, mostly because of the increasingly questionable actions of the High Command, which has been involved in suppressing dissent among the people and made the unseemly decision to put a listening post inside the P'Jem sanctuary. T'Les hoped that T'Pol might join their cause.
T'Pol makes an interesting point when she accuses the Syrrannites of simply seeking to replace one aberration of Vulcan thinking with another. The argument is relevant in that it highlights the tendency of some sects or extremists to blindly believe they are right, and that everyone else is wrong. (Of course, in Trek fiction it's a little different, because the writers can say there is a provable truth, and invent the evidence for it in terms of Katras or Kir'Sharas.)
Besides, in this story, the Syrrannites are the innocents targeted for destruction. V'Las wants nothing less than a complete carpet bombing of the vicinity of the Syrrannite sanctuary. But before V'Las can do that, he must remove the Enterprise from orbit as witnesses. This leads to a series of terse viewscreen showdowns between Tucker and V'Las, as V'Las orders the Enterprise out of orbit and eventually threatens to open fire, and ultimately carries out that threat.
Notable is how V'Las (Robert Foxworth) is performed pretty much like a human, with a human range of outward emotions. I'm not sure what to make of this. Perhaps it's to make the scenes more dynamic and theatrically engaging (which they are, and I for one won't complain if the alternative is the kind of Vulcan monotone that made "Carbon Creek" so unwatchable). But at the same time, I can't help but wonder what the rest of the High Command officers think of it. Do they notice? They don't seem to care. And I found it a little hard to explain how V'Las goes so unchallenged in trying to eliminate an entire group of people with little more than one officer's weak protest that "You are presiding over a massacre." Where V'Las goes, the High Command apparently follows. I guess the Vulcans have strayed.
Once the Enterprise is forced from orbit, V'Las' forces begin bombing the vicinity of the sanctuary, and the Syrrannites begin their evacuation. Before leaving, however, Archer is certain that his memories as interpreted from Surak's Katra will lead him through the caves to the location of the Kir'Shara. "I can find it," he says. The way he says it, we believe him, but the whole notion strains credulity: You're telling me that Archer can find the Kir'Shara in a few minutes, and yet the Syrrannites in scouring these caves for two years couldn't find it? Nor did it turn up in the last 1,800 years of Vulcan history? Even though it sits in a chamber behind a door that practically announces, "IMPORTANT RELIC INSIDE"? This was one plot detail I found hard to believe. (Perhaps other Vulcans were simply afraid of taking the Kir'Shara. I would be, for fear that if I were running through caves with a pointed obelisk while the area was being shaken by explosions, I might trip, fall, and impale myself.)
Archer, T'Pol, and T'Pau escape with the Kir'Shara, and find T'Les lying outside the tunnels, seriously injured. She dies right there in T'Pol's arms after some heartfelt dialog, which makes for a sincere, nicely acted scene, despite the fact that it's admittedly contrived and manipulative.
I was both interested and amused by the last-minute revelations that shed so much more light on what's going on. Soval tells Trip that the Syrrannites are pacifists, and that the framing of them for the embassy bombing must be so that V'Las could use that as an excuse to neutralize (i.e. destroy) them, so that he could advance the High Command's plan to attack Andoria. Why is the High Command planning to attack Andoria? Because they believe the Andorians have developed weapons based on Xindi technology ("Proving Ground") and want to launch a preemptive strike before the Andorians do.
- Bombing Earth's embassy for a frame-up seems like an awfully elaborate and roundabout way of creating an excuse to wipe out a small faction of your own people — who, by the way, pose no actual threat to those making the unilateral decisions to attack Andoria. (Wouldn't that be roughly as necessary as the Bush Administration destroying an antiwar lobby group prior to the Iraq invasion?)
- If Soval knew all this, why didn't he say something to Trip hours or days ago, when this information would've been equally or more useful? Why does Soval wait until a moment that provides the maximum dramatic effect as a revelation to the audience? The answer, no doubt, is because that's when it provides the maximum dramatic effect as a revelation to the audience.
Only now, after picking apart all the pieces, do the flaws in this episode seem so obvious. It must be said that, despite the logical gaffes, I enjoyed this episode, and found that it worked on an emotional and entertainment level. I liked all the twists and turns, including the eventual reveal about the Andorians. That V'Las' plan has so many holes in its logic is almost beside the point. Oh, well — forget about logic. How ironic to say that, in a review for an episode about Vulcans and their logic.
Next week: Can the Enterprise stop a conflict from breaking out between the Vulcans and Andorians?