Longtime fans of Star Trek recognize the title “Unification” as a two-parter from The Next Generation. It featured Leonard Nimoy as Ambassador Spock, who was trying to set into motion the reuniting of the Vulcan and Romulan races. Other than his appearance, it was sort of a ho-hum story, with lots of sitting and explaining.
With Unification III, we get an almost direct sequel to those episodes. Even after 30 years, episode writer Kirsten Beyer found a way to knit the current DISCO storyline into the TNG saga. Anyone who says Discovery (and Picard, for that matter) are not Trek canon, are just in denial.
Everything begins as Michael walks down a corridor onboard the Discovery. She tells the audience that she’s not sure if she belongs on the ship anymore because she’s changed. She walked to the shuttle bay and boarded Book’s ship. They smooch and go to bed.
In bed, they discuss the future. She tells Book that if they leave, she must still try to learn about the cause of The Burn. Book asked her if she was always like ‘this,’ meaning that she could not ‘let things go.’ Michael said that she was and that her brother used to “call me on it.”
“Sounds like I would’ve gotten on with your brother,” said Book. “We would have bonded over your messianic complex.”
When Michael reported to engineering, Tilly told her that she was upset. Tilly said that Michael put her in an impossible place with Saru (when Michael and Georgiou took off during “Scavengers”). Michael told her that she felt like she didn’t know if she fit in anymore… Tilly did not respond to that and changed the subject.
Tilly said that there were some minor time discrepancies between the black box data from the various ships. This confirmed Michael’s theory in a sizeable two-dimension region of space. Tilly said that they needed more data to prove this theory for three-dimensions of space.
NOTE: Among the ships, they got data from was the U.S.S. Yelchin, which was a nice reference to the actor who portrayed Chekov in the Kelvin Trek films. Anton Yelchin was killed in an automobile-related accident in 2016.
Michael shared a Federation experiment called SB-19, which was an array of sensors that may have collected Burn data. Michael said that this data was classified, but Admiral Vance may have access to it.
Tilly changed the subject back, asking Michael “what if” she hadn’t made it back. Michael did not have a chance to respond before the computer announced that it was done with the final black-box analysis.
“That confirms it!” whispered Michael.
Michael shared this news with Vance and Saru. She asked about SB-19. Vance said they could not ace data from SB-19, which was held by Ni’Var — which used to be called the planet Vulcan. Vance shared that this planet was now the home of the Vulcans and the Romulans.
NOTE: This unification was exactly the subject of the TNG two-episode story that I was talking about earlier. I wonder if this story will also involve the planet of Vashti, where Picard marooned the Romulans after the AI revolution (as seen in the Star Trek: Picard episode, “Absolute Candor”).
Vance explained that Ambassador Spock helped bring the two together, explaining that they were two tribes of the same species who went their separate ways. He also told them that Ni’Var left the Federation about a hundred years ago and would not share their research anymore.
Turns out that the Federation asked all member worlds to figure out a way for warp without dithulium before The Burn happened. SB-19 was the attempt made by Ni’Var, and it would have worked much like the spore drive. The scientists on Ni’Var thought it was too dangerous and asked permission to shut it down. The Federation said “no,” and then The Burn happened.
“They think they caused The Burn?” Michael asked.
“No,” said Vance. “They think we forced them to cause The Burn.”
Saru and Michael said that this new data might change things. Vance noted that sending Spock’s sister might work. Michael said that she didn’t think she would do this (after getting demoted and all). Vance told her to find a way.
We now see a few flashbacks from various Discovery episodes, where Michael was interacting with Spock (as portrayed by Ethan Peck and young Liam Hughes). Michael called up a holo of Ambassador Spock from Stardate 45825 (as seen in “Unification, Part II”), from the personal files of Admiral Jean-Luc Picard. This time Spock is portrayed by the legendary Leonard Nimoy.
“Closed minds have kept these two worlds apart for centuries,” said Spock. “We can either choose to live with that enmity or seek a way to change it. The union of the Romulan and Vulcan people will not be achieved by politics or diplomacy … but it will be achieved.”
Book watched Spock’s message with Michael.
“You guys are chronic overachievers,” said Book. She asked Book how she would accomplish this feat, and he reassured her.
Later, Saru called Tilly into his ready room and offered her his acting First Officer position. She was overwhelmed and said she needed to think on it. Then Saru ordered the Discovery jump to Ni’Var. Stamets tried out the new “goo” and smiled.
They arrived at Ni’Var and were hailed by their president, T’Rina (Tara Rosling). She asked how the DISCO evaded their long-range sensors. Saru explained the spore drive. T’Rina said she’d been briefed about their mission and special passenger. Michael stepped forward.
“Greetings, Madam President,” she said. “I am Michael Burnham, daughter of Sarek; sister of Spock.”
T’Rina was happy to meet Michael but wanted to ignore the request for the SB-19 data. Michael tried to explain why she wanted the data. Still, T’Rina said that it was an issue of “great cultural and political sensitivity.” T’Rina lectured Michael on what harm this might do to the fragile Vulcan/Romulan society. She then summarily denied the request for the data.
Michael then enacted T’Kal-in-ket request, which was a “philosophical process designed to unearth deep truths.” Once invoked, the T’Kal-in-ket request cannot be denied. T’Rina said she would call a group together to hear the appeal. Michael would have to defend her theory in front of four experts.
“I am Michael Burnham, daughter of Sarek; sister of Spock.”
Soon, the four beamed over. This included President T’Rina, who told Michael that her Shalankhkai would be there soon. This person would act as an advocate for Michael during the hearing. Only sisters from the Qowat Milat can serve.
NOTE: Another reference to the Picard episode, “Absolute Candor.”
T’Rina explained that the nuns were essential in the reunification process. Michael apologized to T’Rina for forcing this process. The president said that they would “ruthlessly” assail Michael’s character during the T’Kal-in-ket, as per tradition. T’Rina told Michael that if she were to fail in this process, the sister of Spock would be viewed by all as a “dissembler.” That would have grave consequences for the unification project.
Michael learned that one Qowat Milat sister was interested in working with her. The sister beamed over, and it turned out to be Michael’s mother!
NOTE: Wow! What a bombshell. Didn’t see that coming.
Saru showed T’Rina around, and he shared that not many in the Federation are aware that Discovery traveled through time. Saru also said they could not keep that secret from her and explain how Michael Burnham was in this time.
Saru did his best to spin the Federation in a positive light to T’Rina. She told him that the rift between the Federation and Ni’Var was not just over SB-19. Saru said he’d like to listen to her tell him about the other stuff. She liked that.
“In its desire to serve the many, the Federation ignored the needs of the few.”
Dr. Gabrielle Burnham (Sonja Sohn) told Michael that she never made it to Terralysium (as was the plan for the real Red Angel — watch Discovery’s Season 2 for details). She said that Michael felt “lost.” Michael confided in her mom and said that she felt as if she did not fit in. Michael said that she was right about The Burn. Dr. Burnham laughed and said that Michael’s plan would not work and that she was there because Qowat Milat support lost causes.
T’Rina told Saru that the Federation grew too large, and that’s why the dilithium crisis happened.
“In its desire to serve the many, the Federation ignored the needs of the few,” T’Rina told Saru.
NOTE: WOW! A callback to the most incredible line in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan!
Saru asked about that old Vulcan phrase, and she said that over time, the Vulcan people gave up many axioms and sayings — that included. Saru explained that the Federation gained some new wisdom.
“It has been my experience that we learn our greatest lessons when we pay a heavy price,” said Saru. “You must admit … the Federation has paid … most dearly.”
Aboard DISCO, the hearing began. Just like so many past Trek trial episodes, the mood was tense. The Vulcans and Romulans assembled did not really want to hear what Michael had to say. After some time, the Romulans were leaning toward helping Michael.
N’Raj (Oliver Becker) and Shira (Stephanie Belding) represented Romulan interests, while V’Kir (Emmanuel Kabongo) was in charge of the proceedings. V’Kir and T’Rina were there on behalf of the Vulcans.
Meanwhile, Tilly asked Stamets what he thought of becoming First Officer, and technically, his boss. Got to be honest here, Anthony Rapp made some of the best facial expressions here of the series. Meme-worthy faces.
At the hearing, Dr. Burnham pulled Michael into the hall and said she was not being candid about everything. She was hiding the fact that she felt that this might not work, among other things. Michael tried to get her mom to persuade the four in the room, but Dr. Burnham refused.
Back inside, the four asked how could they be assured that the SB-19 research would not be restarted. Michael said she was pretty sure the Federation learned its lesson. Dr. Burnham butted in and said that Michael wanted them to simply trust her while she was not being forthcoming.
“This is who the Federation sends us after nearly a century,” said Dr. Burnham. “And just moments ago, she shared her misgivings with me about whether or not she even belongs here. Isn’t that true?”
“It’s not that simple,” Michael said as she gritted her teeth.
Dr. Burnham said that while she grew up on Vulcan, she wasn’t a Vulcan and can be manipulated.
Michael finally pushed back and brought up the fact that Michael and the Discovery crew beat the evil AI — Control. She did admit that she was “doing it wrong” and feared losing her friends. Dr. Burnham said:
“Now, she speaks truthfully.”
The Vulcans were skeptical, while the Romulans said they would give them the data. There was a kerfuffle when the Romulans announced this. T’Rina said that Michael used Spock’s name to promote the Federation, an organization he left.
Michael withdrew her request and said that she’d keep searching for more proof. She did mention that she’s share anything she found with the scientists on Ni’Var.
“Now, she speaks truthfully.”
Later, Michael and her mom shared a private moment. Dr. Burnham said that T’Rina now trusted Michael and gave her the data. They hugged, and Dr. Burnham said she was going to stay on Ni’Var.
“You always know where to find me,” said Dr. Burnham.
In the lab, all of the bridge crew assembled with Stamets to tell Tilly to take the job. At the last second, Michael walked in. She also told Tilly to take the job. They cried and hugged. Tilly ordered Michael to start working with the data.
“You are going to find out what caused The Burn and rebuild the Federation,” said Tilly. Everyone applauded.
Saru chatted again with T’Rina in his ready room. She told him that she was pleased with everything. But he still said to her that Ni’Var rejoining the Federation might not happen anytime soon; he wanted them to keep the conversation going.
She beamed away and told Captain Saru to “live long and prosper.”
On Book’s ship, Michael told Book that she was staying in Starfleet and that she belonged. He said he didn’t know where that left him, but Michael felt like home. “So do you,” she said.
TREK REPORT SUPPLEMENTAL:
Another good one. And it was just amazing how Kirsten Beyer made everything sync up with Trek from the past. Well done, Ms. Beyer. I hope the Discovery will return to Ni’Var, and we’ll get to see what the “new” Vulcan looks like.
Questions created by this episode:
- Will Book stay? Will they draft him into Starfleet if he does?
- Will Ni’Var come back to the Federation? Will Saru talk them back in?
- What will the SB-19 data reveal?
Lots to unpack for the rest of this third season.
RATING: 4 out of 5