Thanks, everyone, for contributing your opinions to this thread. It's lovely to see people appreciate this episode, in various degrees, of course.
Plus I love Flanagan's performance, which for me is the real heart of the episode. She's kinda like how'd you imagine a Dame Judi Vulcan
Yes! Fionnula Flanagan's presence adds immensely to the character of V'Lar and to the episode as a whole. I really wish we could have seen more of her.
You ceratainly can see a contrast between T'Pol and V'Lar goes out of her way to tank Hoshi for the use of her quarters you can tell Hoshi wasn't too thrilled about T'Pol's attitude about clearing out all her belongings when Valar needed the use of her quarters.
I think T'Pol feels the added pressure of having one of her heroes aboard, besides the normal degree of stress involved in receiving the visit of an important official. She doesn't admit to Archer that V'Lar is her hero, but it's clear to everyone that she is. In fact, I loved the way Archer says, "No, I'm sure they don't"
to T'Pol's "Vulcans don't have heroes."
The expression on his face and the tone of his voice both indicate that he doesn't believe her and that he knows she doesn't believe herself. The status quo of Vulcans as aloof, restrained creatures unaffected by emotions must be kept as a facade - T'Pol says what she must, and Archer must agree - but that facade is wildly transparent.
Anyway, I've digressed. I think that T'Pol really wants V'Lar's stay on Enterprise
to be perfect because she regards her so highly. Hence the almost ridiculous degree to which she devises rules of conduct for the crew. At least those rules sound ridiculous as read by Archer: "Don't address the ambassador unless spoken to first. Don't offer to shake hands. Refrain from laughing in her presence."
Funny shaking hands should be mentioned on the Not To Do list, since V'Lar herself is the one who offers to engage in this most Human greeting.
I think T'Pol also comes off as mean to Hoshi as she tells her to remove the sole personal object remaining in her quarters - the framed photo. Hoshi is actually to be commended for her patience and grace. She displays almost a Vulcan brand of self-control.
It is interesting how the episode juxtaposes two types of Vulcans that eventually converge. One is T'Pol especially at the beginning of the episode - the rigid, arrogant Vulcan that looks down on Humans. Another is V'Lar - the unconventional Vulcan that deals with Humans from the same level. T'Pol is visibly surprised at V'Lar's attitude and even seems to disapprove. But her actions and finally her pleading with V'Lar to reveal her mission to Archer show her own willingness to compromise and move to a more equal relationship with Humans. On the other hand, V'Lar, although less rigid in her social interaction with Humans, is still unwilling to share her secret mission with Archer until T'Pol convinces her to. So in the end, they both learn from one another and change their behavior for the better.
Trust seems to be the catalyst of this episode. Things move forward because characters choose to trust each other. T'Pol trusts V'Lar and asks for Archer's help on the bases of that trust. But she also trusts Archer and asks V'Lar to open up to him. She ultimately manages to make the two trust each other, which leads to the success of the mission and, more importantly, creates positive ground on which to grow future relations between Vulcan and Earth. I think the end of the episode also brings some form of resolution to T'Pol's own conflict of loyalties between Starfleet and the Vulcan High Command.
There's one more thing I wanted to bring to the table, one more nod to the already established Trek canon. The moment when Archer asks T'Pol how far the Vulcan ship is and she replies that the sensors aren't working. Archer says, "Then use their last known position and do the math. Take a guess."
That sounds a lot like McCoy saying, "Guess, Spock. Your best guess."
in The Voyage Home
Oh, and reaching Warp 5 marked a rather nice milestone.