Case Number 26595: Small Claims Court


Paramount // 1991 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // November 19th, 2013

The Charge

"I'm looking for Ambassador Spock."
"You have found him, Captain Picard."

The Case

Ever since Leonard McCoy made his way through the halls of the Enterprise-D in "Encounter at Farpoint," Star Trek fans wondered about the possibility of bringing characters from the original series into Star Trek: The Next Generation. Wisely, the producers waited until the show had established itself before going down that road; one shudders to think what the results would have been if Spock had made an appearance in the first two seasons. Finally, while the show runners were plotting out Season Five, Leonard Nimoy suggested that perhaps it was time for Our Favorite Vulcan to make an appearance. The result is the two-part episode "Unification," released as the standalone Star Trek TNG: Unification (Blu-ray) by Paramount.

Starfleet is in a tizzy: Ambassador Spock has up and vanished. Making matters worse, he has turned up on Romulus, and the Federation brass fears that he has defected. Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart, Excalibur) heads to Vulcan to speak with Spock's father, Sarek (Mark Lenard, Here Come the Brides), who is battling a degenerative neurological illness. Picard and Data (Brent Spiner, Night Court) must secure help from the Klingons, while Riker (Jonathan Frakes, North and South) and the Enterprise follow the clues from some unexplained wreckage. As it turns out, all roads lead to Romulus.

There are three plots to this two-parter:

* Riker and the Enterprise search for clues. Somewhat predictable, yet still fun, main because it is handled with a light touch. Sometimes it's a little too light; I'm still trying to figure out how anyone could see a fully-intact Galaxy class starship floating in the salvage yard and conclude that it's just another derelict, power or no power. Maybe next time, slap a "For Sale by Owner" sign on the hull.

* Romulan plot. The unification movement was an interesting ploy by the Romulans -- right up to the moment in which Sela (Denise Crosby, Pet Sematary) reveals her plan to invade Vulcan, with a little more than 2,000 troops. To repeat: The planet of Vulcan v. 2,000 troops. That would have been the perfect moment for Data to finally develop a sense of humor, so we could have about 5 straight minutes of Data on the floor in hysterics, laughing at Sela, with both Picard and Spock finally joining in. Hell, if it had been 2,000 Daleks, I'd still put odds on the Vulcans.

* While other aspects of the plot don't bear much scrutiny, the real centerpiece -- the Sarek-Picard-Spock interactions -- more than made up for their failings. Bringing together threads from the earlier ST: TNG episode, "Sarek," as well as from Sarek's initial appearance all the way back in "Journey to Babel," we feel the rift that has grown between father and son. The scenes are not only wonderfully written, but masterfully performed by three veterans. In the commentary, writer Jeri Taylor wonders if they made a mistake by having Sarek die off-screen. To my thinking, it works better that way. What Sarek might have said to Picard or Spock at his death isn't really the point -- what matters is what he thought in life, and that is the gift that Picard grants Spock at the end. Furthermore, it underscores the simple truth that death comes like a thief in the night.

As with pretty much all the re-mastered Star Trek releases, the HD presentation is spectacular. The making-of featurette points out a major flaw that was corrected for the remastering -- a shot of a boom mic operator clearly reflected in a glass ornament. The drawback of the high definition is that in some cases the makeup becomes a bit obvious; it's a particular problem with Sarek, whose makeup borders on Kabuki. Audio is almost as good, but the lower registers lack punch. There's a nice set of extras: the aforementioned making-of featurette, a few deleted scenes, and a commentary track with exec producer/writer Jeri Taylor and Treksperts Mike and Denise Okuda. It's an enjoyable track, with Taylor spending time on the episode itself as well as her career with Star Trek as a whole.

The Verdict

Come for the scenes with Picard and Sarek, stay for the half-baked Romulan plot. Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2013 Jim Thomas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* Full Frame (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (German)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)

* English (SDH)
* French
* German
* Japanese

Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Deleted Scene
* Featurette
* Promos

* IMDb

* Memory Alpha: Star Trek Wiki