Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5, which includes all 26 episodes of the season, along with bonus features, is out for the first time on Blu-ray this week. As with previous season Blu-ray releases for the series, Paramount is also offering up an additional separately-sold Blu-ray spotlight from the season, this time for the two-part episode, “Unification.” Titled Star Trek: The Next Generation – Unification, this Blu-ray offering includes both parts of “Unification” edited together as one 90-minute episode, along with full-length audio commentary, an exclusive deleted scene, an exclusive documentary on the two-part episode, and TV promos housed in a cardboard slipcover that opens up to reveal the U.S.S. Enterprise and some of the characters from the episode.
“Unification” was a two-episode storyline that aired near the beginning of Season 5 of Star Trek: The Next Generation and it has the distinction of being the first TNG episode that aired after the 1991 death of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who also created and served as executive producer for this spin-off. So, there was a lot of emotions behind this one at the time.
The two-parter was also best known for its famous guest star – Leonard Nimoy, who played the Vulcan Spock in the original 1960’s Star Trek television series. This type of crossover would be cool at any time, but back in 1991 when “Unification” aired, there was still a divide between classic Trek fans who thumbed their nose down at the new series and those who preferred The Next Generation, so Spock’s appearance in “Unification” was a huge deal. “Unification” also aired just weeks before Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (my second favorite Trek movie), the sixth and final feature film starring the full Star Trek: The Original Series cast, including Nimoy, who had a major role.
In “Unification,” current U.S.S. Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) embarks on a mission to search for Spock, now an Ambassador who’s presumed missing. We get to see Mark Lenard return as Spock’s father Sarek. Sarek is shown here as an ailing, dying Vulcan and it’s revealed that he’s long been feuding with his son, for whom he believes is dealing with the Romulans. Picard and Data (Brent Spiner) end up having to disguise themselves as Romulans, which not only provides tension for the story – they’ll be killed if their rouse is discovered – but also humor as the two Starfleet officers attempt to blend into the alien surroundings.
The story contains an exorbitant amount of diplomatic dealings and political intrigue. There’s a lot of information to take in on this one, and aside from Picard and Data, we don’t get to see much of the other main cast. Troi and Riker are given a tiny subplot, while Worf (Michael Dorn) is once again humiliated for laughs; the other main actors are just in a few scenes. But, there is yet another treat offered up here: former TNG cast member Denise Crosby, who played Enterprise bridge officer Tasha Yar, appears here as her previous character’s daughter, the half-Romulan Commander Sela.
If you plan on getting the Season 5 Blu-ray, then you might think there’s no reason to pick up the “Unification” Blu-ray, and I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that, as that’s always my first reaction to these episode-specific releases. Nimoy appears in a lot of scenes of Part 2, but is hardly in Part 1, so watching “Unification” blended together makes it seem more like a TV movie that centers completely around Spock. Plus, this Blu-ray is the only way to get the exclusive featurette “From One Generation to the Next,” which serves as a 17-minute making-of documentary.
Also, this single-disc Blu-ray is the only way to get the full-length commentary by Jeri Taylor, who wrote Part 1, and Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda, who co-wrote The Star Trek Encyclopedia and frankly, they know their shit when it comes to Star Trek. The commentary was chock full of tidbits about the two-part episode, and Star Trek in general. It was a genuine pleasure to listen to it. Therefore, if “Unification” is a favorite for you, then seeing both parts together will make for an improved viewing experience, and you’ll want to take advantage of the commentary and few other bonus features exclusive to this release.