Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 5: Unification II

The Next Generation, Season 5
"Unification II"
Airdate: November 11, 1991
106 of 176 produced
107 of 176 aired


Having contacted Ambassador Spock on Romulus, Picard and Data must help him determine whether his hopes for re-unification talks between Romulus and Vulcan have any hopes of proceeding. Meanwhile, their investigation into stolen Vulcan ship parts leads Riker and the Enterprise crew into the seamy underbelly of the quadrant. Will these two plots coincide? Can we possibly get a resolution to this story that pays off on the first part's promise?

Kirkslist post: SWM Seeking BBW who gives great... blues performances.


Matthew: The first part of this two-part episode was a well done, if somewhat inconsequential build-up. So the question for this second part for me is: does it deliver? I think on the emotional and character ends, it largely does. The Spock story gives us a credible and interesting denouement for the character - he never resolved his issues with his father (introduced way back in "Journey to Babel"), wound down his Starfleet career, and ended up as a sort of diplomat/peacemaker at large in the galaxy. I really enjoyed some of his dialogue with regard to Sarek - that arguments were all they had, that he heard him clearly now through Picard, and so on.

Kevin: I agree completely on the emotional front. The conversation between Spock and Data on the Klingon ship about Spock's life choices was great. It reveals so much about both characters, including Data's relationship with Picard, a nice echo of the father/son relationship we've been exploring with Spock. It was also great to see the two characters set up to explore humanity from the outside compare notes. And to the writers' further credit, the dialogue felt natural and completely appropriate to each character. I also enjoyed the moment at the end with Spock and Picard. The implication that Fulcan's mind meld as a form of connection to the people they are close to is interesting, and it was a really grewt way to give the epusode an emotional coda without going overboard.

Matthew: On the other hand, I found the overall plot to be somewhat flat. Are we really to believe that 3 ships and 2,000 troops are going to be able to take over a planet at the heart of the Federation? Where is Romulan space with relation to the Federation, anyway? How was the Romulan leadership ever sold on this plan? Apparently, 24 year-old Commander Sela is somehow the driving force behind this plot - this after having failed so spectacularly during the Klingon Civil War. Why does she seem to have so much power? How is it that she can boss the Proconsul of the Senate around? No justification or new information about Romulan culture is given as explanation. The plot is going to go down at 1400. Where? When? Galactic Greenwich Mean Time? These sorts of logic issues make everything feel thin and contrived, like some of the worst Abrams plots. And just how is Data the android Sela has come to "respect in battle?" A Rutian archaeological vessel? Apparently they've come a long way since the "troubles" on planet Northern Ireland.
After such a superb use of continuity in part 1, these flubs are kind of shocking.

Kevin: Sadly, I am forced to agree on this point as well. This episode lacked the dramric energy of the plot twists of Redemption. It felt more like they were going through a checklist. "Item 4: Betrayal by...Pardek, I guess." I would have liked a little more meat on that scene. They had been friends for 80 years; was it all a ploy? Did Sela have something on him, coercing him to help? The scenes in Sela's office were pretty funny, but that was more on the actors than the script. I always wondered why they needed Vulcan supply ships for the plan. The people who would take Spock at his word via subspace would admit a Romulan civilian transport, and the ones who remain skeptical, i.e. everyone, were not fooled by the Vulcan ships.

Matthew: Speaking of thin stories with no explanation, why "must" reunification take place? What do the cultures have to "offer each other" that is so necessary? We are told that this is inexorable and a sea change and utterly necessary. Why? How? For whom? For that matter, this was a golden opportunity to flesh out the whole separation story, which has been left hanging since "Balance of Terror." Who knows what sorts of interesting schisms and dramatic events precipitated such a break? Not Berman and Pillar, apparently.

Kevin: The need for unification could have been more developed. Taking a page from recent history in the Arab world, these people could simply want to live in a non-oppresive state. It would have been interesting to see Spock's idealism clash with the Romulan's pragmatism. Instead, the central motivating idea behind this just ends up a little half-baked.

Matthew: The bar/investigation scenes were fun. It was reminiscent of Star Trek III, and added some flavor to the Trek universe. The characters were interesting, from the blues organist to the fat Ferengi. Apparently Riker plays jazz piano, in addition to being a tromboner.


Matthew: Nimoy is a consummate pro. He slips back into character effortlessly, seeming just as much Spock as he was in TOS (which I've been watching late at night while watching the baby, so it's fresh in my mind). The way he delivered some of his lines, particularly that his arguments with his father were "finally, all we had," stands among his best emotional work as Spock. His scenes really elevated the episode.

Kevin: Not that I ever suspected otherwise, but it's nice to know that Nimoy didn't treat this a just cashing a check. I particularly liked that his characterization clearly incorporates the emotional growth of the films. No one thought he needed to act more closely to the TOS Spock just because. It's a sin they will committ over and over again with Data in the movies.

Matthew: Brent Spiner had the laugh line of the show, "perhaps you would be happier in another job." His chemistry with Denise Crosby was good. I will say that I did not like her as much in this as I did in Redemption. She overplayed it a bit, I think, too sneering for my taste.

Kevin: We've been talking a lot recently about good Data humor versus bad Data humor, and this is defintely in the good column. I think Sela didn't have a lot to work with here. I think she should have played up the resentment angle a little more. She resents her mother for being human, for betraying her father. She resents Picard for sending Yar back in the first place, the list goes on. I think it could have added some meat to the characterization if she were telegraphing that more explicitly.

Matthew: Stephen Root was again really good. "Piggy... back?" All of the guest cast did well here. Only Norman Large's proconsul seemed a bit flat to me. He came across as too young and not a real power player.

Kevin: I love the piano player. the dry sarcasm about her exhusbands was a riot, and kudos to whichever production assistant had to hide under the chair and be the extra set of arms. Well done, sir or madam. Well done.

Production Values

Matthew: We get as sunset version of the matte painting from part 1, and it looks great yet again. The holo-effects in the proconsul's office were nice. But again, his office seemed claustrophobic and small. No windows? Really? For someone so presumably powerful? If you're not going to have windows, you'd better have a seriously swank office. I know human resources managers with better offices than the Proconsul of Romulus.

Kevin: It's like the bridge problem in other ships. Everyone seems to work in front of a plain wall with their planet's emblem on it. A little bit of trivia: If you watch one of the camera pans in Sela's office, you can see a crew member reflected in the object d'art. He is visibly chewing gum.

Matthew: I really liked the salt and pepper wig on Spock. It was the perfect mix between "old" and "like TOS." I actually think it looked better than some of his movie pieces. I wish we could have seen more of the Vulcan ships.


Matthew: Although it provides a nice ending to the Spock story (no, NuTrek 2009 doesn't count, since it has nothing to do with any continuity whatsoever), this episode is flat in many ways, especially on plot points. The production was not great, either. So, given the mix of one good story element and several good performances, I'm willing to give it a grudging 3. But I actually thought about a 2 for a few minutes. Berman and Piller really stumbled. I have to wonder if Jeri Taylor was the difference-maker.

Kevin: I am going to agree on the 3, which makes me particularly sad given the 5 I thought the first part meritted. I never really thoguht of this episode as dropping off in quality in the second half, probably because I was so enamored with Nimoy's performance. I also usually watching these together, so there's some spillover love for the second half. But for the reasons you point out, the actual story just doesn't really pass muster. That makes a 6 for the both of us.

No comments:

Post a Comment