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“Get your stinking hands off me, you damn dirty Vulcan!”
A Vulcan is an extraterrestrial with pointy ears, not counting Yoda. Famous Vulcans from history include Kapok, who invented the life preserver, and Tyvek, who brought to an end on Vulcan the use of plywood in home siding. The most famous modern Vulcan is Dr. Spock.
Vulcans are sort of the Jews of Starfleet: They all look really ethnic, they stick to themselves and speak a language coming mostly from the back of the throat, they have a diet and a way of thinking that ordinary people can't relate to, and they probably celebrate something other than Christmas during December.
In the later development of the Star Trek universe, Vulcans lost the role of Space Jews to the Ferengi. And they lost to Mr. Data the role of the space nerd, vomiting inanities in mind-numbing detail, "employing" overlong words and outrageous sentence structure, and otherwise following the odd logic of speaking with disregard for the listener.
Romulans are thus kind of like space Arabs, or dark elves: Their nearly identical rivals whose political leaders are angry all the time and want to kill them for seemingly no reason; though it could be related to not being allowed to drink alcohol and eat meat; or choosing not to allow women into their army, even though unlike Vulcans they mate more than once every seven years. Romulans are also atheists, but they still manage to make war with the Vulcans over differences in their diet and who their favorite philosopher is.
Vulcans have a really long and complicated history, which they explain in tedious detail whenever they meet a new friend. Vulcan is a desert planet that resembles Mars but has an even smaller tourist industry. After surviving the threat of nuclear proliferation, the Vulcans decided to address the root cause of their violent history, much as your wife stops trying to just get you to put down the toilet seat and starts insisting that you need a better personality.
A Vulcan cult decided to completely wipe out emotion. This was the universe's faultiest generalization, approached only when Gloria Steinem identified testicles as the basis of all Earthly evil.
This decision was not unanimous, but the cult miraculously won over its violent counterparts. Surak writes that the cult sent an unarmed emissary to the headquarters of the enemy. When he was tortured and killed, they sent another; and another. The emissaries would mutter, "I'm right and you're wrong," repeatedly, in a nagging, sing-song voice. The enemy, essentially faced with a future of constant public service announcements, got so annoyed that it renounced its entire value system and embraced pacifism and expressionless gazes.
With war and its cause out of the way, the united Vulcan race could concentrate on more important things, such as encountering humans and making them feel small.
In summary, Vulcans are very important.
Despite the science-fiction canon that Vulcans are emotionless, science-fiction script writers aren't buying it. Nobody can be like that. Episode plots assume either that (1) Vulcans won't be happy unless they become like me, or that (2) Vulcans are already like me, they're just hiding it. So every episode featuring a Vulcan must put him in a situation where he either cries, giggles like a schoolgirl, or flies off the handle. Some script writers knew that their audience included millions of nerds trying to be Vulcans, and these plot devices made them all squirm and itch.
edit Getting it on
Script writers likewise can't believe that Vulcans can reproduce without anguished emotion and undignified humping. So the way they square species survival with the No-Emotion schtick is to conclude that Vulcans really are horny bastards, only it happens with such glacial rarity that it really doesn't define them. (This may, again, relate to your wife.) In the Pon Farr ritual, a Vulcan returns to his home planet every 7 years to commit ritual screwicide. He chooses a mate and kills close friends. Oddly, his total irrationality is unshared by his mate, who is hatching a Machiavellian plot at the time, and is endorsed by the rest of Vulcan society that is not in heat. This planet-wide choad-rage may be the only reason Vulcans don't kill each other in the intervening years of sanctimonious indifference, with an occasional raised eyebrow.
edit Negro Vulcans
There is no reason why an exo-species should come in exactly the same set of skin colors as humans do. But Madison Avenue believes some TV viewers only listen to pitch-men of the same race. The manufacturers of the Afro-Sheen aerosol insisted that a Negro Vulcan be added to the Star Trek franchise. This became Tuvok, a lieutenant on the USS Voyager who grew up in the African continent on Vulcan.
To placate other sponsors, the next Star Trek movie will have an Asian Vulcan, a Vulcan with restless legs syndrome, a transgendered Vulcan, and a Vulcan who wishes he were a phaser and can't stop making purring noises. Intermixed with suspense and brilliant special effects will be minutes-long scenes of these Vulcans hand-wringing about their group identity, and crewmen dithering about criticizing their work performance.
edit Getting out of jams
All this weirdness wouldn't interest TV viewers except that Vulcans also have superhuman powers that can get the heroes out of impossible situations even faster than Dorothy and Toto waking up and realizing that it was all just a dream.
Along with mundane powers like the ability to read and control minds, Vulcans can immobilize anyone with a neck pinch (the so-called Spocker Shocker). And script writers can kill off Vulcans with impunity, because the last person they shook hands with becomes a repository of their entire memory. It's like every finger is a high-speed USB port. Later, if there is a fan letter-writing campaign, you can bring 'em back to life and they pick up right where they left off. Also, Vulcans are capable of destroying wooden containers.
The Oath of Sportsmanship recited at the start of each Star Trek episode ("to seek out new life and new civilizations, and extend universal health coverage to them") has been a bust. Every single species we have encountered speaks perfect American English and has no problem understanding colorful figures of speech involving barn animals found only on Earth. Moreover, all any of them care about (apart from getting laid) is figuring out how they fit into some hokey species destiny. They are all like us, only they look funny. Vulcans brought something new to the table--but humans and their script writers left it there.
We could have saved all that money on starships and warp drive, and instead just gone to Micronesia, where they look even funnier, and are more different from us. At least the cannibals are.
- ↑ As some Wiki contributors also do.
- ↑ "People call us the Hittites," said their leader. "We...hit."
- ↑ At First Contact, humans asked Vulcans about the Mid-East War, which was then in its 300th year and being fought with comparably boneheaded strategies, only the enemy wasn't tiring of it at all.
- ↑ It was James G. Watt, a cabinet secretary for Ronald Reagan, who in 1983 delivered his pathbreaking remarks on thoughtful staffing decisions that balanced "a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple."