- Name: Vulcans
- Homeworld: Vulcan
Vulcans strongly resemble their distant cousins, the Romulans, and both are generally similar to Humans in appearance, distinguished mainly by their pointed ears and upswept eyebrows. Their skin color ranges from pale with a bronze or greenish tint to dark brown. Their internal anatomy however differs significantly from that of Humans – their heart is where the human liver typically would be and their heart rate is typically several hundred times per minute. In addition, their blood is copper-based and appears green.
Due to the need to extract oxygen from the thin atmosphere of their homeworld, Vulcans evolved a highly efficient respiratory system. The harsh desert environment on Vulcan resulted in other evolutionary characteristics as well – Vulcans are several times stronger and faster than humans, and can survive for several days without water, and up to two weeks without food or sleep. They also have inner eyelids which protect their eyes, very sensitive hearing, and Vulcan females have heightened olfactory senses. They are most comfortable in high temperatures and Vulcan of advanced age can become sensitive to lower temperatures. Their copper-based blood also has much lower levels of sodium chloride than that of most humanoids. Caffeine and certain toxins have little effect on them due to a very efficient metabolism, however, nitrous oxide gas can swiftly render them unconscious and exposure to the mineral trellium-D can over time destroy the neural pathways which control their emotions.
Vulcans are natural touch-telepaths, and following the Time of Awakening inspired by Surak (see below) Vulcans began to focus on mental discipline and control in order to suppress emotions. This led to further development of telepathic capabilities, such as the mind meld, which allowed a Vulcan to merge their mind with another’s, in essence enabling the participants to share consciousness in a kind of gestalt. With concentration and rigorous training, stronger minds are capable of non-contact telepathic projection and scanning, usually over short distances, or in rare cases, even over interstellar distances. Vulcans also learned to gain conscious control of many bodily functions, allowing them to regulate their bodies to a high degree by simple will-power. When injured, a Vulcan could suppress pain and if severely injured even go into a trance-like state, concentrating all of their focus on repairing the injury.
Vulcans typically had a lifespan of two hundred years or more. During adulthood Vulcans must endure ponn farr, the Vulcan mating period, which is marked by intense emotions and primal urges (known as plak tow, or “blood fever”) that can kill the Vulcan if not satisfied through mating, physical combat, or by extreme discipline in intense meditation.
“Logic is the cement of our civilization with which we ascend from chaos using reason as our guide.” — T’Plana-Hath
Culturally one of the most fascinating species in the Federation, 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, thus they gave up their violent nature and turned to logical thinking, which became a pivotal part of their modern culture.
Because of the potentially destructive intensity of Vulcan emotions, they focused their mental energies on mastering them. The essence of their logical society was in arriving at the truth through logical process. Emotions were illogical, thus making them impure, and deterrent to truth. Vulcans were born with the same emotions that afflicted their violent ancestors, but continual meditation and mental conditioning generally allowed them to to suppress those emotions, giving them the impassivity they sought. Though not all could arrive at the ultimate pure logical state, the exacting process of mental control gave Vulcans enough to conform to the ideals of Vulcan society. The ultimate level of logical thought was achieved through the attainment of Kolinahr, which was said to purge them of all remaining emotions.
Due to holding the pursuit of truth as a logical ideal, Vulcans were known for their high degree of honesty. They were extremely reluctant to tell a lie, and indeed it was said that “Vulcans could not lie.” However, they would do so for what they perceived as logical reasons, though if possible they would avoid a direct lie, preferring to use misdirection or to simply keep relevant information to themselves.
The devotion to logic also resulted in a philosophy of peace and communitarianism, going so far as to follow strict vegan diets to avoid killing even non-sentient animals. Vulcans believed that the needs of a very large group should go before the needs of a very small group or any individual, saying that “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”
Vulcans believed knowledge to be the best defense against unknown dangers, and pursued it with the intellect and logic that made them some of the finest scholars in the Federation, with the Vulcan Science Academy recognized as one of the preeminent institutions in the UFP. Despite that commitment to peace, Vulcans understood the need for other forms of self-defense. Many served in Starfleet as well as in their own planetary defense forces. In addition, traditional Vulcan martial arts, such as suus mahna, sha’mura, and even the deadly ancient art of tal-shaya, were preserved and practiced. Even among Vulcans not proficient in these, most could effectively use the Vulcan nerve pinch, a neuro-pressure technique (sometimes augmented by touch telepathic ability) applied near the juncture of the neck and shoulder.
Naturally, the development of a Vulcan’s lifelong devotion towards logic was encouraged at a very early age. Vulcan parents utilized careful and gentle methods to train their infants in primary logic. Vulcan children learned, by example, how to detach themselves from their emotions as well, and it often aided in difficult childhood situations. Despite logic being paramount in education, Vulcans seldom restricted their children from real life, as doing so only hindered their ability to develop their own intellect and identity. Despite the suppression of emotion, Vulcan parents were very attached to their children as children were part of the parent’s identity and the parent was incomplete without them.
One of their rights of passage was the kahs-wan maturity test which was a survival ritual requiring a Vulcan at the age of seven to survive alone for ten days without food, water, or weapons in Vulcan’s Forge. The ritual dates from before the time of Surak, though many Vulcans hold that the true test of the ordeal is to pit a young Vulcan’s personal ethics against the demands of survival. Those who survived took their first step into adulthood, including becoming betrothed via a telepathic mating bond so that when they underwent pon farr the link compelled them to follow through with full marital rituals and consummate their relationship.
If, for whatever reason, the female did not wish to go through with the marriage, then the ceremony of koon-ut-kal-if-fee (“marriage or challenge”) was invoked. The male fought for the right to keep his mate against a challenger of her choosing, whether her preferred mate, another person, or herself. The female was obligated to carry through with the marriage if the male won the contest, unless he chose to release her. The koon-ut-kal-if-fee was generally a fight to the death, but in later times could end when both combatants broke the pon farr-induced ‘blood fever’. For obvious reasons, Vulcans preferred not to discuss this and avoided even disclosing it to outsiders.
“In infinite diversity, there are infinite combinations. In infinite diversity, we find indefinite strength.” — a saying by Surak
One of the foundational philosophies of Vulcan society was expressed in the Kol-Ut-Shan or IDIC: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, which celebrated the vast array of variables in the universe which combine to create truth and beauty. The philosophy was often represented by a triangle-over-circle insignia, and was so fundamental that the symbol was often also used as an emblem representing Vulcan itself.
Though committed to the concept of total logic, Vulcan philosophy after the Time of Awakening did not totally abandon its past. Though largely discarding the myths of their violent polythteistic past, knowledge of some of that mythology, such as She Ka Ree, which was akin to Eden or Heaven, remained. Vulcans also continued to maintain ceremonies dedicated to ancient religious beliefs and physical training. They retained a spirituality and had priests and priestesses who governed and guided its practice. This may be in part because Vulcans can sense, and in some cases even transfer, their living spirit, or ‘katra’. A katra can also be used to transfer a Vulcan’s healing ability to another to aid in regeneration for serious injury. Considered the essence of a Vulcan’s mind, when close to death a katra might be transferred to another or to a katric ark to be preserved in the Hall of Ancient Thought on Mount Seleya.
Though Vulcans did not fear death, both because fear is an emotion and because of this belief in katra existing beyond death, they nevertheless placed a high value on life; in particular, on living a long and productive life. A common Vulcan salutation is a hand gesture consisting of a raised hand with the palm forward and the thumb extended, while the fingers are parted between the middle and ring finger. Typically, the phrase “Live long and prosper” is uttered when making the salute. An appropriate reply would be to return the gesture and utter either, “Live long and prosper” or “Peace and long life”.
Brief Canon History
Vulcans are an ancient people whose history dates back thousands of years into a time when they were divided into violent warring clans, driven by competition for scarce resources on a desert world and by their intense emotions. As their level of technology increased, the Vulcans eventually reached a point where their violent nature threatened the extinction of their own species. In an effort to avoid this fate, a Vulcan named Surak developed a new philosophy devoted to logic and reason, 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. Emotions were to be controlled and repressed.
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 the majority of those opposing Surak left Vulcan to found colonies elsewhere, most notably on Romulus where they founded what became the Romulan Star Empire. Another group that rejected Surak’s philosophy was known as the “V’tosh ka’tur”, or “Vulcans without logic”. They believed in controlling emotions by allowing themselves to actively experience them rather than suppressing them. Some of these also left Vulcan, and took up a nomadic existence.
Over time Surak’s philosophy became the bedrock of Vulcan society and Vulcan evolved into a representative democracy, with individual political advancement based on meritocratic principles. With a united world government, the species’ turned toward scientific pursuit. They were among the first species in the Alpha Quadrant to develop warp drive, and used it to explore, though as solely observers gathering knowledge. They conducted survey missions of other civilizations, but had a policy against making contact with any that had not reached the technological level of warp capability. This policy eventually became the basis for the Federation’s Prime Directive.
By the 21st and early 22nd centuries, Vulcans had made contact with the Cardassians, Trill, Tholians, Klingons (as early as 2016), Humans (in 2063) and scores of other races. However, by the mid-22nd century, Vulcan culture had strayed from the path that Surak had originally laid out for them. They had ceased being explorers and the High Command, once devoted to that goal, had instead become involved in a conflict with the neighboring Andorians. They had also become 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 a crisis called the Vulcan Reformation, which resulted in the overthrow of the High Command (and its leader, V’Las, who was secretly allied with the Romulans), as well as a restructuring of the Vulcan government including the dissolution of the High Command. A less restrictive policy towards Earth was also adopted as a result of Captain Jonathan Archer’s assistance in recovering the Kir’Shara containing the complete writings of Surak.
In 2155 the Vulcan government signed the Coalition Compact, which made them officially part of the Coalition of Planets, alongside Earth, Andoria and Tellar. In 2161 the Coalition worlds joined together to form the United Federation of Planets.
At some point in the 23rd century, a small faction of Vulcans claiming to represent “true Vulcan ideology” and valuing logic above all, advocated separatism, working to have Vulcan withdraw from the Federation, which they considered a “failed experiment” corrupting Vulcan devotion to pure logic. A radical faction of this group, dubbed Logic Extremists, went so far as to commit sabotage and acts of violence, leading the entire movement to be considered renegade and fanatical by other Vulcans.
By the 24th century, Vulcan remained one of the principal Federation members, and was deeply involved at all levels of that society. Indeed, by the mid-24th century, Vulcans had a saying known to the Federation: “We’re here to serve.“
Although involved in the Federation and Starfleet at all levels, the Vulcans continued their own tradition of independent exploration; in the 24th century, a Vulcan ship was the first to make formal contact with a Gamma Quadrant civilization, and despite the enmity between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire, some Vulcans attempted to forge a more cordial relationship with their cousins, ultimately hoping to reunify the two cultures.
Proposed Post-War History
Vulcans have continued to be a steadfast member of the Federation and it is believed this will continue for the foreseeable future, there have been some tensions with respect to the handling of the crisis resulting from the supernova that destroyed the Romulan homeworld but most of the core worlds in the RSE, as well as the resulting influx of refugees. This represented a tension within Vulcan society as well, with many believing that they should do all they could for their distant kin and others viewing Romulans with historically well-founded suspicion. Among the latter group was a significant faction less concerned about political machinations than about the influence the presence of a large number of vulcanoids who did not follow the way of Surak might have on Vulcan society.
A consensus was reached to permit refugees from the reunification movement in the former RSE, but the debate over the wider issue continues.