Star Trek: Discovery was announced as show about – well – discovery.
When the series was originally announced, creator Bryan Fuller said the title served a dual purpose. The show would be about the U.S.S. Discovery, of course. But it’s meant to be about more. About the characters discovering themselves.
For maybe the first time, Star Trek: Discovery lived up to that promise with “Forget Me Not.”
Still finding their way through the 32nd century, the Discovery heads to Trill. Adira (Blu del Barrio), a human with a Trill symbiont, has information locked away that can lead them to the future’s Federation headquarters.
The ending of the previous episode revealed that, as a human, Adira can’t access the memories of prior hosts. Something Star Trek history proved all Trill can do. Think Jadzia and Ezri Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. But when Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the Discovery arrive at Trill, things are more complicated.
In the future, Trill symbionts are in short supply. Trill’s leaders instantly see a dilemma. The symbiont can be forcibly separated. But at the risk of Adira’s life. Leadership on Trill see Adira as an abomination. But one of the leaders see the successful joining as a means of keeping memories of the species’ history alive.
Meanwhile, on the Discovery, Dr. Culver (Wilson Cruz) informs Captain Saru (Doug Jones) struggles for a way to energize the displaced crew’s morale. With varying degrees of success. Saru insists also that Tilly (Mary Wiseman) work with Stamets (Anthony Rapp) to find a non-human interface for the ship’s spore drive.
Detmer (Emily Coutts) keeps struggling with anxiety she’s suffered since Discovery crashed in the season’s second episode. And “Forget Me Not” drops clues that Control and the Sphere may not be done with the Discovery just yet.
Writing And Directing
A while back, I complained that Star Trek: Discovery lacked complicated Star Trek stories. And “Forget Me Not” answered that criticism. Because it was a Star Trek story in the highest tradition.
The script by Alan McElroy, Chris Silvestri, and Anthony Maranville captures a perfect Trek ethical dilemma. Our heroes need something from the locals. But getting it poses a cultural issue. Should Discovery push forward to get what they need or respect the rights of an evolved, sovereign planet? It’s something Star Trek: The Next Generation tackled with episodes like “Who Watches The Watchers.” And something Star Trek: Discovery itself touched on with season two’s “New Eden.”
What sets “Forget Me Not” apart is how carefully it treads Star Trek canon while also respecting it. A human carrying a Trill symbiont is something that presumably shouldn’t be possible in Trek lore. But just because it wasn’t possible in Deep Space Nine‘s time? That doesn’t make it impossible in the new future of Star Trek: Discovery.
Another callback to an earlier Trek era is the focus on a single character. It makes sense for this to be an Adira episode. We just met her in “People Of Earth,” but it’s clear that she’s going to be integral to the show’s progression. Literally getting inside her head on Trill helps us know her. Where she is, where she’s from, and where she’s going.
The direction returns to form with “Forget Me Not.” Venerable Star Trek: Discovery director Hanelle M. Culpepper takes the helm. The pacing is again up to form, with act breaks cut at just the right moment. Transitions between Burnham and Adira on Trill and the drama back on the Discovery are well-handled. It’s another hallmark of older Trek. The A story and the B story. Both with equal weight and both converging exactly when they need to. Visually, “Forget Me Not” is one of the most interesting episodes of Star Trek: Discovery.
Going with Adira on the journey to find the symbiont’s memories is lit differently than the rest of the episode. But it isn’t obnoxious. The use of soft focus and unconventional lighting give the scenes an otherworldly quality. As the audience, we always know where we are and why. And for such an esoteric story, that’s a hard task to pull off.
Blu del Barrio kills it in this week’s Star Trek: Discovery. Their portrayal of Adira, scared about what she doesn’t know in the present and scared by what she discovers in her past, is both grounded and stirring. “Forget Me Not” is, start-to-finish, del Barrio’s episode.
And the inclusion of Gray (Ian Alexander) as Adira’s Trill lover, adds a tangible element to Adira’s transformation. Gray acts more or less as Culber did to Stamets in the first season of Star Trek: Discovery. Something familiar-but-unfamiliar guiding Adira through a beautiful but terrifying ethereal landscape. Alexander delivers a strong, stable performance, guiding Adira and the Tal symbiont together.
Back on the ship, Doug Jones portrays the uneasiness with which Saru settles into command of the Discovery. Just getting the fourth “captain” rank pip doesn’t automatically make Saru the answer man. He means well with his attempt to build morale. But he learns that command isn’t just formalities. It’s more than telling the crew “good job.” Star Trek captains always come off the page as fully-formed paragons of leadership. Well, except for Lorca. It’s new and refreshing to see Captain Saru struggle to fit into the big chair.
Emily Coutts also gets a rare chance to shine. The bridge crew on Star Trek: Discovery is always at the literal forefront. But we don’t know much about any of them. Coutts gives a strong performance, with Detmer losing control but being acutely aware of it.
It’s something Star Trek: Discovery could use more of. Episodes where the background characters can take over the show.
Star Trek: Discovery needs more episodes like “Forget Me Not.”
To put it simply and bluntly? Star Trek: Discovery needs more Star Trek episodes. The new direction of New Trek is fine. There’s nothing wrong with longform stories. And there’s nothing wrong with shouting and explosions.
But with “Forget Me Not,” Star Trek: Discovery found a new path. Take the new and make it as great as you can. But never leave the old in the dust. Let the two inform one another.
Let Star Trek: Discovery keep discovering itself.
Images courtesy of startrek.com.
'Star Trek: Discovery' - Forget Me Not
- A 'Star Trek' story on a 'Star Trek' show. Whoda thunk it?
- Blu del Barrio acts up a storm
- The writing and directing work together to form a familiar but unique tone
- Captain Saru is still earning his pips
- I hoped we were done with Control and the Sphere data