The third season of Star Trek: Discovery proves it’s never too late to give a deserving Star Trek episode a sequel! “Unification III” is a follow-up to “Unification II,” which aired 29 years earlier, during the fifth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. (That time span ties the 29 years between “The Trouble with Tribbles” and “Trials and Tribble-ations” in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.)
Kirsten Beyer’s script pays off on the promise of Vulcan and Romulan reunion while breaking new ground of its own.
Here are five standout moments from “Unification III.”
Leonard Nimoy’s Last (Maybe) Star Trek Appearance as Spock
Michael Burnham consults Admiral Picard’s personal files to see the man her brother Spock became. Thanks to repurposed footage from “Unification II,” we do, too.
It’s a treat to see the late Leonard Nimoy “return” as Spock, eight years after his last new performance in the role in Star Trek Into Darkness. More than fan service, this moment foregrounds Spock’s hopeful vision before the episode reveals how it has been vindicated.
Star Trek: Discovery likely won’t include legacy characters in this way too often (though I thought the same thing after last season’s “If Memory Serves”). But since Starfleet’s archives survived the Burn, never say never!
Michael Burnham Demands a Hearing from President T’Rina
President T’Rina of Ni’Var (as Vulcan is now known—a term from early Star Trek fandom that’s appeared in the franchise before) refuses to hear Burnham’s evidence that the experimental SB-19 starship propulsion program didn’t cause the Burn.
Fortunately for Burnham, ancient, inviolable Vulcan tradition is on her side.
It’s not a moment charged with violent, sexual tension as T’Pring’s kal-if-fee challenge in “Amok Time” was. But Burnham’s invocation of “the old ways” similarly reveals more of the endlessly fascinating Vulcan culture.
And not unlike the kal-if-fee, the T’Kal-in-ket is a battle—not for a mate, but for scientific and philosophical truth.
Michael Burnham and Her Mother Meet Again
The revelation of Burnham’s shalankhkai, or advocate, for the T’Kal-in-ket is the biggest surprise in “Unification III.”
Sonja Sohn turns in another moving performance as Dr. Gabrielle Burnham. She shows Michael all the love she did last season, but that love now also takes the form of pressing her daughter to come to terms with personal truth.
As a sister of the Qowat Milat (the “Romulan warrior nuns” introduced in Star Trek: Picard), Gabrielle insists Michael display “absolute candor” with the Quorum, her shipmates, and herself.
Gabrielle illustrates how people who push us to speak and live truthfully, no matter how difficult, can be our strongest allies, saving us from becoming “lost causes.”
Choosing the Peace of Ni’Var Over the Interests of Starfleet
The T’Kal-in-ket reaches an unexpected conclusion when Burnham withdraws her request (accompanied by a strike on a requisite ceremonial Vulcan gong—another echo of the kal-if-fee).
Having acknowledged she and her shipmates are “imperfect and flawed” yet capable of living up to the Federation’s “best ideals,” Burnham proves it again by setting aside what she and the Federation want for the peace of Ni’Var.
Knowing when to insist on our rights and when to insist on others’ good is key to peace—and not only in the Star Trek universe.
The Discovery Crew Affirms Ensign Tilly as Acting First Officer
The crew rallies around Ensign Tilly, encouraging her to accept Captain Saru’s choice of her as his acting first officer.
The scene develops this season’s emphasis on unity. It may also prove an important step in the journey Tilly declared for herself back in season one’s “Context Is For Kings”: “I’m gonna be a captain someday.”
What were your favorite moments in “Unification III”? Let’s talk in the comments!