Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3 Episode 4
“Forget Me Not”
Star Trek: Discovery heads to the Trill home world in order to find out why Adira has no access to the memories of the Symbiont and Saru looks to take care of the well-being of the crew.
I mentioned in my review of the previous episode that this season looks to be adopting an episodic approach with serialised elements running in the background and that conclusion is very much supported by this episode. There are two main plots that pick up threads that are ongoing but are resolved in a definitive way by the end. This is a good approach as it makes the episodes distinct while allowing the characters to grow and develop as the season progresses.
One of the main threads that will continue to be present over the course of the season is the crew adjusting to the new time period they find themselves in. The B plot is very much focused on this with very particular observations being made about how the crew are coping with their new normal. A log entry from Culber opens the episode and sets the tone for this plot with him acting as the observer concerned for the crew’s emotional welfare. His log is accompanied with a montage showing the various crew members doing what they can to adjust to the current situation. This includes exercising, performing their duties and taking whatever moments of connection they can. Curiously Culber acts as a distant observer who initially doesn’t seem to be having as much trouble adjusting as some of the others though that might have something to do with his recent resurrection having increased his coping ability in general.
In a lot of ways Detmer is the case study for the mental well-being of the crew as a point has been made of showing how much she is struggling to deal with the situation the crew has found themselves in. It’s particularly noteworthy that Detmer would receive this much attention as historically she has been very much in the background so it’s encouraging to see a real attempt to develop the often forgotten bridge crew even if it is only one of them at this stage. For the moment she can act as a microcosm of the entire crew while also receiving some development that enriches her as a character. The episode signposts this early on by having Culber notice how distant she is and offers his ear should she need someone to talk to. Detmer insists that she’s fine despite the fact that she clearly isn’t and continues to isolate herself. This is something the entire crew is doing and Culber is fully aware of it right away. It is observed that they are a crew of over achieving Starfleet Officers so are predisposed to forge ahead regardless of what is going through their minds. Culber points out that such an attitude is probably fine under normal circumstances but the current circumstances are so far from normal that steps need to be taken to adjust.
Even though this episode was written before COVID was a known problem and we had to adapt to a far more isolated life than many of us are used to, the issues being explored here are a near perfect mirror to what is going on in the world outside the show. Saru’s speech about almost every culture celebrating moments and taking time to mark them with others present particularly resonates because so many things have been missed or changed in our own world whether that be a birthday, a wedding, a funeral or an anniversary. The Discovery crew have leapfrogged every significant moment in the lives of those they left behind and it really takes a toll because all they have is each other. Culber points out that if the ship disappeared then nobody would notice because nothing anchors them to their surroundings. It’s a lot to take in and it’s easy to feel isolated just as it’s easy to feel isolated when there’s a pandemic keeping all of us separated from those we want to be around. The dinner scene is particularly powerful because it’s a manufactured and stolen moment that Saru gives to the crew because he recognises that it is something they need even if they refuse to admit it to themselves.
As expected it provides a forum for strong emotions to be expressed because it is the first moment the crew have had to slow down since their arrival. Occupying the mind often delays dealing with things that weigh on people but one way or another those feelings will inevitably be expressed and it’s exactly what happens here. Detmer remains the case study and her emotions are expressed in the form of a previously unknown resentment of Stamets. This was triggered by her perception of the reaction to his injury. In Detmer’s mind she believes that Stamets is being treated as the most important person on the ship because of his unique ability to interface with the Spore Drive. The scarcity of Dilithium means it’s the most effective means of propulsion so if Stamets were to be injured or worse then Discovery would find itself on borrowed time. Detmer’s reaction comes from a place of responsibility as she flies the ship so is responsible for ensuring that everyone is safe when she does so and likely feels that her efforts are taken for granted most of the time. There’s certainly some truth to that though there’s no malicious intent behind that and it’s something Saru should be aware of as a Captain. It takes the form of accidental favouritism and makes up a part of what is bothering Detmer. Emily Coutts delivers a raw emotional reaction in this scene that perfectly underpins the general emotional state of the crew.
The conclusion to this comes when Detmer admits to Culber that she isn’t “fine” and accepts his offer to talk about it at some point. She learns the important lesson that “it’s okay not to be okay” and realises that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s the first step towards a better head space for Detmer but the journey is far from over for her and everyone else. This has been built up brilliantly and is handled with immense sophistication in this particular episode. If the crew’s mental well-being remains a common thread that runs through the entire season then it will certainly help it stand out from the rest of the franchise.
Detmer’s sense of responsibility is present in the other characters connected to the function they serve both on the ship and on the show. Stamets feels it because he interfaces with the Spore Drive and is selfishly reluctant to come up with a workaround that will take away his uniqueness even though it makes the most sense. He goes through a small arc towards realising that it makes practical sense to have at least a backup option that starts with being dismissive towards Tilly and ends with him apologising to her. Saru feels the weight of responsibility as the Captain and tries to accept that responsibility head on even though he doesn’t understand how to relate to them. He mentions that he doesn’t understand how it came so easily to Pike but his willingness to learn further shows how ideally suited he is to the role of Captain. His conversation with the Computer -that appears to be on the way to gaining sentience as depicted in the “Calypso” Short Trek- highlights that he has a long way to go but it’s a journey that has become. Culber also feels the weight of responsibility after taking it upon himself to look after the mental health of the crew. As a Doctor he understands the importance and his recent experiences have given him a deeper appreciation for adapting to unusual circumstances.
Another character who carries the weight of responsibility is Burnham. Culber talks to her about how she always takes on whatever responsibility happens to be available at the time. It’s a light hearted exchange that would seem to address the problem this show has of revolving around Burnham though the self awareness isn’t entirely earned as the A plot revolves around her to some extent. Having a defined lead in a Star Trek show can be problematic as there’s a tendency to make sure everything relates back to Burnham in some way so a plot that should be entirely about Adira’s self realisation ends up being connected to Burnham and seen from her perspective which makes it less about Adira as a result. The focus is still on Adira but there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s coloured by Burnham’s presence.
This is set up right from their first interaction. Adira questions why Burnham is accompanying her to the surface and she mentions that she can relate to what Adira is going through because of what she has experienced since her arrival. This conversation offers a reminder that Burnham is still having difficulty being part of a Starfleet crew and understands what Adira means when she says she feels like a big part of herself has been lost. The failure on the part of the writers comes from the fact that this reminder isn’t necessary and the entirety of the focus should be on Adira. If Culber had been the one to accompany her to the surface the the perspective could have been shifted in a really significant way that made for a stronger exploration of what Adira is dealing with.
The two plots of the episode seem entirely separate but there’s a strong thematic link between them. At their core both plots are about recognising and dealing with things before being able to move on. The Discovery crew need to accept that they aren’t coping as well as they pretend to and Adira needs to regain her own memories as well as the memories of the Symbiont’s former hosts. There is some resistances to that from the Trill as they are against the idea of accepting someone outwith their species as a Symbiont host because it isn’t the norm for them. Like Earth they’ve become an isolationist people after their population was devastated by The Burn. They’re reluctant to trust outsiders and regard them with hostility. As Tilly observed in the previous episode, this looks to be the prevailing reaction no matter where they go.
One of the more open minded of them pledges to help because he recognises that the return of a Symbiont is a significant event regardless of who the host is and sees non Trill hosts as being instrumental in the ongoing survival of their culture. It’s not the focus of this plot but it is recognition that stagnation leads to extinction which appears to be another thematic through line for this season. Him taking the risk helps open the minds of others which will eventually lead to them taking their place in a new Federation should it ever exist. It’s far too neat as resolutions go for the Trill and sidesteps any potential complexity in a way that’s difficult to forgive though at least it’s not the point of the story
Adira gains access to her own memories in order to complete her connection to the Symbiont. Burnham is there to encourage her not to resist and accept her own past in order to solidify that connection. The memories that are inaccessible to Adira are painful and tragic while also being happy. She remembers her boyfriend Gray (Ian Alexander); a Trill who was the previous host to the Tal Symbiont. They had a relationship where there were hints of friction caused by Gray becoming joined. Adira was briefly concerned that he had become someone else following the joining process and Gray tells her that he is still the person he knew but also so much more. It’s hard to quantify because there’s no analogue in our own world but the general idea is that it’s being one person and many at the same time. Deep Space Nine explored this in a variety of ways through Jadzia and Ezri but this episode does little more than pay lip service to it as Adira immediately accepts this and their relationship continues until it is tragically ended by his death. There’s plenty of opportunity to explore Adira understanding what it means to be a host and how that shifts her perception of who she is. In essence she’s what Ezri was when she was introduced so I can see similar beats playing out here. The interactions between Adira and Gray are really endearing; their connection is very natural and charming so seeing this extended is certainly welcomed.
The point of this isn’t to definitively answer the question of what it truly means to be joined. Instead it sets that up for Adira following her remembering knowing someone who grew to understand what that really mins. There’s a spiritual undercurrent to it that is really fascinating and the existential questions built into the concept are rife for both story and character progression. Adira is a really compelling character with a strong foundation that can now be built on in a variety of ways and Gray being an intangible presence that she can interact with brings its own set of possibilities consistent with what fans of previous Star Trek media know about the trill. There’s a strong possibility that she’ll cling too tightly to the memory of Gray which will affect her ability to move on and form new relationships with others or it could be a source of strength that enriches her own development. For now she’s certainly much more secure in her own identity without having vast chunks of her life unavailable to her. She now has the opportunity to move forward and the possibilities surrounding that are fascinating.
A great episode that does strong work around the ongoing mental well-being of the crew while delivering a fascinating exploration of Adira as a character. The focus on mental well- being is necessary at this point as the crew are all dealing with a lot while not taking the time to internalise it. Culber’s log entry sets this up nicely and using Detmer as a case study that presents her as a microcosm of what the rest of the crew are experiencing works really well given the set-up already in place. Her outburst during Saru’s attempt to bring the crew together is brilliantly performed and very real in that what she chooses to express is only a fraction of what is really bothering her. Her outburst comes from a place of responsibility which affects many of the characters in their own way. There’s a lot to deal with for everyone concern and Detmer learning that “it’s okay not to be okay” is an encouraging first step though it’s clear there is still a long way to go.
The Adira plot has a strong thematic link with the other one as they’re both about dealing with things before being able to move on. Adira needs to learn about her past and accept it before her connection to the Symbiont can be complete. Attaching Burnham to this plot is unnecessary as it diverts the focus from Adira by making it about Burnham to some extent. It’s coloured by her perspective and comes back to her when it shouldn’t. There’s no reason Culber couldn’t have accompanied Adira to the surface other than Burnham is the lead and there needs to be constant reminders of what her personal arc is. Adira accessing her memories and remembering Gray makes for some really endearing interactions. Adira and Gray’s interactions are very natural and charming. The hints at friction when Adira worries that the joining process has changed Gray but it doesn’t really come to anything and is dismissed quickly. There’s plenty of opportunity to explore that through Adira in the coming episodes and having Gray as a presence has a lot of possibilities as well. There are some issues in how quickly the isolationist attitude from the Trill they encounter is resolved as it happens too quickly and feels too neat when it does. It’s far from the point of the story but does really stand out.
- the focus on the mental well-being of the Discovery crew
- Culber acting as the outside observer that drives this
- using Detmer as the case study for what the entire crew are experiencing
- the weight of responsibility manifesting in different ways for different characters
- Detmer’s strongly performed outburst expressing a fraction of what is really bothering her
- Detmer learning that “it’s okay not to be okay”
- a strong thematic connection between the two plots
- the natural and charming Adira/Gray relationship
- the possibilities introduced around Adira and where she could develop
- Burnham’s perspective uncomfortable colouring the Adira plot
- the clumsily neat resolution of the Trill isolationist attitude
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