Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pon Farr Victim

For anyone who considers themselves a Star Trek fan, the words "Pon Farr" conjure up the long discussed but rarely (if ever) witnessed act of emotionally and sexually repressed Vulcans getting all hot and bothered and "hitting it". The words and concept were actually created by famed science fiction author Theodore Strugeon for the Star Trek (original series) second season opener Amok Time and have since become legend.

While the Pon Farr is a fairly common occurence in the Star Trek universe now, in the mid-1960s, it must have been a bit of a chore to figure out how supposedly "emotionless" Vulcans reproduced (especially since Spock is the product of a human mother who likely had "needs"). Since Vulcan's pride themselves are not expressing emotions and having sex is a pretty emotional experience (unless you're Data doing the nasty with Tasha Yar), how was this supposed to work, and get past the rather rigid censors in control of what appeared on TV screens in 1967?

Strugeon's answer was to create a "mating instinct" in Vulcans similar to lower (Earth) life forms such as Trout. Every 7 years, Vulcan males are compelled to return to their homes and take a mate, do what's expected, supposedly impregnate her, then ignore her for the next seven years. Kind of brutal on a relationship, but these are Vulcans after all.

In childhood, the parents of a boy and girl arrange a bethrotal where the two youths are joined telepathically. At the right time, some combination of hormones flips a psychic switch and they home in on each other like minks in heat (which they pretty much are at this point). Sturgeon sort of suggests that females may be sexually active at other times, since Spock's "wife" the faithless T'Pring actually wants to hook up (or maybe already has) with a blockhead Vulcan named Stonn. While the female doesn't appear to lose control of even the slightest bit of emotion, the male, if we can use Spock as an example, absolutely goes bat shit. If he doesn't get laid in a timely fashion, he either goes toes up, probably in a very unpleasant way, or has to beat or hack something to death to get his rocks off.

I assume that a visit to the bathroom with a magazine full of photos of naked pointy earred women won't "do it", since the process is telepathic as well as biochemical. The person you mate with has to have a mind for a mild meld to work (though in T'Pring's case, maybe not much of a mind).

Fortunately, even though T'Pring tells him to get lost or at least, "fight for me, lose, and die", he is tricked into "killing" Kirk (another faked TV "death") which cools his rocket pack considerably. Spock realizes that T'Pring is a stone bitch and gives her over to Stonn, secretly knowing that she'll make his life hell on earth, uh...Vulcan, for the next century or so, and returns to the Enterprise. Finding Kirk actually alive, he just about flips out with joy (many have wondered if Spock would prefer to "Pon Farr" with the Captain) and when the whole mess is over, they all have a nice chuckle and move on to their next adventure.

Yeah, I wanted to see Arlene Martel get naked too, but such was not to be, particularly in the 1960s (see the image just above for why).

Since then, the rules for Pon Farr have changed a little. They now apply to women, if Star Trek: Enterprise and T'Pol can be believed (and apparently she can have sex on other occasions, as her relationship with "Trip" testifies. Actually, I suspect Vulcans can really mate at any time, but they are only fertile once every seven years (so your kids would all come exactly seven years apart). That explains why Spock's mother Amanda didn't go insane from the frustration of having sex with Sarek only once every seven years (unless she had other "outlets").

I mention all this because last year, I was completely blown out of my Nikes (no, not that way...I know we're talking about sex) when Spock and Uhura found a few private moments in the turbo lift to crawl all over each other. They were pretty cozy in the transporter room, too...and in front of Kirk and other people. What the heck happened in the Star Trek reboot film?

Now don't get me wrong. Spock's got great taste. Who wouldn't want to jump Zoe Saldana at any opportunity? I for one hope the romance takes a more public turn in the next film. While the audience was treated to an Uhura strip scene (at least down to her bra and panties), could we get a little more detail in the sequel?

Probably not, but I can dream.

Back to the "what happened?" question. I haven't been able to find a specific explanation (at least nothing "official"), but along with all of the other changes that came with the reboot (whatever happened to Kirk's older brother George Samuel Kirk, anyway?), Vulcan's apparently have a less restrictive libido as well. If it's common knowledge in the Star Trek reboot universe that Vulcans can get it on more or less at will the way humans can, I wonder why Kirk was so surprised to discover the Spock/Uhura relationship? Maybe, in typical Kirk style, he just couldn't understand how any woman would prefer any male other than him.

While the reboot Vulcan sex drive made for a wonderful bit of spice in the film, I still think a few words of explanation should be forthcoming in the next movie. I got the distinct impression that human/vulcan relationships weren't exactly encouraged on the now blown away home world. Sarak and Amanda seemed an anomally. Is Spock attracted to human females because his mother is (was) human, or is something else going on? Maybe Spock got his ears from his Dad but his "drives" from his Mom (and he beat Kirk to a pulp on the bridge to prove it).

Time will tell. In the next movie, should Uhura be showing a little Vulcan "baby bump"? Also, what does this mean (if anything) for the original (Leonard Nimoy) Spock who started all this business now that he's gone back in time to an alternate Star Trek universe?

Oh. I didn't make the title of this article up. Some years ago, I was at a Star Trek convention. One of the other attendees was pregnant and the t-shirt she was wearing over her impressively abundant belly was (you guessed it) Pon Farr Victim.

Addendum: Having a conversation on twitter with @CK61938 about what would happen if the Spock/Uhura love scenes were played out with the original stars, Leonard Nimoy and Nichelle Nichols with their appearances digitally changed to make them look as they did in the mid 1960s. What do you think?

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