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Star Trek: The Fire and the Rose: Review, Themes, Analysis, and Thoughts on The Fall of Spock
I frequently find that books I enjoy have a low-presence in online discussion groups for various reasons. Many places do exist but they usually fade out fast and don’t generate deeper debate on the novel in question. Instead, many reviewers are out there that don’t always analyze and investigate the aspects I notice. It is my intention to act like a review and an analysis of key portions of The Fire and the Rose in the hopes of inspiring new thoughts into this 40th anniversary celebration of Star Trek and perhaps give you new insight into this novel. Will it wander around? Probably. It will also contain portions I loved and hated as I try to weave together some coherent thoughts on The Fire and the Rose. Plus this is a Spock story, so portions of him that are relevant in the other Crucible Trilogy novels will be brought here.
The Two Halves of Spock
The first meeting between Kirk and Spock after the loss of Gary Mitchell was concerning emotional exteriors. We had Kirk nursing his injuries while trying to move forward with killing his best friend of 15 years and also attempt to reassure Spock of his slight promotion into Kirk’s inner circle, and that includes being more open about personal details. Kirk mentioned how Spock smiled during Pike’s tenure, to which Spock explained was an attempt on his part to try and blend with the crew. The point Kirk wanted to make was that Spock should feel free to be himself on the ship, but as we well know Spock can never fully do that because of his commitment to the Vulcan lifestyle. He is always fighting the conflicting natures within him, and so one sometimes feels Spock is never 100% in the moment. Intellectually he is, no question, but personally no. The talk did begin their friendship, and it is cool that it started by such a personal inquiry and delivery on Kirk’s part. I would like to think it impacted Spock as well, as we saw him incorporate more of his human personality into his everyday work. That friendship with Kirk was the impetus for Spock to start exploring the reality of having his human side expressed and not feeling judged for it.
Flash forward to 2293 and shortly after Spock accepts a position as an ambassador with the BIA. One of the other diplomats working with the BIA was Alexandra Tremontaine, and her and Spock’s first meeting was interesting. Spock came into it assuming that Alexandra had fallen to her emotions when she announced the Federation was pulling out of the current talks, yet she was able to show that a different logic had been used to arrive at conclusions that were satisfactory, and that made an impression on both halves of Spock as it demonstrated the best of both worlds. Here we have someone who is intellectually deep and acts like a Vulcan but she clearly has emotions that run parallel to Spock’s. The two finger touch we see so frequently as an affectionate gesture between Vulcans is shown to be a telepathic connection that is deep between Alexandra and Spock - not an easy thing for Spock to accomplish as it opened him up, something that harkens back to Kirk’s advice about being comfortable with who he is. Spock was finally beginning to feel like he could be himself, that he had uncovered “contentment.” It was definitely a part of what made the death of Kirk that much worse and started Spock’s downward spiral.
The raw, irrational emotions we know Spock has come to the forefront when he finds out Kirk has died and his anger makes him envision horrible acts like strangling Bones. Especially prevalent is guilt (and as we shall see is an emotion Spock comes to again and again), and it is over many things but the big one was Edith (as the book delves into more later on) but at this point Spock makes it clear he feels he denied Kirk the happiness he deserved. But Spock compounds it when he feels he should have denied himself any happiness in return. So why did he remain friends with Kirk, a source of great joy for Spock? Wouldn’t that be a further reward to Spock? Yes, but if he abandoned Jim then that would bring more pain to his life, and Spock tried to take no further action that would bring this about. We know that stance would fail with his death in “The Wrath of Khan,” but the friendship Spock felt also rejuvenated him. While a source of guilt, Jim Kirk was also a reminder of how Spock’s human half was something to be celebrated. But with Kirk gone, that side and the emotions that come with it proved to drive Spock to the brink…
And just like that, Spock goes from feeling content to a fracturing that only progresses as the days wear on. To say he withdraws into himself is an under exaggeration as he begins to act similarly to his resurrection in “The Voyage Home” and as a post-Kolinahr student in “The Motion Picture.” And how can we blame him? James T. Kirk is dead, one of his best friends, and Spock had just entered a state of contentment he never thought possible. He was vulnerable and gets hurt in a way he never experienced before, so his reaction is one of silent desperation for control over something he feels can never regain.
Not that it had to be experienced alone, for McCoy arrived to not only deliver the news to Spock but to also accompany him back to Earth for the funeral. Spock mentions having to stay to complete diplomatic mission on Alanis and so declines the invitation. Is this really so or a convenient excuse to avoid his duty to his shipmates? To himself? Or is he putting the mission before the person, something that Kirk wouldn’t hesitate to do if required of him and thus Spock’s way of honoring his friend? Bones tries to cut through all that though and remind Spock of his friendships to both Kirk and Bones, mentioning the Fal-Tor-Pan that linked them as Spock’s katra was restored as well as the comments at the base of El Capitan, where Kirk stated he would die alone. But Spock is unswayed, and Bones expresses his disappointment in Spock before leaving, thus rendering each member of the trilogy alone in some respect (with the remaining member, Kirk, in the Nexus). This is fitting as the Crucible trilogy as a whole shows these men conquering complications of loneliness, so why not put everyone alone and see what happens?
As Spock continues on, he realizes his emotions are getting out of control so he tells Alexandra he must return to Earth. Whatever he thought he would find there…he didn’t. At the memorial, he was going to recite a speech he memorized, but can only talk about the “best destiny” and the “always shall be your friend” ideals before walking away. You know it’s bad if he can only get that out and maintain composure. That is full on Spock grieving, and McCoy can see that pain. The level of openness that McCoy demonstrates to Spock in an attempt to resolve that pain is astounding and shows how McCoy is affected deeply by the loss. In a way, he is relying on Spock to help him through it just as much as he is trying to help Spock also. This is why Spock’s attempts to get away as fast as humanly possible from McCoy are so hard to read, especially with McCoy sometimes forcibly extending their interactions just to have someone there. Just to not be alone, which is what Spock wants.
After visiting Riverside, Iowa, Spock meditates and envisions the Vulcan Forge. While there, he sees I-Chaya’s death from “Yesteryear”, which incidentally was another Guardian of Forever event. This proves to be too much and Spock destroys the infinity mirror as a release of his emotions. The fact that emotional control was momentarily lost and physical violence ensued was Spock’s tipping point and after thinking over all his emotional moments decides it’s time to end it. Here we have a man at wit’s end and who feels no other recourse is left to him. Desperation, folks.
The Drive for Kolinahr
Shortly after this, Spock resigns from the BIA and decides to go to Vulcan to achieve Kolinahr, or the total purge of emotions. But before he can leave Alexandra finds him and tries to get a connection of any sort with Spock in an effort to dissuade him but he has shut himself off from her emotionally. It is almost as if he is in preparation to be a Kolinahr student and so attempts to exemplify that lifestyle. He emphasizes to her that he once made a promise to honor the Vulcan way, and he informs her that he intends to fulfill that. She leaves him at the station, saying, “Sometimes people don’t always get what they want…And sometimes people want what they don’t need.” She has perfectly summarized the conflict of Spock. His whole life has been about the inner struggle we all face and he has searched for a perfect balance between them and now wants nothing to do with emotions. I claim that Spock needs to acknowledge that he will always be walking the tightrope between his two halves and that is why he is special, because he can accomplish that. Alexandra saw this in him and he gave her up, a person who perfectly understood his life.
But Spock made his choice, and so onto Vulcan he goes. When Spock approaches T’Vora, the Kolnahr master, to study the ancient discipline, she uses logic to examine Spock’s past attempt and his current desire to achieve total logic. The pull of V’Ger and the desire to incorporate emotion with having logic dictate it were discussed and the differences between that and the V’tosk Ka’Tur, of whom Sybok was a member of. All of these have been in Spock’s background but never fully explored before and their relevance becomes clear when T’Vora points out that the discipline of Kolinahr should not be pursued based off an emotional reason but because of a lifestyle choice and a commitment to the ideal. Therefore Spock’s first application is denied, and rightly so. T’Vora knows that Spock is running away from his guilt and must confront and analyze before even attempting Kolinahr. Otherwise, how could someone hoping to achieve total logic do it based on emotional reasoning?
Months after Spock arrives at his home and feels more isolated than ever before, Spock decides to attempt the Kolinahr again. Amanda summons Sarek in an attempt to dissuade Spock from making the attempt, frightened over losing her son. Sarek respected Spock’s choice but didn’t feel it was the right path for him, that the battle between his human and Vulcan sides was won. He goes on, stating that Spock is where he should be: an emotional be3ing who controls its output with logic, with human feelings existing. Spock feels this is simply not the case and doesn’t seem to recognize the huge importance of his father stating this. Instead, he doesn’t want this to be his life, and readers should feel like Alexandra would pipe in with her earlier statement about want and need. Even Sarek and Amanda recognize this truth for Spock, but he cannot.
And so Spock approaches T’Vora again, who once again questions Spock’s motives for Kolinahr, with him responding the desire to become fully Vulcan. They discuss back and forth and to ensure the Spock is sincere she mind melds with him, and decides to let him in. I ask: WHY?! Because of the depth of the guilt Spock carries affecting his ability to live? We know he walks away from the acceptance of his dual nature and expresses how he will no longer have a human side. That’s emotion itself! T’Vora feels it was a desire, which would be an emotion. She claims that the need for Kolinahr is logic based, but is it really? Or is it essentially a mission of mercy? That too seems unlikely, for later actions by her indicate a genuine belief that Spock’s pursuit was based in logic. Whatever the case may be, she accepts him and the process of Kolinahr achievement began.
To be continued…in this next part.
© 2017 Leonard Kelley