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Star Trek: The Next Generation - Unification

Paramount // PG-13 // November 19, 2013
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted November 14, 2013 | E-mail the Author

Click here for audio accompaniment, because why not?

Originally aired as a two-part episode near the beginning of Star Trek: The Next Generation's fifth season, "Unification" was a major success for a show that had long stepped out of the original series' massive shadow. It didn't mark the first time an original Trek cast member was featured on TNG; Mark Lenard already appeared as Spock's father Sarek in Season Three and DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy) even made a brief showing in the pilot episode. Yet the announcement of Spock himself (Leonard Nimoy) appearing in "Unification" was a major event and resulted in two of the series' highest-rated episodes; it would also be the last time Nimoy portrayed Spock on the small screen. From a purely critical standpoint, "Unification" is good TNG but hardly a Top 10 candidate. Subjectively, though, it's impossible not to get excited about.

Like the previous season's two-part cliffhanger Redemption, "Unification" is a slow-burning, politically charged production that once again drops Picard and company in the midst of a foreign conflict. This time around, Ambassador Spock is missing and believed to be on the planet Romulus, attempting to negotiate peace between the Romulans and the Vulcans. His father Sarek is gravely ill and hasn't been on good terms with Spock in several decades, largely due to Spock's mixed-race heritage and stubborn but admirable temperament. Picard's unique relationship with Sarek naturally makes him a prime candidate for diplomacy, but the real heart of "Unification" lies in the loyalty, honor and betrayal of certain parties in the Romulan and Klingon empires. The best moments occur as Picard and Data infiltrate Romulus in disguise, as well as later encounters with the mysterious Sela (Denise Crosby) and a few terrific interactions with Spock along the way.

There are less involving moments during "Unification" including a bureaucratic surplus depot worker who helps Riker and crew locate a stolen vessel, a meeting with the musically inclined ex-wife of our thief, and the stakeout for a fat Ferengi involved in the plot. Though it's obvious that everyone besides Picard and Data just needed something to do, it makes for an uneven B-plot that never quite comes together. Originally aired just after Gene Roddenberry's untimely 1991 death and mere weeks before the theatrical opening of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, "Unification" still works just fine as an enjoyable Trek adventure but remains a slightly missed opportunity considering Nimoy's singular appearance.

This separate Blu-ray release from CBS/Paramount arrives on the same day as TNG's terrific Season Five collection; much like The Best Of Both Worlds and Redemption, the two-part "Unification" been edited into one feature-length episode and paired with a few exclusive supplements. The transition between both halves works quite well, especially considering the back-to-back scenes are just parts of a single conversation. But considering that Season Five already includes both parts of "Unification" on the same disc, this can't help but feel like more of a cash grab than a logical stand-alone release.

Video & Audio Quality

Completely in line with the same-day Season Five release, Unification was handled in-house by CBS and the end results are predictably spectacular. Both the vintage and revised effect shots blend quite seamlessly and the live-action footage also looks fantastic, boasting excellent color timing, crystal-clear image detail and a more consistent grain structure. Overall, the 1.33:1, 1080p transfer is virtually flawless in every way; far beyond what most of us could ever expect just a few short years ago. Most fans have likely seen the massive difference in quality between these Blu-rays and the flat DVD/broadcast versions, and they've never been more clear. It's almost easy to forget how much work has gone into recomposing this classic TNG material from the ground up; for that alone, CBS has earned another easy five-star rating.

DISCLAIMER: The screen captures featured in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p image resolution.

Not to be outdone, TNG's revamped audio presentation is basically flawless from every angle. As before, we're blessed with a new DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix; the added punch mostly beefs up music cues and warp fly-bys, but it also creates a pleasing ambiance for interior scenes as well. Dialogue is crisp and clear, LFE is notable at times and Dennis McCarthy's score never fights for attention. The original 2.0 Stereo Surround mix has also been included for purists, but it's still being presented in lossy Dolby Digital instead of DTS-HD Master Audio. Most fans shouldn't consider this a deal-breaker by any means, but it's definitely a curious (and continued) oversight in an otherwise detail-oriented effort.

Optional Dolby Digital 2.0 dubs are provided in German, French and Japanese. Optional subtitles are also provided in English (SDH), German, French and Japanese, unlike the more versatile (and region-free) TNG season collections.

Packaging, Presentation & Menu Design

As expected, the familiar "computer interface" menu designs are attractive, simple and smooth, much like the old DVDs. This feature has been divided into roughly a dozen chapter stops, though no sub-menu is present. No obvious layer change was detected during playback and this disc is locked for Region "A" players only. It's housed in a silly eco-friendly keepcase with a fold-out slipcover that, surprisingly, differs from the keepcase artwork. No inserts have been included.

Bonus Features

About as much as Redemption, give or take. First up is a new feature-length Audio Commentary with co-writer Jeri Taylor and Mike & Denise Okuda; it's an entertaining and informative chat, though there is some overlap with other bonus features. "From One Generation to the Next" (17 minutes) is a brief but solid retrospective featurette that discusses both Spock and Sarek's legacy in the Star Trek universe and their role(s) within TNG. Featured participants include Michael Dorn, Denise Crosby, Marc Cushman (co-writer of TNG episode "Sarek") and a number of vintage promotional stills are also glimpsed. Finally, we get one short Deleted Scene (2 minutes) of Sarek's wife boarding the Enterprise and both TV Promos for each part. A decent effort overall, but this stuff should've just been included with the Season Five collection.

Paramount's initial release of The Best Of Both Worlds made sense; it was an immensely popular episode of TNG and the unique "feature-length" edit gave viewers a new way to watch it (not to mention it wet our whistles for Season Four in the process). The more recent Redemption was less essential, mainly due to the awkward break between both halves and the fact that, well, it just wasn't as good of an episode. Unification falls in line with the latter: it's good Trek but nowhere near a Top 10 list, and the separate release of this two-parter makes even less sense because you can already get 'em both in Season Five. Yet the inclusion of a few choice supplements sweetens the pot a little, not to mention that the seamless edit feels more natural than most. The A/V presentation obviously earns top marks without argument. Overall, Unification comes mildly Recommended for TNG completists; those just interested in the extras should rent it.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work and runs a website or two. In his free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.

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