The advent of CBS’s investment in re-mastering Star Trek: The Next Generation seasons for release in the Blu-ray high definition format has brought with it an interesting opportunity to own popular two-part episodes edited together into a single ‘movie’ event. Perhaps just another chance at generating revenue from an always eager fan base, these special releases give fans three things. First, the chance to own a unique presentation of popular episodes; second, these releases come with a couple of special features each that can only be owned through the purchase of these releases; and third, it gives fans like myself another way to support these releases, demonstrate that the massive effort and investment in re-mastering the entire series in High Definition was a wise one for CBS, and increase the hopes that at least Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gets the same opportunity.
“Unification” was a wonderful choice to get the ‘feature’ treatment.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, French 1.0 DD (Mono), Japanese 1.0 PCM (Mono)
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Other
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 26 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-rayStandard Amaray with Special fold-out Slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 11/19/2013
Spock: "In your own way, you are as stubborn as another captain of the Enterprise I once knew."
The Production Rating: 4/5
Picard: "Then I am in good company, sir."
Ambassador Spock, spotted on the Romulan home world, is feared to have defected. Captain Picard is tasked with determining Spock’s intentions. A visit with Sarek, Spock’s estranged and dying father, yields little answers. With no other recourse, and the possibility of Spock divulging a lifetime of secrets to a longtime foe of the Federation, Picard must travel to Romulus and track down the legendary former member of the USS Enterprise. Securing passage on a cloaked Klingon Bird of Prey, Picard and Lt. Commander Data make their way to find Spock, donning Romulan facial prosthetics as subterfuge; they must avoid detection for fear of death, and solve the mystery of Spock’s disappearance.
The second of three Star Trek: The Original Series actors to appear in The Next Generation, following DeForest Kelley’s appearance in the Pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint”, and preceding James Doohan’s entertaining re-materialization in Season Six’ “Relics”, Leonard Nimoy’s guest starring role on the successor Star Trek series was much anticipated. Appearing less than a month before the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the two-part episode and the final Star Trek film featuring the full Original Series cast shared interesting thematic similarities; the potential for a thawing of tense relations between species and the courage and trust exhibited by once skeptical members of the United Federation of Planets (and those of the associated species).
The strength and longevity of “Unification” comes largely from the maturity of the storytelling and the potency of its core idea. Drawing from the reunification of the German Democratic Republic (East) and the Federal Republic of Germany (West) that began, rather peacefully, at the end of the 1980’s, and was symbolized by the fall (the tearing down piece by piece by jubilant and dedicated protestors) of the Berlin Wall, this two-part episode wades into compelling political territory. An examination of two cousin species (like the kindred lives of the East and West Germans), and the politics, propaganda, and cultural separation that had erected barriers between them, is an absorbing subject ripe for exploration. This is most effectively raised in the discussions on Romulus between Spock and the members of the underground movement he has come to foster, and between Spock and Picard and Data as they discuss the opportunity Spock is bravely exploring.
“Unification Parts I & II” succeed as quality Star Trek and entertaining television in general. More subdued and dramatic compared to other two-part episodes, which until this point had been the Pilot and the season three and four finales, it finds energy in its drama. The B-plot of Commander Riker taking the Enterprise on the hunt for related clues to Spock’s appearance on Romulus is lighter in tone, serving as a nice balance. The conclusion may not be wholly satisfying in and of itself, but the experience of Spock, Picard and Data sharing scenes is historic.
As a reminder, the show’s visual effects were shot on film requiring every visual effects element to be re-compositioned (rather than suffer an upconversion from videotape). This requires re-cutting over 25,000 film reels, meticulously rebuilding the episodes and preserving the original episodes in lush detail transferred to high-definition detail.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
As part of the handling of Season Five’s conversion efforts, CBS-Digital has done a terrific job with Unification. Some recycled junk-yard shots from Best of Both Worlds are put to good use, but this is mostly a planet-based feature (besides the scenes on the Enterprise and the Klingon Bird of Prey), particularly the streets of Romulus and the secret cave meeting space of the underground. Colors are strong, a little cool, but presented well with fine detail levels. Picard and Data’s make-up effects show off the difference in (as in difficulty matching) skin tones between the actor’s faces and the Romulan adornments. Strands and details on the fabrics of the quality Romulan costumes are pleasing, as are black levels and the overall quality throughout.
It should be noted for the eagle-eyed fan that Galorndon Core is now back to the correct color, blue, versus the discontinuity of the SD presentation.
The audio quality for “Unification”, as with the season set from which these episodes can also be found, is very good featuring a robust 7.1 DTS-HD track. A dialogue-centric episode, Unification delivers consistently in the center channel. The hum of the Enterprise and the clang and harsher hum of the Klingon ship are nicely reproduced. No issues here.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Also included is a DTS-HD 2.0 track that more closely resembles the stereo presentation of its original airing.
Audio Commentary by Jeri Taylor and Mike & Denise Okuda: This audio commentary is perhaps the most compelling reason to pick up this stand-alone release. Jeri Taylor, former writer for TNG and co-creator of Star Trek: Voyager is a welcome participant, joining long-time production crew, holders of Trek facts galore, and cheerleaders of the Trek legacy, Mike and Denise Okuda, in discussing this two-part episode. Taylor seems quiet as the show begins but during the course of the episodes warms up and, thanks to some probing questions from the Okuda’s, reveals some good information about this episode and more. Of particular intrigue are Taylor’s comments regarding Geneviéve Bujold’s decision to withdraw from playing Captain Janeway given her discomfort at the rigor of a television shooting schedule (allowing Kate Mulgrew to fill those shoes nicely), and her unfortunate first appearance at a Trek convention where her fan-fared entrance on-stage was met with much less than Taylor had expected (it’s a funny and sad story all at once). A very worthwhile listen.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
From One Generation to the Next: The Making of “Unification”– HD: A short and somewhat disjointed peak into making the episode. Comments on the significance of Leonard Nimoy appearing on The Next Generation are welcome as various cast and crew share how it was a stamp of recognition and approval (perhaps enough to sway any hold out fans of the Original Series that hadn’t warmed to the new crew). Not as in-depth, revealing or absorbing as other special features accompanying similar releases.
Deleted Scene (HD): A nice scene featuring Picard and Perrin (Sarek’s wife) aboard the Enterprise. Joanna Miles’ solid portrayal of Perrin was always relatively short in the first episode and so more of her appearance is welcome.
Two Episodic Promos (SD)
“Unification” is a quieter two-part episode than others from The Next Generation’s seven year run, but a memorable and historic one nonetheless. Again, the editing together of the two episodes into a single feature still feels like two-episodes, but it’s a good way to enjoy Spock’s return to Trek on the small screen (and ties nicely with Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country). The extras aren’t as compelling as the previous ‘feature’ releases of episodes, but the commentary is engaging.
Overall Rating: 4/5
I look forward to what gets the feature treatment from season six.
Reviewed By: Neil Middlemiss
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