Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Picard, and other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
The first three episodes of Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 were all about world-building; establishing the 32nd Century setting as being very different to what Burnham and the crew imagined. There’s a lesson about hubris and naïvety in there too, as none of them could have envisioned a future which had seen the collapse, shrinking, or withdrawal of the Federation.
Forget Me Not was an emotional episode in parts, but one which had a few too many contrivances and a little too much forced drama for my liking. It was good taken as a whole – but not great. We got to learn more about new character Adira, specifically their background and how they became a Trill host. And in the secondary storyline, Captain Saru tried to help the crew to bond. There were some great visual effects, but unusually for Discovery there was at least one sequence where I felt the CGI was overdone and didn’t look particularly good.
After a recap of the story so far, which focused heavily on Detmer as she was injured in Far From Home, the episode begins with Dr Culber recording the ship’s medical log. Culber was, for some reason, entirely absent last week, but this wasn’t addressed here. It’s nice to see him back, though, after we only got a few short scenes with him in Far From Home.
Dr Culber is concerned about the crew and how they’re coping with the psychological challenges of what they’ve done. I get the sense that, for some of them at least, they may have agreed to the mission into the future either so quickly they didn’t have time to think about it, or perhaps even while feeling a degree of peer pressure; not wanting to refuse in front of their friends and colleagues. This is something that crops up again with the dinner Saru hosts, when he recalls how they all agreed. I came away from that thinking “did they all agree, though?” and Dr Culber’s log sets up and informs that moment.
After Culber’s log we get a sequence with Adira in sickbay. I was a little confused at first; last week they said that they know they’re carrying the Tal symbiont and thus that they carry the memories of Admiral Senna Tal, the Starfleet officer Burnham hoped to contact. However, this time Adira says they can’t remember anything, including how they came to have the symbiont in the first place. It just seems a little confusing that Adira knows they have the Tal symbiont but nothing else, including how they got the symbiont or anything related to it. This setup was interesting, though, and provides a solid reason for going to Trill.
So let’s talk about the decision to go to Trill. This was the first of several moments of forced drama that felt incredibly artificial, as we spent a couple of minutes with Burnham, Adira, Saru, and the doctor as Adira tries to decide whether or not they want to go to Trill. But there’s no choice – either they go to Trill and ask the Trill for help with the symbiont, or they do nothing in which case they’ll never get their memories and the crew will never find out about Senna Tal. Making it out to be a “big decision” and a dramatic moment didn’t work, and set up what was to be an unfortunate recurring theme throughout Forget Me Not – artificiality, plot contrivance, and forced drama.
There’s one thing that I’ve never been totally sold on with Discovery – and to be fair, Star Trek: Picard does the same thing. The aspect ratio in which it’s filmed mimics many big-screen films, and that’s a clear choice on the part of the show’s creators. Most of the time it barely notices, but sometimes it can detract from the story Discovery wants to tell. For example, there’s a significant height difference between Saru and Burnham, and when they’re stood next to each other this becomes very noticeable, especially if the director wants to use a relatively close-up camera angle. Lower Decks was filmed in the standard 16:9 format that has been common to television shows for a few years now, but Discovery insists on using this anamorphic ultra-widescreen format. It can look cinematic, but sometimes – like when Burnham and Saru are stood next to each other and we can only see the former’s head and shoulders – I often feel like we’re missing out by not seeing the “full picture.”
After the “agonising” decision about going to Trill we get the opening titles, and I didn’t spot anything different or noteworthy this time. After the jolt of moving from Lower Decks’ amazing up-tempo theme back to Discovery’s understated one I’m getting used to it again, and the musical score for the series overall has been solid. I especially liked last week’s “Adira’s theme,” and it was a shame it didn’t return this time.
Discovery arrives at Trill in short order, and via the holo-communicator Saru speaks with a Trill leader who is eager to welcome a symbiont home. This was the beginning of the second contrivance, as nobody mentions to this Trill leader that Adira is human, leading to hostility when they reach the surface. Why that wasn’t mentioned considering it’s a big part of the reason for Discovery and Adira needing their help is a mystery; the answer seems to be “because plot,” which is never particularly satisfying.
We don’t have to wait long to come to the next moment of forced drama: Tilly and Stamets’ argument over technobabble. A combination of a silly premise, poor scripting, and a rare miss in Anthony Rapp’s performance as Stamets led to this entire sub-plot feeling like a complete waste of time; pure fluff to pad out an episode which needed no padding whatsoever. Rapp has been outstanding as Stamets across Discovery’s first two seasons and into the beginning of Season 3, but his argument with Tilly ended up feeling unconvincing.
From one plot contrivance to the next. Dr Culber inexplicably recommends Burnham for the mission to accompany Adira to Trill, even though the two characters seem to barely know each other. Culber is by far the best option for the assignment, but if – for whatever reason – he doesn’t want to go there were other options: Saru, most notably.
This speaks to a much bigger problem that has plagued Discovery since Season 1: the show beats us over the head with Burnham, repeatedly insisting “she’s the protagonist!” Just because she’s the main character doesn’t mean she has to take the lead in every single story! This week, given Burnham has been stranded in the future without the crew for a whole year, it would have made infinitely more sense to have her aboard the ship partaking in the episode’s B-plot: bonding with the crew. As it is, Burnham missed that entire storyline, and the crew bonded without her.
When it comes to Burnham, Discovery sometimes fails to see the forest for the trees. The writers and producers want to make her the focal point, but in some cases the broader storyline of the show is better-served when Burnham takes a back seat. There was no need for Burnham to be the one to accompany Adira to Trill. Nothing she did couldn’t have been handled by Saru, Culber, or another character. It wasn’t a storyline that required Burnham’s presence, and her being there took her away from a storyline where she could have actually made an impact, helping the crew come together in the way a first officer should, and beginning the process of healing from her own experience away from the crew; re-learning to love and trust them. It’s a disappointment to me that still, three seasons in, the show does this with Burnham.
This scene marked Burnham’s reunion with Culber, as he had been absent in last week’s episode. But for some reason no mention was made of that in any of their scenes together, which was a missed opportunity. Culber’s reasoning for sending Burnham on the mission is complete nonsense, and comes across as nothing more than a contrivance. It’s a shame, because Wilson Cruz puts in an amazing performance, having a rare energy when he’s on screen that can brighten any scene. It was wasted here, and all for the sake of pushing Burnham into a role that didn’t suit her in this week’s episode.
To Burnham’s credit, even she seems surprised by the request and is initially unsure about taking the assignment. However, after a short conversation she’s convinced, and thus accompanies Adira to the surface of Trill – via shuttlecraft, for some reason. Perhaps the transporters were offline for maintenance? Adira also seems uncomfortable with the arrangement, but they come around to the idea.
As Adira and Burnham make their way to the surface, Dr Culber checks in with Captain Saru. Culber explains that the crew are suffering from stress, anxiety, and mental health problems as a result of going to the future. While I’m sure the Burn and the Federation’s collapse is part of that, the main thrust of what the crew is going through is related to leaving things behind rather than the present they’ve encountered. Tilly put it best last week when she said that their friends and families have been dead and gone for centuries.
This sets up the B-plot of Forget Me Not; the episode’s stronger showing overall. Though the mission to Trill would bring some moments of strong emotion, as a whole the crew beginning to overcome their feelings and come together was a more enjoyable story. Wilson Cruz remains on strong form, and Dr Culber has clearly been successful in overcoming his experience in the mycelial network – which, of course, is another reason why he should’ve accompanied Adira.
On the surface of Trill, Burnham and Adira are greeted by a welcoming committee of senior Trill officials. After exchanging pleasant greetings, things take an immediate sour turn when the Trill are vehemently opposed to the idea of a human hosting a symbiont. In theory this storyline works, especially in a post-Burn galaxy where – as the Trill would explain – many of their kind had been killed. However, there are a few points that came together to make this storyline feel, once again, rather contrived.
After a brief conversation with the Trill officials, it’s decided that Burnham and Adira would have to leave the planet. One of the Trill villains (or should that be the “Trillain?”) wanted to kill Adira to rip out the Tal symbiont, so I guess we could say they escaped lightly by simply being told to leave. However, this one-dimensional character and his seemingly-menacing idea don’t stand up to even the barest scrutiny. The Trill have an abundance of symbionts, but not enough suitable hosts to join with them, so why would they want to recover another symbiont? Surely it makes no sense for the Trillain to consider this as an option. If they aren’t interested in learning about non-Trill hosts for their symbionts that’s fine, I guess, and could be a comment on racism and racial purity if you want to slap a heavy-handed metaphor across the episode. But this Trillain doesn’t even have the defence of being a metaphor. He’s just a one-dimensional character with a plan that makes no sense, injected into the episode for – once again – forced drama. We could have had no Trillain and seen Burnham and Adira welcomed to the planet and the rest of the story would have played out just fine. I wonder if this is going to become a recurring theme in Season 3: travelling to planets to solve an obvious and pretty basic problem of the kind that’s better saved for children’s cartoons? I hope not.
The Trillain escorts Burnham and Adira, supposedly taking them back to their shuttlecraft. But he and a couple of Trill guards wielding neat-looking (but wholly impractical) elecro-spears turn to attack them instead, as he still wants to take the Tal symbiont. Burnham phasers the trio before they can harm Adira. I guess this is the reason Burnham was chosen for the mission: so she could have a moment of kicking butt and looking cool.
Maybe this is a personal gripe, but melee weapons in sci-fi almost never seem like a good fit. These elecro-spears looked cool and intimidating at first, but are entirely useless when confronted by an opponent – like Burnham – armed with a phaser. And remember, Burnham’s phaser is 930 years old at this point. To be generous, perhaps these Trill are using ceremonial weapons, as we do occasionally see this used even today. But considering the Trillain called on them to help him capture Adira, it’s at least implied that these are just the weapons Trill use at all times, and I don’t think they make a lot of sense – even if they do admittedly look pretty neat.
After Burnham makes short work of the inadequately-armed guards, another Trill from the welcoming committee shows up. This red-robed individual had stood up for Burnham and Adira, and appears to believe that the only way for the symbionts to survive in the long-term would be if they were willing to branch out to non-Trill hosts. He also has a line here that I’m afraid didn’t work very well, claiming that Trill society was “on the brink of collapse.” Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s a bit of exaggeration. But stories need to show as well as tell, and everything we’ve seen on screen so far shows the Trill homeworld as a Garden of Eden-like paradise. Maybe the Trill are hiding their societal issues, but if so they’re damn good at it.
The red-robed Trill is a caretaker of the cave where the symbionts live, and promises to take Burnham and Adira there. Before we get there, however, we get a scene back aboard Discovery with Captain Saru. Having been told by Dr Culber that the crew’s mental health is suffering, he’s trying to figure out what to do. And here we get another tie-in with the Short Treks episode Calypso, which I had been theorising was coming for a couple of weeks. Discovery’s computer and the Sphere data from Season 2 appear to merge, or perhaps the Sphere data asserts control. This appears to be the beginnings of Zora, the AI from Calypso.
The set design of the symbiont caves was phenomenal. We had visited this location just once in Deep Space Nine, and there was no real reason for Discovery to copy that design; as we’ve seen a number of times across the series the producers and designers have been perfectly happy to redesign all manner of things from past iterations of Star Trek – including the original USS Enterprise! But the design used for the Caves of Mak’ala was beautiful. It paid homage to Deep Space Nine’s design, updating it slightly but certainly not overwriting it. As a fan of the older series, I felt like I recognised it immediately, despite the minor changes. We did get a brief look at the caves in the first Season 3 trailer, but the expanded look we got in the full episode really was incredible, and credit to everyone involved in the design and execution, because it looked amazing.
The cave caretaker leads Burnham and Adira inside, and they have a brief conversation about how the process works. In short, Adira needs to get into one of the pools of liquid in order to communicate with their symbiont and unlock the memories that are currently blocked. This, again, tied in nicely with Deep Space Nine and the way the caves and Trill had been presented.
Back aboard Discovery, Saru hosts a dinner for the bridge crew. He’s so eloquent in his pre-dinner speech, trying his best to rally the crew when they’re clearly going through some very complicated emotions. The intention was to demonstrate to everyone present that, despite having sacrificed and lost so much, they have each other. That’s an inspirational message, and one which Saru, in his calm, soft way, is able to beautifully express.
But it’s not what the crew were ready to hear! The dinner begins awkwardly, but with hope that something positive can be pulled out of it. However, it takes a turn for the worse as tensions boil over between certain crew members. We’ve already mentioned the Tilly/Stamets argument that fell flat, but others worked very well. I particularly liked Stamets and Detmer’s dispute over piloting and jumping the ship; this builds on what we saw last week with Detmer clearly suffering psychologically after the crash-landing and her injury.
Was everyone aware that Georgiou is Terran? I honestly can’t remember who else besides Burnham knew, yet it seems to be common knowledge at the dinner table! After Detmer and Stamets argue the dinner breaks up, leaving poor Captain Saru feeling dejected. However, I think we can argue that this is exactly what the crew needed, even if it wasn’t what Saru wanted. Some of these tensions and bottled-up feelings needed to be released, and getting things out in the open was important for the crew, even if it made for an uncomfortable few moments. But hey, my current favourite character – Random Blonde Bridge Officer – spoke her first line of the season when she got to say “Aye!”
RBBO has become emblematic for me of the fact that, despite being over two seasons in, we don’t know a lot about many of the characters on the show. Saru had parts of his backstory explained over an episode of Short Treks and in Season 2, and of course we know plenty about Burnham. But many of the others that we see week in, week out might as well be set decoration. This is Detmer’s first significant storyline, and I commend that. Hopefully it’s the beginning of Discovery trying to expand its roster to include more of these secondary characters. Maybe we’ll even learn RBBO’s real name!
Back on Trill, Adira has got changed into a white robe and submersed themselves in the symbiont pool. After a moment of floating, an object the Trill calls an “orb” is placed in with them, leading to the process of communication with the symbiont and unlocking their hidden or repressed memories. The setup to this was great, including the orb and the performance from guest star Andreas Aspergis, who was convincing as the Trill cave caretaker.
As Adira floats in the pool, other Trill leaders from the welcoming committee arrive, along with their spear-wielding guards. The leader rebukes the caretaker for allowing Adira to “defile” their sacred pool with their filthy human-ness, but as they’re currently communicating with the symbiont there isn’t a great deal they can do at this point.
When Adira gets in trouble and disappears beneath the surface, we get our next plot contrivance: the Trill are all perfectly happy to allow Burnham to dive in to save them. A moment ago they hated the idea of a human soiling their special pool, but when it’s Burnham they all jump at the chance to let her go in after Adira. It just feels like many points of the Trill’s anti-human storyline were tacked on and not particularly well thought-out, leading to moments like this that don’t logically follow. If the Trill hate the idea of Adira being in the pool, why are they fine with Burnham going in? If someone has to save Adira, shouldn’t it be another Trill in their opinion?
As Burnham jumps in after Adira, she’s pulled into a strange realm that appears to be taking place within Adira’s consciousness. Let’s call this place “Greenscreenia.” As you can probably tell, this was the part of the episode where the visual effects misfired. It wasn’t that the CGI work was bad per se, it’s just that the entire sequence with Adira, Burnham, and the Tal symbiont’s previous hosts was entirely taking place in this weird CGI world, with absolutely no physical props or any frame of reference aside from the two actors. The sequence ended up looking fake, as some scenes filmed entirely before a green screen can.
It’s a shame, because not only has Discovery been fantastic with its visual effects and CGI across its entire run, but the post-production work for Season 3 was almost entirely conducted by artists working from home during the pandemic, and I don’t want to just rip into the hard work they put in. Some CGI sets like this can overwhelm the story they’re trying to tell, and the criticism is that because there were so many CGI elements on screen all at once, not all of them looked or felt right. Both Burnham and Adira also don’t seem to be properly lit; there’s a light source in Greenscreenia that’s toward the top of the frame, but the light from that source doesn’t seem to fall naturally. Finally, there’s what I can only describe as a “ghostly” or “halo” effect around Burnham and Adira that some green screen/CGI scenes have, again contributing to the sense of the sequence being unreal.
When we look at the image below – which has been compressed for the website – it looks like Adira and Burnham are standing in front of a screen; it does not look like they’re in a 3D environment where they could turn their backs to us and walk away.
In Greenscreenia, Burnham encourages Adira to seek out her blocked memories. The Tal symbiont is offering them up to her, but she’s still blocking them out. Actor Blu del Barrio gives an outstanding and highly emotional performance as Adira throughout this sequence, which involved the death of their partner, a Trill named Gray. Gray is played by Ian Alexander, who was highlighted in the press along with Blu del Barrio before Season 3 premiered as being Star Trek’s first trans character. Gray seems like a very interesting character as well – but sadly, one who has already passed away.
In the next plot contrivance, the starship Gray and Adira are on appears to crash into an asteroid; the crash wounds Gray fatally meaning the Tal symbiont has to be transplanted. With no one else available, it is placed into Adira. This is the memory they had been repressing – quite understandably, given its traumatic nature.
There is one point from this that I want to pick at, though, and that’s the ship crashing. In an already-stuffed episode, I understand that there wasn’t a lot of time to dedicate to this flashback. And I also understand that the director intended the crash to look shocking and dramatic, but I think we need a bit more explanation of just how a 32nd Century starship came to crash. It didn’t seem to be under attack, it just ploughed headfirst, Titanic-style, into the nearest asteroid. Why?
Regardless, the ship must have been in the vicinity of Earth, since that’s where Adira ended up in their escape pod. I’m trying to put the pieces together to make it all fit. Admiral Tal was on Earth 12 years ago, because he sent a message telling anyone from Starfleet to meet him there. He died 2 years ago, according to Captain Ndoye in People of Earth. At that point, presumably the Tal symbiont was transferred to Gray, but Adira says that they were aboard a generation ship, and the generation ship has to have been close enough to Earth for Adira’s escape pod to reach the planet at whatever speed escape pods can manage. Did I get that right? Perhaps the timeline of Senna Tal, Gray Tal, and the ship he was travelling on with Adira will be better explained in another episode, because I feel it’s confused right now!
Despite the muddled timeline, this whole sequence between Gray and Adira was intense and very emotional. At its core were two outstanding performances, depicting a young happy couple whose lives are torn apart. We didn’t have long to get to know Gray – or Adira, for that matter – so the brief moments we saw of them together had to be scripted, filmed, and performed pitch-perfectly to convey that sense of emotion. And they absolutely were; it was a heartbreaking watch.
Reliving this moment – the worst of their life – was what Adira needed to do, and they are rewarded with unlocking other memories, and meeting the Tal symbiont’s former hosts, including Admiral Senna Tal. Burnham is able to be present here too; the exact nature of Greenscreenia and how Burnham was able to interact with memories inside Adira’s symbiont’s mind was not particularly clear. However, it worked. It was cute to see a Picard-era Starfleet uniform – can we imply from that that the Tal symbiont is 700+ years old? I sure hope so, since that may or may not play into a theory I have!
Burnham and Adira exit Greenscreenia – which, to be fair, looked a lot better in its more understated, dark form when the previous hosts appeared – and return to the pool on Trill. After getting out of the pool, Adira is able to recite the Tal symbiont’s former names to the Trill leaders, who are now satisfied with the idea of non-Trill hosts. Where a moment ago the leader had been telling the caretaker he made a horrible mistake, she was happy to do an immediate U-turn on, perhaps, her entire outlook on life and how her people live. A contrivance, once again, but thankfully the last one in Forget Me Not. It was a shame, coming on that back of that intensely emotional sequence between Gray and Adira, to be dumped back into this silly Trill anti-human story.
Aboard Discovery, Captain Saru has taken the computer/Sphere’s advice and screened a comedy film for the crew in one of the shuttlebays. A classic of the silent film era, starring Buster Keaton, this also sets up the AI Zora’s fascination with older works of cinema that we saw in Calypso, which was a neat touch.
The crewmates who’d argued or been upset begin to come together. Stamets and Tilly thankfully put an end to their technobabble argument, and Stamets likewise makes up with Detmer. Owosekun – who was the only one at Saru’s dinner who seemed to be doing okay – was there too, enjoying a moment of downtime, and so was RBBO. After everything the crew went through, it was good to see them enjoying a moment together like this. Detmer even asks Dr Culber if she can talk to him – beginning her counselling, perhaps. My only worry with the Detmer storyline now is that it will be dropped and we’ll never see anything of it again; I would like to see more development and growth in subsequent episodes. And for others, too, perhaps creating that secondary cast I talked about earlier.
As the episode draws to a close, Burnham visits Adira, and receives what she wanted: a map to Federation Headquarters that Admiral Tal had. It was a lot of work and effort to get the location, so hopefully it will be worthwhile. The episode drew to a close with Adira and a hallucination/apparition of Gray – something I feel certain will become an ongoing part of their character.
So that was Forget Me Not. It’s an episode in three parts: two great and one not-so-great, leading to a mixed episode that I’d say was okay but unspectacular, let down by one of its three constituent story threads.
The big point that I didn’t feel worked in Forget Me Not was the Trill anti-human storyline. The Trillain, as I called him, had a plan that didn’t seem to make a lot of sense, motivated by insubstantial fluff that seemed to be there solely to give Burnham an easy problem to solve. The Trill need more hosts. But the Trill hate the idea of non-Trill hosts. And then Burnham shows up with Adira and shows them that if they could just learn to be nice to other races instead of being horrible nasty meanies, everything will work out the way they want. It’s the plot of a My Little Pony episode, not of Star Trek.
However, the other two parts – Captain Saru bonding with the crew, and the deeply emotional story between Gray and Adira – were incredible. Despite my criticism of Greenscreenia, Adira and Gray’s story was intense and heartbreaking, and formed the emotional core of the entire episode. There were some plot contrivances, and an awful lot of forced drama in Forget Me Not, but there was some genuine drama too, and this reminds me that when Discovery is at its best it can compete with the best drama films and the best shows on television. Here’s hoping for more of that going forward, and fewer moments of silly forced drama and artificial tension.
Next week’s episode is ominously titled Die Trying. Surely the writers and producers wouldn’t use such an obvious title to kill off a character… would they? I guess we’ll see in a few days!
Star Trek: Discovery is available to watch now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.