This week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery paid homage to two of the franchise’s much-missed stars. “Unification III” was mostly a kind of sequel to classic Next Generation two-parter “Unification,” with Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) discovering that her brother Spock’s dream of unifying the Vulcan and Romulan peoples was ultimately fulfilled. Leonard Nimoy even appeared via a touching use of archival footage.
Besides Nimoy, though, the episode also found room to offer the perfect tribute to Anton Yelchin, who played Pavel Chekov in the three reboot movies. Tragically, he passed away at the age of 27, just before the release of Star Trek Beyond. Discovery has now given him the highest sign of respect that a Trek actor could ask for, though, as he’s had a Federation ship named after him, the U.S.S. Yelchin. Not only that, but the ship is also of key importance to the ongoing storyline.
“Unification III” saw Burnham uncover some new information about the Burn, the cataclysmic event that effectively made Starfleet defunct. She recovers the black box of the Yelchin, a 31st century vessel that was destroyed by the Burn in 3069, at a different time from the other ships. It reveals the partial call sign signal “NCC-4774-,” which tells us and Burnham that this was no random event and that some unknown nefarious party was behind it.
It’s fitting that Nimoy and Yelchin should both be referenced in this same episode, as Beyond was the final time that the latter played Chekov and the movie that dealt with Spock Prime’s death, following the real-life passing of Nimoy. Discovery calling back to the two stars this week reminds us that they both leave a legacy in the Trek universe that will endure for a long while to come.
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 continues next Thursday on CBS All Access.