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Imagination Connoisseur, Sean Pullen, provides an alternate view of the Star Trek: Discovery episode “Unification III” which takes a closer look at the relationship between Romulans and Vulcans, ten centuries after the 24th Century.
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I’m just checking in with my weekly talk-Rob-off-the-ledge Star Trek: Discovery defense. Not that you’d jump from a ledge, but you might push Kurtzman off. This is a challenging week to try and do so, because you accused Discovery of anti-semitism and as a non-Jew I can’t share your perspective and I respect that. You, as always, are as free to your views as anyone, but I’ll attempt to make a case anyway and hope that I do not offend.
So someone on Twitter asked you to explain why you thought Discovery’s portrayal of 32nd century Vulcans was antisemetic and you answered, “SInce Nimoy called upon his Orthodox heritage to come up with the Vulcan salute, Spock, and by extension Vulcans, have always evoked Jewishness. The modern Trek portrayal of Vulcans, as being a problematic culture…closed off, tribal, xenophobic, hiding behind ritural, holding on to the truth…reinforces the worst kind of stereotypes. It’s been almost 1000 years, yet Vulcan society may as well be set in a Shetel in Eastern Europe. After a 1000 years, shouldn’t they be further along?”
All right, I’ll jump right in and respond. First of all, Discovery’s depiction of Vulcan culture was not problematic. Quite the opposite. In my estimation, they were depicted as a shining example of openness and progress. What better example could there be than two antithetical, disparate cultures looking, not to what makes them different, but to what can unite? Discovery depicted Vulcans and Romulans–one society based on the preeminence of logic and the suppression of emotion, the other impassioned, secretive and militaristic–having come together and embraced each other after centuries of warfare and distrust. Imagine if we could manage this on earth?
You tweeted that Discovery depicted the Vulcans and Romulans as “closed-off” and “xenophobic.” No, it didn’t. They just didn’t want anything to do with the Federation. They felt that it had gone astray and pushed towards research that resulted in calamitous death and destruction. Rob, just because Vulcans and Romulans mistrust the Federation doesn’t mean they’re closed off to other worlds and or afraid of the unknown. They may have vital relations with many cultures. We see a Ni’Var where Romulan voices have just as much weight as Vulcan, where a human is accepted into a venerated order of nuns. Moreover, the Federation in the 32nd century has dwindled to 35 member worlds. I imagine Ni’Var has relations with many former Federation and non-Federation worlds.
Let’s move on. You said Discovery depicted Vulcans and Romulans as holding on to the truth, but you failed to consider the noble motivations behind that decision. Ni’Var wasn’t withholding their research to try to get some upper hand on its neighbours. They were concerned the Federation would pursue the research again and cause more destruction. In fact, as soon as President T’Rina judged she could trust Starfleet not to pursue further research, she shared the SB-19 findings. In other words, the Vulcans are no longer “holding on to the truth” as you accused. In the span of one short day, the leader or your so called “closed off” “xenophobic” Ni’Varians is moved to trust.
You also called Ni’Varian culture tribal. Ha, you’d probably be criticizing Discovery if they depicted a Vulcan-Romulan society where everyone was sitting around holding hands and singing kumbaya. Integrating disparate peoples and cultures takes time. But, ultimately, these people reunified and, Rob, they’re talking. You ask, “After 1000 years, shouldn’t they be further along?” First of all, they are! They are further along! They’re reunified! That is a major win and deserves mountains of kudos. Secondly, Admiral Vance makes it clear that reunification took centuries after Spock’s death, so we don’t know precisely how long Vulcans and Romulans have been reunified. Maybe it’s only been 600 years, maybe 400. Your idea of how quickly cultures progress differs from my own. Slavery persisted for 400 years in the US. It was abolished in 1865, but there are many who would argue that systemic racism and discrimation persists to this day. Will we evolve beyond systemic racism in the next hundred years? What about all racism, systemic or otherwise? I feel less hopeful of attaining Roddenberry’s utopian future at 42 than I did as a teen watching TNG. You seem to imply that time involves perpetual evolution, like a line-graph steadily curving up. Rob, that’s so naive. Doesn’t de-evolution happen, too? Did the US evolve or devolve as a society under Trump? Will we ever see peace in the Middle East? Will Israelis and Palestinians ever embrace each other ala Vulcans and Romulans? I begin to despair. But I certainly don’t condemn Discovery’s depiction of a Ni’Var where Vulcans and Romulans are finding the process of reunification bumpy. I certainly don’t see it as problematic. I see it as realistic and enviable. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re talking. They’re integrating.
Just my two cents. I look forward to tuning into your channel today, though. If only to better understand where you’re coming from. Thanks as always, for being open to debate. Cheers.