Star Trek: The Next Generation: Unification II   Rewatch 
April 12, 2021 10:29 AM - Season 5, Episode 8 - Subscribe

On Romulus, Picard and Data meet with Spock, who claims to be trying to reunite the Romulans and Vulcans. While Spock works to achieve his goal, powers within the Romulan government seek to pervert his mission into an invasion of the Federation.

Why don't you drop a few coins in the jar and I'll see what Memory Alpha remembers.

  • As with the previous episode, a title card ran before the teaser in tribute to Gene Roddenberry, accompanied by the opening notes to the theme of Star Trek.
  • According to Cliff Bole, Leonard Nimoy originally wanted his son, Adam, to direct "Unification", but this fell through, so Bole was called in as director, despite it not fitting into his usual four-episode rotation. Later, Adam Nimoy indeed directed two episodes of TNG: "Rascals" and "Timescape".
  • Due to Nimoy's schedule, the principal photography for "Unification II" took place before the filming of the first part, although several scenes of the first part were filmed during the production of the second part. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 185)) Bole remarked, "If this is an education for the people who watch television, sometimes you have to do crazy things." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 233)
  • For a brief moment, a reflection of boom operator Bill Gocke was inadvertently caught on camera, appearing in a reflection in the glass pyramid on Neral's desk at the end of the episode. Gocke's image was digitally erased for the Blu-ray release.
  • The piece played by Riker in the bar is the beginning of "Freddie Freeloader" by Miles Davis, first released on Davis' album "Kind of Blue" in 1959.
Cast and characters
  • Malachi Throne (Senator Pardek) was also with Leonard Nimoy during his first appearance in Star Trek, the first Star Trek: The Original Series pilot "The Cage", as the voice of The Keeper. He had also previously appeared as Commodore José I. Mendez in TOS: "The Menagerie, Part I".
  • Leonard Nimoy recalled that his experience filming the two episodes was hectic but enjoyable, a reminder of his days on The Original Series, in contrast to the slower pace of feature films. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 185))
  • This episode was Nimoy's final appearance as Spock for eighteen years. Excluding archive footage in "Trials and Tribble-ations", he next appeared in 2009's Star Trek.
  • This was also Nimoy's third of five Star Trek appearances without William Shatner. The other four are TOS: "The Cage", TAS: "The Slaver Weapon", Star Trek, and Star Trek Into Darkness.
  • During "Encounter at Farpoint", Leonard McCoy told Data that, while he did not possess pointed ears, he sounded "just like a Vulcan." In this episode, Data met the particular Vulcan whom McCoy had in mind.
  • Geordi La Forge was stranded on Galorndon Core during third season episode "The Enemy".
  • This was the final appearance of Sela.
  • Neral was later mentioned in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "In the Pale Moonlight" as being Praetor in 2374. He later appeared, played by Hal Landon, Jr. in "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges".
  • This episode contained the first instance of Klingon opera in the series, as well as Worf's avid appreciation for it. There were further mentions of it in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
  • Although it was established in other episodes that Data's programming prohibits him from being able to use contractions, he inadvertently used a contraction before giving Sela the Vulcan neck pinch when he said, "I've disconnected certain sensors to allow us to exit. I'm afraid I cannot allow you to warn your guards."
  • Data successfully performed a Vulcan neck pinch in this episode, one of only a few non-Vulcans to do so. Picard also performed what appeared to be a neck pinch in "Starship Mine", although according to the script of the latter episode, that was intended to be a carotid artery block.
  • The events of DIS: "Unification III" establish Spock's speech about "closed minds have kept these two worlds apart for centuries" as taking place on stardate 45825, even though William T. Riker then records a first officer's log entry on stardate 45245.8.
Poster's Log:

Amarie is the unspoken star of this episode. A+ bantering, as evidenced by Riker's delight.

I also want to highlight Spock's subtle grappling with how his view of Sarek may be distorting his view of Picard. Great growth for a character we'd known for over a quarter century at first airing.

How has no-one thought before of using holographic projection to pretend a room is empty?

It's a shame that Sela's arc ends here. Crosby brought a lot to Sela that wasn't present during Tasha's S1 arc and I feel that we would have benefited from seeing Tasha grow.

I feel like this is a situation I complain about a lot - Enterprise is at Red Alert, prepared for combat, and just... allows the Romulan warbird a good minute's worth of maneuvering, blowing up ships, and fading into its cloaking field instead of doing anything.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:

I'm not sure that the second half of Unification holds up to all of the promise of the first one, but there's good meat on this one. Sela, especially when she's monologuing to Picard, Spock, and Data, is deliciously engaged in her subterfuge. Amarie, mentioned above, is a gem. While the inevitable double-cross is, well, inevitable, it comes from a surprising but satisfyingly organic place.

Of course, the results of this two-parter eventually touch multiple Trek properties - you can trace parts of both PIC and DIS back to "Unification", along with the entire Kelvin universe. I'm glad the seeds sown here rooted well enough to make "Unification III" a thing. The acceptance of our former enemies as allies, if not friends, has been a recurring theme across multiple series. While it took centuries to bear fruit, I'm glad we got to see the start of that process here.
posted by hanov3r (19 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by StarkRoads at 11:21 AM on April 12, 2021 [11 favorites]

It's not quite as tight as it could have been; lots of people have objected to the apparent idiot-ball-toting of Sela leaving two of the smartest people in the Federation alone in her office (along with one of its most celebrated captains), not a smooth move even if you don't suspect that they've already hacked your computer network. And I really wonder if Vulcan is so casual about its security that they can be separated from the rest of the Federation by 2000 troops, even if they're crack commandos. (And WRT what hanov3r said above, those ships could have been equipped with remote-control autodestruct devices, thus avoiding the "let's watch the Warbird destroy them all" thing.) But there's still plenty to like: Spock and Picard's discussion, Spock finding out that Vulcan teachings had already gained a toe-hold on Romulus, Sela's look at Data when the latter suggests a career change, and of course both Riker and Worf getting to jam. I kind of wished that Amarie's bar had become the show's go-to hive of scum and villainy--it makes Quark's look classy by comparison--but it was pretty cool for what we got.

Also agreed WRT the future impact of this episode. I rewatched the bit of "Unification III" that used footage of Nimoy from this episode, and realized that at least some of Burnham's teary-eyed reaction from watching it was in realizing that her foster brother had not only moved past the trauma of DIS S2, but actually become kind of a big deal.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:51 AM on April 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

I think this is the first time we see holograms outside of the holodeck, which will still be a notable thing when it occurs again in Voyager, though unremarkable by the time of Picard. These holograms seem to be intangible, though.

I also noticed that they mentioned Romulan Intelligence, instead of the Tal Shiar, which I don't think gets named until Face of the Enemy.

I was surprised to realize that Sela's appearances are all so close together relative to the show's run (although that may be exaggerated by watching it two episodes per week with no season breaks). It also seems like her job mainly consists of standing off to the side to be dramatically revealed.
posted by ckape at 12:04 PM on April 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

It's a shame that Sela's arc ends here. Crosby brought a lot to Sela that wasn't present during Tasha's S1 arc and I feel that we would have benefited from seeing Tasha grow.

Agreed. She got some good material here acting-wise, at least, even if her overall plan was pretty iffy. Her glare at Data when he suggests she change jobs is right up there with the most delicious Avery Brooks glares, and that's saying something.

I loooooove how much of a punk Spock is in this. Might as well ask the river not to run, indeed.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:20 PM on April 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

This just doesn't do it for me at all, except for Worf's rendition of Aktuh and Melota.

In the end, the fact that Sela was the half-human daughter of Tasha Yar from an alternate universe really meant nothing to anyone, it was just a weird biographical quirk from one of the Romulan baddies, she could have been replaced by Tomalak and absolutely nothing changes, right?

Soooo, the Romulan plot is: scrounge three old Vulcan ships, pack them full of commandos, broadcast a message from a simulated Spock to all of the federation, then seize power on Vulcan in the (generously) 5-10 minutes of confusion that ensue? It's hard to see how this plan works, or if it could work, how there wouldn't also be maybe 500 more straightforward ways to conquer what is apparently a very casually defended planet.

Pardek's heel turn was so lackluster, he literally just kind of shrugs after giving a half-hearted attempt to feign ignorance.
posted by skewed at 12:46 PM on April 12, 2021

Amarie. YES. I was completely sold on this character in the first ten seconds. Just shut up and beam her directly to Ten Forward. She and Worf can get fucked up on prune juice and sing opera until Guinan's ears bleed. Every night. It's just so rare that TNG has a character that's, y'know, fun, right?

I'm also sort of disappointed that Sela was built up as some sort of Big Bad, but in the end she was just another interchangeable Mean Romulan Commander. OTOH, if you've got your mortal enemies at gunpoint in a consul's office and you just kind of... walk away to do something else, leaving them completely unguarded, maybe you should lose your job. (On preview, what skewed said above.)
posted by phooky at 12:49 PM on April 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

My feeling at the end was that it was the right choice for Spock to stay on Romulus, but he's gotta get martyred. For one thing, how are the Romulans not going to execute him before too long? For another thing, he seems to be positioned as a sort of Christ figure, so a martyr would seem to be what the movement really needs.

One more thought is that the political situation on Romulus seems a bit unstable. Maybe vaporizing a bunch of their own loyal troops is not going to make that better.
posted by polecat at 1:16 PM on April 12, 2021

I wanted to comment on the first one and this one, but I think you all have it covered.

The one thing I enjoyed was Sarek and Picard's scene together. But overall I have never liked how TNG portrayed the Sarek/Spock relationship.

I want you all to go back in time with me to the end of The Voyage Home. Sarek and Spock have that little exchange about the nature of Spock's friendship with the Crew and then they have their parting words, "Do you have a message for your mother?" "Yes, tell her, 'I feel fine.'" Sarek's look as he accepts this reply always conveys to me that Sarek and Spock are at peace with each other and have an understanding. Call it what you will.

But then TNG rolls around and they are at odds. And while the writers try to put their spin on things with words like stubborn and too much alike, they don't really offer anything besides the usual Vulcan vs. Human cliches.
posted by Fukiyama at 1:40 PM on April 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:
Another big one, but this time for the Romulans, mainly. This is really the episode for Romulan cards in First Edition. It features (the sometimes re-used matte painting) for the basic Romulan Outpost. It's also the it's the source for Premiere's Neral, Pardek, and one of the Romulan's two Rares in Premiere, their only personnel with four whole skills at the time, Sela. They returned to the well for D'Tan in the second set, there to help with the catastrophic lack of moral fiber on Green cards which left them open to Alien Parasites and the like. In the following set, we got Telak to give Romulans a semi-reasonable source of Cybernetics. The T'Pau is there if you really want it. Realizing this faction could really use some skill bolstering, we finally got Dr. Koramar, Tamarith and the guy who's just really good at being sneaky, Tagus.

Non-Green players get Vulcan Nerve Pinch, an ok combat card. There's Qualor II Rendezvous, a gold-only mission which Amarie solves on her own. Omag is a solid Ferengi officer, mostly due to bringing along his uh, friend, free of charge. The standout card of the episode is really Spock, with a solid batch of skills and excellent stats, much as you'd expect for a card meant to sell $20 boxes of mostly commons....

Second Edition included a less restrictive version of Qualor II Rendezvous in its initial set, and went to the well for various Romulan affiliated cards, much as 1E did. These include Neral, Senate Proconsul; Pardek, Betrayer; Tamarith, Reformist; D'Tan, Curious Youth; Spock, Celebrated Ambassador(who is awesome, a stat bonus that big is like having a whole other personnel on your mission attempt); Sela, Devious Schemer for interference decks and Sela, Cunning Strategist for 'high point mission' decks.
posted by StarkRoads at 3:14 PM on April 12, 2021

It’s not really clear why the Romulans even wanted Vulcan ships when they make no secret of them coming from Romulus, but they get us to Amarie’s bar so it’s forgiven.

I thought it was neat that some of the Romulan outfits were actually quite colourful despite giving an overall brown or grey impression, then realized that they’re basically stain-concealing upholstery patterns and half expected one of the undergrounders to be wearing something with a film reels and popcorn motif. There’s probably a good essay out there about TNG and airport-adjacent convention centre aesthetics.
posted by rodlymight at 9:29 PM on April 12, 2021

There’s probably a good essay out there about TNG and airport-adjacent convention centre aesthetics.

Not just TNG; DS9 could be just as bad--Jake's outfits and some of Garak's as well; google "garak watermelon", and remember that his cover is not just that he's a tailor, but a pretty good one.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:47 PM on April 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

It’s not really clear why the Romulans even wanted Vulcan ships when they make no secret of them coming from Romulus, but they get us to Amarie’s bar so it’s forgiven.

Why the Federation found debris from one of the those Vulcan ships ends up having no bearing on anything really, either.

Sela would later appear in Peter David's second slashy Riker/Troi novel, Imzadi II, where she does some scheme with our yet-to-be-seen transporter double, Thomas RIker. I don't know what a really good story for the character would really have looked like at this point, clearly the writers never thought much about her besides that it's kinda fun to have one of our former starts show up and go muahaha a couple times.

The Romulan culture we see here holds some interest, but there will be (IMO) very little consistency with them in the future. Big, arbitrary changes in their depiction are done pretty much every time they show up in later iterations for plot-convenient reasons. The contrast with the way the Cardassians were fleshed out is notable.
posted by StarkRoads at 10:38 PM on April 12, 2021

Sorry if this is a bit of a derail, but I watched this two-parter recently in preperation for the follow up on Discovery, and it actually did a lot to soften me up on Discovery. I think like some people who watched TNG in their youth, I remembered TNG as being a lot more hard sci-fi, and a lot less ridiculous than it actually is. As far as these episodes are concerned, the A-plot is is mostly fine, other than everything being telegraphed from 300 miles away. I felt like the B-plot is particularly silly though, with Riker casually (accidentally!) blowing up a ship, and then engaging in some very silly tough guy interrogations. And then the B-plot has such minimal payoff!

Unification III was mostly good (humanistic lawyering!) with some silliness (hi space mom!), in a way which was pretty consistent with its "prequels". Discovery can be a bit to WHIZ BANG sometimes (most of the time), but I felt season 3 was consistently good, if not great like the best of TNG.
posted by Alex404 at 11:44 PM on April 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

I forgot to mention that D'Tan is a major character in Star Trek Online, which takes place in the early 25th century (IIRC); the Romulan faction storyline has D'Tan as the good-guy leader opposing Sela in what amounts to a Romulan civil war, confirming (noncanonically at least) polecat's suspicion about the empire being a bit unstable. (I think Nemesis might also have been about that?, canonically, but I try not to think about that movie, so.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:31 AM on April 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

DS9 could be just as bad--Jake's outfits

Okay, them's fightin' words! Jake is the single most fashionable male character in all of Star Trek; he ranks officially third behind Guinan and Lwaxana Troi.
posted by rocketman at 5:20 AM on April 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think that Jake's outfits got better as the show wore on.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:14 AM on April 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

(I think Nemesis might also have been about that?, canonically, but I try not to think about that movie, so.)

Nemesis was more about a coup. aided by the defective-yet-surprisingly-effective Picard clone, the previously-unknown other sentient species in the Romulan home system with psychic powers, the fleet of likewise-previously-unseen ships, and the assassination device which the notoriously paranoid Romulans don't notice being left literally in the middle of their Senate until it's too late. The STO conflict is much better organized, as it's the struggle between the people who think that maybe the old Star Empire had something to do with the disaster and want to form a republic instead, and the rump of the Star Empire being willing to do literally anything and everything to Make Romulus Great Again.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:19 AM on April 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

The name is Yar. Sela Yar.
(The Playmates figure holds Chris Pike's laser pistol much better than he does himself; re-painted it from the original garish purple at some point after the first photo.)
posted by StarkRoads at 6:09 PM on April 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

For a brief moment, a reflection of boom operator Bill Gocke was inadvertently caught on camera, appearing in a reflection in the glass pyramid on Neral's desk at the end of the episode. Gocke's image was digitally erased for the Blu-ray release.

I caught the reflection, and assumed it was a) intentional and b) Gene Roddenberry. It seemed like a nice Easter egg to go with the title card intro. Kind of disappointing to find that wasn't the case.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:00 PM on December 12, 2021

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