Episode Epilogue for Season 2, Episode 5: "Amok Time"
Spock watched as Kirk — wonderfully alive again, thanks to Dr. McCoy's clever stratagem — gave McCoy an amused look, then looked seriously at Spock. "Come on, Spock; let's go mind the store."
Spock followed Kirk out of sickbay and strode along the corridors for a few meters. Once he was sure that McCoy would not come after them, eager to taunt him once again for his emotional display, Spock stopped and turned to Kirk. "Captain, now that I know you are alive, I find that I must return to Vulcan for a moment. It is necessary that I speak with T'Pau, in an attempt to smooth over any diplomatic repercussions which may have resulted from the doctor's ruse that enabled your survival."
Kirk looked at Spock with obvious concern. "She won't kill you, will she? Because I'm alive?"
Spock blinked in surprise at such a question, before managing to school his face to impassivity once again. He allowed himself to sound slightly offended as he said, "Captain, Vulcans are NOT barbarians."
Kirk shrugged. "I hadn't thought they were, until today, but finding myself in a fight to the death on what I had THOUGHT was the Federation's most civilized planet was certainly a surprise. You'll have to forgive me if I'm not certain anymore just how civilized Vulcans might actually be."
Spock pursed his lips. "Do you recall the words T'Pau said at the very beginning of the ceremony?"
Kirk thought for a second. "Something about how the ceremony was very old."
Spock inclined his head. "Correct. Her exact words were, 'What thee are about to see comes down from the time of the beginning, without change.' But think, Jim. Why would modern Vulcans NOT have changed a custom that permitted a fight to the death?"
Kirk shook his head. "I can't think of a reason. I was shocked, frankly; it didn't match what I thought I knew about Vulcans."
Spock looked at Jim and saw that his friend was rather unsettled, no longer sure that humanity's older siblings were quite as mature as they pretended to be. Clearly he should explain further. Now that Jim knew the secret of pon farr, there was no reason for further reticence.
Spock cleared his throat, uncomfortable at having to speak about pon farr once again. "You are aware that the madness is gone, although I did not mate with T'Pring."
"Yes," Kirk said. "That didn't seem to fit with what you and McCoy both said before we got to Vulcan, but you certainly seem back to normal at the moment."
Spock inclined his head. "And that is because in believing I had killed you, I knew I had won the combat. Because the marriage ceremony has been conducted in exactly that form for the past eight thousand years, I knew at the moment of your death that I had prevailed and earned the right to mate, and it is that which caused the symptoms of pon farr to subside."
"So, if you weren't using that old marriage ceremony..."
Spock allowed some of his distaste to show. "I would even now be mating joylessly with the woman who desired my death."
Kirk shuddered. "I think I see why you guys haven't changed the ceremony any."
Spock nodded curtly.
Kirk looked at him in puzzlement. "I don't quite understand how that works, though. Why did you have to keep the old ceremony for it to have that effect?"
Spock raised a brow. "Vulcan telepathy encompasses more than you are, perhaps, aware of. In addition to the ability to connect minds, which you have seen me use in the past, there is also a telepathic resonance from all the Vulcans who have ever lived. Just as when the body dies, it leaves a physical shell, when the mind expires, it leaves a telepathic residue. The closest human concept would be Carl Jung's idea of the Collective Unconscious, and that idea is, in fact, very close to the truth for Vulcans. There is a mental influence from the Vulcans who have gone before us."
Kirk blinked. "How can there be a telepathic influence from DEAD Vulcans? Surely you can't connect with a mind that no longer exists?"
Spock explained, comforted by the familiar role of providing information to his captain, after the upheavals of the past few days. "All minds generate electrical impulses, and it is this electrical energy that permits telepathic contact between minds." Spock regarded his captain, then decided to simplify with a metaphor. "You could think of the telepath as a radio, who tunes himself to the station of the mind being reached, then picks up those thoughts in much the same way that a radio picks up a broadcast."
Kirk nodded. "Okay, that makes sense." He smiled. "In spite of the way McCoy refers to your Vulcan mental powers as voodoo, I know your telepathy has to work on a concrete physical level and isn't actually magic, no matter how it seems to humans."
Spock inclined his head. "Correct. And what happens to radio waves, once a radio program has been broadcast?"
Kirk said, "They continue on for quite some time, spreading out a bit and gradually dissipating, but only after a surprisingly long time."
"And telepathic energy behaves in much the same fashion. Although the mind that produced that electrical energy has ceased to exist, the energy itself continues for a period of time, dissipating only gradually. The minds that created our customs and culture no longer live, but they still exert their influence, in a sort of telepathic pressure on living Vulcan minds."
Kirk thought about this. "Humans often find it hard to change old customs, even though the people who created them are dead, and we don't have their mental energy pressing on our minds."
Spock allowed himself to sigh. "Would that Vulcans had only the usual cultural inertia. We tried once, shortly after Surak revolutionized Vulcan society, to replace the ancient marriage ceremony with a more modern version, but the results were disastrous. The Vulcan Collective Unconscious would not permit the change, and so the ancient form lives on."
Kirk cocked his head to one side. "Then how come you were able to change the rest of Vulcan society?"
Spock felt himself stiffen slightly, uncomfortable with the topic of pon farr. "We could change all but our marriage customs because we have all of our faculties the rest of the time. But during pon farr, we do not have the ability to resist the pattern of the ancient ways; this is part of why pon farr is such a shameful thing."
Kirk shook his head. "I can't believe that you're just stuck with the old ways forever."
"We are not. Once the telepathic influence of modern, post-Surakian Vulcan minds is stronger than that of ancient, pre-Surakian Vulcan minds, the Vulcan Collective Unconscious will shift to a more modern form."
Kirk looked intrigued. "How long will that be?"
Spock thought briefly, then said, "Telepathic energies dissipate slowly, but it has already been 1900 years since Surak, and the balance should shift toward the modern form sometime during the next hundred years. I cannot be precise as to the exact date, because the rate at which telepathic energies dissipate depends on the strength of the mind during life, so it is not a constant rate."
Kirk smiled at him. "Well, in that case, the energy from YOUR mind should be around to bother your descendants until 40 Eridani A goes nova."
Spock was warmed by his captain's praise, however jokingly it was delivered, and allowed his features to relax slightly, which he knew Kirk would read as something akin to a smile.
Kirk grinned at him; his captain was always pleased when he permitted himself a small facial expression. Kirk thought for a second, then asked another question. "But how can it be that T'Pring could only divorce you through the challenge? I thought Federation law required the ability of either party to dissolve a marriage."
Spock stiffened slightly. "Divorce is only prohibited when one of the parties is in pon farr. T'Pring could have divorced me at any time during the past fifteen years, after we both came of age, but she did not do so."
Kirk blinked. "Why not? If she didn't want you, why not divorce you before it came to this?"
Spock pressed his lips together, ill at ease at having to divulge yet another secret. "I generally prefer not to speak of this, but having seen T'Pau serving as officiant at my wedding, it is undoubtedly already clear to you that my family is a prominent one."
Kirk chuckled. "Yeah, having T'Pau there did make that pretty clear. So T'Pring wanted the connection with your family, then?"
Spock clasped his hands behind him. "Indeed. Both of us hoped, for our different reasons, that my human ancestry would prevent my ever experiencing pon farr. As long as I did not go into pon farr, T'Pring received the advantages of an alliance with my family without being hindered by my actual presence."
Kirk smirked. "So she gambled and lost."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Correct. And since no woman has called for the kalifee in more than five hundred years, it is likely that she will find herself not just shunned by my family but generally reviled for the barbarity of her choices."
Kirk smiled grimly. "Good. Planning your death should have serious consequences." He looked at Spock. "And if you're going back to Vulcan, I should call the bridge and tell Sulu not to take us out of orbit after all." He went to the closest intercom, called the bridge, and updated their orders. He turned back to Spock. "Be as quick as you can, Spock; even with Komack's permission to be here, I'd like to try his patience as little as possible."
Spock inclined his head. "My business will be brief."
Kirk headed in the direction of the bridge while Spock had himself beamed back down to Vulcan. Although T'Pring and Stonn had left the area, T'Pau and her attendants were still in the place of koon-ut kalifee, seemingly waiting for him.
Spock approached T'Pau, and she raised her eyes to his. "I rejoice with thee in the continuing life of thy friend."
Spock nodded. "It was unexpected but most welcome news when I returned to the ship, and yet I find that it was not unexpected by you."
T'Pau gestured at the standing stones around them. "Thy doctor thinks so loudly that the stones' telepathic amplification was not necessary for me to overhear his plan. The forms were maintained, and tradition was satisfied, yet the entirely unnecessary death of thy captain was prevented. It is good."
Spock controlled himself very strictly, so that his relief would not show on his face. "Then there will be no diplomatic repercussions, either with Earth or with Starfleet?"
T'Pau raised an eyebrow. "Nor even with thy doctor or thy captain, who are welcome on Vulcan should they ever wish to visit it."
Spock bowed, then spoke the formal tongue for the first time. "I thank thee for thy forbearance."
T'Pau inclined her head in respect to him. "Spock, thou hast behaved with more honor than thy intended spouse, both to our ancient traditions and to the ways of Surak. There is no shame for thee in anything that happened here today, but I will make known to one and all how little respect T'Pring has earned this day."
Spock bowed again, then looked at T'Pau to see if he was dismissed.
The venerable woman studied him for a moment, then her imperious manner softened, and her eyes lightened. "Go then, back to thy ship, and teach thy comrades of logic and of reverence for life, knowing that thy own example is more worthy of the name 'Vulcan' than that of T'Pring."
To be named a better Vulcan than a pure-blooded Vulcan almost led him into an emotional display, but he had indulged in enough emotionality for one day. Spock contented himself with "I thank thee," raised his hand in the Vulcan salute, then strode out of the ring of stones, back to his logic, his duty, and his two very dear friends.
1. "Amok Time" is my favorite episode ever, and that made me both eager to tackle it and also rather nervous about doing so. Theodore Sturgeon's script for this episode is so lovely that it seemed nearly sacrilegious to mess with it. And yet, the episode does demand a follow-up, since the Vulcan culture we see in this episode does not mesh very well with what we've learned of Vulcan society from Spock during the first season of TOS. It seemed to me that there were a number of questions that needed answering:
a. Why are Vulcans still using a ceremony that permits a fight to the death, a ceremony that T'Pau says "comes down from the time of the beginning, without change"? Spock makes it clear during all of TOS that reverence for life is the Vulcan way, and violence is anathema. How then, could it be that Vulcans are still using this barbaric old ceremony? Why didn't they change it when Surak revolutionized Vulcan society? They've changed so much else about Vulcan society that surely changing the marriage ceremony would be fairly small and unimportant in comparison. There must be a really compelling reason...
b. Why couldn't T'Pring divorce Spock except through the kalifee? (Of course, the behind-the-scenes explanation for that is that Gene Roddenberry wanted to divorce his first wife and marry Majel Barrett, but divorce was much more difficult in 1966 than it is today. Nowadays we have what's called "no-fault" divorce, but back then, a couple couldn't divorce just because they both wanted to; one of them had to sue the other and prove that the other was unfit to be a spouse. There were only a few things that were considered severe enough to allow divorce, and while infidelity was one of them, according to the laws of the time, that would let Gene's wife divorce him, but it wouldn't let him divorce her, so he could only get a divorce if she were willing to sue him.
Divorce was so difficult in 1966 that couples who agreed that they wanted to divorce would often have the man stage a scene of his being unfaithful — while a private detective took pictures to confirm the infidelity — so that they could get divorced, because it wasn't possible to divorce just because they both wanted to. While it's possible that T'Pring's inability to divorce Spock was written in just because that's what American laws on divorce were like at the time, I think it's quite possible that Roddenberry, himself, inserted that line, to try to soften American attitudes toward divorce.)
c. Why did Spock's mating drive shut off after winning the kalifee, given that he didn't mate with T'Pring after all? K/S fans have long had an explanation for this :-), but for those fans who don't wish to have a K/S explanation, is there any other?
d. What are the repercussions of the events on Vulcan? When does T'Pau realize that Kirk is still alive? Will McCoy and/or Kirk be seen as criminals on Vulcan, for having subverted the tradition? Will McCoy's trick make trouble between Earth and Vulcan or between Vulcan and Starfleet?
I've tried to answer these questions in a way that sticks reasonably close to canon. Obviously, the things I've said in this story are all speculative. :-)
I've been told that my story conflicts with something that's said in one of the novels, but the novels are NOT canon, so I don't feel bound by them. As far as I'm concerned, the pro novels are merely better-written fan fiction, and most of the pro novels can't hold a candle to the likes of Jane D. :-)
2. Where do I get the things I say here about Vulcan telepathy? I made most of it up, but I didn't make it up out of nothing. :-) We learned in "The Immunity Syndrome" (the one with the giant amoeba) that Spock could telepathically "hear" a ship full of Vulcans dying, even across the vacuum of space and across a considerable distance. And in "All Our Yesterdays" (the one that begins in a library and sends Spock and McCoy to an ice age), we learned that Spock reverted to a more savage form when thrown 5000 years back in time, even though McCoy didn't revert when thrown back the same amount of time. Star Trek fans have wondered why this might be, and the usual explanation given is that the telepathic influence of millions of savage Vulcans undermines Spock's own ability to control himself, even though they aren't on the planet he's on right now.
So if you put what we learn about Vulcan telepathy in "The Immunity Syndrome" and what we can infer about Vulcan telepathy in "All Our Yesterdays" together, it suggests that Vulcans are influenced telepathically by other Vulcans even when they're NOT melding, that the aggregate of Vulcan minds influences individual Vulcans. That helps to explain why Vulcans are so intent on policing one another and making sure they're all being logical, because a Vulcan's mind doesn't just influence himself or herself; it also influences every other Vulcan. Wow, that's so cool!
Modern Vulcans don't like violence, so just invoking Vulcan telepathy doesn't explain why they're still using an ancient ceremony that permits fights to the death. But if the minds of those savage old Vulcans lingered on, the ones from before Surak revolutionized Vulcan society and turned them to the path of logic, THAT would explain it.
What I say about radio broadcasts is true; every once in awhile there's an article that talks about how far the broadcasts of early TV shows might have reached by now, saying things like, "Well, if there's anybody on Alpha Centauri, they can watch 'I Love Lucy.'" So it's true that some energy in the electromagnetic spectrum can stick around for a long time.
It's also true that our brains produce electrical energy. So if Vulcan telepathy picks up that electrical energy, which would be a sensible way for telepathy to work, and if that electrical energy sticks around as long as TV broadcast energy does, then that could explain how dead Vulcans could still have a telepathic influence.
So yeah, I made it all up, but I based it on Star Trek canon plus real science. It's all very logical. :-)
3. There have been a LOT of post Amok Time stories, since this is a very popular episode. I love a lot of those stories, but I've left out something that nearly all of those stories contain. I don't have Spock apologizing abjectly for having killed his captain and offering to throw himself in the brig. Why? Well, think about what's happened so far.
a. In "Where No Man Has Gone Before," we saw Gary Mitchell try to kill Kirk after the barrier at the edge of the universe gave him godlike power, yet at the end of the episode, Kirk's log says that Mitchell gave his life in the performance of his duty, and Kirk tells Spock that Mitchell didn't ask for what happened to him.
b. In "The Enemy Within," we saw the "Evil" Kirk get drunk on duty, try to rape his yeoman, and try to leave the landing party behind on the planet. No one holds any of this against the whole Kirk, once he's reassembled.
c. In "The Naked Time," we saw half the crew go crazy and do everything from threaten fellow crewmen with swords, proclaim themselves captain, knock the captain across the room, and scrawl graffiti on the bulkheads.
d. In "This Side of Paradise," we saw the entire crew commit mutiny when under the influence of the spores, but since they're all clearly not themselves, it is never recorded as a mutiny (as we know from "The Tholian Web.")
e. In "Operation: Annihilate," we saw Spock go crazy from the pain inflicted by the Deneva parasite and try to take over the ship, but Kirk wasn't angry and was glad once Spock was able to control the pain enough to function.
So I think by this point in their journey, Kirk and Spock have had a ton of practice in realizing that the things people do when they are not themselves shouldn't count against them. I figure there's probably even a formal policy at this point, saying that actions performed while under the influence of a transporter malfunction, alien virus, alien drug, or anything else that eliminates a person's ability to control themselves don't count.
I think Spock probably WILL say, "I apologize for having tried to kill you" once he gets back from Vulcan, but smoothing things over with T'Pau took precedence, because they were about to leave the planet. And I think Spock probably knows that his apology to Kirk will be waved aside, because they have had so much experience with this already. :-)
4. Before I retrained as a clinical psychologist, I was a professor of social psychology, specializing in cultural influences on sex roles. So I've spent quite a long time looking AT the culture and thinking about how cultural forces impact individuals.
I did a lot of anti-prejudice workshops when I was a grad student, back in the 80's. Most of those were gay awareness workshops, but I also did some anti-racism and anti-sexism workshops. During the anti-sexism workshops, I was continually amazed at how tightly people clutched their social roles to themselves. When I got married in 1991 and kept my own name, I thought that surely by the time of my 25th wedding anniversary, keeping one's own name would be the default. But no, nearly all young women in the US still take their husbands' names when they marry. Of course, women should do what they wish to do; I'm not saying that all women should keep their own names. I'm saying, rather, that cultural inertia is a truly massive force.
So this story is about more than Vulcan telepathy. :-) It's also about how slowly cultures change and how even progressive individuals may find themselves in the grip of seemingly irresistible social forces.
5. Carl Jung was a psychologist who studied under Freud but later broke with him and set up his own school of thought. His worldview is a lot more mystical than Freud's is, and he believed that each of us has his or her own personal unconscious and also a collective unconscious, which is the collection of the ideas and archetypes that are common to our species. You can read more about the collective unconscious at the Wikipedia page for Collective Unconscious.
6. A summary of the plot of "Amok Time" can be found at Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki.
7. Chrissie has a transcript of this episode; just google "Star Trek transcript."
8. No, I'm not doing my usual voluminous behind-the-scenes notes anymore. I may start them up again if my health improves, but right now I'm only feeling up to writing the stories. I apologize to anyone I've disappointed.
9. I have a chronic illness that leaves me non-functional more days than not. I will try to respond to any comments I receive; unfortunately, my good intentions are frequently thwarted by my poor health. (I do read them all with great attention, even when my health doesn't permit me to reply, and I do cherish every one of them.)
10. You know I don't own Star Trek, because if I did, things would be soooo different! In fact, it's far more accurate to say that IT owns ME. ;-)
11. Thanks for reading!