A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

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A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by edaw1982 »

My theory is simply, that the Vulcans we do see, predominantly. The ones who are ‘permitted’ to go into space and onto their Enclaves on allied worlds, are all upper-crust-old-money-old-family types and their retainers and hangers-on.

The impression one gets at the most iconic Vulcan, is Spock’s father’s side of the family are a very old and established family.

And the Vulcan enclaves are probably like gated communities. Everyone has to act just right, length of the sand-lawns just right, house the correct and approved shade of beige. And everyone all eyebrow-raising and looking stoic, and acting like one homogeneous group otherwise they get disapproval and sent back home.

Whereas the Vulcans who don’t get permission to leave Vulcan are the ones, who might be anything from sardonic smirks and amused if restrained expressions and eating an omnivorous diet.

All the religious-vulcans are of the 'old-nobility type', all very Borgia-esque. The planetary religion is that approved and promoted by said-same stick-up-arse Vulcans.
So naturally they'll want to put their best face forward.

I think those Vulcans are possibly the outliers, the upper 10% and the rest are not the "right" sort of Vulcan to be "permitted" to go out into the stars.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by edaw1982 »

Think of Vulcans as space-preppies. Kids *must* go to the right sort of schools, and they must engage in the *right* sort of activities. All about appearances and Keeping Up With The Jonses.

Keep in mind, the protagonist Vulcans we see do the whole 'arranged marriage' thing, which tends to be an upper-class thing, usually about bringing families together as a way of cementing financial bonds and alliances.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by The Romulan Republic »

edaw1982 wrote:Think of Vulcans as space-preppies. Kids *must* go to the right sort of schools, and they must engage in the *right* sort of activities. All about appearances and Keeping Up With The Jonses.

Keep in mind, the protagonist Vulcans we see do the whole 'arranged marriage' thing, which tends to be an upper-class thing, usually about bringing families together as a way of cementing financial bonds and alliances.
Or as a way of bringing about relationships in a society which has built its entire culture around favouring logic, order, and pragmatism over emotions.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Broomstick »

The Star Trek Enterprise first season had an episode, "Fusion", that involved a group of Vulcans that were NOT typical who were essentially exiled for breaking social customs and tradition. Spock's half-brother Sybok was a rebellious Vulcan. Really, we've had hints and glimpses of all sorts of non-conforming Vulcans over the years, but they're clearly either a minority or powerless.

My theory is that they a minority/fringe groups, that the majority of Vulcans do toe their society's line.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by edaw1982 »

Broomstick wrote:The Star Trek Enterprise first season had an episode, "Fusion", that involved a group of Vulcans that were NOT typical who were essentially exiled for breaking social customs and tradition. Spock's half-brother Sybok was a rebellious Vulcan. Really, we've had hints and glimpses of all sorts of non-conforming Vulcans over the years, but they're clearly either a minority or powerless.

My theory is that they a minority/fringe groups, that the majority of Vulcans do toe their society's line.
Nuts, I forgot about Sybok. Haven't seen that episode of Enterprise though.

Still, as you say they're outliers who don't have much sway in the grand scheme of things.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Joun_Lord »

Of course the out of universe explanation is the old Trek "planet of hats" thing. The same reason we rarely see any non-warrior Klingons, rarely see non-greedy Ferengi, and rarely see any Romulans without a terrible bowl cut.

In universe I always assumed the Vulcans frowned quite heavily upon nonconformity. Anybody different is non-logical or some shit. Anyone who doesn't conform to the Vulcan ideal isn't logical and is probably ostracized. Look at the shit Spock got for being different even in the Prime universe and the fact T'Pol was kind of a bitch towards the emotional Vulcans (though to be fair T'Pol is a bitch towards everyone). One of the emotional Vulcans was told he had shamed his family by embracing his emotions. Clearly the emotionless Vulcans can be pretty pissy towards those who embrace their emotions.

I doubt the Vulcans were forcing anybody or brainwashing anyone but strong societal pressures can certainly make anyone repress any individuality.

I think of it a bit like the recent past's attitude towards homosexuality. It wasn't illegal or anything but society was so against it that many people were forced to hide who they are or risk rejection by loved ones and being ostracized by society. Vulcan society probably keeps many emotional Vulcans "in the closet" so to speak.

That is probably one good thing that could have happened with the Romulan/Vulcan unification, while it would have allowed the Romulans to be more logical it would have allowed the Vulcans to be more emotional. Too bad as far as I know that went down the shitter.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Darth Tedious »

Considering the state of affairs at the time of Nemesis, it seems like unification wasn't progressing at any rapid rate
But maybe the later destruction of Romulus would provide some incentive to shuffle it up the to-do list
Too bad the main guy promoting it wound up in another universe lol

I know nothing of STO canon, but I'm guessing unification didn't happen there either

Re the OP: there is definitely some evidence to support this theory, especially in the Enterprise story arc of The Forge, Awakening and Kir'Shara
That said, and as others have noted, it may be the majority of Vulcans who 'toe the line'
However, there isn't much onscreen evidence either way
While the "classy" Vulcans we see tend to talk about things as if they are definitely the majority, I'm pretty sure we all know how guarded they are -especially when it comes to internal matters, doubly so for embarrassing ones
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Simon_Jester »

While it may not be as simple or absolute as "we only see upper class elite Vulcans with a handful of exceptions," I think this is a very good explanation for the relative lack of cultural diversity in Vulcan society.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Borgholio »

Simon_Jester wrote:While it may not be as simple or absolute as "we only see upper class elite Vulcans with a handful of exceptions," I think this is a very good explanation for the relative lack of cultural diversity in Vulcan society.
I always thought we never saw any cultural diversity because there never WAS any. Like Joun_Lord said, every species was depicted as homogeneous except for Humans. Every race had "X" traits or lived on a planet with ecosystem type "Y". I just attributed it to lazy writing.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Lord Revan »

Borgholio wrote:
Simon_Jester wrote:While it may not be as simple or absolute as "we only see upper class elite Vulcans with a handful of exceptions," I think this is a very good explanation for the relative lack of cultural diversity in Vulcan society.
I always thought we never saw any cultural diversity because there never WAS any. Like Joun_Lord said, every species was depicted as homogeneous except for Humans. Every race had "X" traits or lived on a planet with ecosystem type "Y". I just attributed it to lazy writing.
Indeed there's not even "variations on a theme" style variations all alien species had exactly one culture that all members followed (or had followed before going renegade), there's no variation what so ever.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Broomstick »

Borgholio wrote:
Simon_Jester wrote:While it may not be as simple or absolute as "we only see upper class elite Vulcans with a handful of exceptions," I think this is a very good explanation for the relative lack of cultural diversity in Vulcan society.
I always thought we never saw any cultural diversity because there never WAS any. Like Joun_Lord said, every species was depicted as homogeneous except for Humans. Every race had "X" traits or lived on a planet with ecosystem type "Y". I just attributed it to lazy writing.
Yes and no - the old series never dealt in depth with any cultures but there were instances where you could glimpse some diversity.

- There were differences between Klingon ship crews, some had absolutely no women, some did ("Day of the Dove"), with at least one throw-away line that having women on ship crews was unusual meaning the ship we did see with a female crew was different from the norm.

- The "Way to Eden" has "space hippies" which made many people giggle even back in the 1960's but they're notable for not conforming to the Federation mainstream.

- "All Our Yesterdays" shows different time periods of a planet's past, which shows different cultures.

Granted, this isn't a lot, but it shows that even back in the first series species/cultures weren't quite as uniform as legend would have it. Part of the problem is that in a one-hour format for episodes there is a limit to how much diversity can be crammed into a storyline.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Borgholio »

Yeah there was also that episode where some people were black on the left side and white on the right, and others were white on the left and black on the right, and they hated each other. But things like that were the exception rather than the norm.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Broomstick »

The exceptions do exist, though, which was the point.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Borgholio »

I thought the point of the OP was that a vast majority of the aliens we see in Trek were not these exceptions, rather they were the stereotypical members of that race. Looking at the Enterprise D for instance, we see humans of all shapes and sizes, male, female, skin color, etc. We don't see that same kind of variety in most alien species unless it serves a specific plot point.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Simon_Jester »

Thing is, Borgholio, in a lot of cases in TOS, the Enterprise only ever deals with a few specific individuals or a single isolated location on a planet. I can't think of many episodes that explicitly say "everyone on the planet is like this," except for episodes where "everyone" is just not that many people. Which is reasonable; it's no wonder if a small outpost or remnant colony has homogeneous culture. In a lot of cases, you can just as easily explain things by saying "It's like this in a specific area the size of a country, but not everywhere on the planet."

At least two of the exceptions to that rule (the infamous Nazi planet and gangster planet) are explicit cases of cultural contamination, too, with the locals consciously imitating what they perceive as the culture of technologically superior aliens, and getting it comically wrong.
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There is, I think, some justification for the "planet of hats." Or at least enough that we can take a jab in the direction of justification.

The nature of the Prime Directive means that most of the "planet of hats" societies we encounter are warp-capable civilizations. If they have the usual suite of high technology for Star Trek, that comes with a wealth of advanced tools for communication and transportation. It's not hard to imagine all this technology normally having a homogenizing effect- different cultures around the planet converging on a global culture based on whatever philosophy and way of life are dominant during the rise of high technology.

So if a belligerent Klingon culture existed and was able to subdue a lot of its more peaceable neighbors around the time they developed global transportation and communication, it'd go a long way toward explaining why "all Klingons are warriors." The high status culture that took over the world was warlike.

Likewise, the high-status culture that took over Vulcan was hyper-rationalist and restrained (and we know this happened because the Romulans left at this point).

Earth would probably be unusual in this respect precisely because it was not able to develop peacefully into a unified planetary culture before contact. Instead, humans were still patching themselves together after World War Three when the Vulcans showed up, and technological advance after that time was unusually rapid. Even so, we see evidence of homogenization, probably driven by easy movement by transporter and global communications.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Khaat »

Another factor being overlooked is that Starfleet officers are going to be a "certain type" as well, just as any academy types would be.
"Why are all these [insert contemporary war-college] graduates the same?!" Sure, there will be variation among those in a class/school, but when the school is "everyone with these strict guidelines as their moral backbone", there's going to be lots of sameness uniformity. Are "all" West Point graduates going to be patriotic? Safe bet. Are all Naval War College graduates going to be focused on doing that kind of thing? Do they have "liberal arts" programs at military academies? (I think not, dunno.)

Vulcans applying to Starfleet are likely to have already jumped through an academic/cultural sieve on Vulcan, before meeting the "best of the best of the best, sir! with honors!" standards for Starfleet Academy admission.

I never watched Enterprise, but I didn't get the impression from TOS or TNG that Vulcan society was stratified by bloodline as much as by merit.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Broomstick »

We see some evidence of global homogenization in real life, not enough to completely obliterate local cultures but certain things are globally known. With some of the Trek cultures having had our level of technology or higher for centuries it shouldn't be surprising that there are planet-wide customs, traditions, styles, and so forth.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Simon_Jester »

All it really has to do is reduce the level of cultural variation to the point where it's indistinguishable from normal personality variations. Spock and Tuvok are very different Vulcans in some ways, for instance- that could be personality or that could be culture.

And that's before we even begin to talk about things that are just plain biological facts. For instance, Betazoids being very open with each other isn't just a cultural custom, it's imposed on them by biology. They're telepaths, there wouldn't be much point in them trying to hide their thoughts and feelings from each other, so as a culture they have little or no practice doing so.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Elheru Aran »

Trek's problem isn't so much that it goes with the 'planet of hats' thing-- it's that they *assume* every culture they contact is the same as that small slice of it that they meet.

It strikes me that if they had kept that in mind, it would've served as a reasonable explanation as to why there are two different Klingon races between TOS and the rest of Trek-- the initial TOS-era contacts with Klingons were simply a different race of Klingons, who for whatever reason, were making the initial contact with the rest of the galaxy. Maybe they're from a different continent and they happened to develop warp drive first. Then there was some sort of World War in the roughly ~10-20 years between TOS and the movies, and the winners are the guys who had a bad run-in with waffle irons, who then proceeded to take their technology and expand into the Klingon Empire after genociding the smooth-forehead-brown-shoe-polish types, which would explain why it was a 'great shame' to Worf.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Crazedwraith »

Yes but then don't explain the Kor, Koloth, and Kang issue.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Elheru Aran »

Crazedwraith wrote:Yes but then don't explain the Kor, Koloth, and Kang issue.
Well obviously that was after the writers got stuck on the "Planet of Hats" trope and they just shoehorned those old codgers to fit. One possible explanation, if you want to follow my different-races hypothesis, is that those three guys had plastic surgery or... something... to fit in after the 'world war' or whatever. Wouldn't be the first time, and at least it worked better for them than it did for Michael Jackson...
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Borgholio »

Actually it really is plastic surgery. In Enterprise, all Klingons had the ridged foreheads but a virus that escaped from a lab mutated them and gave them smooth foreheads. The lead Klingon scientist developed a cure with the help of Phlox, but the lack of ridges was permanent. At the end of the episode he contemplated going into cosmetic surgery for "Cranial Reconstruction".
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by LadyTevar »

I know the novels are low on the canon-scale, but in "I, Vulcan" it was pointed out that the majority of Vulcans never left the planet. They preferred to isolate themselves away from the excitable, emotional denizens of the Federation, so they themselves were able to keep Logical and UnEmotional.

In other words, they were like the US -- never going overseas to broaden their horizons because they thought they had it best at home.
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Simon_Jester »

Borgholio wrote:Actually it really is plastic surgery. In Enterprise, all Klingons had the ridged foreheads but a virus that escaped from a lab mutated them and gave them smooth foreheads. The lead Klingon scientist developed a cure with the help of Phlox, but the lack of ridges was permanent. At the end of the episode he contemplated going into cosmetic surgery for "Cranial Reconstruction".
Presumably, reconstructive surgery went out of style for a period of a century or so (up into the TOS era), and either it then went back in style, or the Klingons figured out a way to reverse the genetic damage (since by the time Worf is born every Klingon has forehead ridges, and there's no evidence that he ever received any surgery).
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Re: A theory on why the Vulcans we all see are curiously alike

Post by Borgholio »

They found a cure for the virus, but the damage to the ridges was permanent. The virus did infect a few million Klingons but not all of them.
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