Unification III — Here at CultBox, we know a memorable Star Trek: The Next Generation episode title when we see one. Consequently, it was a thrill to find this week’s Discovery was a sort-of sequel to an eventful story from way back when. November 1991, to be precise.
Famously, Unification Parts 1 & 2 brought Admiral Spock into contact with the TNG crew, after he went missing while undercover on Romulus. Not that events required demanded anyone to dig out their box set, but rather that it returned to the themes of Romulan and Vulcan shared history. Then mixed them in with a heap of other Star Trek lore, including following up on the first season of Picard. Naturally, this being Discovery, we came at matters from the angle of Michael Burnham. In this situation, it being as much about her past as her present.
Last seen being demoted for her insubordinate actions in Scavengers, Michael is soul searching and looking for direction. She is also still hooking up with Book, whose ship remains parked in Discovery’s shuttle bay. When research into “The Burn” indicates a series of spatial sensors might yield vital information as to the devastating event’s source, she and Saru go to Admiral Vance. They promptly find themselves bound for the planet formerly known as Vulcan.
Now renamed as Ni’Var and not part of the Federation for almost a century, they do not receive a warm welcome. However, Burnham’s family connections and her studies at the Vulcan Science Academy offer a foot in the door. At which point she demands the ancient ritual of scientific debate “T’Kal-in ket”, in order to force access to the politically sensitive SB-19 information, running the risk that the ritual comes with the potential for a built-in character assassination.
First Officer Tilly
After the previous all-action episode, this was very much all talk; it offered a fascinating angle on the long-term implications of events we have seen elsewhere in the Star Trek timeline. However, that angle managed to be all about Michael Burnham!
Yes, we are banging this drum again. We completely understand that Burnham is the main character on Discovery. Yes, she is a principal character like none before. But does she have to be so enmeshed into the A plot of every story? For us, the most egregious example of this was the introduction of Michael’s errant Mother into the proceedings; having become stranded in the future herself, she was taken in by truth-speaking Romulan nuns and is able to serve as her daughter’s advocate.
The B plot, that of Ensign Syliva Tilly considering the role of First Officer, clearly demanded more screen time; it played out across three scenes. Notwithstanding the fact we adore Mary Wiseman’s performance, it is bonkers and disregards a ship full of more experienced officers, we love the idea. Yet her dilemma about accepting the role was diminished by the minimal screen time devoted to it.
Unification III was both thrilling and also a missed opportunity. We loved the theme of Vulcan-Romulan integration — it’s great when the wider mythos interconnects. Leonard Nimoy’s archive cameo was surely catnip for long term fans too. However, we felt cheated of a trip to the planet itself in a story that was too much tell and too little show, and continued to focus relentlessly on one character.
Star Trek: Discovery Series 3 is available in the UK on Netflix.