The Vulcans are the second most widely represented race in the Federation, with only humans being more numerous. The planet itself, called T'Kashi by the Vulcans (they prefer outsiders refer to it by the Terran label rather than butcher the word), is a borderline Class M planet with little rainfall and a hot climate (the common expression in the Federation "hot as Vulcan!" certainly wasn't inspired by it's media). It's gravity is almost twice that of Earth, but oddly has a thinner atmosphere. The normally logical Vulcans have not been able to give a logical explanation for this.
Vulcans are humanoid, similar to humans but have pointed ears and arched eyebrows. They are also physically stronger than Terrans and most other humanoids. They might have cornered the market on Medieval fantasy actors and football players a long time ago except for one thing - their culture demands that every one of them must suppress their emotions. Obviously, this race has never won any awards for drama and comedy (some would consider them overqualified to play the "straight man" ). Some non-Vulcans would argue they never lost their ability for sarcasm, "You humans seem to devote your time to perfecting the stating of the obvious."
In contrast to most humanoids, whom have the change to procreate several times a year, Vulcans have a seven-year mating cycle. The effects are particularly noticeable on male Vulcans, who began experiencing severe emotional swings that their upbringings are unable to suppress. Vulcans insist this is purely from instincts and natural drives. Some non-Vulcan psychologists and biologists disagree, "If you only had the chance to 'get some' every seven years, you'd be in a tizzy yourself when it finally arrived." Just why it's only every seven years remains a biological mystery, although some wonder if there's a connection to the Vulcan ritual of a couple breaking a mirror when they consummated their love.
Despite the seven-year cycle, Vulcans are second only to humans as the most widespread race in the Federation. Although their inventing warp drive much earlier and longer life spans were a factor in this, "When you can have kids only once every seven years, couples tend to take advantage of the moment while when it's once a month, they tend to postpone it." Some also wonder if the fact that latex doesn't last when kept in a wallet for seven years is also a factor.
Vulcan civilization began in what many other races would consider a desert wasteland (which some comedians argue speaks volumes about their culture), predating the earliest civilizations on Earth by about ten thousand years. It developed into a culture that was "violent, emotional, even savage in nature," the people warring constantly for centuries. Records of the ferocity and mercilessness of the conflicts shock even Klingon historians, "And you consider US barbarians? ... Must be because they couldn't have sex more than once every seven years." Unlike Terra, Bajor, and many other humanoids that developed advanced civilizations, Vulcan religion remained simple and pagan and had limited impact on peoples' lives. One Terran historian explained, "When you can't fool around but once every seven years, there's a lot less for those who would otherwise been preachers to complain about," and so more advanced and socially devoting religions never came about.
At a time when the Vulcan people were recorded as being at the edge of extinction, the scientist-philosopher Surak proposed a radical restructuring of the society, with defined and ordered doctrines based on logic replacing the expression of emotions. Records state that the Vulcans agreed to this "as they had exhausted all other alternatives," (Not to mention they had practicaly bombed themselves back to the stone age and were back to whacking each other with sticks, and there are not that many sticks in the desert). The analysis of historians of these "alternatives" show a few revelations. Vulcan schools had been trying to quell the children's' emotional swings with a drug called R'tillan, never thinking about how the child would handle the unrestrained emotions once grown and no longer given the medications. There had been an attempt at an environmental movement but it never got off the ground, " 'Save the Desert' is not exactly an inspiring slogan." There had also been a "free-love" movement that advocated "alternative relationships," but it failed miserably, "When you can only be intimate every seven years, it sort of defeats the purpose."
Not all Vulcans went along with Surak's ways. There has always been a small minority of Vulcans who have rejected Surak's teachings. Shunned by mainstream Vulcan society, they left Vulcan to either live among other civilizations or a few Vulcan colonies made up of Vulcans like them. Most notable are those who left Vulcan and went on to found what is now the Romulan Empire. Although Romulans can be violent and xenophobic, they do not suffer from the strong emotions from the seven-year-cycle, or have the cycle to begin with even though they are technically the same race. Although some have called this an adaptation to the Romulans' new environment, others cite the lack of the earlier mentioned mirror-breaking custom on Vulcan.
Unlike most humanoids, Vulcans have a copper-based blood that has a green color, which sometimes results in their skin having a slight greenish tint (in contrast to Terran copper-blooded species such as horseshoe crabs having bluish blood). This has led to some confusion on ships unfamiliar with them with an unknowing crewman handing a Vulcan a motion-sickness bag. It has also led to some cultural misunderstandings as races bleeding red tending to associate the color with warning, and Vulcans did likewise with green. Tourists on Vulcan worlds tend to get a lot of tickets for running "green lights."
Vulcans have developed some minor psychic powers. Most notable are the mind-meld and the nerve-pinch. The mind-meld is seldom practiced as "you're sharing your mind with everyone else the other person has shared their mind with," and "safe-melding" tends to be unsatisfactory to both involved. Although Commander Spock popularized the nerve-pinch, other Vulcans in Starfleet use it less, "Possibly, he could have felt the need to prove to others and himself he was a Vulcan, and I personally prefer a phaser on stun."
Vulcans were the first alien race to make contact with Earth. As much as the ways of Vulcans confuse and frustrate Humans, with other races the misunderstandings have broken out into violence. Vulcans and Andorians had a number of conflicts before the founding of the Federation. The missions of the "Enterprise-NX01" before the founding of the Federation also encountered a number of worlds that regarded Vulcans as enemies, "For a pacifistic race, they sure did fight a lot." More militaristic races tend to be puzzled by the Vulcans and consider them insane, "Most of them are plant eaters and have about as much honor as a cow. ... While physically strong, most Vulcans lack the spine to grasp the universe by the throat and roar in its face. Is it little wonder that they are little better than lackeys and lapdogs for the humans that run the Federation?"
Of this, perhaps the best response is Spock's answer to if he was bothered by serving with a bunch of "emotional humans" - "On the contrary, I prefer serving here, because it is with 'emotional humans' I am most needed."
C.S. Caine, one of the "Old Guard" of the Freedom under Treki, was half-Vulcan. But that didn't stop her from being an "all-around trickster," and prefered to think of herself as "not half-Vulcan, but all Thieruul" (name for Romulan-Vulcan hybrids).
Essay on Vulcans, by Dr. Leonard McCoy
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