Before “Unification III” On ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ – A Look Back At Romulans, Vulcans And “Unification”

Thursday’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery is titled “Unification III.” This title appears to be tied to the 1991 season five Star Trek: The Next Generation 2-part episode “Unification” arc about Vulcans and Romulans. So before you dive into the new episode of Discovery, it’s worth looking back at those episodes and the complex history of Vulcans and Romulans.

Distant warring cousins

Vulcans are the quintessential aliens in Star Trek, introduced in the first pilot with Mr. Spock. The logic-bound race is a founding member of the Federation, and it was Vulcans who made first contact with humans in the 21st century, opening up Earth to the galaxy. Romulans were introduced halfway through the first season of Star Trek in the classic episode “Balance of Terror,” where they were revealed to have been the unseen enemies of a war with Earth in the 22nd century that ended with the establishment of the famed Romulan Neutral Zone. And it is in that TOS episode that we learn the Romulans are distant cousins of the Vulcans.

Romulan commander (played by Mark Lenard) in “Balance of Terror”

The Romulans had left their home planet two millennia prior during a violent war that ended with the remaining Vulcans embracing their logical philosophy. They settled on a new planet (Romulus) and established the Romulan Star Empire. Unlike their Vulcan cousins, the Romulans are passionate and have a penchant for subterfuge and duplicitousness. Relations remained icy between the Federation and the Romulans even a century later. They were reintroduced at the end of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation in “The Neutral Zone,” and appeared periodically as cold war adversaries.

Picard and Riker face off with a pair of Romulans in “The Neutral Zone”

Spock tries for “Unification”

And it is into this context that Spock returns in the 24th century in “Unification I” and “Unification II” during the fifth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Captain Picard is summoned to investigate the disappearance of Spock (who is now an ambassador), with the only clue that he has been seen on Romulus. Picard is tasked with infiltrating Romulan space (with the help of a cloaked Klingon ship) to figure out what’s going on.  When Picard and Data finally locate Spock on Romulus, they find him leading a splinter band of Romulans who have come to embrace Vulcan logic and principles.

Spock discusses a book of Romulan/Vulcan history with the young Romulan D’Tan in “Unification II”

Spock’s ultimate goal is to move Romulan society towards reestablishing relations with Vulcan and the eventual reunification of the two. He believes he has found allies, including a prominent Romulan politician, but the Romulan Tal Shiar secret police had infiltrated his group and tried to turn his movement into a Trojan horse invasion with the occupation of Vulcan as its goal.

Of course, the good guys put an end to the elaborate Romulan plot, but it still meant that Spock’s plan to unify Romulans and Vulcans remained unfulfilled. However, the episode ended with Spock choosing to remain on Romulus in the underground movement. He feels they are heading towards Vulcan philosophy and struggling for enlightenment, and that it may take decades or even centuries, but he must help.

Spock and Picard part company in “Unification II”

The Romulan diaspora

The 2002 film Star Trek: Nemesis picked up the story of the Romulans a few years later: After a Reman coup took over the Romulan Star Empire and its leader Shinzon was killed by Jean-Luc Picard and the USS Enterprise-E, relations between the Federation and the Romulans thawed a bit. About a decade later, Spock was still working to save his Romulan cousins as he took on the mission of trying to save the Romulan star from going supernova. His attempt failed, resulting in the creation of a black hole that pulled him into the past, where he emerged into the “Kelvin Timeline” established by the 2009 Star Trek movie.

Romulus is destroyed in Star Trek (2009)

The story of the Romulans is picked up in Star Trek: Picard. Around the time Spock was trying to save Romulus, Jean-Luc Picard, then an admiral, was leading the Starfleet’s mission to save as many refugees as possible. They were successful in resettling many Romulans; however, after the synth attack on Mars which decimated the fleet, the Romulan rescue mission was canceled. This resulted in Picard’s resignation from Starfleet. A Romulan boy that Picard had befriended during this period, who was raised by the order of Qowat Milat warrior nuns on the refugee planet Vashti, later became bonded to Picard.

Picard faces some unfriendly Romulans in “Absolute Candor”

By the end of the 24th century, the Romulan Star Empire had been supplanted by the smaller Romulan Free State, which had better relations with the Federation. But many Romulans (particularly those on refugee planets) felt betrayed. The Tal Shiar remained active in this period and were successful in infiltrating Starfleet Intelligence with their mole, Commodore Oh, who was a Romulan/Vulcan hybrid. Also, at this time the Romulans had control of a Borg Cube, but that was eventually taken over by freed Borg, with the help of Seven of Nine. Season one of Picard ended in 2399 with a Romulan Tal Shiar fleet attack on the synth homeworld thwarted by the Starfleet.

The Romulan/Vulcan hybrid Commodore Oh in “Maps and Legends”

Michael Burnham, Spock and “Unification III”

And of course, Star Trek: Discovery’s Michael Burnham has a bit of connection to all of this as she grew up on Vulcan as Spock’s sister. In season two, after a long period of estrangement, the brother and sister reestablished a bond. The first thing Michael did when she reached the 32nd century in season three was to send back her Red Angel time travel suit so it could send the final red burst signal, which was seen by Spock in the season two finale.

Spock plays chess with Michael in “Project Daedalus”

Based on some of the screenshots from the Discovery “Unification III” preview, we will be seeing some Vulcans (and likely Romulans) again.

And it looks like Michael will be involved in some kind of Vulcan ritual on board the USS Discovery.

You can watch the full preview below

“Unification III” predictions?

What remains to be seen is the current state of the Vulcans and the Romulans In the 32nd century. And perhaps more importantly, what does a visit with them have to do with the various arcs and mysteries of season three.

What do you think is coming in Thursday’s episode? Let us know in the comments below.


New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery premiere on Thursdays on CBS All Access in the U.S. and on CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, where it’s also available to stream on Crave. Episodes will be available on Fridays internationally on Netflix.

Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.

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First time, in TNG they wanted to wipe out the romulan race to make the new enemy, the borg, more terrifying by destroying an iconic race. Second time, they use a supernova on the romulan sun to wipe Romulus, millions of romulans and bring the dissolution of the Star Empire. Now, they finally wipe them out with the unification. Very bad times to be a Star Empite and a romulan fan like myself.

Not sure what you mean by TNG wanting to wipe out the Romulans? As this story shows, the Romulans were present throughout TNG. They were in more episodes than the Borg were.

The Romulans were never wiped out on TNG, so I don’t know what you mean. They appeared in many episodes of TNG and DS9. The Borg attacked their outposts along the Neutral Zone, just as they did to the Federation, and that was it.

Obviously wipe out isn’t correct and I’ll fully give you the benefit of the doubt that imperfect word choices happen on the internet. What TNG producers thought was a good idea in 1987 – specifically to move on from TOS era bad guys is a good idea in theory. Enemies like the Cardassians and Ferengi were supposed to be on the opposite side of the Federation – still reflected in impossible galaxy maps online. Not using Romulans didn’t last to the end of the TNG first season even. That said – we can look forward to the time when all Kurtzman trek gets rebooted. Discovery and Picard can exist in the JJ universe – not the Roddenberry/Berman classic universe.

So far, Discovery is turning the Alpha/Beta quadrants upside down, with former Federation members (Earth and Andor) leaving the Federation. I think they will show the other side of the coin in this episode….. with Romulans and Vulcans unifying, which will bring the Romulans into the Federation.

Seem plausible. If the Romulans were receptive to joining that would be a nice development.

I’ve been hoping that as we encounter some of the classic species that we see what 800 years of change does to their culture- and that the writers surprise us. Have the Ferengi be socialists. The Klingons a peaceful species who have held on to Federation ideals for centuries. Show us that the species aren’t bound by nature. That they were able to move on from their past the way humans did.

That is one thing I loved about TNG. To make the Klingons allies of the Federation was gutsy and cool. To show re-unification of Vulcans and Romulans would be a logical progression of history too as Romulans “diaspora” seems like it would drive the two races back together.

The term Romulan/Vulcan hybrid makes me feel uneasy. I really hate most forms political correctness, but that sounds so racist, at least for me as a non native speaker. Would be an absolute no go im my mother tongue.

Yeah, hybrid seems more fitting of a creature, a chimera, rather than a humanoid. Half-Vulcan, half-Romulan terribly written typical Kurtzman character is more accurate.

Yeah, I don’t love it either. At least, they didn’t call her a Vulcan-Romulan “half-breed,” but it’s close. It’s like calling someone a “thing”—it’s dehumanizing.

It might be interesting how the Romulans will be introduced in that episode. Because from the point of view of the Discovery crew they CAN’T and DON’t know how Romulans look like and that they are related to Vulcans, unless they are getting lessons in history to catch up the last 930 years. Of course they might have done that already. Or learning that will be part of the next episode.

I was going to say the same thing. The realization that Romulans and Vulcans are the same species should be shown as a shocking revelation to the Discovery crew.

Yes, but in the torrent of shocking things they’ve had to learn in their first month in the 32nd century, would it stand out so much? I mean, they’ve also had to learn about the Borg, the Dominion War, Soong androids, and that’s just the 24th century. Then 800 more years of history.

I guess what I wonder is, do we need a moment of exposition, just to satisfy the fans who’ll be waiting to yell “gotcha” at the screen when Burnham already knows the Romulans look like Vulcans?

Yeah, but the Sphere Data is the cheat. If this thing is a 100K year old encyclopedia of the galaxy, Romulans are in there. Somewhere.

Yeah, I feel like the Sphere data will be used to preserve continuity.

The trailer is so melodramatic. “Didn’t my crew work together to save all sentient life in the universe?” Oh please. This is awful. Wake me when it’s over.

Why would we want to do that?

Just the trailer for one episode of this disaster of a show is melodramatic? Lol

By the way, does Kurtzman know the difference between a galaxy and the universe?

Someone should do a video mash-up of every time Burnham says “save all sentient life in the galaxy.” I wish the stakes weren’t so hyperbolic and absurd. It’s just as eye-rolling as Star Trek (2009) and it’s supernova that will destroy the … GALAXY!!! Like … say again? how exactly? Picard seems to have retconned it to a more local event that only threatened Romulan star systems.

I expect that Michael ‘Cry like little girl’ Burnham will resign from starfleet. And she will again cry when she tells that and then everybody will cry with her.

Why don’t you take your misogynist comments somewhere else, ace?

🤦‍♀️🤦‍♂️

I’m always stunned when people on social media boards feel that an alias makes it ok to say the kinds of things that would land my kids with a long block of boring time in the Vice-Principal’s office at school having a values conversation.

Glad I live in a country where discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, cloud, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability is prohibited under the constitutional charter of rights and freedoms.

Last edited 1 month ago by TG47

Trolling.

LOCKING

OK. So… Here’s a leap of logic. Vulcans and Romulan (logic extremists) created the Burn (as has been suspected here before) in order to thwart Control. Michael didn’t save the universe – They did – and they know who she is and maybe they are still against her. Thus, purification ceremony. IDK! I’ll find out in 12 hours!

Being in the UK we have to wait until 8am GMT Friday before it lands on Netflix.
It means avoiding all Discovery reviews for 24 hours each week.
I’m enjoying the ride so far.

Unification was big inspiration in my thinking for Star Trek.

That observation is likely to raise a few eyebrows, at least on the surface both of your big screen treatments didn’t seem to have that as a theme…..

I guess, Unification drew out the parallels between the Vulcans and Romulans. We saw Romulans learning Vulcan ways and got to see Romulans who were not the usual threatening Warbird commanders or soldiers- normal people not so different from their Vulcan counterparts. There was the development of this idea of a mirror between the species.

To me, Star Trek picked that up and ran with it. The mirroring of the destruction of Romulus and Vulcan, the fact that Spock’s need for violent revenge very nearly matched Nero’s because, ultimately, they were not that different. Vulcans bury the Romulan in there somewhere. Sarek alludes to that at one point, making it clear that Spock’s anger is as much his Vulcan nature as his Human one.

I liked the symmetry in Star Trek.

Soval talked about that on Enterprise. He said the Vulcans wanted to control/ were afraid of humans because they were the closest alien they met that was the most like the Vulcans before Surak and embracing logic.

Last edited 1 month ago by T.boyle

But the backstory is somehow related to Unification in a way, so he might have a point.

Just saw Balance of Terror again last night. It’s still a well crafted episode, but some of the exposition Spock delivers is just horrifyingly bad in terms of how Trek tech has been retconned….for individuals who still want a series based around the Earth/Romulan war, I don’t even know how you tell that story without the Romulans being badly outclassed by even low warp FTL drive Earth forces…

Last edited 1 month ago by Phil

You probably just retcon it to say that Romulans had sublight fighter ships that were delivered to battles by warpships. Enterprise already showed that the Romulans had warp drive before the war.

That could have been explained in Enterprise, if there had been a 5th season.

Hey it only took 900 years for a sequel to Unification 2 , maybe there’s hope for a new movie yet.

LOL!

I’d love for them to somehow use this as a reason to establish what happened to Spock from the Prime Universe perspective. Maybe Michael looks up records of the destruction of Romulus or something. Do they think Spock died during the supernova? Have they established that he went into the alternate (Kelvin) universe? I’ve always wondered what the Federsation thought happened to the great Ambassador Spock

It’s nice to think they would have figured it out- at least by the time of the 32nd century.

Since we see the scene of young Spock and Michael in the trailer, I’m guessing Michael will hear a little bit about Spock’s future. I assume that everyone in the prime timeline just assumes that Spock died in the black hole.

If Kovich knows about how the MU and the Prime Universe have been increasing in distance, this suggests that there is some kind of mapping of the adjacent threads of the multiverse.

This is actually a logical corollary of the Temporal War.

So…

I bet Kovich know about the Kelvin Universe, and perhaps Spock.

I hope they completely leave out any mention of the Kelvin Universe, which, on the whole, is best forgotten.

Or they will reveal that they have landed in the Kelvin universe by finding out that Vulcan is also destroyed. Or that both universes have merged. Just kidding. Since this is called “Unification pt.3”, does this epidode maybe open with some flashbacks of the TNG two-parter?

I don’t hate the Kelvin universe, but still don’t really want them to go there. The average viewer will be like “WTF?” anyways. (Not that I really care much about the average viewer.)

I don’t need or want an elaborate explanation. Could be something as simple as “Spock died trying to save Romulus”, or “Spock’s efforts failed, and he was lost to an anomalous black hole” or something

I’m still wondering about Sarek’s katra.

In Unification I & II, Picard felt Sarek’s final hours and death because they had shared katras in the mind meld previously.

At the end of Unification II, Spock finally shares Sarek’s katra and memories via a mind meld with Picard.

I’m wondering if there has been some kind of further chain of memories and katras.

Did Spock meld with someone further before his attempt to save Romulus with Red Matter?

Is there an elder in the Vulcan-Romulan community who has been expecting Michael’s arrival in the 32nd century?

Will Michael engage in a meld to close the loop?

I was never a fan of the Unification episodes of TNG. I just hope Michael doesn’t take all the credit for the so much work that Spock put into this. This is and needs to be Spock’s legacy not Michael’s.

I don’t really see how Michael could be credited with unification. I sure hope not! Discovery already suffered too much from “Small Universe Syndrome.”

Well, it seems I was right in the sense that Michael took most of the credit for what Spock essentially accomplished.

Rewatching Unification right now! Haven’t seen it in a few years so it’s good time. Then when its over, the next Discovery episode should be on after that! Kind of excited to watch all three episodes in a row!!

Very profound episode. Maybe they will join the Federation.

The Vulcans and their galactic cousins have achieved unification. Really excited about it.

Without any spoilers… I loved Unification III!

Not a good episode. My enthusiasm for this season is on the wane after the past two weeks.

I suspect this will be the most controversial episode of the season. So much to unpack.

Wasn’t there a rumor about a connection between Picard and Discovery? If so I’d assume this upcoming episode could show it.

And indeed it does ;)

Was this only a rumor? I thought it was a premise and clear before the start of season 3.

This episodes should not be called Unification III.

If the Romulans joined, it would only be to destroy Starfleet from within.