Thursday, June 07, 2007
Star Trek: The Next Generation - "Unification I" and "Unification II"
It sounded too good to be true: Leonard Nimoy guest starring as Spock in a two-part TNG episode wherein Spock attempts to reunite the Vulcans and the Romulans. But alas....
The first episode sets up the play: Ambassador Spock has mysteriously travelled to the Romulan homeworld, Romulus. Has he defected? Picard and the Enterprise are ordered to find out. After a brief visit to Spock's father, the dying Sarak, Picard and Data borrow a Klingon ship and crew in order to approach Romulus under the protection of the Klingon ship's cloaking field. Picard and Data, in the guise of Romulans, beam down in an attempt to meet Pardek, a Romulan politician whom they feel Spock may try to contact. They are correct; Pardek leads them to Spock. Meanwhile, Riker has his own mystery to solve: someone has stolen a Vulcan ship from a Starfleet junkyard.
All in all, the first part does a fairly good job of setting things up. Unfortunately, everyone takes a large dose of 'stupid pills' for the second part and it all falls apart.
It turns out that Pardek helping Spock with his unification plans has been part of a bigger plan by Commander Sela, the blonde Romulan with the uncanny resemblance to the late Tasha Yar, to use Spock in an unwitting attempt to take over Vulcan. By making the Federation believe that Spock's negotiations have been successful, she plans to use stolen Vulcan ships to carry an attack force to Vulcan. The attack force, a mere two thousand troops, will dig themselves in (and do what? That's never made clear.) Two thousand troops doesn't seem like to hold a key planet presumably deep in the heart of the Federation. (Apart from the fact that Starfleet weapons are accurate to within a city block and could stun all the enemy troops from orbit, Starfleet could blockade the planet and starve them out. Sure, it's bad news for Vulcan in the short term, but there's no military advantage for the Romulans to be gained here; they're just being bad guys for the sake of being bad guys. And why aren't any Romulan citizens suspicious about this Vulcan that's running around?)
Later, Picard, Data, and Spock are betrayed by Pardek and brought to Sela, who, after spilling the beans about her plan, leaves the three of them, three of the most resourceful people in the galaxy, alone in a room which just happens to contain some computer consoles and a holographic projector. Dumb and Stupid! She leaves Spock and Data alone with computers!!! She knows who they are and what they are capable of. Dumber and Stupider! At the end of the episode, the members of the underground help our heroes escape. Yet Pardek knows them all; why weren't they all "disappeared"? This is not a very good way to run a totalitarian government. (And how come Romulans have forehead ridges and Vulcans don't? Seems like a useless (and quick) evolutionary trait for the Romulans, as a Vulcan offshoot, to have developed. Or maybe Vulcans always had ridges and after the Romulans split off, Vulcans lost theirs by continually slapping their foreheads and shouting, "No, dammit, I've got to use logic!")
Our heroes fare no better. When Sela returns to Picard & co., they knock out her guards with the help of a surprise they've cooked up with the aforementioned computers and holographic equipment. Data then explains to her how they plan to escape! Then they knock her out (with Data deftly applying a Vulcan neck pinch; what should have been a highlight of the episode comes off instead limp and unsurprising), and our intrepid heroes leave Sela and her cohorts unbound, ungagged, and unsecured. More Dumb and Stupid!
Now back to the Enterprise. Riker has followed the trail of the missing Vulcan ships (despite the fact that he blew up his only clue, a mysterious ship, in the first part, and no explanation is provided on how he got back on the trail) to the Neutral Zone. Just as the Vulcan ships cross the Neutral Zone (at Warp One), Dr.Crusher receives a communiqué requesting medical assistance at some colony or something. (The call was received in the Sick Bay only, not on the bridge!) It's the old fake distress call routine -- how original -- and once again, the Enterprise is the closest ship that can respond. By now, the Vulcan ships have entered Federation space (still at Warp One -- these guys aren't in much of a hurry), and Spock manages to get through a signal that the Vulcan ships are manned by a Romulans invasion force. Enterprise is fourteen minutes away from the invasion force. As they come within visual range, Worf reports that the invasion force is retreating to the Neutral Zone and that the Vulcan Defense Fleet has been dispatched.
A brief digression. According to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, written by Mike Okuda and Rick Sternbach, production people on TNG, Warp One = the speed of light, or c. In interstellar terms, that's real slow. (Warp Seven, for instance, is calculated to be 656 c.) So, if the invasion force was moving at Warp One for only fourteen minutes, then the furthest they could penetrate Federation space is fourteen light-minutes which isn't far at all (roughly the distance from the sun to Mars). And yet they were close enough to Vulcan (which I always assumed was deep in Federation space) that the Vulcan defense Fleet responds to these slow-moving craft. Obviously then, Vulcan must be very near the Neutral Zone, otherwise it might take the invasion force years to get there (thus robbing them of the element of surprise.) Why then is the Enterprise, cruising the Neutral Zone very close to Vulcan, the only starship in the area able to respond to that distress call? One would think that Starfleet would constantly have ships cruising along the Zone and you'd think there'd be a ship or two near Vulcan. (I know the Borg decimated the Fleet, but really....)
So the Enterprise is closing on those Vulcan ships when a Romulan Warbird de-cloaks. Riker orders shields up, phasers armed, etc., but before he can act, the Warbird blows up the three ships and quickly cloaks. In repsonse, Riker (get this) orders the Enterprise to stand down from Red Alert. A Romulan Warbird, in federation space, blows up three Vulcan ships, and Riker orders the ship off Red Alert and doesn't even try to pursue it!! He doesn't even maintain the Enterprise's defense posture!! A cloaked and hostile Romulan Warbird is in his immediate vicinity and he orders the ship to stand down!!! Arrgh! The man should be court-martialed, not allowed on a Starfleet ship again except to scrub toilets.
Nor will we let the Klingons off easily (we're an equal opportunity criticizer). Since this episode clearly establishes that Klingons can use a cloaked ship to penetrate Romulan space right to Romulus, the Romulan homeworld, and even beam down to the planet undetected, why didn't they ever beam down an anti-matter bomb or something down to the planet and blown up them pesky Romulans a long time ago? And why haven't the Romulans used their cloaking technology to sail deep in Klingon space and blast a few Klingon planets? Or some Federation planets? Maybe even Earth? (Why not Vulcan? It seems to be as close as the corner store, and there's never any starships around when you need one!)
"Unification" resulted in nothing but disharmony.
Originally published by Under the Ozone Hole Number One – August, 1992