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Star Trek: The Fire and the Rose: Review, Themes, Analysis, and Thoughts on The Redemption of Spock

Updated on March 8, 2017
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Leonard Kelley holds a bachelor's in physics with a minor in mathematics. He loves the academic world and strives to constantly improve it.

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This is a continuation of the previous review on The Fire and the Rose. Here we will examine Spock’s journey though Kolinahr and his guilt. They will be key for when he needs to perform the Lot-San-Kol and confront the emotions he so desperately denied.

Conquering the Temporal Conundrums

The first step in achieving Kolinahr is reviewing emotional moments, and T’Vora starts with Spock’s death in engineering from “The Wrath of Khan.” We see his feelings of wanting to save the crew and the anger he felt at having life cut short. Logic and illogic, both yet neither. Guilt builds as T’Vora digs deeper, with Spock’s feelings over Sarek, Amanda, Jim, and such are briefly examined. But it is the whales from “The Voyage Home” that ended up being the first admission of a violation of temporal laws that has rocked Spock to his core. T’Vora acknowledges that saving the whales did alter the timeline, but points out how it saved the planet Earth. Spock’s counter is subtle but important: what if that saving impacted how events were to play for other places in the Universe? Would they say the changes were acceptable and justified? The guilt racks up as Spock feels the calculus behind such a motive cannot be justified by any individual. And isn’t that responsible? Can any of us say what repercussions out actions have? We minimize them to the best of our ability and thus is the reason why Spock feels guilt other this. He hasn’t and will never know how much the flow of history has been altered because of it.

The second violation of temporal mechanics references “Yesteryear” where Spock goes back in time to save a younger version of himself. Spock’s concern is how the death of his pet I-Chaya changed, for originally it wasn’t of a le-matra bite. He will forever wonder if he really saved the timeline or created a new one. And people like Thelin, the first officer of the Enterprise when Spock went to the past, ended up being killed when he hadn’t before. This is overall a similar guilt to the first time travel in that our consequences can be unforeseen, but how can Spock deny that the present is the same? The only alteration was the past event, and if temporal mechanics holds its ground then if the past was altered then shouldn’t that have created a paradox? Again, it’s too much for just one person to have a final say, but Spock did.

The first temporal problem.
The first temporal problem. | Source
The second temporal problem.
The second temporal problem. | Source
The third temporal problem.
The third temporal problem. | Source

Of course, we know the big temporal violation here is Edith Keeler, and is different from the prior two in that Spock wasn’t directly impacting himself but others as well. This could be confusing, for the “Yesteryear” and “The Voyage Home” moments definitely affected others but Spock was sure he made changes to the timeline. Here, he was restoring what was changed accidentally by McCoy. It is with Edith that the origin for the main guilt he feels is revealed, but of course is not the first time he encountered that emotion, as we well know the relationship Spock and Sarek had certainly planted the emotion. But for Spock, he frequently told himself that despite the relationship Kirk was developing with Edith, when the time came to restore the timeline Kirk was going to stop Edith but when the moment arrived Spock verbally halted Kirk, reminding him of his mission. Spock’s action to Kirk caused the captain to act and take the life of his true love. He took a negative action to enact a positive change, a terrible price but a necessary one.

T’Vora however doesn’t buy the connection between all of these temporal events and feels they are merely excuses for Spock’s feelings. But Spock counters, stating that the pain he caused Kirk while directly aiding himself later on was unacceptable to do to his friend. The heart of it is the short-sidedness he feels was imposed on the situation. Spock never tried to consider alternatives to Edith’s death, and therefore helping Kirk preserve his happiness. As a friend, Spock cannot give up this guilt at failing Jim. Yesteryear was when he realized this ultimate failure, and is when the guilt seed began to grow. But how could Spock even consider alternatives? Action was required and no one is perfect, but Spock mandates that for himself and these imperfections are not acceptable.

T’Vora, ever perceptive, wonders if Spock’s first Kolinahr attempt was for the same reasons Spock went for on his second attempt, and we later have this confirmed. But it is a little deeper than that. On the Enterprise’s final mission, the Klingons were stopped from gaining possession of the Guardian of Forever but in the process the Enterprise suffered massive damage. While in engineering, Spock finds out the bridge was destroyed and that many of the crew there are unaccounted for. Spock’s inner emotional control begins to crack as he contemplates Kirk’s death and so in an effort to regain control he tried to echo his manta of controlling his emotions we first hear during “The Naked Time”. Kirk of course is found and after waking from a coma whimpers Edith’s name. It is too much for Spock and indeed becomes his impetus for seeking Kolinahr, looking to ensure no more emotional control is lost…and ultimately that the feelings of letting his best friend down are vanquished.

Kolinahr Achieved

The Kolinahr attempt is successful, and in 2297 Spock no longer feels emotion. The emotional fallout from this is far reaching and unfortunately hurtful to Spock’s friends and family. For Amanda, she sees it as a revocation of her human heritage and gifts. It is almost comparable with the loss of a family member, for he isn’t the same anymore. Sarek tries to help Amanda but sees the new status quo and can only accept his son’s choice. But probably one of the most devastating moments I have ever read in Star Trek occurs when McCoy, who has found a new center in life after confronting old ghosts in Provenance of Shadows, approaches Spock about being the best man at his wedding to Tonia. Bones thanks Spock for all his help in making his life better but Spock cannot appreciate that compliment nor that McCoy chose Spock for the role because it is for the best friend of the groom. That is an amazing admission from McCoy, and Spock declines because he isn’t emotional nor appropriate for the role according to him. Bones gets mad, and says it is for friends. Spock then states that they were friends. How. Horrible. That alone would be a terrible thing to say but Spock considers it a fact because of his new state of being, and McCoy leaves, wishing Spock, “A happy life.” Decades of friendship seems to have been destroyed and it becomes worse in the context of this Crucible trilogy, which fleshes out a great comradery between the two.

Through this and because of Spock’s apathy to his mother’s death, Sarek feels he and his son have come, “Full circle,” with Spock more Vulcan and Sarek having difficult feelings which threaten to tear him apart. But it is through this admission that Sarek opens up to his son. He feels the responsibility of pushing Spock to accept the Vulcan lifestyle and how that impacted the rest of Spock’s life. Spock thought this was because Sarek had achieved Kolinahr and is therefore surprised when he finds out Sarek hadn’t. We get a huge admission from Sarek, perhaps stemming from that misperception of Spock’s: Sarek was wrong to push Spock so hard and be critical of Spock’s choice of Starfleet, a source of conflict that led to 18 years of silence between the two (and as we know from Sybok, was a great source of pain for Spock). He accepted that Spock’s interactions with people probably led to first Kolinahr and was okay with that but knew that the second attempt was for the wrong reasons and that is why he opposed it. Interestingly, Sarek feels much better after the talk, and doesn’t know why and is OKAY with that! Never did such a scene play out in Star Trek, but the openness between father and son is special, even if Spock couldn’t feel it at the time. And the reversal of roles is especially great because it demonstrates to Spock that he does get emotions not only from his mother, and so whether he realizes it or not he also denied himself some of his Vulcan heritage. And the secret admission through this whole talk? Sarek loves his son because he has this conflict which arises from having the best qualities of two different societies. He is the embodiment of IDIC and a great source of pride for Sarek.

Spock and Sarek.
Spock and Sarek. | Source

Rebecoming Spock

Maybe it is for all the above reasons and events that 19 years after the death of Kirk, 15 years after achieving Kolinahr, and 1 year after the death of Amanda, Spock realizes he wants to feel again. The things we carry with us define who we are, as Spock remembers Kirk saying in “The Final Frontier.” Now…is wanting an emotion? It depends on the want of course, for wanting to stay alive for example is rooted differently than wanting a toy. Spock wanting to feel again is perhaps stemmed in the fact that he needs it but more importantly does desire it, bypassing his Kolinahr training and perhaps acknowledging the human part that is now trapped inside Spock.He has become too Vulcan and denied a part of himself in the process, and so ironically seeks out a human to help him complete the Lot-San-Kol, the undoing of Kolinahr. And that lucky human? Why Bones of course.

During the Lot-San-Kol, McCoy and Spock get closer than ever, relieving many of their most traumatic events in an effort to restore emotions to Spock. That process reflects moments in both Bones and Spock’s lives that mirror emotionally until they begin to blend and become undistinguishable. McCoy’s guilt for his father’s despair over the loss of his wife who dies giving birth to McCoy, then feeling like he hurt his family when he left Jocelyn and Joanna behind. He felt an abandoned family was better than constantly fighting and creating hostilities for his daughter, but the net action is the same as his Dad. Spock feels the love for Leila he denied and the feeling he ignored. Then, McCoy feels huge guilt over euthanizing his father because of his medical condition only to find that a cure was found shortly thereafter and realizing he never told his Dad he loved him. This brings Spock’s memories of the Psi 2000 incident to the front, particularly his failure to admit to his mother the love he had for her. McCoy thought about his botched response to Tonia’s marriage proposal, prompting Spock’s memories of Alexandra in the Los Angeles station. The blending grows deeper and deeper until the raw emotions are all that are left, and Spock is restored. Though the examination of his guilty emotions with a friend, Spock is able to accept his actions and I hope realize that he was a good friend to Kirk and only had the best intentions for him.

The reason for the success of the Lot-San-Kol was someone with a strong tie to their emotions was key to restoring Spock’s, and through Provenance of Shadows we learn that indeed McCoy had many unresolved emotions that isolated them and rendered him on an island of sorts. The release of emotions allows Spock to realize he isn’t perfect and that is perfect because it results from his mixed heritage. Now, a much deeper connection exists between McCoy and Spock than ever before, and with it acceptance. As Bones phrased it, “Welcome home.”

Final, Random Thoughts

First random thought: The foreword mentions how DRGIII wrote a great TNG era story for Spock that dealt with politics and reunification drama from “Unification” and “Nemesis”, but scrapped it for a more TOS story. Sounds like he ended up making that into The Rough Beasts of Empire. And this story didn’t end up being a traditional TOS story either (fortunately), with many events taking place in what is known as the Lost Era of Star Trek (that being the time between 2293 and 2364). That and the alternating scenes with “The City on the Edge of Forever” create an excellent buildup to the guilt Spock will feel over Kirk’s unhappiness.

But this brings up one of the common complaints I hear about DRGIII’s writing which is how he is repetitious in his novelization of key scenes in Star Trek, and The Fire and the Rose is no exception. But if you read carefully, the author takes great care to add new insights into those standard scenes. An example of this is a great explanation which was provided for why Gary Mitchell wasn’t simply beamed up or tracked – he created a plasma disturbance that prevented anything of the kind. Similarly, Spock didn’t just steal the electrical components for his mnemonic circuit in 1930 because if caught then they could further disrupt the timeline and also not be able to stop McCoy if they were in jail. Stops and makes one think, and I like that.

Second random thought: The book mentions the Tomed Incident, which led to the Romulan withdrawal from Alpha Quadrant happenings for decades. And who wrote the true story of that event? Why, DRGIII of course.

© 2017 Leonard Kelley

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