[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Star Trek: Discovery” Season 3, Episode 4, “Forget Me Not.”]
Here’s the “Star Trek” we’ve been waiting for. What a swooningly emotional episode, with moving little grace notes for various supporting characters along the way. This show has long struggled to make the most of its extremely talented ensemble, but “Forget Me Not” suggests a path forward that includes most of the supporting cast, and it does so thoughtfully. “Star Trek” was always at its best when it presented well-rounded portraits of its characters: Data wasn’t just an android or a science officer, he was a painter, a cat owner, an aspiring Shakespearean, a pen pal. Riker loved jazz music, played the trombone, occasionally had a holographic girlfriend, and even once tried his hand at experimental theater. “Discovery” hasn’t done that nearly as well for its supporting characters. Owosekun, Nilsson, the Lizard guy (Linus), Detmer, Bryce, Rhys, Nhan. I want to get to know all of them. But even though they’ve appeared in many episodes, their screentime has been so limited that you’ll find pretty scant listings for each of them on their Memory Alpha pages.
“Forget Me Not” began to set that right, giving each of those supporting players a moment to shine, while also infusing dramatic life into Blu del Barrio’s new character Adira in an incredibly stirring way. Who didn’t have tears in their eyes as the episode neared its end?
Unlike “Far From Home,” which was filler in that it presented a tedious side quest while not dealing with the emotions of the crew, “Forget Me Not” is kind of a pause — a way to take stock of where all these characters have been and how they can process their lives going forward. It begins languidly enough, with long overhead shots of the ship as Dr. Culber gives his log. He wants to share with the crew how he’s been in their shoes before: he’s certainly been alone and lost as well. “But first, they have to accept help,” he said. Going to Earth in the previous episode helped their new reality to sink in. Jumping ahead 930 years into the future, everything they knew and loved is gone.
Adira says she has some memories and abilities from the symbiont, but since she isn’t Trill herself, she can’t access all of them. She can make a mean Bajoran hasparat, though. (For what it’s worth, though del Barrio uses they/them pronouns, it appears Adira is scripted as she/her.) One way to get her to access those memories? Take her to Trill and see if the people there can help her. And when they get there the Trill seem promising! “It’s been many years since we’ve seen a Federation starship,” an envoy from the world, apparently a lush garden world with CGI flying fish that really do fly, tells them.
But when the Trill ask Adira to “recite her names” she can’t. She’s a human after all, and can’t access all the memories of the previous hosts who carried this symbiont before her. “She’s an abomination, she must be separated immediately!” one particularly bigoted Trill says. A more open-minded Trill, Zee, sees an opportunity, though: this could be the future of the Trill, since their own species hasn’t had enough viable hosts in generations. Zee helps them and takes them to the sacred caverns where the symbionts have always lived in glowing “Minority Report” pools. Burnham’s with her throughout all of this; Culber was right in saying that they’ve both recently gone through “post-traumatic growth” and should make a good team.
Meanwhile, the Discovery crew is stressed to the max, and Culber’s trying to figure out how to reduce everyone’s stress hormones, which are off the chart. Saru asks the computer for help, and it says they would benefit from “exercise, medication, limited dairy… yoga, hyperbaric chambers, therapeutic coloring books, interstellar shopping.” Then the computer takes on a distinctly different tone, sounding almost like Scarlett Johansson’s all-purpose-friend AI in “Her.” It’s got to be the sphere data starting to express its personality through the ship: this woman’s voice suggests laughter as the best remedy for the crew’s stress — such as the comedy that transcended language barriers in the 20th Century: silent comedy.
Saru puts that on the back-burner at first. He decides instead to throw a dinner party. All those previously mentioned underdeveloped characters — Owosekun, Nilsson, the Lizard guy (Linus), Detmer, Bryce, Rhys, Nhan — have great moments here! At last! Georgiou even recites a haiku, causing the others to try and match it. It’s a joyous scene, but one cut short when Detmer gets gruesome in recalling how Stamets was almost mortally wounded. Bitter undercurrents emerge in everyone and they all leave with Georgiou saying “Well, at least the wine was good” while she takes the bottle.
Back on Trill, Adira is sucked into the symbiont pool and Michael dives in after her. They find themselves in one of the trippier environments “Discovery” has ever given us. They’re in ankle-deep water with tendrils all around, like strange nerve endings that want to connect. They want to connect with Adira so that she can remember the symbiont’s memories. But because of a recent trauma, Adira barely remembers her own memories. We see in flashback that Adira and her Trill boyfriend Gray (Ian Alexander) were aboard a generation ship looking for Starfleet headquarters. Senna Tal must have been aboard too and then died, with his symbiont going to Gray. Adira remembers Gray was then suddenly a cello virtuoso. “I’m still me,” he said. “I’m just more me.” This relationship between del Barrio and Alexander (the first transgender man to act on a “Trek” series) is so revolutionary and yet presented in such a no-big-deal, effortlessly emotional way. They’re not symbols, they’re people. This is some good storytelling, so true to the “Star Trek” we’ve always known, but evolved. It’s the best of the past — especially the fluidity implied by all that we learned about the Trill on “Deep Space Nine” — with what we’ve learned along the way since.
Adira then remembers some attack occurred on their ship that mortally wounded Gray, and so she had to take the symbiont Tal, not just to keep Tal alive but so that she and Gray could still be together, their memories commingled.
By opening herself up, even to her grief, even to her worst memory, Adira then unlocked the memories of the former hosts, who appear around her in a circle. Including Senna Tal, who reveals the location of Starfleet Headquarters — or at least heads them in the right direction. And Gray… for a tearful reunion. This is deeply moving. One of the best moments of the entire series to date. Talk about getting misty eyed.
Then it seems, after Adira’s back onboard the ship — she elected to stay with Discovery rather than remain on Trill — that Gray is somehow with her in a more corporeal sense. Is this just how she sees his memory through the symbiont? Or was he made more “real” somehow? Fascinating.
Back on Discovery, Saru is in a funk. “Captain Pike made connecting with the crew seem so… effortless,” he said. But what he misunderstood is that the crew needed to acknowledge that they weren’t okay first, before they started to heal. Joy can only follow when you’ve been honest about how you’re feeling. That’s the message Culber tries to impart to Saru. And Saru does exactly what the computer suggested: he shows a riotous Buster Keaton movie. Things may not be okay, but you can still take comfort in art. Who wasn’t reminded of the “Star Trek: Enterprise” episode “Twilight” when Archer literally prevents the destruction of Earth and saves humanity — and his reward? Watching “Rosemary’s Baby” on a 22nd Century iPad. Because what’s better than just not having to be “on” and losing yourself in a movie?
The Discovery crew all watching a Buster Keaton movie is one of those classic “Trek” moments. Like the “Deep Space Nine” crew spending an entire episode playing a baseball game. Or any of Tom Paris’s “Captain Proton” holodeck stories on “Voyager.” It’s unique…indicative completely of the personality of the makers of the show and not at all something that checks a box for a formula. May “Discovery” give us many more of those moments.
Season 3 of “Star Trek: Discovery” is available on CBS All Access.