Star Trek: Enterprise

"The Awakening"

3 stars

Air date: 11/26/2004
Written by Andre Bormanis
Directed by Roxann Dawson

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"You have a lot to learn about humans. We don't sit back and do nothing while our people are attacked."
"No, you traverse vast wastelands based on false information."

— Archer and T'Pau

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.

Okay, but:

  1. 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?)
  2. 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?

Previous episode: The Forge
Next episode: Kir'Shara

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26 comments on this post

Sun, Sep 6, 2009, 11:14am (UTC -6)
We should start an Enteprise/Temporal War/Iraq War drinking game. ;-)

"The Xindi attack on Earth changed everything." Drink!
"You traverse vast wastelands based on false information." Drink!
Sun, Sep 6, 2009, 11:48am (UTC -6)
The sad part is, the writers could've used the Katra plot to move some other, previously underused character into the spotlight instead of making Archer the extra-special guy again.

What if Mayweather or Hoshi or Malcolm Reed had crossed the desert along with T'Pol, or along with T'Pol and Archer if the captain absolutely has to be there, and Surak's Katra had been transferred to one of them?
Sat, Sep 19, 2009, 6:13pm (UTC -6)
I enjoyed this episode, but nonetheless I had a few nits about it. First, T'Pau acknowledges that the ritual to transfer Surak's katra from Archer to her could kill Archer but decides to proceed anyway. T'Les seems to be mostly concerned about "And if Archer dies?" The more important question seems to be "And if Archer dies and the ritual fails?" Archer will have died, presumably taking Surak's katra with him. T'Pau seemed pretty unhappy about the fact that the katra had apparently been lost when Arev/Syrran died, before she knew that Archer had it. Second, Archer knows where the Kir'Shara is located, presumably because Surak knows, and he is carrying Surak's katra. But Syrran spent a lot of time at the sanctuary and was also carrying Surak's katra -- how come he never found the Kir'Shara (as the review also points out)? Third, V'Las wants to eliminate the Syrranites in order to advance his agenda of launching a pre-emptive strike against Andoria. What does one have to do with the other? Fourth, T'Les died without transferring her katra to T'Pol -- who might not have been the ideal choice but was the only reasonable one because pretty much everyone else was dead. Why didn't she transfer her katra? It is the Vulcan way, when the body's end is near.

Also, the ritual that T'Lar performed on McCoy and Spock was the fal-tor-pan, and the treatment that Tuvok needed for his neurological ailment was the fal-tor-voh. It would have been neat if the ritual T'Pau tried to perform on Archer had been called the fal-tor-something. But I'm not complaining about that, not in an arc that gives us "Logic is the cement of our civilization blah blah blah," Kiri-kin-tha's First Law of Metaphysics, and "the needs of the many."
Tue, Dec 21, 2010, 6:14am (UTC -6)
I just found it interesting that the Vulcan characters kept referring to things as "Three Vulcan cruisers, etc." That's like seeing a newscaster broadcast a car accident and say "Two human cars were involved." Well whose else could they be?
Mr. Mister
Mon, Sep 26, 2011, 10:08am (UTC -6)
Navamske,the reason that T'Pol's mother didn't transfer her katra was clearly explained:During that period of time, the Vulcans believed that katras were a myth. NOBODY tried transfer something that they think is "mythical".
Sun, Dec 9, 2012, 2:55pm (UTC -6)
T'Pau's a looker...

Erm, bit frustrating that they keep killing off nice/interesting characters. Enterprise is turning into a bloodbath at this point it seems! If this was live and the show still ongoing, I'd be placing bets now on when Soval will be killed...

Onwards once more. Don't have much to add, just that I'm enjoying this arc and the insights into the Vulcans and how they've been recently.
John TY
Wed, Jan 16, 2013, 6:10am (UTC -6)
Ouch. Massive step down from The Forge.

Probably doesn't help when you notice Andre Bormanis' writing credit at the start; But this felt more typically Enterprise/Voyager than I was hoping for.

About 2.5 I'd say.
Mon, Jul 8, 2013, 7:57am (UTC -6)
I'm about to apologize for a plot hole on the strength of this three-parter: Perhaps Syrran was out in the sandstorm to find the Kir’shara. Maybe he had just made the realization himself. The timing of the revelation is still convenient for plot, but it works on an emotional level that Syrran would risk his life traversing a storm. It also has a shade of destiny that Syrran would find Archer and T’Pol.
Vidur Kapur
Tue, Feb 17, 2015, 1:48am (UTC -6)
Apart from the plot holes you identified, I kept wondering why Archer still put his full trust in the Vulcan High Command's story concerning who bombed the embassy when Soval had already said, in "The Forge", that it was unlikely to be the Syrannites and implied that he would even go behind the High Command's back to help Archer.

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the episode, and 3 stars seems about right.
Sat, Apr 18, 2015, 5:46am (UTC -6)
Once again the writers decide humans can fix every problem every species across the quadrant has had. Since when did humans somehow become saviors for Vulcans? The Vulcans themselves are just like humans but with pointy ears throughout this. Not buying it. This is just lazy writing and not the least bit consistent with what Vulcans are supposed to be about.

Yet another reason why this show tanked. The writers couldn't help but revert to sanctimonious ways of putting humanity at the top as the answer to all the galaxy's ills in spite of the fact they're the children of the galaxy at this point.
Mon, Aug 3, 2015, 3:16pm (UTC -6)
I can't really accept Robert Foxworth's military adventurer in this arc.
Mallory R.
Sun, Aug 23, 2015, 9:38pm (UTC -6)
Surprisingly good & highly engrossing. I forgot what watching unpredictable SF was like.
Diamond Dave
Sat, May 14, 2016, 8:40am (UTC -6)
For large parts this felt much like a DS9 Bajor episode, heavy on the history and mysticism, and the mood benefited a lot accordingly. It also went a long way to describing quite why the Vulcans have been somewhat atypical when compared to other portrayals in the franchise, which is welcome, and also manages to move Soval almost seamlessly into ally mode.

That said, we are very much in middle part mode here with the story moving fairly slowly and clearly much being left to the next episode to resolve. 2.5 stars.
Fri, Oct 7, 2016, 12:22pm (UTC -6)
From the "Something I Didn't Know I Wanted" file:

Until this story, I never imagined that Vulcan's violent history, much alluded to in TOS, was a nuclear holocaust. Now that I've seen it, it makes perfect sense. Surak becomes a rebuilder of a wrecked civilization, like Wings Over the World in "Things to Come."

The holocaust also explains how Vulcan lost contact with their Romulan cousins. Presumably one planet or the other was colonized by sub-light starships, but records of that venture were wiped out in the war and ensuing barbarism. (How warp-capable Vulcans later ignored another habitable planet within range of sub-lightspeed colonists, I dunno.)

In a way, nuclear war was the best thing to happen to Vulcan. In terms of a harmonious canon, I mean.
Sat, Apr 22, 2017, 3:26pm (UTC -6)
Despite some questionable plotting, this episode continues the new found form of its predecessor, and even manages to be a little more accomodating by virtue of picking up the pace a bit and keeping the exposition to a tolerable level.

The whole desert half of the story is a little weaker; the real action is going on with the machinations of the High Council (or at least V'Las) against - it turns out - the Andorians (BTW does he actually believe that BS about the Andorians having the Xindi weapon prototype?). Perhaps the weakest element of the story (though admittedly also it's most compelling) is V'Las's apparent complete domination of the High Council. Why are they such credulous wimps when it comes to questioning his clearly increasingly incredible assertions and actions?

Well never mind; I for one enjoyed myself and felt the story arc was sustaining its welcome return to quality Trek. And all of this eventually gets Shran back amongst things. Excellent....
Mon, Jul 31, 2017, 5:37pm (UTC -6)
Overall an interesting story continues to develop well -- I think Jammer's review does an excellent job in laying out the flaws but ultimately, it's pretty watchable.

Bit hard to believe V'Las acts the way he does given he's a Vulcan after all -- shows plenty of emotion in threatening the Enterprise as well as discussing his plans to wipe out the Syrrannites. This much is poorly done. One would think the Vulcan High Council would not be run so unilaterally and display such hostility -- not to mention planning the strike against Andoria. Is everybody else on the council a puppet? But perhaps the payoff for all this is Vulcan becomes more logical, pacifist etc. like they are known to be in 60s Trek and other series.

I was thinking the same thing as Jammer also: What is Syrran doing out in a sandstorm by himself when he meets Archer/T'Pol? The other Syrrannites are so dependent on his leadership after all. And why didn't he get the vision from Surak to get that artifact but Archer gets the vision so quickly (and of course finds the artifact so quickly).

Anyhow, the flaws in the episode can't go unnoticed but these issues really come up only after thinking more deeply about the episode after all is said and done. During the episode, it's pretty watchable and interesting for me.

"Awakening" just gets to 3 stars for me -- there's enough good stuff here and an interesting story to make it work after a pretty good 1st part. I enjoyed watching Trip/Soval work together and interact with V'Las, who was a bit over the top in his Vulcan acting, and who seems to have several flaws in his logic when it comes to finding a way to justify attacking Andoria.
Weyoun Zero
Mon, Aug 7, 2017, 5:16pm (UTC -6)
Regarding Surak, I think it's implied that he was holding out hope for a non Vulcan-someone who could be objective-and that's why he didn't direct Syrran to the Kir-Shara. Its also possible he knew Archer was coming and therefore had Syrran out there to meet him. Not that he was actively trying to get Syrran killed, just making sure that Archer arrived safely. He probably planned to have Syrran willingly transfer the katra to Archer once they were safe.
Sat, Aug 19, 2017, 2:06pm (UTC -6)
Good stuff. I love all the Vulcan exposition. I am just puzzled by the portrayal of V'las as so hostile, angry, aggressive etc ie very emotional - is that the point? The Vulcan High Command have strayed far from the teachings of Surak and this is personified by V'las?
Thu, Jun 21, 2018, 9:07am (UTC -6)
Am I the only one whose brain always translates "Katra" into "Kama Sutra"?
Mon, Mar 18, 2019, 6:35am (UTC -6)
3 stars

Not as bad as I had feared based on Andre Bormanis writing track record but not nearly as good as The Forge but I did enjoy it.

The Vulcan trilogy followed by the Augment arc and Klingin two parter were my favorite season stories

Bruce Gray was well cast as Surak definitely coming across as a wise influential figure with a gentle spirit. I could definitely see him being the Father of Vulcan Logic. The images in this arc once again stood out as highlights.

The way Archer interacted with Surak’s katra was well conceived with its ethereal vibe. The haunting shot of the nuclear bomb going off in the distance was a very chilling sight to behold depicting a very dark period in Vulcan history a little unnerving too. It showed the stakes of what Vulcans could become again if no changes were made I enjoyed the Surak/Archer scenes

T’Pau’s characterization as an young rebel leader determined to save her people at all costs was interesting from the standpoint of where she ends up within Vulcan society and the Federation in her later years.

T’Les shined in her scenes including her death which was a moving moment as she shares in a very emotional way why she was doing all of this for T’Pol

. I loved the shot of the trio looking out over the sanctuary as it was being bombarded

The show did a really good job in making it clear that whatever is about to happen Vulcan would never be the same. This whole arc does an exceptional job of making this historical period so vibrant and alive. Seeing these various characters from Archer, T’Pol to Soval, T’Pau and the Syrannites being cast as those historic figures you read about who at the time didn’t really appreciate what they were bringing about but which history acknowledges is just marvelous stuff.

As for V’Las I know some fans don’t care for his emotional outbursts but for some reason it didn’t bother me. I think I’ve seen so many emotional Vulcans in ENT coupled with what we learn of V’Las as being a Vulcan that subscribes to the militant philosophies of the ancient Vulcans and rejects Surak That it makes sense

Just when the episode needed it we got the development that the Syrrannites are at the sanctuary trying to find a mysterious ancient artifact from the time of Surak the Kir’Shara which was an intriguing revelation.

So overall the episode could have used maybe some furthering polishing it was pretty solid and entertaining all in all. I liked it
Fri, Oct 2, 2020, 10:41pm (UTC -6)
The entire time watching this I kept thinking “Man V’Las is acting like a Romulan.” LOL! Yes, this is a step down from the previous episode, but not glaringly so. I found it to be good storytelling, but then again I love Vulcan, Klingon, Romulan, etc culture exploration, so this was right up my alley.
Chris Nash
Mon, Jun 28, 2021, 7:49am (UTC -6)
It's perfectly fine that V'Las is a bit emotional - he's on an ends-justify-the-means crusade and has probably rationalised it to himself just fine, and he's got sufficient power over the rest of the High Command that no-one would dare challenge his authority. I think the biggest takeaway here is that Vulcans are just as vulnerable to falling under the sway of an authoritarian quasi-dictatorship - perhaps more so, given their society is governed by strict rules and social rituals that must be observed less they lose face. If you're in a position to set those rules, it's all too easy to rig the game in your favour and justify it any way you like.
Sun, Jul 4, 2021, 4:14am (UTC -6)
It would be hilarious if T'Pol's father was named T'Mor. Which parent would get called to the principal's office if T'Pol was naughty? It could be anyone, 'Mor or 'Les.
Mon, Jan 17, 2022, 4:04am (UTC -6)
lol i love that exchange between trip and soval, soval really becomes likeable this season which i enjoyed from the aspect of finding him super irritating (in a good way, to be clear) in the first two seasons. i always love when someone who seems like a dick turns out to be not so bad and comes around.

but yea the exchange between them was something like "i lived among humans for 30 years and grew an affinity for the planet and its people" to which trip says "you did a good job of hiding it" and then soval with the long pause ".... thank you" gave me a laugh, especially with traditional vulcans not being into giving thanks, he genuinely thanked archer in the previous ep and thanked trip as a sort of joke (odd for a vulcan to take part in a joke)

what i like about this beyond the humor is the clear indication that soval is willing to take part in human things, and see humans as equals, while early in the show he was "hiding" that mindset very well to where he seemed like he disliked humans. but in fact its that he always saw great potential in them and actually gives a shit.

just a ramble
Wed, Apr 13, 2022, 2:55am (UTC -6)
I guess one of the things that makes this episode great is that it's so entertaining, and engrossing enough, that you kind of miss, or forget about the plot holes unless you're really looking for them. The Soval/Trip scenes are the hidden gem of this episode.
Sat, Sep 9, 2023, 1:56am (UTC -6)
Obviously not enough material for two episodes. And just too derivative.

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