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Old January 13 2013, 11:31 AM   #1
TJ Sinclair
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Tomalak's intelligence?

Reading through the Typhon Pact books recently, I've been struck by the characterization of Tomalak as, if not a total buffoon, something of a dullard. It's been coming up a lot.

Honestly, I'd never really gotten that impression from TNG, as it seemed to me the writers were trying to portray him as Picard's "opposite number" in the Romulan fleet.

Sure, he got outwitted by the Enterprise crew several times, but then... so did everyone.

I don't really remember any older novels, from the pre-relaunch continuity days, portraying Tomalak as a simpleton, either.

Am I the only one that feels this way? Or was my youthful impression of Tomalak from the series simply biased by my hope for a cool Romulan?
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Old January 13 2013, 12:28 PM   #2
lvsxy808
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Re: Tomalak's intelligence?

I don't know that they were trying to portray him as a simpleton, exactly - that might be overstating it. I'd say he's been characterised more as reliable, straightforward, solid, dependable, but without that extra spark that makes a person a legend in the galaxy. Perhaps a Captain deSoto compared to a Picard - someone who's perfectly good at running a starship and being a captain to his crew but not one of the standouts.

Perhaps in-story the issue comes from other characters thinking that Tomalak thinks he's better than they think he is... if you followed that. He keeps trying to put himself in higher positions of authority, thinking he is one of the special ones and he should be a star on the galactic scene, but the others recognise that he's just not all that special after all, which is why he keeps getting his overly ambitious plans foiled.

That's how I saw it anyway.

I can't speak for older novels, I don't rememebr him appearing in any that I read.

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Old January 13 2013, 02:28 PM   #3
rahullak
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Re: Tomalak's intelligence?

I understand what lvsxy808 is saying and I agree. I would say Tomalak's characterized as a brilliant plodder whose reach exceeds his grasp.
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Old January 13 2013, 02:52 PM   #4
DarKush
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Re: Tomalak's intelligence?

I had the similar feeling that the OP did when I was reading the duology. I did think that DRGIII portrayed Tomalak as something of a dullard, and made sure to have other characters, namely the Praetor, refer to his lack of smarts more than once. I never got that impression from watching him on TNG.

Granted he was thwarted by Picard, but being the bad guy, he had to be. I rather wish DRGIII had just invented a character or killed Tomalak off instead of portraying him that way.
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Old January 13 2013, 02:59 PM   #5
Bumbles861
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Re: Tomalak's intelligence?

That's it in a nutshell. Tomalak was an opportunist constantly looking for any opportunity to get himself into a better position regardless of who he had to step on to get there. You could see that in TNGs "The Defector" that he was really a coward in wolfs clothing. Too bad for him that his shenanigans got the better of him in the end. I suppose too bad for us as well. I certainly enjoyed encountering his antics from time to time.
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Old January 13 2013, 05:40 PM   #6
The Wormhole
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Re: Tomalak's intelligence?

Honestly, not much about Tomalak was ever really established on screen, so the depiction of him in the novels isn't really contradicting anything. Admittedly, I never thought in the episodes Tomalak was as much of a "dullard" as those novels make it seem, but then there's no real indication that he was supposed to be Picard's Romulan equal or anything.

While it may be different to how I viewed the character, I see nothing wrong with how Tomalak was depicted in those two novels and considering the character has what, a combined total of 20 minutes screen time (that's not counting Future Imperfect, which wasn't really him) I'd say novel writers were free to take the character in any direction they liked.
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Old January 13 2013, 08:09 PM   #7
Jarvisimo
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Re: Tomalak's intelligence?

The Wormhole wrote: View Post
Admittedly, I never thought in the episodes Tomalak was as much of a "dullard" as those novels make it seem, but then there's no real indication that he was supposed to be Picard's Romulan equal or anything.
Instead, we had someone called Shinzon to be that
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Old January 13 2013, 08:26 PM   #8
Christopher
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Re: Tomalak's intelligence?

^Well, Shinzon considered himself Reman, not Romulan. He hated the Romulans as his oppressors.
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Old January 13 2013, 09:46 PM   #9
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Re: Tomalak's intelligence?

Christopher wrote: View Post
^Well, Shinzon considered himself Reman, not Romulan. He hated the Romulans as his oppressors.
And because he hated the Romulans, he wanted to destroy all life on Earth...

Nemesis, not the most logical of plots.
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Old January 13 2013, 11:02 PM   #10
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Re: Tomalak's intelligence?

TJ Sinclair wrote: View Post
And because he hated the Romulans, he wanted to destroy all life on Earth...

Nemesis, not the most logical of plots.
No, that was because he hated Picard, hated being a mere echo of a great man, and thus wanted to destroy that man's accomplishments and everything he held dear. Shinzon explained his motivations perfectly clearly in dialogue: "I'll show you my true nature. Our nature. And as Earth dies, remember that I will always, forever, be Shinzon of Remus! And my voice shall echo through time long after yours has faded to a dim memory."

At its core, the emotional arc of NEM was about Shinzon and Picard, not Shinzon and the Romulans. The thematic arc was about nature vs. nurture, about whether the two of them were really the same being by genetic destiny or were shaped by their choices -- with Shinzon blaming his own bad behavior on his genetics or his circumstances or his persecution and doing everything he could to dodge responsibility, while Picard was the better man because he faced his own faults and took personal responsibility for bettering himself. But because Shinzon believed in nature over nurture, believed that he and Picard were effectively the same person, and hated Picard for getting all the glory and triumph and happiness while Shinzon was condemned to slavery and suffering and aloneness. The Romulans were just one of the circumstances he blamed his choices on, the reason for the lousy lot in life that he was using as the excuse for his behavior. But Picard was his main target, because he couldn't think of himself as anything more than a copy of Picard until he destroyed the man and his accomplishments, until he effaced Picard's name from history and carved his own across it.
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Old January 13 2013, 11:20 PM   #11
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Re: Tomalak's intelligence?

Right, exactly: not the most logical of plots.
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Old January 13 2013, 11:33 PM   #12
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Re: Tomalak's intelligence?

Christopher wrote: View Post
TJ Sinclair wrote: View Post
And because he hated the Romulans, he wanted to destroy all life on Earth...

Nemesis, not the most logical of plots.
No, that was because he hated Picard, hated being a mere echo of a great man, and thus wanted to destroy that man's accomplishments and everything he held dear. Shinzon explained his motivations perfectly clearly in dialogue: "I'll show you my true nature. Our nature. And as Earth dies, remember that I will always, forever, be Shinzon of Remus! And my voice shall echo through time long after yours has faded to a dim memory."

At its core, the emotional arc of NEM was about Shinzon and Picard, not Shinzon and the Romulans. The thematic arc was about nature vs. nurture, about whether the two of them were really the same being by genetic destiny or were shaped by their choices -- with Shinzon blaming his own bad behavior on his genetics or his circumstances or his persecution and doing everything he could to dodge responsibility, while Picard was the better man because he faced his own faults and took personal responsibility for bettering himself. But because Shinzon believed in nature over nurture, believed that he and Picard were effectively the same person, and hated Picard for getting all the glory and triumph and happiness while Shinzon was condemned to slavery and suffering and aloneness. The Romulans were just one of the circumstances he blamed his choices on, the reason for the lousy lot in life that he was using as the excuse for his behavior. But Picard was his main target, because he couldn't think of himself as anything more than a copy of Picard until he destroyed the man and his accomplishments, until he effaced Picard's name from history and carved his own across it.
And yet ST0- would have us believe that Kirk is Kirk simply on the basis of his genetics. The two Kirks lived totally different live literally from the moment of birth and yet they are essentially indistinguishable except that we've seen NuKirk at a younger, wilder age. Even so he's become the Captain of the Enterprise and save the Earth. He's got the same womanizing ways (except when NuUhura shut him down), the same don't follow orders mentality, the same best captain ever in Starfleet even though he had yet to graduate until the very end of the movie. ST09 is showing us that nature is the important thing and nurture is a very small effect.
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Old January 13 2013, 11:46 PM   #13
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Re: Tomalak's intelligence?

Thrawn wrote: View Post
Right, exactly: not the most logical of plots.
I don't know why you'd say that. Yes, it was a bit contrived to tack on the Earth-in-danger thing, but they grounded it in the Picard-Shinzon relationship which is the emotional core of the movie, and that works perfectly well from a character standpoint.

Anyway, I don't want to become one of those people who drags a completely unrelated thread off-topic to renew a pet argument about an old movie. This is supposed to be about Tomalak.
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Old January 14 2013, 12:26 AM   #14
Lee Son of Pete
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Re: Tomalak's intelligence?

I got the feeling that the Galaxy moved beyond Tomalak. He'd make a good war leader, but a poor cold-war leader.

It reminds me of a guy I worked with in real life. He was a smart guy, ex-RUC and Special Branch so clearly not dumb, but in a business world he struggled with an assistant manager's job of a middle sized operation. That's largely how I see Tomalak, he's fine with procedure, discipline, etc. If you hired him to work for you he'd be there on the dot every day, immaculately attired, but if I was hanging out of a window you'd have to tell him to help me up.
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Old January 14 2013, 12:43 AM   #15
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Re: Tomalak's intelligence?

I do see where people are coming from regarding Tomalak's portrayal in Plagues of Night / Raise the Dawn. However, I personally view it not so much as Tomalak being written as foolish or a "dullard", and more that he's being portrayed as increasingly out of his depth. He ascended to the government through sheer ambition in a climate of great instability, as well as coming up through the fleet rather than through the Senate. When things settled down again, I think he was slightly lost - because under Kamemor the traits that got him to the top were no longer in vogue and he never truly cultivated the skills a successful politician needs. As a Romulan noble and fleet commander, who earns respect through a combination of birth status and long, patriotic service, he's a great success, but as a politician he can't really cut it. Romulan society is entering an era of change as of the end of Rough Beasts of Empire, and for all his skill at riding the currents before then he can't really carve himself a role independent of Tal'aura. He just can't adapt.

In Vulcan's Soul: Epiphany, which retroactively sets up Tomalak's interest in political matters for Death In Winter, Spock notes that previously Tomalak showed little sign of seeking to acquire political leverage or make a name for himself outside the military. Indeed, it's suggested by Spock in that novel that Tomalak is taking quite a risk, that he's seizing the opportunity but possibly overplaying his hand. That seems quite consistent with what we see in later novels: he's a career military man, not a natural politician. His main talent is in knowing when to make his move and when to be reliable, a sort of sly cunning in how he plays his hand combined with aggressive, bold ambition when the time is right. That and a generally rather small-minded outlook aren't mutually exclusive.

He's later named Proconsul in the chaotic post-Nemesis period after commanding the loyalist Romulan fleets protecting Tal'aura's regime. That is, by playing his hand at the right time and taking the reward, not through any natural affinity for politics (other than to the extent that such behaviour shows in and of itself an affinity for politics; but that's partly the point, that style of politics isn't Kamemor's way). Indeed, in Taking Wing, as in Epiphany, he comes across as a bit of a diplomatic and political amateur; he spends most of his time in that novel posturing or losing his cool, and has to be reigned in by Tal'aura.

Tal'aura and Tomalak worked quite well together, regardless, no doubt because they had similar views regarding certain issues; for instance, similar distrust of the Federation. He leaves office briefly when she dies, but returns to be co-Proconsul under Kamemor, who's a very different sort of leader. And he never really fits in, because without Tal'aura he's just a hot-blooded, suspicious, scheming reactionary, not a political player. As I see it, Tomalak doesn't understand a Romulan Empire that isn't rooted in the same aristocratic values and green-blooded posturing that he himself has embodied for decades; this new, populist leader he can't really understand. And now that he's pretty much at the top, and his ambition and service can't really take him any further, he doesn't have what it takes to shine. He's obsolete.

EDIT: I think also that for those of us familiar with Andreas Katsulas on Babylon Five, our sense of the Tomalak character is sometimes distorted by awareness of G'Kar. It can't help but feel...wrong...to have him come across as less than insightful...
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