The planet Arachnae is very near the Neutral Zone--so near, in fact, that a recent ion storm in Romulan space is about to push the Neutral Zone (which is defined by the magnetic field of the galaxy) out to envelop and pass the planet.
Arachnae has native life, including a large species that looks "something like a cross between an ant and a tarantula" that may be intelligent. The Enterprise's mission is to investigate: determine if the species is intelligent and, if so, to negotiate with them in order to protect them from the Romulans. In order to accomplish this mission, they pick up an exobiologist, Dr. Katalya Tremain, who is, apparently, very good--both Spock and McCoy are fans.
There's one problem: Dr. Tremain, it turns out, hates Vulcans with a passion. She is disgusted by them is only barely willing to work with Spock as ordered, over her most severe protests. This is a serious problem:
It is McCoy's job to enable her to fit into the crew well enough to accomplish the mission without destroying the ship. So he accompanies her, in order to become familiar with her. He even helps her unpack.
Of course, McCoy's a complete professional. By the 23rd century, you know, things have advanced. Minutes after Tremain arrives on the Enterprise, McCoy is making advances himself:
You see? It would have been even more unprofessional not to proposition her--a terrible waste of material.
When McCoy gets around to doing his job, he uses a device called a Sigmund, which works somewhat like a computerized hypnotist, to try to figure out why she hates Vulcans so much, and, ideally, to cure this hatred.
Based on her files and the results from the Sigmund, McCoy reckons that she hates Vulcans because her husband died when his Vulcan captain, Selik, chose, logically, to destroy his own ship in order to prevent the parasites that had infected the ship from spreading. Mystery solved, McCoy uses the hypnotic influence to order Tremain to work with Spock as peacefully as possible, and to come and see him if it becomes too much.
It's implied that there's more to Tremain's hatred than what McCoy discovered, but McCoy's a bit too busy arranging sexual liaisons with Tremain to focus on solving the mystery.
After a bit, Spock, Tremain, and some redshirts beam down to the planet to start investigating. The gang decides to split up and look for clues. To the surprise of no one, this turns out to be a bad idea. The natives slaughter everyone but Spock and Tremain (of course!) and, wouldn't you know it, the ion storm has suddenly shifted, bringing Arachnae into the neutral zone ahead of schedule, and the Romulans have shown up. Now Spock and Tremain are trapped down there until the problem with the Romulans can be resolved.
Spock, very logically, decides that this is a great opportunity to sexually harass Tremain in order to make her angry enough to let slip why she hates Vulcans.
Yes, that is the Spock we all remember.
Since it is fairly important to determine whether the Arachnians are intelligent, Spock and Tremain naturally decide that the best thing to do is to murder all the Arachnians laying around stunned and then go spelunking in search of the Arachnians' home. This works out just great: Spock is--perhaps--fatally injured, and then further incapacitated by a failed mind meld with an Arachnian. The only solution, Tremain decides, is to force Spock to mind meld with her, so his mind can be put back in order, somehow. This has the effect of pulling back the curtains on her hatred of Vulcans. Are you ready for the big reveal?
She was in love with Selik, the aforementioned Vulcan captain:
She was lovesick and felt guilty because maybe, if only she'd confessed to him, she could have saved the ship with the power of her love. Or something. This manages to be an even more disappointing reason than we had before. And just to top it off, her mental image of Selik advises her:
Yes, since Spock spent the last hundred pages sexually harassing her and getting himself poisoned, she naturally owes it to him to offer herself to him upon request. Progress, that's what it looks like.
In short, Vulcan! is several kinds of boring and disappointing. The idea of McCoy having the duty of ensuring crewmembers' personalities mesh well is an interesting one, though little explored here. His taking on the role of psychiatrist is not new to this novel (for example, Blish had McCoy as a specialist in psychology in Spock Must Die!), though he did claim to be "a surgeon, not a psychiatrist" in The City on the Edge of Forever. The few slightly interesting features of the novel don't redeem it, though. It's certainly one to skip.
|James T. Kirk||Sub|