Star Trek Discovery offers us a partially obstructed view to a Trill. S3E04 – Forget Me Not Review
Once again, an episode opens with another trademark “Star Trek: Discovery” maudlin philosophical personal logs. You know, the ones the records clerks at Starfleet Headquarters must have dreaded receiving and having to catalogue (and subsequently must have relished deleting when the decision was made to expunge USS Discovery from recorded history)? This time, though, it’s Dr Culber who’s recording and not Burnham. Not that “Star Trek: Discovery” is willing to stray too far from its obsessive focus. No, in that respect, “Forget Me Not” is almost a warning from Michael Burnham to anyone thinking of having a storyline all to themselves.
Attempting to track down Admiral Senna Tal, the Discovery travels to Trill in the hope that they will be able to help Adira (Blu del Barrio) access the memories of her symbiote. While Burnham and Adira negotiate with the reluctant Trill authorities, onboard Discovery, Captain Saru worries about his crew’s morale and wellbeing.
It’s a shame that having set up Culber to be the episode’s instigator, the writers don’t even bother with subtlety and just have him say the quiet part loud by forcing him to come up with a tortuous rationalisation for him to step aside and allow Burnham to accompany Adira to the surface. Given they’ve diagnosed her with an emotional/ psychological issue and not a physiological one, it’s clear she needs to come to terms with absorbing a whole new life experience.
You’d think, then, that Culber – who literally died and was then resurrected through the power of mushrooms – would be the best placed to empathise and support her rather than Burnham, a character who at this point pretty much only offers solipsism and weeping as character traits. It’s a real shame because we know how much Sonequa Martin-Green could do if she was given better material.
“Star Trek: Discovery” has always started its seasons slowly, even as its episode count has dwindled year by year and here, nearly a third of the way through season three we’re still introducing characters and feeling like we haven’t properly started the story.
Once they beam down to Trill and get a frosty reception due to Adira being a human, it’s only a matter of time before Burnham decides the rules don’t apply to her and so we find ourselves in the Caves of Mak’ala where Burnham adopts the role of Tangina Barron to Adira’s Carole Ann as she’s sucked down to the depths of the symbiote pools.
This time, we get to know a little bit more about Adira but it’s hard to shake the feeling that Adira’s visions are only disrupted and episodic to provide Burnham with a starring role in what should be an intensely intimate and experience for the character of Adira, especially when it’s used to introduce another of the much-heralded new cast members of Season Three – Ian Alexander as Gray Tal, the symbiote’s previous host and Adira’s former partner, the leadenly obvious “Forget Me Not” of the episode’s title.
Meanwhile, we learn that Discovery is something of Trill herself as the Sphere Data starts to make its presence known, acting very much like a symbiote within the ship’s computer (and linking back to the Short Trek “Calypso“) and revealing that in all the trillions of yottabytes of data it amassed, Buster Keaton is what it chooses to share. Maybe the “Forget Me Not” refers to dangling plot threads and unresolved arcs from the previous season?
It’s increasingly irksome to see the series continue to bring in new characters ripe with interesting potential when it can barely bring itself to explore the ones it already has (with the one obvious exception). Perhaps “Forget Me Not” is a subconscious message to the writers from themselves on behalf of the increasingly anaemic supporting characters. The problem is eloquently summed up in the scenes of dinner at the Captain’s table, easily the most uncomfortable and tense since the Klingons came to dine in “The Undiscovered Country“, where it doesn’t really feel like any of the cast know themselves, let alone each other.
Many of the bridge crew feel like they’ve regressed to earlier behaviours – Stamets especially – wiping out any of the character development and while it’s laudable the writers try to address the degree of PTSD the crew must be feeling, the idea that it’s surfaced and resolved by a family bust-up over what is, to all intents and purposes, a Thanksgiving dinner is both trite and unsatisfactory. It’s a graceless landing for the arc they launched Detmer on in episode 2, forgot about in episode 3 then addressed here and the writers need to learn that giving the actor an occasional line of dialogue is not the same as building character.
There’s still the problem of Georgiou, too. That an actual genocidal despot is allowed to wander where she likes, doing whatever she likes, still feels wrong for a “Star Trek” series. No matter how sassy and sardonic they make her – and how well Michelle Yeoh plays it, all-but “Fleabag” winks to the camera and all – there’s no justification for why she isn’t kept prisoner, only consulted on rare occasions like Clarice Starling interviewing Hannibal Lecter.
Overall, “Forget Me Not” is fine. It’s not great (although again, frustratingly, it contains the elements of greatness), but it’s alright. The season can’t take much more of this slacking off of pace though, or of sidestepping the big plot arcs it set up for itself, and it needs to be able to give the other characters the spotlight more often because it’s starting to look like it’s not a coincidence that the best episode of the season so far is the one that didn’t feature Michael Burnham.