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This article is about the Vulcan species. For information about the planet Vulcan, see Vulcan (planet), and for information on the Vulcan counterparts found in the mirror universe, see Vulcan (mirror).
Surak

Surak, a Vulcan male

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The Vulcans (also known as "Vulcanians") are a humanoid civilization responsible in a large part for the founding of the United Federation of Planets and are widely known for their logical minds and stoical natures. The Vulcan homeworld is the planet Vulcan.

History and Politics

Also see: Vulcan history

Culturally one of the most fascinating species in the Beta Quadrant, the Vulcans were once an extremely violent and emotional people (even by Earth standards) who waged almost constant warfare on one another. They believed in a variety of gods, such as war, peace and death. As their level of technology improved, the Vulcans eventually reached a point where their violent nature threatened species extinction.

In an effort to avoid this fate, a Vulcan named Surak developed a new philosophy thereby igniting the Time of Awakening. Surak maintained that the root cause of all the problems on Vulcan lay in the uncontrolled outpouring of the people's emotions. His followers swore to live their lives by an ethical system devised by Surak and based purely on logical principles. All expression of emotions, negative or positive, was completely forbidden.

Although this new philosophy spread rapidly across Vulcan, a minority, many of whom were known as "those who march beneath the Raptor's wings", rejected Surak's ideals. A destructive war began including the use of atomic bombs and among the victims was Surak himself.

Eventually, however, those who opposed logic left Vulcan and founded colonies elsewhere - most notably on the planet Romulus, where they founded what eventually became the Romulan Star Empire. At some point in history, the Romulans and the Vulcans engaged in a 100 year long war against one another. The war was instigated by the actions of a member of the Q Continuum

Another group that rejected Surak's philosophy was known as the "V'tosh ka'tur" or "Vulcans without Logic". The V'tosh Ka'tur believed in controlling emotions by allowing themselves to actively experience them rather than surpressing them. Many of these also left Vulcan, and took up a nomadic existence. (ENT: "Fusion"; (ENT: "Awakening"; TOS: "Balance of Terror", "The Enterprise Incident"; TNG: "Unification, Part I & Part II", "Gambit, Part I & Part II)(VOY: "Death Wish")

The Vulcans were one of the first of the current powers to develop warp drive, though a century would pass between the first warp flight and the breaking of the Warp 2 barrier. (ENT: "First Flight") The Vulcans conducted a series of survey missions to the Sol system, as early as 1957. (ENT: "Carbon Creek")

The official first contact between Vulcans and Humans came on April 5, 2063 when a Vulcan survey ship detected the warp flight of Zefram Cochrane's Phoenix. The Vulcans met with Cochrane at his launch site on the day following the flight. (Star Trek: First Contact)

The Vulcans eventually became Earth's "big brother" in a way, advising Earth officials on how to proceed into the galaxy. The Vulcan High Command considered humans volatile and similar to Vulcans before the Time of Awakening, and so attempted to slow down humanity's move into the galaxy until the time was right. (ENT: "Broken Bow", "The Forge")

In "Little Green Men" Quark, while in 1947 said he intended to give warp technology to the Ferengi so that they would have it before the Vulcans, though numerous other sources suggest the Vulcans had warp drive centuries before that. Most likely Quark was simply unaware of this. The Vulcans might have had warp drive at least a hundred years prior to the 9th century BCE when the P'Jem monastary was built on a planet presumably several light years from Vulcan, however this trip could theoretically have been made using only impulse drives, possibly in sleeper ships.

By the 21st and 22nd centuries, the Vulcans would have also made contact with the Cardassians, Trill, Tholians, Klingons, and scores of other races. (DS9: "Destiny"; ENT: "Future Tense", "Broken Bow")

In contrast to their tradition of peaceful exploration, the Vulcans have also had a long history of border skirmishes with the neighboring Andorians. The humans helped negotiate a peace between the two over the disputed Class D planetoid, known to the Vulcans as Paan Mokar. (ENT: "Cease Fire")

In the 22nd century, the Vulcan High Command, once in charge only of space exploration and planetary defense, gained much more control over civilian affairs. Under the High Command's leadership, Vulcan policy toward other planets became more aggressive and interventionist, using the ancient monastery at P'Jem to spy on Andorian activities.

Vulcan also became less tolerant of political and philosophical challenges towards the High Command's operations, notably engaging in purges of the Syrrannite group, who claimed that Vulcan society was no longer following the teachings of Surak. These tensions came to a head in the crisis called the Vulcan Reformation, which resulted in the overthrow of the High Command (and its leader, V'Las) and a restructuring of the Vulcan government under the leadership of Kuvak and T'Pau. (Although it was not known at the time, V'Las was secretly allied with the Romulans.)

One of the first acts of the new government was to end the policy of holding back human expansion into the galaxy. (ENT: "The Forge", "Awakening", "Kir'Shara")

As of the 23rd century, Vulcan had never been conquered in its collective memory. That memory goes so far back that Vulcans can't conceive of a conqueror. (TOS: "The Immunity Syndrome")

Today, Vulcan remains one of the principal Federation members, and is deeply involved in all levels of that society. Their tradition of exploration has continued; in the 24th Century, a Vulcan ship was the first to make formal contact with a Gamma Quadrant civilization, upon encountering the Wadi. (DS9: "Move Along Home") They were at the forefront of exploration in the Gamma Quadrant, encountering the Rakhari and finding the remains of the Hur'q civilization. (DS9: "Vortex", "The Sword of Kahless")

Despite the enmity between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire, some Vulcans have been attempting to forge a more cordial relationship with their cousins, ultimately hoping to reunify the two cultures. So far these efforts have met with little success. (TNG: "Unification, Part I & Part II") In the wake of the Reman uprising, as well as the improved relations between the Romulans and the Federation after the Dominion war, it is unclear what the current status of this movement is.

In the 24th century, the Vulcan ministry of security was known as the V'Shar. (TNG: "Gambit, Part II")

Physiology

Genetically, Vulcans and humans are similar enough that they can produce offspring without any problems.(ENT: "Terra Prime")

Externally, Vulcans are generally similar to humans, the chief exceptions being the Vulcans' notably pointed ears and arched eyebrows. Most Vulcans have pale skin with a slightly greenish tinge, and straight, glossy black hair.

Some Vulcans, including Tuvok, have darker skin, tightly coiled black hair, and physiognomic features similar to those found in humans of African descent. Others share physiognomic features similar to those found in humans of Asian descent. However, most Vulcans have a vaguely Eurasian appearance. (Star Trek, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek: Voyager)

Vulcans have body hair similar to humans, and some males can be very hirsute. Vulcan males are also capable of growing facial hair (as evidenced by Sybok and both Spock and Soval in the mirror universe), but rarely do so. (TOS: "Mirror, Mirror"; Star Trek V: The Final Frontier; VOY: "Gravity"; ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II")

Vulcan spine

The Vulcan Spinal Cord.

In contrast to their external similarities, Vulcan internal anatomy differs radically from that of humans. For instance, their heart is where a Human's liver would normally be, and beats several hundred times per minute. Vulcan blood is copper-based and is green when oxygenated in the arteries and is copper or rust colored when deoxygenated in the veins. Bruises and dermal abrasions also take on a green color. (TOS: "The Naked Time", "Patterns of Force"; VOY: "Repression")

The Vulcan digestive tract is highly adaptable. Although alien foods, notably Human food, will occasionally disagree with a Vulcan, given time, their body will eventually adapt to the alien food. (ENT: "Unexpected")

Vulcan hearing is very sensitive. Having evolved on a planet which is mostly desert, Vulcans have developed ways of surviving in desert conditions. For example, they can survive for several days without water and have inner eyelids which protect their eyes. (TOS: "Operation -- Annihilate!"; ENT: "Strange New World", "The Forge")

Vulcan females possess a heightened sense of smell. Vulcans also have superior metabolism to humans. Caffeine and sapotoxins have little effect on Vulcans. They are also capable of surviving for long durations without food or sleep. Under stress, Vulcans can do without sleep for weeks. Vulcans are on average three times physically stronger than humans and are noticably more agile. (ENT: "Broken Bow", "Breaking the Ice"; TOS: "The Apple", "The Paradise Syndrome"; DS9: "Take Me Out to the Holosuite")

One weakness of the Vulcans is their inability to metabolize nitrous oxide. After only a few minutes of exposure to the gas, a Vulcan will pass out. (TAS: "The Practical Joker")

Vulcans typically have a lifespan of 200 years or more.

The Brain

Vulcan brain soval

A medical scan of a Vulcan brain.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Vulcan physiology is the brain. The Vulcan brain has been described as "a puzzle, wrapped inside an enigma, housed inside a cranium"; This has some basis in fact, as the Vulcan brain is composed of many layers.

It is in direct control of most of the bodily functions, acting as a control unit for many organs. Despite this, a Vulcan body from which the brain has been removed is capable of functioning and even walking around (albeit in a zombie-like state) with a portable life support system (TOS: "Spock's Brain").

Unlike most humanoid brains, traumatic memories are not only psychologically disturbing to Vulcans, but have physical consequences as well. The Vulcan brain, in reordering neural pathways, can literally lobotomize itself. (VOY: "Flashback")

Vulcans have learned to gain conscious control of many of these functions, allowing them to regulate their bodies to a high degree by simple will power. When injured a Vulcan can go into a trance-like state, using this ability to concentrate all of his or her energy onto repairing the injury. This trance can be self-induced and give the physical appearance of near-death. It is similar, in principle, to Vulcan neuropressure techniques which can be used to relax the mind and body. (TOS: "By Any Other Name", VOY: "Riddles"; ENT: "The Xindi")

The substance trellium-D acts as a neurotoxin to Vulcans, destroying the neural pathways which control their emotions. Treatment must be provided quickly after exposure, otherwise the damage is irreversible. (ENT: "Impulse")

Vulcan DNA schematic

Scan of a Vulcan's DNA

Of course, the most famous aspect of the Vulcan brain is the inherent telepathic abilities, such as the Vulcan mind meld. Many Vulcans are natural touch-telepaths, though considerable training is required to utilize this ability fully. Stronger minds are capable of non-contact telepathy, usually over short distances and in a limited fashion.

Although, Vulcans do not, typically, allow themselves to experience uncontrolled strong emotions they may sense them in others. Some Vulcans have telepathic abilities which are far stronger than those of most members of their race. The rigorous mental training all Vulcans are given often allows such individuals to develop such abilities as emotional compulsion and psychic image projection.

Besides Rao Vantika (who achieved it through technology) and the Trill (who achieve it when performing the Zhian'tara ritual on joined Trill) , Vulcans are the only other race capable of performing a synaptic pattern displacement, or the transfer of one individual's consciousness into another. (DS9: "The Passenger").

Some Vulcans have also demonstrated the ability known as telekinesis (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)

Sharp eyed viewers of will notice that in the scene where Spock is taken up to the temple for the Fal Tor Pan ritual, the "priestesses" are not carrying the bier by it's handles, but by holding their hands above it.
There is some fan speculation that this was actually use of anti-gravity, but there is no evidence of this.

The psycho-suppression system responsible for the Vulcan suppression of emotions is located in the mesiofrontal cortex.

Approximately every seven years, adult Vulcans must endure pon farr, the Vulcan mating period. It is marked by intense emotions and primal urges (known as plak tow, or "blood fever") that can kill the Vulcan if not satisfied. Physiological symptoms include elevated dopamine levels and fever. For such an orderly society of quiet sobriety, the madness which accompanies the outbreak of pon farr is an unavoidable evil. (ENT: "Bounty","In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I"; TOS: "Amok Time"; VOY: "Blood Fever")

In "Bounty", T'Pol experienced an accelerated pon farr caused by exposure to a pathogen. Despite the abnormal trigger stimulus, T'Pol indicated to Phlox that her symptoms were entirely normal for a Vulcan in her "condition". It is interesting to note that despite being 65 earth years old, T'Pol had not yet experienced her first pon farr. It is not established whether T'Pol's pon farr in the Mirror Universe ("In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I") was naturally-occurring or prematurely induced.
A central part of Jeri Taylor's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home novelization's seventh chapter has Spock becoming intoxicated from eating a candy mint while on Earth, from the high sucrose content in it. This has had no basis in canon however.

Society

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The government on Vulcan is a representative democracy, which tends towards laissez faire, and the law system is designed to make laws easier to rescind than implement. Individual political advancement is based on meritocratic principles. (ENT: "Awakening")

For an intensely logical race, the Vulcans do have a very firm spiritual belief. Though they do not seem to have a unifying religion, they believe in the katra, the soul and consciousness of a person, which can be transferred psionically prior to death. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)

Vulcans generally abhor violence, but logic dictates that defense of Vulcan and the Federation is necessary. Vulcans can and do use weapons and practice martial arts called "Tal-Shaya", and "Suus Mahna". (TOS "Journey to Babel).

Vulcans are also known for their high degree of honesty. They are extremely reluctant to tell a lie, and indeed it is said that "Vulcans cannot lie". However, in extremis, they have been known to do so for what they percieve as logical reasons.

Development of a Vulcan's life of logic begins at a young age. Vulcan parents will utilize learning tools, such as pleenoks, to train their infants in primary logic. (VOY: "Human Error") Vulcan children will then learn to detach themselves from their emotions at an early age.

Despite this early training in logic, Vulcan children in nursery school are allowed to dance. These dances are reminiscent of the dances of the Orion slave girl, just not as well coordinated. (TOS: "Whom Gods Destroy")

As parents, Vulcans never shield their children from the truth. Doing so would only hinder their ability to cope with inevitable difficulties. A Vulcan parent's attachment to their children cannot be described as an emotion. They are part of the parent's identity and the parent is incomplete without them. (VOY: "Innocence")


Vulcan marriage ceremony

Vulcan wedding ceremony.

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Spock's wedding2

Vulcan wedding ceremony, c2260s.

Vulcans sometimes have mates chosen for them by their parents at the age of seven. The mates are joined in a ceremony that links them telepathically that is "less than a wedding, more than a betrothal". When the two come of age, the link compels them to follow through with full marital rituals, which cement their relationship. (TOS: "Amok Time"; ENT: "Breaking the Ice")

If, for whatever reason, the female does not wish to go through with the marriage, then the ceremony of "Koon-ut-kal-if-fee" ("Marriage or Challenge") is invoked. The male must fight for the right to keep his mate against a challenger of her choosing. The female becomes the property of the male wins the contest, unless he chooses to release her.

The Koon-ut-kal-if-fee is a fight to the death.

The essence of their logical society is in arriving at the truth through logical process. Emotion is illogical, thus making them impure, and deterrent to truth. Vulcans are born with the same emotions that afflicted their violent ancestors, but continual mental conditioning generally gives them the impassivity they seek.

Emotions like remorse, relief, joy, and embarassment were all displayed by Spock when he thought Captain Kirk was dead. (TOS: "Amok Time") Additionally, T'Pol showed romantic interest in Commander Tucker on the Enterprise, especially due to imbalances caused by exposure to Trellium D. (ENT: "Damage")

Though not all can arrive at the ultimate pure logical state, the exacting process of mental control gives Vulcans enough to conform to the ideals of Vulcan society. The ultimate level of logical thought is achieved through the attainment of kolinahr, which is said to purge them of all remaining emotions. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

It must be noted that not ALL Vulcans follow the path of Surak and kolinahr. Some believe that knowledge and enlightenment can be gained by understanding and embracing their emotions. These Vulcans are known as "V'tosh ka'tur", or "Vulcans without Logic". They are considered a fringe element in Vulcan society.

Vulcans believe knowledge to be the only defense against unknown dangers, and pursue them with the intellect and logic that makes them some of the finest scholars in the Federation. Their pursuit of knowledge and impassivity of emotion are the driving forces in a Vulcan's life.

Vulcans consider death to be the completion of a journey. Therefore, they do not fear it happening, however the loss of one's Katra is to be avoided if possible, since the Katra lives on beyond the physical death.

Culture and Tradition

This contradicts a previous statement made by Spock in TOS: "The Conscience of the King", where he notes: "My father's race was spared the dubious benefits of alcohol," when offered a glass of Saurian brandy by Dr. McCoy. T'Pol also noted in ENT: "Breaking the Ice", that Vulcans don't drink wine, indicating that perhaps Vulcan port is for cultural purposes only, or perhaps is nonalcoholic.
  • Although it has not always been so, most Vulcans are vegetarians, and do not touch food with their hands. (ENT: "Broken Bow") Guests in a Vulcan household are expected to arise before sunrise to prepare the morning meal. (ENT: "Home") Plomeek broth is considered a traditional Vulcan breakfast. (ENT: "Unexpected")
  • Although there is no indication of a Vulcan religion ("faith" would be regarded as illogical, except to the half-human Spock) ("Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country") a Vulcan Prayer is sometimes offered for the deceased (Such as Tuvok offered for Lon Suder in VOY: "Basics, Part II"). When asked if Vulcans were a "spiritual" people, T'pol responded that Vulcan beliefs are based on logic and the pursuit of clarity. Others have referred to Vulcan "mysticism", so it seems that, at least to outsiders, Vulcans have something approaching a mystical belief system, but perhaps Vulcans do not consider it to be a religious or spiritual belief system in the sense most other species' use the terms. It would not be beyond reason, though, to suggest that the Vulcan belief system may share similar concepts with the nontheistic human religion of Zen Buddhism. Of course, this comparison may be imperfect as the idea of the Vulcan Katra, which some consider analogous to the "soul" concepts found in the after-life doctrines of many other religions, is a notable diversion from the Buddhism analogy. Of course, the true nature of the Katra is known only to Vulcan theologians and those Vulcans who have shed or lost their physical bodies. So, while imperfect, the analogy of Vulcan beliefs to Buddhism stands as the best.

Holidays

See also:

Science and Technology

People

Appearances

A list of all appearances of Vulcans (excluding appearances of Spock, Tuvok, and T'Pol):


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