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July 23 2024


An archive of Star Trek News

Unification, Part One

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at July 17, 2009 - 10:16 PM GMT

See Also: 'Unification, Part One' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Picard is summoned to a starbase, where he learns that Ambassador Spock has been spotted on Romulus, to which Starfleet Command fears he may have defected. Picard takes the Enterprise to Vulcan to ask whether Spock's father knows his whereabouts, but he learns from Sarek that he and his son are still estranged and from Perrin that Sarek is near death. Though he and Spock have not spoken in some time, Sarek does not believe that Spock would abandon the Federation and suggests that Spock may have gone to visit his Romulan friend Senator Pardek. Picard asks Gowron to loan him a cloaked ship so he can approach Romulus undetected, but Gowron refuses to meet with him and sends the reluctant K'Vada to transport him only when Picard threatens to expose how Gowron won the recent Klingon civil war. While Picard and Data travel aboard a Bird of Prey beyond the Neutral Zone, LaForge examines Vulcan debris recovered from a Ferengi wreck and concludes that it was part of the deflector array on the T'Pau. Riker takes the Enterprise to the supply depot where the T'Pau was decommissioned and learns from the administrator Dokachin that the ship is missing. While they are checking for the missing vessel, an unidentified warship approaches and fires on the Enterprise, which returns fire, accidentally destroying the mysterious enemy. Meanwhile, Picard learns from the Klingons that Sarek has died, and Data discovers that Pardek, like Spock, has been an advocate for reunification of the people of Romulus and Vulcan. In disguise, Picard and Data transport to Romulus, where Pardek has them taken into protective custody and where they find Spock with the senator.

Analysis: I still remember the anticipation for this episode when it originally aired, shortly after the death of Gene Roddenberry in 1991. We knew from those stills of Spock with Pardek that Spock was coming back, but it was still a shock when the price for that happy event turned out to be losing Sarek for good. It was perhaps fitting that the father of one of the original series' major characters should die "Unification," given that the father of the franchise had so recently passed away and that Sarek's demise had been predicted in another episode two years earlier, but that just made it more difficult to watch - sure, Spock died in The Wrath of Khan, but there were rumors that he might come back shortly after it opened, and he was resurrected in The Search for Spock, meaning that Sarek was the first major character from the original series to pass away. I found it a great disappointment the first time through that Sarek died offscreen, and I still do; I realize it would have been a cliche to have Sarek cling to life till he could tell Picard his final wish, then expire in Picard's presence, but in this case the typical TV scenario would have been a welcome one. As it is, we learn of Sarek's death from a Klingon who couldn't care about him and who believes that Spock is a traitor, at a moment when Picard's attentions must be not on eulogizing the great man, but on contemplating how this will affect his mission to speak to the great man's son.

Other than that regret, though, "Unification, Part One" is a very solid episode. There are very clear A and B storylines - Picard and Data preparing to meet with Spock and trying to figure out what in heck the ambassador could be thinking, Riker and LaForge trying to solve the mystery of a Vulcan deflector array that was apparently stolen by the Ferengi. It can't be an accident that the debris is Vulcan at this moment when the most famous Vulcan of all has gone missing, but there's nothing at this point that would link the wreckage to anything Spock might be up to, whether he's gone to Romulus to argue for an alliance or to trade Federation secrets for Vulcan-Romulan reunification. Not that anyone, including Picard, seems to take seriously the possibility that Spock might have defected. That's just the pretext for the great hurry to find him, calling in a favor that the reluctant Gowron doesn't want to give him because it means acknowledging that Picard played a pivotal role in Gowron's succession. Naturally, if trouble is stirring concerning the Romulans, a change in the balance of power with the Klingons won't be far behind. There's some lovely comic material worked into Picard's difficult trip on the Klingon ship, where he must pretend to love gagh and sleeping on hard shelves to impress K'Vada, though what irritates him the most is the fact that Data stares right through him while he's trying to sleep.

And there's comic material on the Enterprise as well, with Troi teasing Riker about having to deal with cross administrator Dokachin, only to have the tables turned when Riker insists that getting along with the Zakdorn should be the counselor's priority (and Dokachin observes that Riker is clearly trying to placate him by placing a handsome woman in his path, which, he acknowledges, will probably work). I love the comfort level among the crew by this fifth season, when Worf will express disgust with the Klingon leadership to Picard right on the bridge, when Crusher can tease Picard about his uneven eyebrows and Data about how it's easier to make his skin look Romulan than Human, while LaForge is complaining about a seemingly impossible engineering task that of course results in him putting back together a recognizable piece of starship equipment. Though Starfleet treats the information about Spock's disappearance as something so incendiary that Picard must be shown the evidence in person, Picard is comfortable discussing the situation with his senior staff and putting them to work on the mystery.

It's odd that there aren't more Vulcans involved in this mission; since the Enterprise visits Vulcan, it's perfectly positioned to pick up some people who look more like Romulans than the surgically altered Picard and Data, and presumably Spock has contacts among his own people if he's positioning himself to negotiate for them with their long-alienated Romulan cousins. Picard and Data may know about Romulans on paper, yet they're labeled outsiders by the woman who serves them soup practically the minute they arrive. Unbeknownst to them, Pardek already knows they're there - the Romulan authorities already know they're there - and it looks like the episode is going to end badly, with the captain in custody after Riker has hit a dead end with Dokachin and the missing Vulcan ship - but then Spock appears, and all seems well, for the moment. Since I remember vividly who becomes the traitor in this two-parter, I looked for clues on this repeat viewing to see if there is any evidence of it in the first half, and if we're supposed to figure it out, it's too subtle for me. This is a very well-crafted setup for the conclusion, which is where most of the action takes place.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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