Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3, Episode 7 “Unification III”
Any die-hard Star Trek fan will instantly raise an eyebrow when they read the title of this week’s Discovery episode. We all remember the two-part The Next Generation entry “Unification,” where Leonard Nimoy reprises Spock as the elder Vulcan tries to unify the Vulcans and Romulans. Well, this episode is aptly named, as the crew of the Discovery travel to the planet formerly known as Vulcan to not only investigate the Burn, but ultimately provide closure to Spock’s decades-long unification goal while Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is unwittingly put on a character trial.
Once again, Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) is a convenient, if not overwhelming, exposition machine, as he tells Saru (Doug Jones) and Burnham that Vulcan isn’t actually part of the Federation anymore, even though they were founding members back in the day. About a century ago, the Vulcans left the Federation in the aftermath of the Burn, as the Vulcans were actually blamed for causing the Burn, and they now live with their former enemy and homeworld-less cousins, the Romulans, on Vulcan – or as it’s called in this time, Ni’Var.
Understandably, this is a lot to take in for our time travelers, especially Burnham, who now knows that her adopted brother was key in the reunification of Vulcans and Romulans. In a touching moment in her quarters, Burnham opens an ancient log entry from Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (of course), which shows “Unification”-era Spock talking about why his race and the Romulans should be together. Martin-Green, to her enormous credit, perfectly radiates pride, happiness, and a kind of sweet sorrow at seeing the kind of man her brother became. She also reflects what many fans watching would be feeling, as it’s always a nostalgic treat to see Leonard Nimoy continue his legacy so long after his death.
So, the Discovery has its mission: go to Ni’Var, explain to the Vulcans that the cause of the Burn may not be what they think, and try to secure data, collectively called SB-19, that the Vulcans have that may shed more light on the Burn. Upon arriving at the familiar planet, the Vulcans do not want to hear the new evidence, as it may be politically damaging, but Burnham, overstepping her boundaries now that she isn’t Saru’s first officer anymore, uses an ancient Vulcan logic-based loophole to force them to hear what she has to say via an academic forum called the T’Kai-in-ket. Now that Burnham is guaranteed an audience with the Vulcans and Romulans, here is where Discovery starts feeling like 1990’s Star Trek – and we’re all here for it.
Burnham is assigned a sponsor, a person who is able to guide her in her presentation to the Vulcan/Romulan panel. And who is this sponsor? In an out-of-left-field move by Discovery‘s writers, the sponsor ends up being Burnham’s mother, Gabrielle (Sonja Sohn), who we last saw sucked into some distant future in “Perpetual Infinity.” Apparently, Dr. Burnham arrived in the 3100s safe and sound and became a member of the Qowat Milat, a group of Romulan warrior nuns who we probably all remember from Star Trek: Picard. As we learned in Picard, and are reminded in “Unification III,” the Qowat Milat practice the art of Absolute Candor, where practitioners communicate bluntly, honestly, and without regard to possible emotional consequences. By tying in this major part of Star Trek: Picard to Discovery, we can’t help but think of all the cross-series Star Trek references and appearances that used to happen back in the day. That element of classic Star Trek was a major reason, in our opinion, why the franchise was so endearing and long-lasting then and now. Seeing this in Discovery is a great feeling, and we hope shows in the Kurtzman-era continue to do this.
Because of Absolute Candor, Gabrielle is able to quickly assess Burnham and her lingering feeling that she doesn’t fit in with the crew any more thanks to her time alone in the future. The raw emotions Burnham is feeling are brought to light in front of her crewmates, the Vulcans, and the Romulans thanks to the straightforward line of inquiry from Gabrielle. You’ll be forgiven if you think the scenes in the academic forum are reminiscent of a TNG episode, as that show never shied away from placing a harsh spotlight on any of its characters or their motivations. Ultimately, the combined force of her mother and the consequences of her mission to Vulcan help Burnham decide to not ask the Vulcans for help, and that she’ll find more Burn data elsewhere. More meaningfully, Burnham is reassured that she is indeed still a valued member of Discovery‘s crew.
This episode’s b-story involves the Discovery crew unifying in another way. Now that Burnham is out as first officer, Saru needs to pick a new Number One, and he has one person in mind, at least in a temporary capacity: Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman). Of course, Tilly herself is taken aback by the request, as she notes she is among the least-experienced of the crew, and she hasn’t completed the command training program. But, as we first saw in this season’s second episode, Saru has the highest regard for Tilly and her untapped potential despite her inexperience. Tilly stews on the decision for a while, but after seeing all the bridge staff gather together and unify behind her, Tilly takes the job. The crew’s reinforcement of Tilly is a touching scene and shows just how much the crew has pulled together during this show’s run.
Taken together, “Unification III” is an aptly named episode that ties together various parts of Star Trek canon, including the events of Star Trek (2009), The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Picard. More to the point, it serves as an epilogue of sorts for Spock, as we know his mission later in life was successful, although perhaps not in a way any of us could have predicted back in the original two “Unification” episodes. Kudos to writer Kirsten Beyer, no stranger to Star Trek, for crafting this tale, and to director Jon Dudkowski for bringing it to life. We’re now more or less at the halfway point of this season, and we’re thrilled with how the show is progressing.
- The U.S.S. Yelchin is referenced in this episode, an apparent reference to deceased Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin (Chekov in the Star Trek Kelvin timeline films).
- Could you name a time when more than three Spocks appeared in the same episode? “Unification III” has footage of Leonard Nimoy, Liam Hughes as Young Spock, and Ethan Peck as Discovery‘s Spock.
New Star Trek: Discovery episodes are released on Thursdays on CBS All Access in the U.S., CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, streaming on Crave in Canada, and will be available internationally on Netflix on Fridays. Discovery returns next week with the third season three episode “People of Earth.”
Star Trek: Discovery season three stars Sonequa Martin-Green (Commander Michael Burnham), David Ajala (Cleveland “Book” Booker), Doug Jones (Commander Saru), Anthony Rapp (Lt. Commander Paul Stamets), Wilson Cruz (Dr. Hugh Culber), Michelle Yeoh (Philippa Georgiou), Mary Wiseman (Ensign Sylvia Tilly), and Blu Del Barrio (Adira), Ian Alexander (Grey).
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