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T'Pol is the first Vulcan officer to serve a prolonged term on a human vessel (the previous record was two weeks; by comparison, T'Pol has served aboard Enterprise for nearly four years). As a Sub-Commander serving the Vulcan High Command , she was stationed aboard the Enterprise in April 2151, as a "nurse maid" for Captain Jonathan Archer and his crew, who the VHC felt were ill-prepared for space exploration. After the success of Enterprise's initial mission led to the vessel being given an extended exploration mandate, T'Pol requested to stay aboard.
T'Pol remained aboard Enterprise despite several attempts by her superiors to recall her to Vulcan. T'Pol's decision has brought considerable scrutiny upon her from her superiors, and increasing support for her from her captain; she ultimately resigned from the VHC and accepted a field commission from Starfleet in 2154, resulting in her being given the Starfleet rank of Commander.
Originally viewed by her crewmates with resentment and suspicion, T'Pol has been forced to earn the trust of fellow officers. The character of T'Pol has developed from that of a "broken record" spouting the dogma of the Vulcan Science Council to that of a questioning scientific mind. Though she does not openly defy or reject the rulings of the Vulcan Science Council, her experiences on Enterprise have proven to her that they can be wrong.
T'Pol is considerably more emotional than many other Vulcans and has always struggled to control her emotions, something that greatly concerned her mother. Her emotions became even more difficult to control following a series of events which befell her during her tenure aboard Enterprise. Nonetheless, T'Pol serves as an icon of Vulcan integrity. Her willingness to question the stale, self-serving decisions of her superiors (at least prior to the Kir'Shara incident), and her respect for Captain Archer position her at the fulcrum of human/Vulcan relations.
Little is known of T'Pol's early years, save that she was born in Earth year 2088 or 2089 (making her 63 or 64 years old at Broken Bow1). Approximately 16 years before joining the crew of Enterprise, T'Pol was an agent for Vulcan's intelligence service. It would appear that she gained some level of stature with the service, as one of the soldiers under her command recognizes her during a visit to Vulcan years later.
During a mission to apprehend a pair of rogue Vulcans, she was forced to shoot and kill one of the fleeing men. She resigned from the service as a result, and the guilt over killing someone face-to-face caused her to suffer a nervous breakdown or emotional collapse which led to her undergoing a procedure, the Fullara, that erased all memory of the incident. This "memory cap" disappeared when she was briefly reactivated as an agent during 2152 in order to capture the last of the rogue Vulcans, and she experienced another emotional collapse which was alleviated by the support of Captain Archer. Given the option to once again suppress her memory of killing, she chose to live with it instead.
T'Pol, who is described by her superiors as a maverick and a rebel, became fascinated by Tolaris, a member of a group of fully emotional Vulcans encountered during the first year of Enterprise's mission. Tolaris introduced her to the concept of the mind meld , which at the time was considered a taboo activity among Vulcans. After experimenting with the activity several times, she severed her relationship with Tolaris after he forced a mind-meld upon her (essentially a form of mental date rape). She later learned that she had contracted Pan'aar Syndrome from the encounter. This condition, which has some parallels with the human virus HIV, was kept in check with medication and may or may not have played a role in T'Pol's gradually increased emotionalism over the next three years. In 2154, T'Pol, who had been told that Pan'aar was an incurable virus, learned that the condition was in fact caused by an improperly trained melder, and contrary to what the Vulcan High Command had decreed, it was indeed curable by the touch of an experienced mind (in T'Pol's case a service provided by future Vulcan elder T'Pau).
T'Pol was told that she is genetically incapable of initiating mind melds herself, however following the 2154 overthrow of the Vulcan regime that stigmatized mind-melding she learned otherwise. She performed her first mind meld upon Hoshi Sato, with the assistance of Jonathan Archer, who had learned details about mind melds during a period of time when he held the katra of Surak. In fact, not only is T'Pol telepathic, but the episode "Afflication" revealed that she is able to communicate with Charles Tucker over great distances using her newfound mental abilities. It was later established (in "Bound") that this is due to a psychic bond having been established between the two, similar to that created between two Vulcans who mate.
During T'Pol's early years aboard Enterprise, she demonstrated an unusual (for a Vulcan) willingness to explore human culture and customs. At the urging of Trip Tucker, she agreed to sample pecan pie, a dessert she initially dismissed as being "mostly sugar". She began attending the ship's weekly movie night social event, expressing particular admiration of the film Frankenstein. She was reportedly less successful at mastering the art of eating with chopsticks, to the amusement of her crewmates. Prior to her posting aboard Enterprise, T'Pol on at least one occasion left the Vulcan Compound in San Francisco and visited a jazz music club; the chaotic music generated an emotional response that came back to haunt her during a brief period when she abandoned her nightly meditation ritual (concurrent with her experimentation with mind-melding). T'Pol also confessed to Tolaris that she enjoyed drinking green tea, enjoyment being an unusual indulgence for a Vulcan.
T'Pol also became adept at "play acting" which she found was often needed in order to successfully fulfill a mission. For example, she once pretended to be a slave when Ferengi pirates hijacked the Enterprise ("Acquisition") and later pretended to be a domineering Vulcan commander preparing for an execution ("Precious Cargo"). In the latter example there is a clear indication that T'Pol enjoyed taking part in this sort of deception.
On several occasions during her first two years aboard Enterprise, T'Pol resisted efforts by her family and the Vulcan High Command to get her to leave the ship and return to her Vulcan obligations. When pressed for a reason by Vulcan Ambassador Soval, T'Pol replied that she found working aboard Enterprise "gratifying", for which she was chided for engaging in an emotional indulgence.
In 2153, after being ordered to leave Enterprise and return to Vulcan, T'Pol resigned her commission with the Vulcan High Command in order to accompany the crew of Enterprise into the Delphic Expanse to find the Xindi, a mysterious race accused of killing seven million humans on Earth. Despite being technically a civilian, she remained as first officer of Enterprise and the crew continued to refer to her by her High Command rank of Sub-Commander during the mission.
While investigating the Vulcan ship Seleya which had become trapped in The Expanse, T'Pol experienced the side-effects of Trellium-D, a compound the ship had used to protect itself from anomalies within The Expanse, but which had the side-effect of creating permanent psychosis in Vulcans. T'Pol's brief exposure led to her experiencing extreme paranoia and losing control of her emotions. She recovered upon returning to Enterprise, but experienced withdrawal symptoms for some time afterwards.
T'Pol, however, found herself wanting to experience more of the emotions the Trellium-D had unlocked. She discovered how to liquidate small, safe amounts of the compound and began to secretly inject herself with it, beginning approximately three months prior to Enterprise arriving at Azati Prime. This led to what she felt was improved relations with her crewmates, in particular chief engineer Trip Tucker towards whom she began to feel sexually attracted (this first manifested itself when she experienced an emotional reaction to the impending death of his clone, Sim, as seen in the episode "Similitude"). Sometime after, she experienced jealousy when Tucker began making romantic overtures towards another crew member. Confronting Tucker with this fact, she entered into a one-night sexual relationship with him which she later (in the same episode) dismissed as an experiment (although, later, it was suggested that this "experiment" resulted in the creation of the psychic bond between Trip and T'Pol that would later manifest itself once T'Pol began exploring her mental abiliies). As of the fourth season episode "Bound" it has been established that the experiment was a one-time affair, although the two began to carry on some form of relationship from that point that sparked rumor among crewmembers (with Trip's friend Malcolm Reed, for example, teasing him about it in the fourth season episode "United").
Over time, as T'Pol became addicted to the Trellium-D injections, her emotions began to flow more freely than ever. This came to a head when Enterprise reached Azati Prime and Jonathan Archer chose to undertake a suicide mission in order to complete the Xindi mission. T'Pol's emotional reaction towards Archer's departure and presumed death incapacitated her as a commanding officer, but she attempted to hide her condition, and Enterprise was nearly destroyed in a subsequent Xindi attack which may or may not have been made worse by T'Pol's emotional state.
After the attack, T'Pol's supply of Trellium-D became difficult to reach (being located in a heavily damaged part of the ship) and she nearly died during a clandestine attempt to retrieve it. Soon after, she lost her temper with Archer (who had since returned to Enterprise) and displayed other emotional traits and led her to seek medical help from Dr. Phlox to whom she confessed her addiction.
Although T'Pol subsequently overcame her addiction, Phlox determined that she had permanently damaged her brain, and as a result might never achieve the same level of emotional control she once had. A subsequent encounter with an elderly version of herself (due to an Expanse-related anomaly seen in the episode "E2") indicated that she will live with the after effects of her Trellium-D exposure for the rest of her life. Following the Xindi mission, she continued to experience difficulty controlling her emotions and became particularly emotional following the death of her mother (as seen in the episodes "Awakening" and "Kir'Shara").
T'Pol is confused about her relationship with Tucker, although she did not appear to be aware that he is in love with her (as revealed in "Home"). In the alternate timeline of "E2", she and Tucker marry and have a son but it remains to be seen if that will happen in the current timeline.
A complex (and somewhat contradictory) character, T'Pol has also grown very close to Capt. Jonathan Archer, to the point of entering a deep depression on two occasions during the Xindi mission when she believes he has been killed (the aforementioned Azati Prime incident, and later in Zero Hour when Archer is believed dead following the destruction of the Xindi superweapon). In one alternate timeline (depicted in "Twilight"), T'Pol devotes her life to caring for Archer when parasites rob him of his short-term memory and it is made clear that she loves him. In the current timeline (particularly in the first two seasons of the series) there have been signs that their relationship has the potential to become more than simply that between a captain and science officer, most notably in "A Night in Sickbay" in which she confesses to being attracted to Archer. However this appears to have been preempted by Archer's dedication to complete the Xindi mission and possibly his fear of becoming involved with junior officers (as indicated in the fourth season episode, "Home"). Ultimately, T'Pol grew closer to Tucker.
Near the end of the Xindi mission, T'Pol revealed to Archer and Tucker that she was considering enlisting in Starfleet. (Some fans have suggested that this violates Trek canon which many feel suggests that Mr. Spock was the first Vulcan in Starfleet. However, in fact, there is actually no reference anywhere in Star Trek canon to suggest that Spock was the first Vulcan in Starfleet, though there are suggestions he was the first to attend Starfleet Academy, which T'Pol does not do.) Following the Xindi mission, she accepted the commission and received the rank of Commander.
T'Pol, who holds the record for the longest time a Vulcan has spent serving with humans, has demonstrated her ability to adapt. Originally, she required a form of medication in order to tolerate the odors given off by humans and Capt. Archer's pet dog Porthos (due to Vulcans having a sensitive sense of smell). Eventually, she stopped using the medication. She has also demonstrated a sophisticated sense of humor. And, in a case of "when in Rome, do as the Romans do," she has also begun eating some types of foods (fruit, popcorn) with her hands, breaking a long-standing Vulcan taboo in the process. (This last has never been explained fully on screen, however it is strongly implied by her frequent mention of having adapted to living with humans).
T'Pol's age was not revealed until the end of the third season when she tells Tucker that she is "only" 65 years old. Prior to this, Tucker had made sport of trying to guess her age and Archer had played along by refusing to reveal her age (a piece of information he, as captain, has easy access to). She considers herself to be still fairly young and on several occasions (i.e. in "The Seventh" and again in "Zero Hour") has chided her shipmates for considering her to be in any way "old". (This is the closest thing to vanity that T'Pol has, to date, displayed.)
In May 2154, T'Pol officially assumed duties as a Starfleet officer. However, as she does not wear a standard Starfleet uniform, it is suggested that her relationship with the organization is a unique one. (There is precedent for a Starfleet officer to not wear a regulation uniform, however: Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation never wore a regular uniform until the last couple of seasons of that series.)
Following the death of her mother (see below) and the return of the kir'shara, T'Pol underwent a "religious conversion" of sorts as she began to reevaluate Surak's teachings and what it means to be Vulcan. As a result, she put a halt to her relationship with Tucker, and also began to distance herself somewhat from her crewmates, choosing to spend her free time studying the kir'shara.
She has also experienced some success in controlling her emotions to a greater degree than she had over the two years. It has been suggested that T'Pau's therepeutic mind-meld may have helped restore her emotional balance as well as curing the Pan'aar Syndrome; this, combined with the fact that T'Pol no longer has the added stress of living with an incurable, potential fatal condition, may have calmed her mind sufficiently to maintain control. Despite this, she has admitted to Phlox that she has never before felt so unsure of herself. How this will affect T'Pol in the long-run, including her relationship with her colleagues (especially Trip) and her involvement with Starfleet, has yet to be played out in the series. In the episode "Observer Effect", T'Pol expressed concern for Tucker's safety as well as showing possible irony about her feelings for Archer, suggesting that she still emotional attachment to both men. And in "United," the character touches the arm of the captain in a plea that reminds viewers of Azati Prime of her concern and care for the captain. In "Bound", however, she chose to reestablish her romantic relationship with Tucker, and was also shown to be once again drawing closer to her colleagues, even to the point of openly making humorous comments for their benefit. What this means in terms of her affirmation of Surak's teachings has yet to be explored.
1 According to actress Jolene Blalock, the original "series bible" for Enterprise indicated that T'Pol was 67 years old at the time of "Broken Bow". This has led to speculation that T'Pol might have been lying about her age in "Zero Hour".
Little has been revealed of T'Pol's family until recently. As of the episode "Awakening" she was an orphan. Her father (who has yet to be identified by name) is deceased. T'Pol's mother, T'Les, who resigned from the Vulcan Science Academy in 2154, died in her daughter's arms during an attack on a Syrranite encampment in the desert region known as The Forge that same year. T'Pol has no siblings. The only other known "family member" is a pet sehlat she had as a child.
T'Pol was engaged to marry a Vulcan named Koss prior to the start of Enterprise's mission, but elected to delay her marriage indefinitely. The fourth season episode "Home" saw T'Pol having to deal with the consequences of her decision, when she chooses to marry Koss in order to save the reputation of her mother. She appears to be unaware that Trip has fallen in love with her (although in "The Augments" it is clear that she is beginning to realize his feelings). Prior to her marriage, she negotiated with Koss' family to defer the one-year Vulcan residence obligation required of newlywed Vulcan females, in order that she could join Starfleet as a commissioned officer and stay aboard Enterprise. Only a couple of months after their marriage, Koss released T'Pol from their marriage arrangement (effectively granting her a divorce) following the death of her mother. The marriage was officially annulled some weeks later (as per the episode "Babel One").
An ancestor of T'Pol's, T'Mir , was involved in an unplanned first contact mission in 1957 when her spacecraft crash landed on Earth and she along with two crewmembers were forced to live among humans for several months, hiding their Vulcan identity. During her stay, T'Mir provided a patent office with a new form of velcro, in order to raise college tuition money for a human teenager she had befriended. A ladies purse obtained by T'Mir while on Earth would be passed down from generation to generation, eventually being given to T'Pol who, in an uncommon sentimental move for a Vulcan, took the purse with her on her Enterprise voyage. T'Mir had a strong physical resemblance to T'Pol, save for the fact that she had red hair.
In the alternate timeline seen in "E2", T'Pol marries Charles Tucker and they have a son, Lorian, who becomes the captain of Enterprise upon the death of Captain Archer. The fate of Lorian following the restoration of the timeline is not known (the writers having left a door open for a later return by the popular character). In this same episode, T'Pol met an older version of herself (of age approximately 180 years). The fate of "Old T'Pol" is also unknown.
There has also been additional speculation that Ambassador Soval might be somehow related to T'Pol, but again the series has yet to confirm this. Likewise, fan speculation that T'Pol is somehow related to Sarek, the father of Mr. Spock is also just that, for now. However, this is possible based upon Sarek's stated age in Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Whether this will be the path the creative staff of the series takes remains to be seen.
A two-part episode in the fourth season, "In a Mirror, Darkly", scheduled to air in April 2005, will introduce a Mirror Universe version of T'Pol. Little is known as yet about this variation of the character, except that she is a member of the Enterprise crew, initially wears an altered version of the Starfleet uniform (with a bare midriff as is common in the Mirror Universe as established in the TOS episode "Mirror, Mirror"), and has long, blonde hair. At some point during the episode, Mirror T'Pol dons a blue Original Series-style miniskirt uniform.
As with Seven of Nine, critics see T'Pol as an attempt by Enterprise executive producer and series creator Rick Berman and Paramount Pictures to shift the demographic of the show to make it appealing mainly to younger males. They point to the fact that T'Pol normally wears a form fitting jumpsuit, along with the fact that she has been seen in several revealing poses as evidence of this (ignoring the fact that such attire has been commonplace in Star Trek history going back to the original series in 1966, and that T'Pol's outfits became rather conservative in the third season). The way the character has been written and portrayed has been one of many aspects of Enterprise that has pitted canon against fanon.
The character's emotionalism has also been criticized, with some blaming poor and inconsistent writing or a lack of understanding of Vulcans. However supporters counter that T'Pol's struggle to control her emotions was established as early as the first episode, and shares much in common with Spock's similar internal battles in the original series. There's some debate also about how much emotion other Vulcan characters have shown, including Sarek, Tuvok, Saavik (whose half-Romulan origins remain non-canonical; she is seen swearing in frustration and weeping in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), V'Lar (a somewhat emotional Vulcan elder seen early in Enterprise's run), Ambassador Soval (who expresses frustration during the first episode of Enterprise), Spock's fully-emotional half-brother Sybok, and others. Enterprise itself introduced in the episode "Fusion" a group of rebel Vulcans who embrace emotion, one of whom commits the "mind meld rape" upon T'Pol mentioned above. T'Pol's emotionalism is addressed directly in several episodes and has become part and parcel of her character; her healing after several years of emotional battering is expected to be an underlying theme of the fourth season. Some believe she will reach an emotional balance as the character continues to progress through her journey. And in "Kir'Shara" it was suggested she may take up Syrannite principles (Syrannites are known as the future Vulcans -- those who don't lie, have mind meld ability and express no or few emotions). Since the episode "Kir'Shara" -- in which T'Pol's pan'aar syndrome was cured via a mind-meld from T'Pau -- the character has been portrayed and written as a more stereotypical Vulcan in many aspects, a move which has generated its own share of criticism from fans who liked the emotional T'Pol better.
T'Pol's addiction to Trellium-D and her behavior surrounding this, particularly in the episode "Azati Prime" which strongly implies that she was in part responsible for the deaths of numerous Enterprise crewmembers due to her inaction during a Xindi attack, also garnered the character much criticism.
The character's relationship with Commander Tucker also garnered criticism, with critics claiming it serves no purpose on the show and isn't completely understood. (In fairness, however, it should be noted that this same criticism has been levvied against most other romantic relationships portrayed on Star Trek over the years i.e. Troi and Worf in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Chakotay and Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Voyager.) In fact, some fans feel the character of T'Pol has suffered because of this relationship, while some counter that it has given the character depth, while the relationship is considered symbolic of the coming together of humans and Vulcans that becomes an underlying theme of TOS.
Actress Jolene Blalock made a number of published (and, amongst fans, controversial) criticisms regarding the character during the fall of 2004 in which she expressed dissatisfaction in the way T'Pol has been developed especially in season three and criticized her relationship with "Honky Tonk" (Commander Tucker) . Among supporters of her view are fans who feel that T'Pol should, instead, have become involved with Archer.
Despite all this, many fans feel that T'Pol has grown to become the heart and soul of the series, and its single most interesting character.
- T'Pol was originally to have been a younger version of T'Pau, a Vulcan matriarch introduced in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Amok Time", but it was decided to create a new character instead. Ironically, a young T'Pau does appear in a trilogy of Vulcan-related episodes during Enterprise's fourth season.
- T'Pol's appearance underwent a noticeable change between the second and third seasons. This was in part done in an effort to make the character more attractive and colorful (literally) to viewers. This resulted in a less severe hairstyle for the character and the introduction of a rotating series of colored outfits. Jolene Blalock is responsible for the character's more Vulcan appearance in the last couple of years. Prior to Season 3, T'Pol's make-up was similar to that seen with Saavik in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in particular her eyebrows were not arched in the same way as most Vulcans. According to an interview Blalock gave at the start of Season 3, she and her make-up artist unilaterally decided to alter T'Pol's appearance by giving her more pronounced (and traditionally Vulcan) eyebrows without informing the producers. When no one complained or otherwise commented about the appearance change, it was kept.
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