This Star Trek: DiscoverY article contains spoilers for “Unification III.”
It’s Spock time! In “Unification III,” Star Trek: Discovery has continued a story that The Next Generation began in 1991. And, in doing so, the series has created an episode of Trek that is both nostalgic as hell and also forward-facing and new. Back before we even knew what Discovery would be like, we were told Michael Burnham was Spock’s adoptive sister. And now, Spock’s sister has come home!
From TNG vibes to sweet nods to the reboot films, to a lot of references to Spock, here’s all the Easter eggs and shout-outs we caught in Star Trek: Discovery, Season 3, Episode 7, “Unification III.”
New Starfleet Logo on USS Discovery
During the opening moments of the episode, we see that a newer, more rounded Starfleet insignia adorns the shuttle bay of the Discovery. This feels commensurate with the upgrade we saw the ship get last week.
One of the “black boxes” Burnham recovered is from an “old” Federation starship called the USS Yelchin. This feels like a huge tribute to actor Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov in the Star Trek reboot films. Tragically, Yelchin died just before the release of Star Trek Beyond.
Tilly tells Burnham that mapping all the Burn data works fine in two-dimensions, but not in three-dimensional space. This could be a slight nod to Spock in The Wrath of Khan. In that film, Spock points out to Kirk that Khan’s strategies indicated “two-dimensional thinking.”
Vulcan becomes “Ni’Var”
The new name for the planet Vulcan — Ni’Var — comes from OG Star Trek fan culture. In the 1968 fanzine called Spockanalia, fan writer Dorothy Jones came-up with the word “ni var,” which she claimed was a Vulcan word that referred to “two forms.” This is not the first time this word has made it into canon though; in the 2002 Enterprise episode “Shadows of P’Jem,” the NX-01 encountered a Vulcan ship named Ni’Var.
Saru and Burnham have no idea that Romulans have pointed ears
When Saru learns the Romulans are sharing the planet formerly known as Vulcan, he says: “The Romulans were considered enemies in our time.” Vance points out that “history forgot this in your time, but Romulans and Vulcans were two tribes of the same race…” All of this is true, but the funny thing is that because DISCO’s point of origin happens in 2258, that’s a full eight years before the events of “Balance of Terror,” in 2266, in which Kirk, Spock and pretty much everybody in Starfleet, learned that Romulans looked a lot like Vulcans.
Spock and “Unification III”
The title of this episode is a reference to the two-part episode in The Next Generation, “Unification Part 1” and “Unification Part 2.” However, in the TNG days, some of the multi-part episodes were styled this way; meaning the onscreen text read “Unification II” not “Unification Part 2.” This was also true of episodes like “Redemption II.” It was not the case with “The Best of Both Worlds,” “Time’s Arrow,” or “Descent.” It’s also not the case with the title of Discovery’s first episode of Season 3, “That Hope Is You, Part 1,” which very clearly spells-out the “Part 1.” That said, Discovery is the first Trek series to not actually show the episode titles during the opening credits, a tradition that continued with Picard. (Although Lower Decks used the TNG style and has the titles spelled-out in the credits.) That said, “Unification III” is the very first time an episode title in one Trek series directly posits itself as a sequel to an episode title from a totally separate show.
Vance mentions that the reunification of the Vulcans and Romulans “took centuries after [Spock’s] death.” To be clear, this is a presumed death. Starfleet’s records would show that Spock fell into a black hole in 2387, right around the time of the Romulan Supernova. They have no idea he actually went back in time to 2258, and also slid sideways into the J.J. Abrams universe in Star Trek 2009. Then, he eventually died in an alternate version of the year 2263 (Star Trek Beyond), which, in the parallel Prime Universe is like two years before Kirk and Spock even meet.
So, Spock “died” in 2387, according to Starfleet records, but really went back in time to an alternate 2258, which in the Prime Universe, is the same year from which Michael Burnham went into the future. If you count Spock’s “presumed” death established here in Discovery, and his temporary death in The Wrath of Khan, and his “actual” offscreen death in Beyond, Spock has died three times. Starfleet’s recorded death of Spock being false when time travel was really involved also echoes Starfleet’s incorrect records of Spock’s bestie James T. Kirk, who everyone thought died in 2293 on the Enterprise-B (Generations) but, really, time-traveled via the Nexus and died with Picard in 2371. (It’s like space-poetry. It rhymes.)
Finally, it should be noted that all of Sarek’s children end-up as time travelers, except for Sybok, who, in The Final Frontier, touched the face of an evil space god, and got esploded.
The flashbacks we see of Michael talking to Spock (Ethan Peck), as well as kid Spock (Liam Hughes), come from the Discovery Season 2 finale, “Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2.” Combined with the archive footage of Spock (Leonard Nimoy) from TNG, this is the only episode of Star Trek, ever, in which Spock appears three times, played by three different actors and in none of the scenes is the character “alive” in the present. This is also the only time Ethan Peck and Leonard Nimoy appear as young and old Spock in the same Star Trek thing. That said, there are oddly several precedents for Trek episodes or films in which multiple Spock actors appear in the same story.
- In the TAS episode “Yesteryear” Spock (Leonard Nimoy) meets himself as a young child (Billy Simpson.)
- In The Search For Spock, Leonard Nimoy appears in the same movie with four other Spock actors, Carl Steven, Vadia Potenza, Stephen Manley, and Joe W. Davis. All of these other Spocks played Spock in his various stages of hyper-aging on the Genesis planet. But, don’t get it twisted, like Billy Simpson and Liam Hughes, these Spocks are canon!
- In The Final Frontier, Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is in the same scene with an infant version of Spock. We don’t know who that baby was, but it’s a good bet that it wasn’t archive footage of Nimoy’s actual birth.
- In Star Trek 2009, Leonard Nimoy obviously appears alongside Zachary Quinto, but you also have a third, child Spock played by Jacob Kogan.
- In Star Trek Into Darkness, obviously, both Quinto and Nimoy appear.
- In Star Trek Beyond, two still photos of Nimoy exist in the same story as Zachary Quinto as Spock.
- In the Star Trek: Discovery episodes “Light and Shadow,” and “If Memory Serves,” Liam Hughes plays child Spock in the same episode that Ethan Peck plays an adult Spock.
Anyway. That’s a lot of Spocks! Does any other Trek character come close to having this many people play them? Second place seems to be a tie between Jean-Luc Picard and Christopher Pike, who have each been played by four distinct actors. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Molly O’Brien.
The Spock flashback!
By now, it’s obvious, but just in case you missed it, the scene in which Michael views archive footage of Spock comes from two different scenes in “Unification II.” One scene, where Spock alludes to “closed minds” happens fairly early in the episode. The rest of the speech, however, happens at the end of the episode. In both instances, Spock was talking to Jean-Luc Picard.
I never finished the command training program
Tilly mentions that she never completed her command training. This was a major plot point in Discovery Season 2, specifically the episode “Point of Light,” when we saw Tilly win the Command Training Program half-marathon.
Graduate of the Vulcan Science Academy
Burnham mentions she is a “graduate of the Vulcan Science Academy.” This is something her brother did not complete. We saw Burnham’s graduation day in the Discovery Season 1 episode, “Lethe.”
“Since the time of Surak”
Burnham mentions Surak, the founder of Vulcan logic. The first canonical reference to Surak was in the TOS episode “The Savage Curtain,” in which Surak fought with Kirk and Spock, alongside Abraham Lincoln.
Qowat Milat and “absolute candor”
We learn that Burnham’s biological mother, Gabrielle Burnham, has become a member of the Qowat Milat. This references the Romulan warrior nuns, introduced in the Picard episode “Absolute Candor.” Like Elnor, Gabrielle Burnham has a sword on her back. This episode was written by Kirsten Beyer, who, along with Michael Chabon, Akiva Goldsman, and Alex Kurtzman, co-created Star Trek: Picard.
The Temporal Accords
The Vulcan president, T’Rina (Tara Rosling) tells Saru: “Your jump to the future is not widely known, even within Starfleet.” Saru tells her that’s because they don’t want to be “polarizing, given the Temporal Accords.” This references Enterprise, in which Daniels told Archer that the Temporal Accords prevented time-travel from being used illegally. But, it also seems to indicate that Vance hasn’t told all of Starfleet where Discovery is actually from.
Burnham’s mom mentions that she landed “right back on Essof IV.” This references the planet on which the Discovery crew tried to “capture” the Red Angel. Presumably, Dr. Burnham didn’t land “right” back on Essof IV. She also, clearly, journeyed into the future. How long has she been living on Ni’Var? We don’t know. Long enough to become a warrior nun!
Needs of the many
Saru and T’Rina briefly debate about the maxim: “The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few.” This originates in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That said, in The Voyage Home, Spock’s mom, Amanda, pointed out that Spock’s friends believed that “the need of the one” — specifically Spock — was “more important to them” than the needs of the many. Amanda raised Michael Burnham, too!
Vulcan gongs and fire reference “Amok Time,” and The Search For Spock
When Burnham invokes the T’Kal-in-ket, some very retro Vulcan-ceremony vibes. The gongs and fire are not only evocative of Spock’s “wedding” in the TOS episode “Amok Time,” but also the ceremony in The Search For Spock, in which Spock’s Katra was put back in his body.
Tilly and Burnham still share a room!
After much speculation, it seems very clear now that Tilly and Burnham still share a room. This is because Burnham makes a joke about Tilly asking her to “switch my bed to the other side of the room.” This means that they have been roommates since “Context Is For Kings” in Season 1 of Discovery. Is there just not that much room on the ship? Or do they just like it?
“Live long and prosper”
Somebody doing the “Live long and prosper,” thing isn’t exactly an Easter egg, but it is the first time we’ve seen Saru give the famous Vulcan salute. Saru joins several other non-Vulcan Starfleet captains who have flashed the famous hand gesture, including Captain Picard and Captain Archer. Is Saru the first non-human and non-Vulcan to do it? It seems so.
Star Trek: Discovery is streaming now on CBS All Access.