Type Book
Date 1978-09
Pages 175
Series Star Trek: The Original Series books
Tags science fiction, mind meld

Vulcan!

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:

The concept of psychoanalyzing a newcomer to a starship was almost as old as Star Fleet. The High Command had found out the hard way that a ship's crew was a very carefully constructed gestalt, a pattern of interlocking personalities. One person, one idea, could change the shape of that whole gestalt. Sometimes such change was for the better; sometimes it could tear a crew apart, turning the ship into a chaotic battlefield of warring emotions.

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.

As he unpacked a drawer full of soft, sheer nightrobes, McCoy felt that he had to know more about her phobia. The transparent garments, scented with lavender, were telling him a great deal about her romantic nature, and he wanted to know what sort of mental mine field he might have to walk through on the way to seeing her model those delicious bits of silk and lace. Spock and Vulcans were no competition for a pretty woman, nightgowns, and a bedroom.

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:

McCoy joined her on the fur-covered bed. He reached his arm around her unprotesting shoulder and pulled her closer. "I generally like to see what makes a lady tick before I start wanting to play doctor with her mind or body—and I mean that in the nonmedical sense."

McCoy grinned at her, waiting to see what she might say to his rather bald proposition. She was new to the ship, and he knew that as soon as the rest of the crew got a look at her, the offers would be coming thick and fast. It was better to be a little too hasty about this sort of thing than to run the risk of some fellow officer grabbing her up from under his eyes. He did hope she had no major hangups in the sexual area; it would be a waste of very good material if she did.

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.

The psychoanalytic machine known as "Sigmund" was a small, womblike room painted in soft pinks. There was only enough area in it for a couch and a computer. The ceiling was quite low, and curved downward at the corners to accentuate the womb quality. The room had been soundproofed; Tremain would hear nothing but the voice of the computer. She would be made comfortable and drugs would be administered at McCoy's discretion to aid in probing into the recesses of her mind.

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.

However, should you wish sexual activity, I'm sure you realize I am fully capable of it at any time I feel sexual desire.

You have, as near as I can tell, a perfectly acceptable body for a female Terran of your age, social position, and rank in Star Fleet. Of course, I admit I have only seen part of it. I'll reserve judgment until I have seen you completely nude.

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:

"What if he wants me? My feelings about Vulcans are so mixed. I had to hate you, you see—it was the only way to stop loving you. It was the only way to stop the pain of remembering what I had never had." She laughed, a bitter sound. "I was remembering what I had never had, and I could not stand the pain that I had no right to feel. I had to hate you instead, and I had to hate all of your race so the pain could not hurt me again. Loving a Vulcan is a disease; once it has been caught it is very easy to catch again with another Vulcan. I had to immunize myself with hatred. That was a wall, a shield, against love. And because I could not love a Vulcan, I couldn't love anyone—not Stone, not McCoy. But here and now I can love you and, in time, lose the hatred. You've given me the gift of love back again."

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:

Don't credit me. I did not do it for you. He did. The Other. And if he demands your love, you must give it. And if he demands you never speak that love or show it, you must do that, too. You owe him yourself. Now go and do what you must. We will never meet again, but you will know that in this time, in this place, for some brief moments I did love you.

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.

Character Type
Katalya Tremain Main
Spock Main
James T. Kirk Sub
Leonard McCoy Sub
Name Role
Bantam Books Publisher
David Gerrold Foreword
Kathleen Sky Author