Star Trek #1518: Unification III

CAPTAIN'S LOG: Burnham tries to get data on the Burn from the Vulcans.

WHY WE LIKE IT: The kind of updates we want on all the main Star Trek cultures.

WHY WE DON'T: Really? That's the new XO?

REVIEW: Right away, I want to say how bold it is to make a belated three-parter out of a TNG two-parter. In Unification, Spock left the Federation to try and reunite the Vulcan and Romulan peoples, something he was still working on by the time Romulus was destroyed in the Abrams movie, and hadn't yet happened by Star Trek: Picard's time frame (which Part III is also taking a lot from). But it did happen eventually, and Leonard Nimoy's Spock even shows up in a reconstructed record of events (and given that the crucial black box come from the USS Yelchin, named after Anton, Discovery is doing all the tributes in one go), so this pays homage to the actors as much as the character. The Vulcans and Romulans were re-unified, but they left the Federation (gasp), and while the Romulans elements in the culture might have had an effect on the relationship with the outside world, it's not specifically because of this. They were forced to pursue dangerous subspace experiments that, to their minds, led to the Burn, and so left the United Planets out of a sense of betrayal and mistrusts that endures today. Oh, and the planet's name has been changed to Ni'Var, a word that has an interesting history. It was previously the name of a Vulcan ship in Enterprise, but the term was coined circa 1967 by linguist Dorothy Jones, who wrote the Dorothy and Myfanwy series of Star Trek stories for the fanzine T-Negative; it literally means "two form" and was an art form practiced on Vulcan in which a subject was examined from two different viewpoints, or in terms of its having two different aspects or natures. Thematically, that works with the PLOT of this episode, but for the now dual culture, it's perfect. Somebody did their research.

In fact, this is a very well written story, with a deep understanding of the Vulcans, how they think, and how their new society might have evolved. Burnham, as Spock's sister, seems to be in a unique position to convince the outlying planet to give her their data on the Burn so she can prove they didn't cause it. But that's an emotional notion, and in truth, they cannot be swayed by her connection to a revered historical figure. One of the surprises here is that her mother is now Qowat Milat, the Romulan sect of honesty from Picard, and there to act as her advocate. On the one hand, it means she didn't cause the Burn (which was a fear). On the other, it makes this quest for truth more personal, and while the intellectual trial of facts is nominally about Burn data, it's REALLY about Burnham being honest with herself and thus vulnerable to her judges. The politics at play are well rendered - no truer statement is made than Momma Burnham telling her daughter that the Quorum isn't the only audience in the room - and she'll get what she wants from the leader of Ni'Var (who else is 'shipping her with Saru?). Before that (predictable) twist, the attempt seems to fail, but what it succeeds at doing is making Burnham confront the reasons why she doesn't feel at home on Discovery, and makes her see she actually does. It's well done and well played, and I for one am very happy we're done with this subplot. I never liked it, but if the point was to raise the stakes in THIS episode, then I can live with it.

I'm less a fan of the B-plot of the episode in which Tilly is surprisingly asked to become First Officer - or ACTING First Officer, with no change in rank, until someone else can be found - which only makes sense from a show-making perspective. She's one of the main characters, and as an all-purpose Ensign, she doesn't have a distinct role to play on the show. I think Season 3 has been struggling with giving her something interesting to do, especially as more and more techy geniuses have joined the cast. But does it make sense IN THE WORLD?! There are many capable bridge crew officers who could have been promoted - my money was on Tactical Officer Rhys who was not shown in an incomplete pan of the crew applauding in the trailer - and if not, then it seems Starfleet could have appointed someone like Willa as someone of appropriate rank and knowledge of the 32nd Century. For that matter, Adira, whose symbiont was an Admiral, might have made a better choice. Instead, it's anxious Tilly, who has to go to everyone to see what they think, leading to a scene where everyone tells her they love her and to take the job. Family or not, is no one on Discovery ambitious at all?! How is this acceptable in terms of chain of command, even to Saru. But it's also temporary, right? What does that mean? Why not mint someone we want to know better from the bridge crew extras if it's only going to be for a little while? Or is Tilly going to somehow keep the position against all odds? Why not just name a new XO and be done with it. Discovery is kind of doing it's own thing in the future, but I can't see how this is acceptable. Like her crew, I like Tilly, but come on now.

LESSON: Better late than never. Worse early than ever.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High:
Talky but deeply interesting. The Tilly stuff is a whopper, but I'm ready to hear counter arguments.

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