On this week’s Discovery, the crew’s search for the last bastion of the Federation takes them to Trill, where Adira hopes to unlock the memories of the Tal symbiont to which they have become the unlikely host. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast struggles to cope with their recent time displacement. The two stories are held together by the common theme of trauma, personal and collective, but neither really comes together, and they’re both overshadowed by a baffling creative decision that’s bound to cast a pall over the series moving forward.
The Trill-ling Adventure Hour
This is the second consecutive episode of Discovery to revisit a well-known Star Trek planet and show us what’s become of them since the time jump. We learn that Trill, home of fan-favorite Deep Space Nine character Jadzia Dax, was hit hard by the cataclysmic Burn that shattered the Federation, killing countless of the slug-like symbionts that carry their cultural memory and leaving the planet with a deficit of compatible Trill hosts.
The development that a symbiont, Tal, has been successfully transplanted into the human Adira could represent a chance to save Trill civilization, if they’re willing to surrender their pride and accept change. Since removing Tal would be fatal to Adira, Trill Leader Pav (Karen Robinson, Schitt’s Creek) decides to simply send Adira away rather than assist them to become a fully-fledged host. This is the compromise position — the head of the Symbiosis Commission would just as soon kill Adira to separate the abominable pairing — but one Trill Guardian (Andreas Apergis, Channel Zero) defies orders and helps Adira to commune with their symbiont and restore the repressed memory behind their joining in the first place. (And oh, boy, we’ll get to that.)
Like last week, “Forget Me Not” maintains a 90s Trek vibe for a lot of the A-plot, a classic “Away Mission” structure where the heroes meet with some planetary leaders, some Light Peril ensues, and the story ends with all sides coming to an understanding. It’s rote, but entertaining for the first half hour, and eventually kicks into the effects-heavy and emotional and high gear that sets Discovery apart from its predecessors as Adira is forced to reckon with their forgotten trauma. Blu del Barrio impresses this week, first as a very convincing teenager (del Barrio is in their twenties), and then as the more composed Adira Tal after their joining is complete.
Despite this not being a Michael episode, Sonequa Martin-Green still provides the best moments, demonstrating her refreshing new attitude that I call “Georgiou on Stun.” Michael is still a hero, but she no longer suffers fools or performs other peoples’ emotional labor, and it’s never been more fun to see her in action, even in the small doses we get here.
A Feast Left on the Table
“Forget Me Not’s” B-plot has more potential to be interesting, with Captain Saru and Dr. Culber attempting to address the crew’s declining mental health. Now out of immediate danger but still without a home, it’s beginning to dawn on the crew of Discovery that everyone they’ve ever known is dead, apart from each other. Culber is handling the situation better than most, having recently recovered from the devastating trauma of his own literal death, and advises Saru that something has to be done to restore the feeling of human connection among the crew.
Saru’s solution — a big family-style dinner with the whole bridge crew — is the perfect setup to bring the drama simmering under the surface to a full boil, particularly for Lt. Detmer (Emily Coutts), who’s seemed inches from a breakdown ever since Discovery arrived in the 32nd century. All the pieces are in place for a much-needed scene in which the crew can finally confront the gravity of their decision to leave everything they’ve ever known behind for the sake of helping Michael, who didn’t ask for and may not have needed their help to make it to the future and save all organic life. It would be completely natural for one (or even all) of the crew to be feeling confused or regretful over this decision, for one of our heroes to admit that they wish they’d stayed behind in their old life.
The stage is set so well — Michael is even absent, sent off with Adira for the A-plot, and the idea that they could have a “family dinner” like this without her highlights how much distance now exists between the “new” Michael and the person for whom they made this enormous sacrifice. This could have been a huge, cathartic moment, here at what seems like an act break for the season before Discovery reunites with Starfleet.
Instead, we get a scene that side-steps all of this. Detmer does indeed crack at dinner (and her performance is terrific), but instead of using the conflict that was implied by her performance in “Far From Home,” she picks a fight with Stamets over which of them is more indispensable. I can’t say I understand this writing decision — we’re finally getting to know Detmer after two years of her being mostly a background character, and this seems like a wasted opportunity to work off of something that’s been building for two episodes rather than invent a new conflict. In order to make Stamets a more justified target for Detmer’s outburst, there’s also an additional subplot in which he’s suddenly a jerk to Tilly, briefly rolling back about a year’s worth of character development.
Admittedly, it may not be fair to condemn this episode for what it doesn’t do. It’s not a critic’s job to rewrite the story they’re given, but there are times when I can’t help myself. This scene may play perfectly fine to other people, but to me, it’s a huge miss. Even if this conflict does manifest itself later in the season, this felt like the right time.
- Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Episode 3 Review: “People of Earth”
- Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Episode 2 Review: “Far From Home”
- Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Episode 1 Review: “That Hope is You”
I Can’t Believe They’ve Done This Again
But this isn’t the biggest whiff of the episode by a longshot. For some context, let me take you back to January 2018, during Discovery’s first season, when Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) was murdered in the shocking twist of “Despite Yourself.” The fan backlash against killing off half of Star Trek’s first openly gay couple was immediate, and the show’s producers reached out the very next day to promise fans they were aware of the “Bury Your Gays” trope and that Discovery would not be contributing to the disproportionate percentage of queer characters and romances in mainstream fiction defined by tragic, untimely death. Dr. Culber does indeed appear again as a ghost of sorts in the first season finale, and comes back for real in Season Two, and has developed into a strong character within and apart from his relationship with Stamets. (Was this always the plan, or a course correction in response to criticism? We may never know.)
This year, Discovery‘s season premiere was presaged by the announcement of Star Trek’s first canonically transgender and non-binary characters, touting this as part of the franchise’s long tradition of “giving visibility to underrepresented communities.” Adira, portrayed by non-binary actor Blu del Barrio, was introduced in the previous episode, and this week, we meet Gray, a joined Trill portrayed by trans actor Ian Alexander (The OA). As revealed towards the end of “Forget Me Not,” Gray is Adira’s boyfriend who — brace yourself — is already dead a year before the episode begins. Gray is the previous host of the Tal symbiont who is killed in an explosion, leading Adira to take on the symbiont as a final act of love for their partner. Though deceased, Gray still appears to Adira, not just as a set of memories but as a spectre of sorts whom no other character on the show can perceive or interact with.
The scene in which Adira and the living memory of Gray are reunited is a well-executed tear-jerker and it appears that he will remain a recurring character throughout this season, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Unless Discovery is planning another wacky resurrection, Gray will never get to be a member of the crew, or go on his own adventures, or be anything but Adira’s saccharine-sweet ghost boyfriend. Is it as bad as introducing him just to be simply dead, appearing only rarely like most Trills’ prior hosts? No, but that’s a low bar to clear, and given that there are so few trans men on television, it’s a serious bummer that Gray is introduced with built-in, likely permanent limits on his potential.
Like in the case of the dinner scene, it could be that my intensely negative reaction to this is based on inflated expectations, and that this story will look better from a distance. As it stands, “Forget Me Not” feels like the weakest episode of Discovery in a while, and its missteps may reverberate for a long time to come.