34

The idea that Spock was the first Vulcan in Starfleet seems to be a bit of common cultural knowledge with little or no foundation.

The StarTrek.com biography states;

Because the young Vulcan chose to join Starfleet, he and Sarek opened an 18-year rift over Sarek's hope his son would attend the Vulcan Science Academy. Spock was the first Vulcan to enlist in the Federation Starfleet, serving aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise under Captain Christopher Pike as a lieutenant, and later for James T. Kirk.

But the presence of Admiral Patar in Discovery S02:E09 strongly suggests otherwise. However it is possible that more senior Vulcans transitioned from another service (such as the Vulcan Science Academy) after Spock joined.

T'Pol is another common problem with this, however my understanding at the moment is that Enterprise NX-01 is an Earth Starfleet, not a Federation Starfleet vessel and as such T'Pol, no matter what her status on Enterprise, would never have been a member of "Starfleet", as the organisation in question does not exist until after the end of the series Enterprise.

Is there any canonical data to confirm or categorically disprove the status of Spock as the first Vulcan in (Federation) Starfleet?

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    I also thought I saw another Vulcan or half Vulcan with Cornwall too at some point (not Patar), but I could be mistaken... – Darth Locke Mar 26 at 14:43
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    I'd like to point out that one the day that the Federation was formed, every member of the existing Vulcan fleet became a member of Starfleet. – Valorum Mar 26 at 14:53
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    @Valorum without being a Federation Lawyer I can't say for certain, but the passage quoted in the linked answer says "Shall initially be compromised of contingents assigned to it by members..." "Drawing upon the armament of any member" Which could be interpreted as having personnel and starships loaned to Star Fleet, without them actually joining the organisation, with the intention of them being returned when Star Fleet starts producing its own officers/enlisted etc. – Jontia Mar 26 at 16:09
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    Spock is a half-Vulcan, not Vulcan. So, your question is incorrect. – Captain Cold Mar 26 at 19:20
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    "All Our Yesterdays" – Spock was in the starfleet in c. 2700 BC – Konchog Mar 27 at 13:13
48

He is not the first Vulcan in Starfleet.

Star Trek Enterprise by itself puts a nail in the coffin: near the end of the third season, when the ship returns to Earth after having stopped the Xindi attack, T'Pol is formally inducted into Starfleet and given the rank of Commander.

In TOS, there was also a clear indication: in "The Immunity Syndrome", USS Intrepid is crewed entirely by Vulcans, so unless they transferred en masse from the Vulcan Expeditionary Group (which seems unlikely, given the apparently conservative nature of the organization as shown in Star Trek Discovery), that would imply the senior officers were, at least, Spock's peers. As good as Spock was, it's unlikely another Vulcan would make captain before him if he had a head start.

Star Trek Discovery simply adds to it in that they've shown Vulcan admirals in Starfleet, while Spock is still a lieutenant in his 20s.

NOTE:

Given the question change about "Earth Starfleet" or "Federation Starfleet", there is no difference. This is clearly demonstrated in Season 1 of Star Trek Discovery when Saru asks the computer to list the most decorated captains in Starfleet history, with no qualifications as to what organization he's talking about. Archer was listed, clearly indicating that as far as Starfleet was concerned there was no distinction.

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    Nice reference that equates or at least links the two Star Fleet terminologies. – Jontia Mar 26 at 16:10
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    Hadn’t Spock served in Starfleet longer than James T. Kirk? Was Spock’s career goal to make Captain as soon as possible? – Davislor Mar 26 at 16:53
  • It's also possible that when the Federation was formed, the crew of the NX-01 Enterprise was transitioned into the Federation Starfleet formally. That would raise the possibility of T'Pol opting not to, but that seems unlikely. – jpmc26 Mar 28 at 0:14
  • Some of the senior crew of the Intrepid, at least, likely trained in the Vulcan space service or whatever it was called, and may have joined Starfleet later. In any case, Spock was not aiming for the captaincy -- I think that is pretty clear during the series -- so it is not relevant whether someone 'made' captain before him. My impression until now (based on what I do not remember, so I will not try to write an answer :-) ) was that Spock was the first to go through the Academy, not necessarily the first to join Starfleet. Earlier Vulcans were otherwise trained. – Basya Mar 28 at 13:22
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    @KeithMorrison, Interesting then. Most of the things you mentioned I only heard of recently. For almost all of my Star Trek fandom, I was exposed to nothing that was not canon. I watched TOS (many times), and a very few episodes of TNG. That is ALL. Books? Only very recently. Conventions? Never. Discussions like this? Certainly not. Yet I am sure that I always had the impression that Spock was the first <something> in Starfleet. Wonder where that came from..... – Basya Mar 31 at 13:25
15

I hazard that he was not. In the Original Series episode "Immunity Syndrome", we have the USS Intrepid. We are told the Starfleet vessel was crewed exclusively by Vulcans. To have 430-ish Vulcans, from the Captain down to the Assistant Dishwasher, would suggest several of his people were ahead of Spock in processing through the Academy to serve.

  • I don’t have a copy at hand, but I seem to recall the novelization by James Blish reconciling this. If memory serves, the explanation was that Spock’s example inspired many other Vulcans to join Starfleet. The planetary government then asked that there be a starship with an entirely-Vulcan crew. And the USS Intrepid had another name in their language. – Davislor Mar 26 at 16:37
  • If so, this would imply that the captain of the USS Intrepid joined Starfleet after Spock—but then, so did James T. Kirk. It also would mean Starfleet was compelled to promote some Vulcan to command its all-Vulcan starship. Presumably one with relevant experience, such as in the Vulcan expeditionary service. – Davislor Mar 26 at 16:57
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    It’s also within the realm of possibility, albeit unlikely, that the crew of the USS Intrepid were all inexperienced. In its one canonical appearance, they all died. – Davislor Mar 26 at 17:02
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    @Davislor Inexperience seems improbable. In the episode, Kirk and Spock discuss how the "space amoeba" and its protective field might have been too illogical and weird for the Vulcan crew to deal with. – Blaze Mar 26 at 17:10
  • I would just like to note that we know from The Menagerie, Part 1 and Journey to Babel that Spock has been in Starfleet for 18 years. Accordingly, there has been ample time for other Vulcans to join in the interim, as indicated by events in The Immunity Syndrome. – Ed999 Mar 28 at 18:50
5

I don't think so.

Memory Alpha states that T'Pol joined Starfleet some time around 2154 as a commander on Captain Archer's Enterprise (the NX-01), though the wording is a bit ambiguous.

Following a Xindi attack on Earth on April 24, 2153, Enterprise was recalled home and underwent a major refit in preparation for a mission into the Delphic Expanse. Because this mission was seen by the Vulcan High Command as being an Earth matter, Ambassador Soval ordered T'Pol to return to Vulcan, to be reassigned to the Ministry of Information. It was expected that, after a brief time at the Ministry, she would be allowed to return to Earth to continue her diplomatic duties. However, T'Pol resisted. As Enterprise set course for Vulcan to deliver T'Pol home and proceed to the Expanse, she abruptly resigned her commission and chose to remain aboard. (ENT: "The Expanse") During her tenure as technically a civilian amongst the crew, T'Pol wore a variety of bodysuits in a variety of different color schemes. These included blue/grey, white, and muted pastel. T'Pol later continued to wear a collection of bodysuits adorned with rank insignia, assignment patch and so on when she joined Starfleet.

(Emphasis mine.)

Though Archer's starfleet is not the United Federation's Starfleet, Archer was present when the Federation was founded, and assuming Earth's Starfleet was entirely absorbed into the UFP's Starfleet, T'Pol was also a member of it.

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    So... I've updated the question, but I think the Starfleet that T'Pol joins is not the Federation Starfleet, but Earth Startfleet (nice work using the same name guys!), but I'm ok with this being the right answer if we get some consensus on continuity of organisations. – Jontia Mar 26 at 14:42
  • @Jontia I don't see the distinction... – steenbergh Mar 26 at 14:44
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    In season 1 of Discovery, when Saru asks the computer to list the most decorated captains in Starfleet history, Archer is listed. He didn't have to specify a Starfleet because as far as Starfleet is concerned there has been only one. – Keith Morrison Mar 26 at 14:54
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    @KeithMorrison unless the computer just does a wide search, "Most decorated Navy Captain" in google returns results for US Navy and the Royal Navy on the first page, but they're not the same organisations. – Jontia Mar 26 at 16:13
4

Although this just may prove to be another potential contradiction, since it is Star Trek Discovery that introduces him, there is Admiral Terral.

Terral

Terral was a Vulcan who served as an admiral in Starfleet during the Federation-Klingon War of 2256-57.

In December of 2256, he attended a strategy briefing with Captain Gabriel Lorca, Admiral Katrina Cornwell, and two other admirals. (DIS: "Choose Your Pain")

It seems likely given that he is an admiral that he would have had to have gone through Star Fleet Academy and beyond to require such a rank. However, there is no background information on this character at this time to prove it as certain.

1

This question is closely associated with the question

Was Spock the first Vulcan to attend Starfleet Academy?

I stumbled across Star Trek: The Fearful Summons, © 1995.  It is a novel written by Denny Martin Flinn, one of the authors of the screenplay for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), and claims (on the cover) to be a sequel to that film.

On page 1591 we find this conversation2:

Spock and Sencus both raised their hands in the traditional Vulcan greeting, and said quietly, “Live long and prosper.”

“You were the first Vulcan to graduate from Starfleet Academy,” Sencus said.  “In those days, among my friends at the Vulcan Science Academy, that was tantamount to running away and joining the circus.  We all knew the legend.”

“Did you?  Interesting…”

and it goes on to change the subject.

So, while this is not a flat-out statement in the book (i.e., by the author), it is a statement by a Vulcan (who has no reason to lie, and is unlikely to state a speculation as fact) to Spock, who does not deny it.
_______________
1 of the Pocket Books paperback.  This is about ⅜ of the way through the “Starbase 499” section in “Day Seven”.

2 Commander Sencus, Science Officer of the U.S.S. Excelsior, is a full-blooded Vulcan.

  • Lots of the non-canon novels use a particular movie or even episode as their jumping off point and thus are sequels to it. – Keith Morrison Apr 26 at 3:34

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