Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5, Episodes 7 and 8 – “Unification Part 1 and 2” – A Question of the Past and Peace

Image result for star trek tng unification

    “Unification Part 1 and 2” are both good “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes. They aren’t the best and I feel that some of the story points aren’t completely thought through, but this is an episode that gives us some good exploration of the Romulans. Also it is great seeing more classic characters from “Star Trek: The Original Series” and seeing where their stories end up. If you are a Romulan fan like me, outside of spoilers, I do recommend checking this two-parter out. For this I’ll be going over the complete story with things I like but scoring each part individually before giving it my final score.

“Unification Part 1” was directed by Les Landau with Teleplay by Jeri Taylor and story by Rick Berman and Michael Piller (for both parts) with “Unification Part 2” being directed by Cliff Bole and teleplay by Michael Piller.

The story follows the crew of the Enterprise-D investigating the possible defection of Ambassador Spock to Romulus.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Klingon Politics – One of the first things that our crew needs is a ship with a cloak, so Picard takes them to Qo’noS and the Klingon Empire. We quickly learn that Gowron has been re-writing history to make himself responsible for all the good that had happened and doesn’t even talk to Picard. Picard gets around this by suggesting that they can find help from someone else in the Empire and in turn they will now have the Federation’s gratitude. Gowron’s secretary gets it and they get a ship with a Klingon who will take them (Data and Picard) to Romulus. It is awesome as after Data and Picard leave the Klingon Captain still does everything he can to make their experience uncomfortable, showing Gowron was still being petty again Picard for the threat.

Riker – The B Plot follows Riker uncovering why a decommissioned Vulcan ship was found on a destroyed Ferengi cargo ship that crashed in an asteroid belt. This leads to Riker dealing with the leader of a scrapyard and convincing him to work with them and after combat with a heavily armed ship befriending a musician at a club to find out the dealings of a Ferengi businessman. It is very well done and we get to see why Riker is the First Officer. I really liked seeing Riker in command in these two episodes.

Sarek – “Unification Part 1” involves Sarek’s last days as Picard goes to him to see why Spock might have left to Romulus. It is sad seeing how much his mind has detiorrated and you can see why his new wife resents Spock for leaving and is protective of him. His scenes here are small but it was great to see Mark Lenard one last time. His Sarek brought so much to “Star Trek” and I wish we’d had more time with him in the episode.

Spock – Spock is the one who drives this story as it is his working with a Romulan Senator that he is spreading Vulcan philsophy and promoting the eventual peaceful unification of Vulcans and Romulans. He didn’t tell anyone he was doing this, which felt out of character, and he is pretty stubborn through the episode believing he will be successful. The Romulan senator betrays him but he decides to stay to continue fighting for his goals, but before Picard leaves Picard offers a mind meld so that Spock can see what his father thought of him. This scene is well done, even if Spock’s motives aren’t entirely fleshed out well. It is always great seeing Leonard Nimoy though, and his conversation about humanity with Data and his clashing with Picard were some of the stronger elements of the episode.

Data – Data goes undercover on Romulus with Picard for this two-parter and from this gives us some great moments. Data’s genius is what saves them from the Romulan Betrayal and Sela and it is his connecting with Spock that helps bridge the divide between Picard and Spock. Spock and Data discuss what each of them seeks, that Data is what Spock strives to be (good, emotionless and logical) and Spock has what Data always wanted (emotions, etc.) It is really well done. The second part of Data saving the day comes about from how stupid the Romulans are leaving them in a room with no one to guard them and an open computer. It is so dumb but Data using that access to free them makes sense.

Picard – Picard is the bridge between Sarek and Spock in more ways than one this episode. He’s the diplomat and we see that in how he strongarms the Klingons to help them through diplomacy and in his distrust of the entire situation with Romulus. In the end the Romulan plot is revealed but Picard is shown that there is still a chance for peace in the long term and offers Sarek’s memories to Spock in a mind meld as his parting gift.

The Unification Movement – The Unification Movement is really cool as Romulan Society is a totalitarian run. The Tal Shiar have everyone afraid and Romulan superiority is preached above all else. Vulcan philosophy is the counter to that and through ambassador Spock we see the younger generation of Romulans taking to his ideas, showing that maybe someday there can be peace once again between Romulans and Vulcans.

Romulan Betrayal – The Senator supporting the Unification Movement was using it as a front to gain power and prestige within the government and gives them all up. This betrayal was clever and well done and made sense. For him it was as much a matter of survival for him and the people he represented, knowing that the members of the Unification Movement were enemies of the State. I wish he’d shown up more after the betrayal as the Senator, Pardek was around for the Khitomer Accords. I wanted to see more of what drove his philosophy.

Okay:

Sela -I like that Sela is back, Denise Crosby is fantastic in the role and like Spock she is also part human but embraces the alien side of herself. This was something that could have been explored given that Data gets this treatment with Spock. Her plan is to occupy Vulcan and from there get the Romulans a foothold in Federation space. Given that the Federation was still largely peaceful during this time, it probably would have worked. The problem is how she is written, after Spock refuses to give her speech to the Vulcans and Federation and she has to use a hologram she leaves the room with her guards. Our heroes ambush her after that as there is no one in the room and they can hack the threat, ending the threat.

Cons:

The Romulan Plan and Threat – Occupying Vulcan, might have worked. For how long I’m unsure about but if getting a foothold in Federation Space is what the Romulans want than they should keep their hostages watched. Sela and her guards leaving her office unguarded was one of the dumbest things in any episode. It also seems to be a pattern where Romulans leaving is why they get defeated. This completely ruins the threat established and hurt the overall quality of the episode.

My scores will be below this summary but here are my thoughts on the story overall. This was a solid two-parter that had a lot of good ideas that were not fully explored. What the Romulans wanted with Vulcan felt haphazard and not well thought out, Spock not telling the Federation struck me extremely stupid and put more people at risk besides those in the Unification Movement and leaving unguarded prisoners is a far too common easy out in “Trek” writing. I love the Romulans and this was a good exploration of some of the people within their society, I just wish we’d gotten more details beyond everyone being tied to the Government or part of the Unification movement. Nuance and greater depth would have made this story amazing, rather than simply enjoyable and good.

“Unification Part 1” score: 8 / 10 Solid mystery plot and reveal.

“Unification Part 2” score: 7.4 / 10 Good character moments but brought down by the stupidity of the Romulan enemy actions.

Final Score: 7.7 / 10 Enjoyable and had good guest appearances but needed a stronger plot, especially in regards to the Romulan plans and endgame.

Star Trek Beyond (2016): The Reboot Series Finally Captures Classic “Star Trek”

Star Trek Beyond

    “Star Trek Beyond,” is a film that best captures the spirit of the Star Trek Franchise than probably “The Undiscovered Country.” That film has a better story and is one of my all time favorite Star Trek Films but this film is still really good and I enjoyed it a lot more than “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which at the end of the day depended way too much on conspiracy and fan service rather than showing the spirit and cost of adventure the way this film does. Non-spoiler thoughts…this film has great action, comedy and characters and is well worth your time to see it on the big screen.

    “Star Trek Beyond” was directed by Justin Lin, written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung and produced by J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Bryan Burk.

     The story takes place 3 years into the 5 year mission and Kirk (Chris Pine) finds himself at a crossroads with the possibility of promotion and Spock (Zachary Quinto) is pulled back into Vulcan after a major death.  They and the crew are put to the test though when they are lead into a trap and must face Krall (Idris Elba) who destroys their ship, forcing them to adapt to the planet and keep him from getting the superweapon he seeks.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – This movie captures the wonder of the World of Star Trek. We get the Utopia of Yorktown, the horrors of war via Krall and tons of alien species and first contact opportunities.

Yorktown – Yorktown is a like a giant snowglobe in space and looks like how I always imagined a advanced space station actually looking (in the tv shows they never were able to capture it like it is on film, they are just stations, this is a city). I loved this area and I like that we spent time here to humanize our crew and see how the Federation has achieved Utopia.

The Writing – Minus the writing of Krall, the writing is a major pro. Every character is given things to do, characters change and aren’t just rehashing the same story (Kirk, Spock and Uhura had the same story twice in the last two reboot films). Simon Pegg being a Trekkie and one of the writers is one reason I think why this worked so much.

Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and stunning and captures the old look of the show while modernizing it for the screen. It feels dreamlike and from it the adventure of this great series.

The Comedy – The comedy is gold, especially anything with Jaylah and Scotty and McCoy and Spock. The dialogue is quick and witty and always moves the action forward.

Use of Ensemble Cast – The cast all has things to do and it keeps the story strong! Uhura and Sulu are protecting the hostages and the device, Chekov is with Kirk, McCoy is Spock and Scotty is with Jaylah. Each of them are working to find one another and defeat Krall and it leads to great comedic and dramatic moments.

The Cast – The cast is the strongest part of this film, these actors have come to inhabit these characters.

Chekov – R. I. P. Anton Yelchin…you really inhabited this role. This is a film where Chekov is with Kirk for a lot of it and later teams up with Scotty since he knows tech. almost as well. We see him be the hero and the problem solver and his relationship with Kirk is pretty great. You’ll be missed Anton…

Sulu – John Cho is fantastic as Sulu and in this we get to meet his husband and daughter at Yorktown and from there see the reason why he is fighting so hard to defend it. In this he get to see him fly the Franklin, fight with the Enterprise until Krall’s drones destroy it. It is great seeing him and Uhura team up.

Uhura – Uhura is the primary protector of the hostages and the device that Krall is trying to get. She only loses when Krall threatens a crew member forcing the crewman to reveal her hand and where she’s kid the device. Uhura is ready to die to protect it though. We also see that her and Spock still have a great relationship even though they may or may not have broken up. Zoe Saldana is fantastic.

Scotty – Simon Pegg is really great in the role of Scotty and in this we see him as the major problem solver, whether it is fixing the Franklin, finding the crew and Krall or working with Jaylah on traps.

McCoy – Karl Urban really owns the role of McCoy and in this we get to see his friendship with Spock grow as they are stuck together for most of the film. It is great seeing their dynamic as McCoy’s cynical optimism is contrasted beautifully with Spock’s cold clear logic and duty driven decisions. This eventually leads to them taking on Krall by kidnapping one of the drone ships since Spock needs someone to monitor his injury he received when the Enterprise was destroyed and McCoy is the only one who knows about it.

Spock – Spock is faced with a decision in this…to stay with the crew or to return to Vulcan to help create more Vulcans. Ambassador Spock has died and no Vulcan is once more lacking limited leaders and there still aren’t very many of them. Over the course of the film he decides to stay for the crew though, not because of future Spock and I really like that. He discovers that it is out on the frontier he can protect Vulcan best and the realization that the entire crew is his family now and will be (he sees a picture of the crew when they are older that Ambassador Spock was keeping).

Kirk – Kirk like Spock is faced with a decision to stay or get a promotion and go as when we first meet him his life on the ship has become mundane and he expresses how trapped everyone feels out in space for so long. It is powerful as he is really talking about himself. Krall reminds him of why he is out there too and even though he loses the Enterprise he decides to stay to Captain and because the Captain of the newly built Enterprise-A we see being built at the end of the film.

Jaylah -Sofia Boutella is awesome as Jaylah and I hope she becomes part of the main crew. She is the one who helps them all team up as her home is Krall’s old Federation ship the Franklin. It is thanks to her and Scotty that they get it running and are able to use it as a base to free the hostages and to confront Krall and his drone forces. She also has a somewhat romantic thing with Scotty and is an orphan whose been fighting Krall all her life. Suffice to say she is awesome.

The Idea of Krall – The idea of Krall as a former Space Marine turned alien warlord is cool. Peace doesn’t work for everyone, especially those who gain honor from combat and live from it (one reason the Federation fights the Klingons every generation even after the treaties). There was so much more that could have been done with this idea if he had just been fleshed out more as a character.

Remembering the Dead – R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin. Both of them were given time to be remembered as Spock remembered Ambassador Spock and the final scene was fade to black with “For Anton” in memory of Anton Yelchin. The two of them were amazing and have left a legacy on this universe and the world.

Okay: Krall/Balthazar Edison – Idris Elba is good at humanizing this ex-marine turned alien Warlord and his acting is great, it is just the writing for Krall is only so-so so I’m putting him at okay. We never get explanations of why he turned into an alien or how using people turned him back into a person.

The Cons: Villain plan – The villain plan is to destroy Yorktown, which if Krall want the Federation at war, that isn’t going to help…since there is no way could escape, it was do the most damage and die…which I expected more from a man who had lived hundreds of years. He should have had a better plan.

How did Balthazar become Krall and Revert Back? – Balthazar was a M.A.C.O. (Pre-Federation Marine) who is maid captain after the Xindi and Romulan wars and finds himself abandoned on the planet. Something happens that causes him to become the alien Krall and he is using people to turn back into a person. This is never explained.

Pacing – The pacing can be a bit jarring at times. Sometimes everything is going too fast and we have no time to really soak in what our characters are going through, and other times we linger too long. This is most true at the beginning but by about a third of the way through the film this isn’t as much of an issue.

   The villain isn’t bad but he is where most of the holes in the plot are. Sometimes the pacing can be a little jarring, and I was bored at one point because of it…but the payoff when they arrive on Krall’s world is fantastic and almost everything after that works. This is a film that reminded me why I’m a Trekkie and I can’t wait to go back and review the other films so I can rate them all against one another. This a film well deserving of it’s place in the Franchise and some of the most fun I’ve had at the movies this summer.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 2 – “Yesteryear” – Spock’s Search for Peace

Star Trek The Animated Series Season 1 ep 2

    “Yesteryear” is a great Spock and Time Travel episode. It is also one of the few times we get to see an Andorian character explored outside of the horrible “Enterprise” series. It is a subtle episode that manages to bring a lot depth and show a lot without having to say much. It’s focus on Spock also lends it a lot of strength too as there aren’t any side plots to distract from that core story.

    The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by D. C. Fontana.

      The story involves the crew traveling to the planet of the Time Vortex in order to help some archaeologists explore the past of the Federation. When Kirk and Spock return though they find no one recognizes Spock and that he died as a child in this timeline forcing Spock to travel back to the past in order to prevent his death.

The Pros: The Archaeologists – The archaeologist team has a great look! We have a woman of color in charge and an alien with a beak and wings working with her. They have a minor role but they work with Spock in order to restore the Timeline.

The Guardian of Forever – The Guardian is haunting, just like the episode it first appeared in in “The Original Series.” It also lays down the rules too that Spock can only change one big event, illustrating that actions will have consequences before he even goes back in time. James Doohan plays the voice of the Guardian and other characters in the episode.

Kirk – Kirk is the only one who remembers Spock and it is he working with Spock to learn what happened in the timeline where Thelin is now his First Officer in order to bring Spock back to life and save his mother. He is supportive and we see just how deep the friendship is, from them exploring Orion together before the Timeline was changed and afterwords where Kirk is the only one who knows what happened.

Thelin – Thelin is the First Officer in the Timeline that Spock died as a child. He is a cool character and I would have liked to see more of him. He is a warrior but supports Spock in restoring the Timeline since Spock’s desire to save his mother from dying is something he finds admirable. He is one of my favorite minor characters and I wish Andorians made more appearances on “Star Trek.”

Amanda Grayson – Majel Barrett does a wonderful job as Spock’s Mom. She is the outsider on Vulcan and is doing all she can to support Spock on a path she cannot take. I feel bad for her character as she is powerless to do anything for Spock beyond show him love. She in many ways is just as much an outsider as she is, except she has chosen not to become Vulcan wholly in philosophy, much like Spock does later.

Sarek – Sarek is a harsh father and complex character. He is very much a man of Vulcan who sees the Vulcan way as the purest way to peace. It is for this reason I get why he is the ambassador to Vulcan. Sadly he does not hold other Vulcans accountable for when they bully his son though he supports Spock in setting things right for himself. When old Spock pretends to be his cousin he listens to him as well when old Spock tells him to seek to understand his son. It is a touching scene and Sarek keeps having the feeling that he knows Old Spock even though Spock is going by a different name. Mark Lenard is once again fantastic in this role.

Spock – Spock is the outsider who is choosing the Vulcan way though as a child that is hard. It takes old Spock showing him the good in the Vulcan way in harsh choices (to keep his pet alive and let it suffer after it saved his life, or to let it die with dignity) that make him see why logic is so important. It is after this that he stands up to the bullies and shows them the Vulcan Neck Pinch he learned from Old Spock. At the end he mourns the choice he made to kill his pet so it wouldn’t suffer but is grateful that the timeline is reestablished and that he can once again fulfill his role as First Officer living the Vulcan Way in the Federation.

    This episode shows the pressure that was on Spock to conform to Vulcan society and how his father never gave him any other choice. This causes conflict in their relationship later as Sarek’s refusal to show affection and only anger or disappointment mostly pushed Spock away and it really wasn’t until Sarek’s death in “The Next Generation” that they were able to resolve these differences. We see that he does love Spock though, and tried to show it as best he could.

Final Score: 10 / 10