Published Nov 27, 2020
Recap: Star Trek: Discovery — Unification III
A TNG storyline comes full circle
By Jay Stobie
Fascinating. As the title suggests, “Unification III” serves an interesting role as a distant sequel to the iconic The Next Generation two-parter “Unification.” A concerned personal log conveys Michael Burnham’s uncertainty over her place aboard the U.S.S. Discovery-A, yet the former first officer finds comfort and wisdom in her emerging relationship with Cleveland “Book” Booker. After Sylvia Tilly expresses her own misgivings about Burnham’s trustworthiness, the ensign reveals that the black boxes Michael recovered from the U.S.S. Yelchin, U.S.S. Gav’Nor, and U.S.S. Giacconi confirm that The Burn did not destroy the starships at precisely the same moment.
Although the data allows the pair to narrow down the coordinates to the catastrophe’s origin, Burnham hopes that information from a Federation experiment called SB-19 could help pinpoint the location. Admiral Vance seems impressed, but he surprises Saru and Burnham by telling them that SB-19’s results can only be accessed by the planet Ni’Var, previously known to the galaxy as Vulcan. The seeds of reunification that Ambassador Spock planted in the 24th century had eventually taken root, and the Vulcan-Romulan populace coexisted as part of the Federation for centuries.
The pre-Burn dilithium shortage prompted the Federation to pressure Ni’Var (a name that was also used on a Vulcan High Command vessel in the 2150s) to develop SB-19, a program to instantly transport starships across vast distances. Believing that their own research caused The Burn, Ni’Var’s leadership blamed the Federation for influencing them to continue the experiment and left the coalition. Vance hypothesizes that, as the sister of the widely revered Spock, Burnham might have a chance to acquire the data they need from Ni’Var.
A double dose of nostalgia occurs when Burnham accesses a recording of her brother from Admiral Jean-Luc Picard’s personal archives. Taken from Leonard Nimoy’s fantastic performance in TNG’s “Unification II,” the footage elicits joyful tears from Burnham and tugs at every Star Trek fan’s heart. Book lightens the mood by playfully describing Burnham and Spock as chronic overachievers. Elsewhere on Discovery, Saru approaches Tilly and asks her to consider becoming his temporary Number One. Despite her doubts, the ensign agrees to give thought to the notion.
Discovery jumps to Ni’Var and is greeted by President T’Rina, who dismisses the Federation’s request to access SB-19. As a graduate of the Vulcan Science Academy, Burnham invokes the T’Kal-in-ket, a philosophical process that permits her to defend her hypothesis about The Burn before a scientific quorum. T’Rina informs Burnham that she will be provided with an advocate from the Qowat Milat, thus introducing the warrior nuns and their absolute candor (previously seen in Star Trek: Picard) into Discovery.
When the advocate unveils herself, Michael is stunned to learn that the Qowat Milat member is her mother, Dr. Gabrielle Burnham. Rather than landing on Terralysium as planned, it turns out that Gabrielle was flung to Essof IV, the planet where Discovery’s crew initially captured her during season two. The 32nd century colonists transported Gabrielle to the Qowat Milat, who brought her back to health. Michael confides in her mother, sharing her fears over her role aboard Discovery. Gabrielle briefs Michael about the impossible task of appealing to the three quorum members: N’Raj (a Romulan elder), V’Kir (a Vulcan purist), and Shira (a Romulo-Vulcan representative).
The ceremony begins, with Michael arguing that The Burn originated at a location other than Ni’Var. In a private moment, Gabrielle urges her daughter to be more honest with the group on a personal level. Back in the quorum, Gabrielle openly chastises Michael, questioning her past actions. An impassioned Michael defends herself by highlighting the sacrifices made by Discovery, ultimately admitting she isn’t sure why she feels so out of place among her crew. Discord grips the three representatives, causing Michael to withdraw her request in order to protect the peace on Ni’Var. Observing how the Vulcan and Romulan delegates interact, as well as the manner in which their cultures have become intertwined, proves to be captivating.
Michael’s forthrightness leaves a positive impression on T’Rina, who provides Gabrielle with the SB-19 data to supply to Michael. Having bonded during a discussion about the state of the Federation, T’Rina and Saru convene in Discovery’s ready room, where the two agree to continue their dialogue. In engineering, Paul Stamets organizes the bridge crew so that they can all encourage Tilly to accept Saru’s offer to become the acting first officer. On the Nautilus, Michael tells Book that she’s staying with the crew, and he responds that being with Michael feels like home.
“Unification III” captivates as an essential follow-up to TNG’s “Unification” duology. The episode connects elements from multiple series and films, deals with over 900 years of in-universe history, and honors Leonard Nimoy, all the while advancing Discovery’s 32nd century narrative. We are treated to flashbacks featuring Ethan Peck and Nimoy as Spock, and the installment both secures Spock’s diplomatic legacy and mentions his “death” during his mission to save Romulus (the Prime Timeline remains unaware of Spock’s trip to its Kelvin counterpart). Following the homage to Aron Eisenberg with the Eisenberg-class U.S.S. Nog, the mention of a U.S.S. Yelchin ranks as a welcome tribute to Chekov actor Anton Yelchin. Saru and Burnham make vital in-roads with Ni’Var, but a successful outcome to Discovery’s quest to restore the Federation remains far from inevitable. Stay tuned as we continue to boldly go…
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer who has contributed articles to the official Star Trek website and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and the official Star Wars website. Jay also serves as a part-time assistant and consultant advising many actors and creatives who work on his favorite sci-fi shows and films. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.
Star Trek: Discovery streams on Paramount+ in the United States, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and on Netflix in 190 countries.