This Star Trek: Discovery review contains spoilers.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 4
In some ways, “Forget Me Not” is Star Trek: Discovery‘s most ambitious episode yet. It may not include epic space battles or a trip to the Mirror Universe or a jump 930 years into the future, but it does attempt to address the cumulative collective trauma of an entire starship crew that has gone through all of the aforementioned—a narrative endeavor that has much less precedent than bearded Vulcans.
Fittingly, the episode begins with a log (supplementary) from Discovery’s doctor, Hugh, who is in the midst of compiling a comprehensive report on the crew’s health. The opening voiceover, though presumably written well before coronavirus, is startlingly relevant: “It’s starting to hit everyone… just how little we have to hold onto. The personal moments we use to define ourselves—birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, funerals—we’ve jumped past all of them.” Um, relatable. Perhaps it’s particularly easy to find catharsis in this depiction of Discovery’s mental health struggles because of what’s going on in the real world now. Either way, this addressing of the crew’s mental health is long overdue for a show that encourages us to accept that Starfleet is some form of utopian institution.
Of course, just because Hugh is asking the right questions, doesn’t mean he’s getting the honest answers. “First they have to accept help,” muses Hugh in his log. “For a crew of overachievers, that kind of vulnerability can be hard to hold.” When he presents the report to Captain Saru, he diagnoses the crew with heightened stress levels pretty much across the board, but he doesn’t have an easy fix. Out here in the darkness of the future, there’s only the mission of finding the Federation to hold onto and, for some, that’s understandably not enough. In many ways, the easy past was jumping through that wormhole. (Though Detmer and Stamets may not agree.) The hardest parts have come after: in surviving through what they’ve found on the other side, in learning how to live in the in-between times without the rites and rituals they took for granted in their home time.
Saru is on it. He is a holistic captain and he’s taking the relative lull between crisis situations to address some of these lingering and complex issues. He asks Stamets and Tilly to find a way to use the spore drive should Stamets become incapacitated or worse, and he takes his crew’s mental health struggles seriously, getting some helpful advice from an unexpected source: Zora. Well, no one on Discovery knows her as Zora yet, but we do—we were introduced to the character who evolved from the Discovery’s computer in the Short Treks episode “Calypso” (written by Picard showrunner Michael Chabon). There, she was the lonely artificial intelligence of the Discovery computer, long ago abandoned by her captain and crew. Here, she’s seemingly new, an evolution of the computer as influenced by the sphere data, and she’s got movie recommendations! As Saru later theorizes to Hugh, she’s protecting the crew in the same way the crew protects her. It’s a heavy-handed, but not unappreciated metaphor for the Trill host-symbiont relationship that makes up the focus point of the episode’s other major plotline…
Though we met Adira as the genius teen engineer in last week’s episode, this week, we really get to delve further into their character—and, you know, so does Adira. They don’t remember anything before getting picked up in an escape pod not so long ago and, frankly, they are an impressively functional human being given that backstory. But the time for mysteries is (thankfully) over. Adira is the host to a Trill symbiont that includes Admiral Senna Tal, and Discovery needs access to his memories in order to find the Federation. Luckily, Adira would also like to know what the heck is going on with their past(s), and accepts Discovery’s offer of a ride and escort to the Trill homeworld. That escort ends up being Michael.
There were many fascinating character dynamics at play in “Forget Me Not.” Tilly and Stamets. Hugh and Saru. Stamets and Detmer. Detmer and Hugh. Saru and the Computer. You name it, this episode probably had it—but the one that had the most work to do was the dynamic between Adira and Michael. All those other relationships have seasons of history to build off of, but Adira and Michael just met one another. It says a lot about the power of both Sonequa Martin-Green and Blu del Barrio’s performances and the chemistry between the them that the emotional journey of their storyline works so damn well. By the time these two are boarding a shuttle to head down to the Trill homeworld, I am already invested in their easy banter and earnest vulnerability and that investment is crucial as the stakes both raise and become more, well, mindscape-y.
As anyone who has watched an episode of dramatic television may have suspected, Adira’s visit to the Trill homeworld isn’t conflict-free. While the Trill are initially overjoyed to hear that one of their own is returning to them, after having lost so many in The Burn, their reception soon turns sour when they realize Adira is a human host and the rejection is honestly difficult to watch. They deny Adira access to the Caves of Mak’ala, and ask that they immediately leave the planet. But this isn’t Michael’s first rodeo. When some hostile Trill show up looking to forcibly separate Adira from their Trill symbiont, Michael takes them out and, with the help of a more radical Trill, brings Adira to the caves.
Once there, Adira is able to use the milky pools to communicate with their symbiont and, with Michael’s encouragement, unlock the secrets of their past. Adira grew up as an orphan on a generation ship, but they had family: Gray, their boyfriend who was Trill. The two were in love and it was adorable, then tragedy struck. Not long after Gray became a host to a symbiont named Tal, their ship was damaged and Gray died, but not before Adira became Tal’s new host. Adira’s memory loss came as a result of their inability to fully connect with Tal (and also, probably, because of their trauma). After spending time in the caves, Adira is able to meet the many hosts who live on in and with Tal, including Gray, and is accepted by them and by the other Trill.
“Forget Me Not” was all about relationships: the ones we have with others and the ones we have with ourselves, and the ways in which those two categories are inexplicably intertwined. Relationships of all kinds can be highlighted, challenged, and changed by trauma and its aftermath. For Adira, the trauma of losing Gray and unexpectedly becoming the host to an alien fractured one of the most fundamental structures of their personhood: their memory. For the crew of Discovery, abruptly losing their homes and families without properly mourning that loss was eating away at the bonds between this starship family. Both Adira and the crew of the Discovery couldn’t hope to start healing, without pausing to make space for the pain they all felt. It’s pretty badass that Discovery devoted an entire episode to this theme, and that they managed to tie two relatively disparate storylines so tightly together with it.
I kind of hate that Gray, one of Discovery‘s first two trans characters, is tragically killed in the same episode we meet him. Yes, it’s complicated by the fact that he lives on in Tal and that there is something funky going on in that Adira can see and interact with him, but it still sucks. That being said, it is pretty amazing to have two trans characters (in non-binary Adira and trans Gray) on Star Trek—I love them both.
Hanelle Culpepper, who directed the first three episodes of Picard, was behind the camera for this one and did an amazing job in an episode that asks for both domestic squabbles and alien mindscapes. Some moments when I especially appreciated her style: Those close-ups of Adira as the Trill discussed whether they would help them. The shots of Detmer’s hands clenching around the table before she brainstorms her haiku of death. The way Detmer is standing in foregrounded shadow before admitting to Hugh that she is not OK. Honestly, just like all of the shots of Detmer and how they visually communicated her not-OK-ness.
“You wanna fly this monster?”
Can we talk about the Trill costuming? Honestly, these shapeless, flowing tunics would make great home quarantine wear, especially if you’ve been working on your triceps.
I love that the introduction to the Michael/Adira dynamic comes from Hugh. He points out that Adira and Michael have a lot in common, as two people who are attempting to live past their trauma. Additionally, from Michael’s point of view, Adira is so much easier that every other relationship she’s got going on right now. Adira might expect things of Michael, but they don’t expect Michael to be the person they were a year ago, when Discovery jumped through the wormhole, because Adira didn’t know that person. Adira can offer Michael something that no one else on the Discovery can right now: a fresh start. And Michael, well Michael can offer Adira her skills as an empathetic badass, which immediately come in handy during their mission.
“Adira’s life takes precedent.” Michael is not here for your fucked up priorities.
Hugh totally nails his analysis of Michael as a “responsibility hoarder,” and he does it in such a loving way.
Riker Googling: “does petsmart sell flying trill fish?”
Yoga. Interstellar shopping. Limiting dairy. It is worth noting that, in that long (and hilarious) list of suggested therapies for the crew’s stress problem, Zora never mentioned, you know, therapy. Though perhaps we can assume that is what Hugh is offering to Detmer when she comes to him at the end of the episode.
“Get in there before someone shoots us.” Someone put this on a cat poster!
Joann and Keyla: friends or friends?
If anyone else is confused about other characters’ use of “she/her” pronouns for Adira, who identifies as non-binary, actor Blu del Barrio explained how their character’s journey will mirror their own in an interview with Syfy Wire, saying: “Even when people are using she/they pronouns, for Adira, because they have not shared their identity with the Discovery crew … And this was basically the case because I still wasn’t really out to my family and I didn’t want to be out on screen as a character who was out until I was … I wanted to wait until I had told my family and my friends. So I kind of came out alongside them.” Adira’s pronouns are “they/them,” as are del Barrio’s. (Also, that Syfy Wire interview by Riley Silverman is worth a read in its entirety.)
I love that Saru’s dinner party small talk is all about kelp crop harvesting. We are not worthy.
It is so believably nerdy that the Discovery bridge crew/officers would have a haiku-off at family dinner.
OK, but are Linus and Emperor Georgiou like actually friends?
“Well, at least the wine was good.” I love that Georgiou was invited to this party.
I can only imagine that one of the proposed titles for this episode was “Dr. Hugh Culber: Stealth Therapist.”
The Discovery now has the coordinates to find Federation headquarters, whatever that means…
Bless the patron saint of Starfleet therapists: Dr. Deanna Troi. Eat some chocolate in her honor.