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I've just finished season 1 of Star Trek: Enterprise (I'm half-way through the cliffhanger season finale/premiere). Unless I missed something in the early episodes, I've yet to figure out why it is that the Vulcans seem to despise Humanity so much.

  • I get that they can't stand the smell of us, but for a society that represses emotions so much, that seems like a pretty weak reason to carry such disdain.
  • It seems that Humanity has relied heavily on Vulcan help to get into space (or maybe just FTL travel?), it it because they figure we just couldn't have done it without them?
  • Do they look down on us because we are so close to WWIII (or whatever event it was that nearly destroyed the planet) and they consider us still very primitive?

I'll readily admit that I've probably missed a few important clues, and I haven't seen any of the movies since I watched Star Trek: The Movie (1979) in theaters on initial release, so maybe there's something in the movies that answers the questions.

Why is it that the Vulcans look at Humanity with so much despise, disdain, revulsion?

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    Have you considered that you're projecting human-centric emotional expectations onto an alien species that doesn't usually express emotions, and tries to use logic and reasoning to view the world around them? Feb 8 at 9:46
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    You might want to watch ST: First Contact. It includes Earth's development of warp drive and their first meeting with Vulcans. James Cromwell portrayed Zefram Cochrane in the movie.
    – Barmar
    Feb 8 at 15:56
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    "Despise" and "revulsion" are too strong. "Disdain" fits, though. Feb 8 at 16:49
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    I put in all three options so people could choose their level of... dislike.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 8 at 19:33
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    IIRC, in the later episodes it was explained as fear of how fast humans were developing. And out-of-universe it was just drama for drama sake.
    – user28434
    Feb 9 at 15:22

6 Answers 6

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The other answers are correct as well, but there is more. In-universe, in S04E07 The Forge Soval states very clearly why Vulcans of that era are concerned about humanity:

Vulcan Ambassador Soval: We don't know what to do about Humans. Of all the species we've made contact with, yours is the only one we can't define. You have the arrogance of Andorians, the stubborn pride of Tellarites. One moment, you're as driven by your emotions as Klingons, and the next, you confound us by suddenly embracing logic.
Admiral Maxwell Forrest: I'm sure those qualities are found in every species.
Vulcan Ambassador Soval: Not in such confusing abundance.
Admiral Maxwell Forrest: Ambassador... are Vulcans afraid of Humans? Why?
Vulcan Ambassador Soval: Because there is one species you remind us of.
Admiral Maxwell Forrest: Vulcans.
Vulcan Ambassador Soval: [nods] We had our wars, Admiral, just as Humans did. Our planet was devastated, our civilization nearly destroyed. Logic saved us. But it took almost 1500 years for us to rebuild our world and travel to the stars. You Humans did the same in less than a century. There are those on the High Command who wonder what Humans would achieve in the century to come. And they don't like the answer.

The Vulcans are basically worried that humanity is a whole species of V'tosh ka'tur.

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    Thanks. Which episode is this from? (Yes, I see the YT link, but I don't want to jump ahead to S03 or something, since I'm just starting S02).
    – FreeMan
    Feb 9 at 14:49
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    @FreeMan This is from "The Forge", 4x07.
    – Idran
    Feb 9 at 18:08
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In very brief: the Vulcans shown during the first few seasons of Enterprise are not really the Vulcans we know from TOS, TNG, DS9, and Voyager.

They, as you correctly point out, express thinly-veiled emotions, make wildly illogical decisions (e.g. the spy outpost on P'Jem from the episode "Shadows of P'Jem"), and behave in a largely un-Vulcan manner.

This discontinuity was explicitly addressed during the fourth season of the show in the "Kir'Shara" story arc, composed of episodes "The Forge", "Awakening", and "Kir-Shara".

During this arc, the long-lost katra of Surak is discovered, allowing Vulcans to experience first-hand the authentic teachings of Surak. This discovery reorients and revitalizes Vulcan society, putting it on the path of the more friendly, familiar, logical Vulcans known from the series and movies broadcast prior to Enterprise.

(Note: I left out the out-of-universe discussions only because I don't have the time to dig up various period references. I can only state that contemporaneous viewers of Enterprise also shared these concerns, hence why showrunner Manny Coto specifically addressed these criticisms and others during the final season.)

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    You might want to hide some of that behind a spoiler tag for those of us who haven't watched season 4 yet...
    – FreeMan
    Feb 7 at 19:40
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    Freeman: Sorry about that. I couldn't think of any way to answer the question without hiding essentially the whole answer behind a spoiler. Also: thanks to whoever fixed the quote formatting. :) I never get it right... Feb 7 at 20:01
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    Before all that quoted text was put in there, it was vaguely spoilerish. Afterwards, almost all of it seems to be spoiler. IIRC, a simple !> before the text will hide it behind a spoiler tag. Also, by the time I get to season 4, I'll have probably forgotten I even asked this question, to say nothing of the specifics in the answer...
    – FreeMan
    Feb 7 at 20:02
  • @TheMaskedBowler I went and did it, I hope its acceptable. Now people can know an explanation is coming, and have the option to reveal it if they like. I couldn't figure how to get the dialogue under a spoiler tag, but I don't feel it materially adds to the answer.
    – Schwern
    Feb 8 at 5:40
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    There's more revealed to the viewer (but not to any of the characters) at the end of that third episode: The Vulcans were being influenced by the Romulans in secret.
    – Izkata
    Feb 8 at 20:31
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There's a fun question. It is, unfortunately, a spoilish question and will need a spoilish answer. I will avoid details as much as possible.

First off, Enterprise did a poor job setting the audience up for this, but the Vulcans of Enterprise are not the perfected Vulcans of later years. They are still a growing and evolving culture. There are flaws in their underlying logic that cause seemingly irrational behavior. By the end of season 1 where you are, you have seen several of these addressed, and several more will be confronted in season 2. However these are symptoms. There is a holy text which Spock referred to many times in the original movies and which are referenced many times in later series. In Enterprise, they are the stuff of myth and legend. Their rediscovery rearranges the very foundations of Vulcan logic.

Now, as for the Vulcans despising humans. Well now, there is a lot of that. And yet, there is no race that the Vulcans are closer to than the humans. Humanity discovered FTL without help, and to hear Archer talk, received very little help from the Vulcans to get where they are now. Yet Vulcans seem very interested in being involved all the same. Several times they show up to help, even though there really is no expectation for them to do so. To me, it seems far more like a domineering and over-achieving parent wanting their child to grow up to be exactly like them, and a well-behaved but independent teenager that is going to be their own person. This relationship changes quite a bit as the series progresses as both races grow in their understanding of each other.

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The Vulcans we see in the first season make no secret of it, and Archer complains about it often, it's very close to your third option: Humans are reckless and not ready to head into deep space. That we're advancing too quickly for our own good, and need to mature first before we start creating problems for everyone else.

Several first-season episodes touch on this (as do some later ones, like 2x22, Cogenitor), with the mistakes or odd decisions the Enterprise crew makes:

  • 1x03, Fight or Flight - Getting involved and fired upon by the species they're trying to help. T'Pol advised noninterference.
  • 1x04, Strange New World - Excitement overriding caution.
  • 1x05, Unexpected - Not being cautious around alien devices.
  • 1x08, Breaking the Ice - Not being prepared and needing to ask a nearby Vulcan ship for help.

As of 1x12, Silent Enemy, the crew is starting to accept the Vulcans may have been right (at least about being able to defend themselves) and installs experimental phase cannons to give the ship some more firepower.

On top of the above, I think 1x07, The Andorian Incident, gives us additional insight into the Vulcan viewpoint: They've been in conflict with the overly-emotional Andorians for an extremely long time, and can't really understand them. I believe it was also implied that Vulcans and Klingons aren't on very good footing, back during the first episode. It seems like the Vulcans are so different from everyone else, with their suppression of emotion, that they end up on bad terms with everyone and think the galaxy really is just that hostile in general - and that humans won't be able to handle it. What happens instead is, because humans embrace emotion, we can understand the Klingons (first episode) and Andorians (this episode) and end up gaining the respect of both.

Then of course is the movie First Contact, which shows how humans developed warp drive. That wasn't normal, and certainly lent some evidence to humans being reckless.

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  • And on that "gaining the respect of both", I'm also pretty sure I remember T'Pol commenting on it at some point later in the series.
    – Izkata
    Feb 8 at 21:16
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I believe the disdain shown is because we remind them too much of themselves before taming their emotions, and embracing a pure logic approach to their civilization. Possibly collectively associating us with Romulans.

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    No need to tell us it's your first post. If anyone cares, it's really easy to figure out. That one rep point is a pretty good clue, and clicking your user name take one to your stats page that shows you don't have any other answers. ;)
    – FreeMan
    Feb 9 at 20:09
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They essentially gave humans the warp technology, they despise humans because they see them as weak perhaps even inferior due to how they prioritize. This is further evidenced when Archer explains in one episode, why humans nearly lost their respect. Followed by another episode where a Vulcan, Suval I think, explains how it was a mistake to give humans the technology to Archer's face.

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    This answer would be significantly improved if you were to name the episodes you mentioned, and add the relevant quotes. Feb 11 at 2:33

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