Star Trek: The Next Generation - "Unification"
Release Date: November 19, 2013
Blu-Ray Disc • 1 Disc
CBS Home Entertainment
CBS's latest single-disc release of Star Trek: The Next Generation takes us on a mission to Romulus, reuniting both halves of the memorable season five two-parter "Unification" which famously marked the return of Leonard Nimoy as Spock. The episode was originally slated to coincide with Star Trek's 25th Anniversary and turned into one of the franchise's most memorable crossover stories. Factor in Mark Lenard's final appearance as Sarek, more fun from Denise Crosby's alter ego Sela and some hilarious scenes with a fat Ferengi, and "Unification" still remains one of TNG's best two-parters.
These standalone reissues of TNG's two-parters have quickly become a mainstay of CBS's release schedule, accompanying the more expensive full-season sets on each release date. However, while the last two ("The Best of Both Worlds" and "Redemption") allowed collectors of the seasons to avoid waiting for the conclusion of the traditional end-of-season cliffhanger, both parts of "Unification" are already included in the Season 5 set. For the casual fan, this makes the decision of whether or not to pick this title up dependent on the exclusive bonus material bundled with the disc. More on that later.
Leonard Nimoy reprises his iconic role as Spock and joins the crew of the Enterprise in this fan-favorite double episode! When the Federation calls for help in locating an ambassador suspected of defecting, Captain Picard is troubled to learn that Spock is the one who has vanished. Seeking information from Spock's ailing father, Sarek, and unlikely help from the Klingons, Picard and his crew find the ambassador pursuing a personal mission on Romulus: a Vulcan/Romuluan reunification. But though the Romulans claim to support the same goal, their motives are not what they seem.
Both parts of the episode are edited together via a standard fade-to-black in this presentation. Despite the fact that a "seamless" edit implies that both parts of the episode should be bridged as smoothly as possible, I don't have as much of an issue with the style used here compared to what we saw in "Redemption". Interestingly, the disc's bonus feature documentary also includes a clip of the transition between both episodes, but personally edited together by Robert Meyer Burnett. This certainly plays back more seamlessly than in the actual episode, although arguments could be made for using both types of transition. Which do you think works best?
A final point about the disc in general, there's no Ultraviolet digital download option here - so those of you who were hoping to add to your "Best of Both Worlds" and "Redemption" digital copies will be left disappointed.
Those of you who have already read my review of Season 5 will be well aware of how highly I rate CBS Digital's remastering efforts for these episodes. The quality on display here is virtually flawless in every regard. Do yourself a favor and go back to see how "Unification" looked on DVD: the dimly lit atmospheric scenes in the Romulan caves and on the Klingon bridge lacked so much detail that at times they just descended into a blurred indistinguishable mess (especially when the camera had to move). The newly scanned 35mm film looks terrific, with original film grain making these scenes pop just the right amount.
As I mentioned in the review of the full season, CBS-D proudly unveiled their new CG model of the Enterprise in "Unification", with the mother of all hull-scraper shots to put it through its paces. The CG model effortlessly merges the sleek shape of the original 6-foot Enterprise physical model with just the right amount of relief on the hull to give it a hint of the 4-foot model's bumpy surface.
CBS-D also got the opportunity to act on hindsight and correct a couple of continuity errors that crept into the original SD broadcast of the episodes. The inhospitable Galorndon Core was returned to it's ominous blue-color that we first saw in Season 3's "The Enemy", after accidentally being turned a cream-color in the SD "Unification". Meanwhile, the famous reflection of sound technician Bill Gocke which was briefly visible in a crystal sat on Proconsul Neral's desk has been painted out.
What more can I say? The episode sparkles, just like the rest of the fifth season. Thankfully CBS Digital have been assigned both the sixth and seventh seasons, so we can expect more of the same high quality with the last two releases.
The single disc Blu-ray of "Unification" comes with a nice extra helping of bonus material created exclusively for this release and not found on the 5th Season set. A cute little 15 minute documentary accompany's the ultimate audio commentary featuring writer/producer Jeri Taylor along with a newly unearthed deleted scene.
“From One Generation to the Next” gave the VAM team more than their fair share of headaches in its conception. With Leonard Nimoy turning down interview requests and Jeri Taylor exclusively contributing to the audio commentary, the number of players left in the race were few and far between. Luckily, Burnett and Lay decided on a slightly different approach and came at "Unification" somewhat obliquely by revisiting TNG's earlier crossover episode, "Sarek". Writer Marc Cushman discusses the joy he felt at having his original crossover concept approved by Gene Roddenberry while Rick Berman talks about the resistance to making any sort of reference to TOS. Sprinkle in some contributions from Denise Crosby, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn and the gang and you have a nice piece which is a lot of fun to watch. I'm glad the VAM team stuck to 15 minutes here, they'd have been stretching things otherwise. Just enough!
Marc Cushman (Writer, "Sarek") interviewed for the "Unification" documentary
Audio Commentary: Without a doubt, the strongest motivation to pick this release up is the newly recorded audio commentary featuring writer and producer Jeri Taylor (accompanied by Mike & Denise Okuda). Jeri retired from Star Trek mid-way through Star Trek: Voyager and in doing so stepped back from public life almost entirely to spend time with family. Through a lot of wrangling and persuading, she eventually agreed to record this 90-minute track which is so more than just a commentary on "Unification": In essence, this is the Jeri Taylor story. From her first (disastrous) convention appearance to the dramatic departure of Genevieve Bujold from Star Trek: Voyager, no details are spared here. Taylor reveals how, out of all her TNG contributions, she remains most proud of "The Outcast", while she viewed Star Trek as a very "human drama" which fueled her love for character-writing in installments such as "I, Borg". Listen out for her hilarious "snowball" metaphor when talking about the production department. Easily the best audio commentary to date, you're certain to leave it with a new found appreciation for such a remarkable (and under-appreciated) woman.
Deleted Scene: In a scene cut from the original episode, Captain Picard welcomes Sarek's wife Perrin aboard, and the two have a quick walk-and-talk where Perrin reveals the extent of the Ambassador's deteriorating health. As usual, it's such a treat to see these treasures from the vault - moments not seen for over 22 years.
While CBS's decision to make the audio commentary and documentary exclusive to this disc is understandable, the same logic shouldn't have been extended to the deleted scene. When fans are shelling out for the full fifth season set, it's a bit much to exclude a deleted scene on the basis of creating a two-tiered market: those who can (and are able to) pick up this single-disc release and those who aren't, but are nevertheless paying for the full 6-disc set.
The Bottom Line
"Unification" marks yet another solid single-disc feature release from Star Trek: The Next Generation's collection of two-part episodes. This two-parter remains a seminal TNG moment and still resonates well today. Throw in a terrific audio commentary from Jeri Taylor, a sweet little documentary and a deleted scene and you have a sure-fire winner.
As TNG's remastering project nears its conclusion, I look forward to future single disc releases accompanying the season sets (strong Cardassian urges for Season 6, folks) along with the continued high standards that go into the production of the exclusive bonus material.
- Written for TrekCore.com by Adam Walker, November 21, 2013