Star Trek: The Next Generation – Unification II [5.8]

Picard discovers that Spock has moved to Romulus in an attempt to support an underground movement in favor of reunification between Romulus and Vulcan.  However, Spock and Picard are betrayed by Pardek, Spock’s Romulan friend.  Held prisoner by Sela, they discover that the Romulan commanders are planning on invasion of sorts onto Vulcan.  But with Data’s help, they are able to send a warning to the Federation and escape.  In the end, Spock elects to stay on Romulus to continue to try to see reunification take place.

Teleplay by Michael Piller. Story by Rick Berman & Michael Piller. Directed by Cliff Bole.

Previous Episode: Unification I • Next Episode: A Matter of Time

After the disappointing lack of Spock, and lack of story, from Unification I, this episode makes up for it with plenty of both.  Spock is front and center for the entire episode, with lots to do, and the show makes a game attempt to tell a tale that is broad in scope and has real consequence.  The results are satisfactory, but not exemplary.

The idea of the Vulcans and the Romulans reunifying and forming a lasting peace is certainly intriguing, and could have possibly led to an interesting story arc. But the tale we get is a bit more typical – with the revelation that the new Romulan leader is not actually going to support this radical new direction for his people, and that the whole thing (or most of it) is actually just another extreme plot by the Romulans to achieve…eh, what exactly?  Seems like the end goal of Sela’s plan is just to get a whole bunch of Romulans living on Vulcan.  For what purpose?  It’s never made clear.  Presumably, it’s to disrupt Vulcan life and culture, and to ultimately weaken the Federation.  But how this is going to really be accomplished is a bit nebulous.

Equally vague is why Spock is willing to go to such efforts to promote the whole reunification movement in the first place.  There is a reference to how the two civilizations need each other, but no discussion about why.  Maybe if Part 1 had made the effort to show how some aspect of Vulcan society was decaying, and if this episode had gone to greater lengths to demonstrate the deplorable conditions of the once-great Romulan civilization under a repressive regime (in a North Korea sort of way), Spock’s burden would have been more compelling.

Fortunately for the good guys, Sela’s dastardly plan comes to nothing thanks to the fact that she’s apparently the stupidest villain in the galaxy.  At the critical point, when all her machinations are about to come to pass, she decides to lock Spock, Data and Picard – the three smartest people in the Federation – not in a jail cell, but in a government office.  And shock of shocks, they are able to hack the local computer and completely undo everything she set out to do in one simple move.  I have always assumed (and even began a fan fiction to this effect) that Sela was shortly thereafter executed because the rest of the Romulans assumed that she must be a Federation spy.

Of course, the plot is not the main point of appeal of the story – it’s the appearance of  Spock.  Leonard Nimoy is solid as ever in the part, and it’s good fun to see Spock butting heads with Picard and comparing notes with Data, but what we really learn from this episode is that Spock simply is not as interesting as we remembered without he doesn’t have Kirk to interact with.  Or at least McCoy.  And maybe, frankly, because he is at so much peace with himself.  A younger Spock, clashing with himself and with the ideals and perceptions of the crew around him, is just more engaging.  But that’s a dynamic that is long in the past (or at least it was up until Zachary Quinto a few years ago).

Guest Cast:
• Vidal Peterson appears as D’Tan.  He only has a small number of credited roles, but one of them is as the lead child in Something Wicked This Way Comes, and another handful of episodes of Mork and Mindy as “The Elder”.

• Denise Crosby appears as Sela for the third and mercifully last time

Shout Out to the Past
Um, well, Spock is in it.  He also refers to Captain Kirk.  And Sarek is mentioned quite a bit, including his mind meld with Picard.  The Romulan involvement in the Klingon war (as seen in Redemption is also mentioned).

Setting Up the Future
There is a direct reference to Kirk and the events at Khitomer from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which was shortly to be released when this episode aired.

• The dedication to Gene Roddenberry is repeated at the beginning of this story

• There are some game attempts at meaningful dialog between Picard and Spock.  It’s reasonably successful.  “You speak as my father would if he were here, Picard,” “I was involved with cowboy diplomacy, as you describe it, long before you were born,” and “In your own way, you are as stubborn as another Captain of the Enterprise I once knew,” (followed up by Picard’s, “Then I’m in good company, sir.”

• Romulan fashion is apparently pretty drab and samey

• “One can begin to reshape the landscape with a single flower, Captain.”  Nice.

• Goofy that the alien piano is basically an earth configuration keyboard

• More interesting Picard / Spock moments:

Picard:  That is the second time you have accused me of speaking with another man’s voice. It’s true he will always be a part of me. His experiences, his spirit. But I speak with my own voice, not his.
Spock: Curious that I should hear him so clearly now that he is dead. It is possible that I have brought my argument with Sarek to you, Captain. If so, I apologise.

And also

Picard: Is it so important that you to win one last argument?
Spock: No, it is not. But it is true that I will miss the arguments. They were, finally, all that we had.

•  More amusingly, Picard says, “I think I’ll take this opportunity to remove my ears.”

• Klingon opera makes it’s first appearance.

• Riker engages in some “cowboy diplomacy” with that Ferengi dude.  “Or use one of their sleeves, I don’t care.”

• Spock seems bored at the realization that Pardek has betrayed them

• Sela’s plan involves Spock reading a speech?  And she’s surprised that Spock won’t read it?  Why would Spock’s message convince anyone when last anyone had heard, Spock is a potential traitor and defector?  And why would the Vulcan defense allow a bunch of unknown ships coming from Romulus land just because they are Vulcan-shaped ships?  Even today, we don’t just welcome unknown ships just because they look like other ships from our country.

• Commander Riker’s hair does look a bit odd in the hologram

• Why does Riker tell Geordi to change course?  Isn’t their someone at conn?

• Data nerve pinches Sela.  Cute.

• The closing shot of Leonard Nimoy would have made a better ending to the episode than the closing shot of Picard did.

Dialogue High Point
Sadly for the story, the most memorable line of dialog is not in one of the conversations with or about Spock, but it’s Data’s response to Sela’s comment when she is writing Spock’s fake speech.  Sela says, “I rather enjoy writing. I don’t get to do it often in this job,” to which Data replies…

Perhaps you would be happier in another job.

Previous Episode: Unification I • Next Episode: A Matter of Time

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