Watching Enterprise‘s premiere “Broken Bow” I kept asking myself, “Why do the Vulcans want humanity bottled up? Why do the Vulcans think humanity should keep to their own solar system?” Then in an Instant Messenger chat last evening with several friends, all Trek fans of varying ages and degrees, the same question came up several times. But no answers were put forward.
An idea kept playing at the back of my head. I kept thinking of David Brin’s Uplift novels, where the various civilizations of the galaxy are all brought up to the stars by a patron elder race, all except for humanity which made it to the stars on its own. Races were “uplifted” when they were judged to be ready.
Perhaps that was the Vulcans’ reason. Humanity wasn’t ready to be “uplifted” to the stars.
Consider Star Trek: First Contact. Look at it from the Vulcan perspective. We have a race achieving warp flight. The threshold for first contact has been reached. But what kind of civilization do the Vulcans find? A civilization that’s just bombed itself back into the stone age, quite frankly. Could this really be a civilization that has the power to reach the stars in its grasp? Is this civilization mature enough to use the power they now have?
I can honestly envision the Vulcan Space Command questioning the decisions of the commander that made contact with Cochrane in 2063. By the Vulcans’ standards, was humanity ready for first contact? Yet there wasn’t a logical reason to not make first contact; humanity had fulfilled the requirement of achieving FTL flight.
I don’t think the Vulcan attitude toward humanity is necessarily humanity’s fault. I think it’s something more basic–Vulcans aren’t a very imaginative species. Vulcans have a definite view of how the universe is and should be, and humanity doesn’t fit that view. The Vulcans probably thought that any race making a warp flight would have a unified planet and a high level of technology. Unfortunately, it’s an accident of history that humanity wasn’t at that point in 2063.
By the Vulcans’ standards, then, humanity wasn’t ready for space. Wasn’t ready to venture out into the stars. And I wonder at what point the Vulcans awoke to the reality of the situation. To judge by Sarek’s rejection of Spock’s career, the Vulcans still had a long way to go a century after Archer and his Enterprise.