Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Unification, Part I”

“Unification, Part I”
Written by Rick Berman & Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor
Directed by Les Landau
Season 5, Episode 7
Production episode 40275-208
Original air date: November 4, 1991
Stardate: 45233.1

Captain’s Log: We open with a memorial caption for Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who died not long before this episode aired.

The Enterprise‘s terraforming mission is cancelled, the ship summoned to Starbase 234 to meet with Fleet Admiral Brackett, who announces that one of the Federation’s most celebrated ambassadors disappeared three weeks ago. He was recently sighted by long-range sensors on Romulus. There’s a real worry that he’s defected, which would be disastrous.

Brackett then shows Picard the image from the sensors: he, and we, instantly recognize the person milling about among assorted Romulans as Spock.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Unification, Part I

Picard’s first stop is Vulcan to speak to Sarek. Unfortunately, he’s too ill to beam aboard the Enterprise—the Bendii Syndrome has taken hold and he’s deteriorating rapidly. Riker and Picard discuss Spock—Picard has met him once, and “knows” him through the mind-meld he underwent with Sarek. But Sarek and Spock have not gotten along in some time. (“Fathers and sons…” Picard says, no doubt thinking of his own strained relationship with his old man.) Picard also has Riker investigate some metal fragments of a Vulcan ship that were found on a Ferengi freighter marked “medical supplies” and sent to Vulcan. Riker and La Forge check it out, and the fragments are definitely Vulcan, possibly a weapons array—but the Vulcans have no records of weapons array being taken. La Forge likens it to assembling a jigsaw puzzle when you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like.

Sarek’s wife Perrin beams on board the Enterprise. Spock tied up all his affairs neatly—he definitely planned to go away—but he never even said goodbye to Sarek. Apparently during debates over the Cardassian War, Spock publicly disagreed with Sarek. While Sarek was not outwardly offended, Perrin was, and father and son haven’t spoken in years. Now Sarek is dying, crying out for his son in his dementia, wanting to the heal the rift, and unable to.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Unification, Part I

Picard asks to speak to Sarek, and Perrin says that she would refuse anyone else—but Picard is a part of Sarek now, and so she acquiesces. Sarek is in bad shape, his emotions having taken over, but Picard’s presence and mention of Spock both manage to calm him enough to have a conversation.

Sarek has no idea why Spock went to Romulus. He does identify a senator that Spock stayed in contact with named Pardek, whom Spock met at the Khitomer Conference. Sarek had advised Spock against this contact, as Pardek had no support in the senate, but Spock didn’t listen. However, Sarek is sure that Spock did not defect. Picard asks if he thinks that Spock went on his own to meet with Pardek—

—at which point Sarek asks how Picard knows Pardek. Picard realizes that Sarek’s mind is further gone than has been apparent. Sarek starts to rant about how Spock never listened to him, even as a boy. The conversation ends with Sarek, unable to even make his hands form the Vulcan salute without help, whimpering goodbye to a saddened Picard.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Unification, Part I

Now they must set the wheels in motion for Picard and Data to travel covertly to Romulus to find Spock. The first thing they need is a cloaked ship, and Picard is hoping that his good relationship with Gowron will grease the wheels for the loan of a Klingon ship. Unfortunately, he hasn’t responded to any hails for three days. Worf informs them that Gowron has been rewriting the history of the recent civil war to ignore the Federation’s role in aiding him. Picard then suggests contacting someone else on the High Council, like K’Tal.

Data meanwhile has found an image of Senator Pardek, which looks just like the guy standing next to Spock in the image Brackett showed him in the teaser. According to Data, he’s a “man of the people” who has advocated many reforms in his 90 years of service. He’s considered a radical by the Romulan government, and very much the type of person Spock would cultivate a relationship with.

They finally get a response from the Klingon homeworld: from the junior adjutant to the diplomatic delegation. Picard tells the adjutant that he needs a ship, and all he can offer in exchange for this very large favor is his gratitude—but if Gowron can’t provide the ship, then Picard will have to go to someone else in the empire, and they will have his gratitude.

After Picard and Data see Crusher and Mot in preparation for disguising themselves as Romulans (the former to design prosthetics, the latter to make the hairpieces), the captain meets with La Forge and Riker in the cargo bay. The fragments are a Vulcan navigational deflector array from the T’Pau, a ship that was decommissioned years ago and sent to Qualor II’s shipyard.

A Klingon ship decloaks, courtesy of Gowron. Picard and Data beam over, where Captain K’Vada makes it clear that he already knows that they’re going after Spock, even though their mission is technically classified. They go off to Romulus while the Enterprise heads for Qualor II to find out what happened to the rest of the T’Pau.

K’Vada brings Picard and Data to their cabin (singular, to Data’s surprise), which has only one metal bed. K’Vada goes out of his way to make Picard feel uncomfortable—the bed, the shared quarters, that they only have Klingon food on board—but Picard refuses to give in, saying he prefers hard beds and is looking forward to eating gagh.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Unification, Part I

The Enterprise approaches Qualor II, where Riker has to verbally fence with a bureaucrat named Dokachin. He beams aboard—impressed by a ship that’s actually intact, since he usually gets them when they’re falling apart—and brings the ship to the coordinates where the T’Pau was left.

Except that spot is empty. The navigation array was sent to a holding ship on the outer rim of the shipyard, the Tripoli­—which also isn’t there. Dokachin is outraged, especially since a delivery’s being made to the Tripoli in two hours. Riker has the Enterprise play possum as a wreck in the yard, and then waits to see who shows up for that delivery two hours hence.

On the Klingon ship, Picard is having trouble sleeping while Data stands in the room with him. Then K’Vada summons him to the bridge with a message: Sarek has died.

An unidentified cargo ship—one that is loaded with weapons—takes up the Tripoli‘s spot and is taking on its delivery. The Enterprise powers up and hails the ship—which responds by locking phasers. They get into a firefight with the Enterprise, and the other ship is destroyed.

Picard and Data apply their prosthetics and such, so they now look like Romulans. For Picard, the tenor of the mission has changed, as now, in addition to finding out what the hell Spock was thinking, they also have to inform Spock that his father’s dead. K’Vada is amused by their Romulan disguise, and also makes it clear that his orders don’t include rescue missions.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Unification, Part I

On Romulus, Proconsul Neral meets with Senator Pardek. Neral asks if Pardek recognizes Picard; he doesn’t, and knows nothing of him. Neral says that he’s received intelligence that the captain is coming to Romulus, and instructs Pardek to pass his likeness around to the security forces.

Elsewhere, Data is able to find the spot where the image was taken of Spock and Pardek. It’s outside an intercessor’s office, but the office is closed. They go to a restaurant across the way and order soup, and try not to get noticed by the two guys in uniform.

They see Pardek, and move to approach him, but the two guys in uniform stop them and bring them to a cave. They are joined by Pardek, who says they had to get them off the streets before security finds them—at which point, the two guys take off their uniforms. Picard says he’s on an urgent mission to find Ambassador Spock.

“Indeed,” says a familiar voice. “You have found him, Captain Picard.” Everyone turns to see Spock step out of the shadows.

To be continued…

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Unification, Part I

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Riker orders Troi to flirt a bit with Dokachin to get him to be more cooperative. To Dokachin’s credit, he sees right through it, but to Riker’s credit, it still works. (Of Riker, Dokachin says, “He probably figures that we don’t get to see a lot of handsome women out this way, and someone like you might get a little more cooperation out of me.” After a pause: “He’s probably right.”)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Unification, Part I

There is No Honor in being Pummeled: Worf expresses disdain over Gowron’s rewriting of Klingon history. Although he wasn’t thrilled with some of what Gowron did during the civil war, this is the first time he’s been actively disgusted with something Gowron’s done—it’s far from the last, though, and the seeds of Worf’s eventual assassination of Gowron in Deep Space Nine‘s “Tacking Into the Wind” are, in many ways, sown here.

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data proves invaluable to a covert intelligence mission, gathering enough information about Pardek and about the district he represents to properly approach him, and also being able to find the spot where the sensor image was taken just by looking around.

I Believe I Said That: “Don’t you two look sweet! Be careful, android, some Romulan beauty might take a liking to you—lick that paint right off your ears.”

K’Vada expressing his amusement at Picard and Data in Romulan disguise.

Welcome Aboard: Tons of guests in this one, starting of course with the return of the late great Mark Lenard as Sarek, along with Joanna Miles as Perrin, having both previously appeared in “Sarek.”

Malachi Throne returns to Trek as Pardek. He played Commodore Mendez in “The Menagerie,” and was the voice of the Keeper in the original pilot “The Cage” (though when they used footage from “The Cage” for “The Menagerie,” they redubbed the Keeper’s voice, since Throne was in the framing sequence).

There’s also an amusing turn by Graham Jarvis as the dreary bureaucrat, a bland turn by Karen Hensel as Admiral Brackett, a slimy turn by Norman Large as Neral, a virtually nonexistent turn by Daniel Roebuck as a Romulan, and a hilarious turn by Stephen Root as K’Vada. (Throne, Large, Roebuck, and Root will return for Part 2.)

Plus we have a Robert Knepper moment, as I’d totally never realized that longtime character actor Erick Avari (possibly best known for his recurring role on Stargate SG1—and in the Stargate movie—as Kasuf) played the Klingon functionary, the first of three roles Avari would play on Trek.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Unification, Part I

And, oh yeah, this guy named Leonard something shows up at the end, playing some obscure Vulcan or other….

Trivial Matters: Leonard Nimoy’s reprisal of the role of Spock is the second of three appearances on TNG (and of four on modern Trek) of one of the “big seven” from the original series, following DeForest Kelley as an elderly McCoy in “Encounter at Farpoint,” and to be followed by James Doohan as a transporter-frozen Scotty in “Relics” and George Takei in flashback as Sulu on the Voyager episode “Flashback.”

This two-parter was also a partial tie-in to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, released a month after this episode aired. Sarek makes reference to Spock meeting Pardek at the Khitomer Conference, which happened at the end of that movie.

The public disagreement between Spock and Sarek over the Cardassians was portrayed in the WildStorm comic book Enter the Wolves, written by A.C. Crispin and Howard Weinstein.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Unification, Part I

The establishment of Spock being an ambassador in the 24th century opened the floodgates to the character appearing in post-TOS-era fiction. There are far too many to list here, but some notable ones include Crossover by Michael Jan Friedman, Vulcan’s Heart and the Vulcan’s Soul trilogy by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz, New Frontier: House of Cards and Before Dishonor by Peter David, Double Helix: Red Sector by Diane Carey, Titan: Taking Wing by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin, The Brave and the Bold Book 2 and Articles of the Federation by your humble rewatcher, and pretty much every novel by William Shatner and Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens.

Sarek’s death marks the first time a major character from the original series has died and stayed dead. (Caveat necessary thanks to Spock’s death and resurrection.)

While every episode of the original and animated series was adapted into prose by James Blish, J.A. Lawrence, or Alan Dean Foster, this was only the second TNG episode to be novelized, after Encounter at Farpoint by David Gerrold. Unification was written by Part 1’s scripter Jeri Taylor and released concurrently with the airdates. It would start a trend of Simon & Schuster novelizing “event” episodes. For TNG, the others included Relics and All Good Things… both by Michael Jan Friedman, and Descent by Diane Carey.

Taylor’s novelization provides a larger role for K’Vada, including his backstory. K’Vada also appeared in your humble rewatcher’s I.K.S. Gorkon novel Honor Bound, during which he died gloriously in battle. (Lucky devil…)

The decommissioned vessel T’Pau was named after the Vulcan matriarch first seen in “Amok Time.”

Sarek rambles about Spock disobeying him as a boy and going into the mountains without permission, which we saw a young Spock doing in the animated episode “Yesteryear.” This was the first time events from the animated series were referenced on live-action Trek.

This episode was actually filmed after Part 2 in order to accommodate the schedules of the various and sundry guest stars, which is why the production numbers of this and the second part are out of sequence.

Make it So: “I’m looking for Ambassador Spock.” I have a real hard time getting my arms around this episode. It’s not that it’s bad, exactly, but there’s just not much to it. Most of the “story” is setup for Part 2, even more so than is typical for the first half of a two-parter, and what isn’t setup is filler.

Having said that, the filler is very entertaining. It’s rare for our heroes to encounter mundane nonsense, so it’s lots of fun to see Picard have to deal with a junior High Council functionary and Riker do likewise with the quartermaster of a junkyard.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Unification, Part I

Of course, we also get, sort of, Sarek’s final scene. (Younger versions of him will appear, not just in Star Trek VI a month later, but also in the 2009 Star Trek.) Just as with “Sarek,” we get two great actors in Mark Lenard and Sir Patrick Stewart playing magnificently off each other, only this time with even more tragedy, as the year-plus since “Sarek” has not been kind to the elderly ambassador, and Lenard’s portrayal is heartbreaking.

Still, the episode as a whole is mostly just moving the pieces into place. It does so competently, certainly, but it’s frustrating to be sitting through an entire episode that’s supposed to be the first of two parts about the TNG crew encountering Spock, only to not even have the guy show up (outside of a picture) until the final seconds. I remember being annoyed by that when I watched this episode the first time in ’91, thinking, “Finally, we get Spock!” only to fade to black and see “To be continued…” and cry out, “That’s it????” Watching it now, knowing Spock wouldn’t arrive until the end just made the filler (the aforementioned bureaucratic nonsense, K’Vada’s baiting Picard and Data, Data making Picard too uncomfortable to sleep, etc.) all the more irritating to watch.


Warp factor rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido had tremendous fun writing the older Spock in The Brave and the Bold Book 2 and Articles of the Federation. Best part was the mind-meld between Spock and Worf in the former, which were among his favorite scenes ever to write in his entire career.


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