Being Trill is a Tal order: Star Trek: Discovery “Forget Me Not”
Previously: Discovery arrived in the 32nd Century and had a pretty rough landing. Demter hit her head in the crash and now Something Is Wrong With Her. Stamets almost died and had to be put in a coma, but he pulled through. The crew of Discovery was reunited with Michael Burnham, who told them about the Burn and the fall of the Federation and a message she received from the late Admiral Senna Tal. It turns out the admiral was a Trill, and his symbiont is now joined with a human teen named Adira.
It comes as no real shock that we open with another pretentious voiceover, but for a change of pace, this one is recorded by Culber and it’s from his “medical officer’s log”. He talks about how their trip to Earth last week was “A reality check, such as reality is.” I’m about reaching my breaking point with these dopey log entries, so let me breeze through the important points.
The crew is feeling “lost, disconnected”, and Culber is examining some of them in the ship’s gym, and Demter is jumping rope with a faraway look in her eyes. Culber tells Detmer she can always talk to him, but nope, she and her rope are just fine. Culber’s log says the only thing that’s giving the crew hope is five words: “When we find the Federation.” According to him, this has become a catchphrase among the crew, but this is the only time we hear it in the episode.
Culber and Dr. Pollard are examining Adira in Sickbay, and checking out a scan of the symbiont inside her. She explains that she doesn’t remember being joined with the symbiont, and she only remembers waking up in an escape pod. But yet, she understands a lot about the way the ship functions, which could be her subconsciously accessing memories of previous hosts. Unfortunately, she can’t access Senna Tal’s memories to find out where Federation headquarters is. Culber tells Saru that the best way to help her is to take her to the Trill homeworld, but they have no way of knowing if the Trill are still friendly in this era. Adira decides she wants to risk it.
Discovery jumps into orbit around Trill and hails them, and “Commissioner Vos” appears via holo-communicator, dressed in yellow robes. He’s amazed to see a Federation starship, but says Discovery is more than welcome and everyone stands down. Saru explains they have a joined symbiont and host on board who needs their help, and Vos tells them the Burn decimated the population of symbionts and hosts, so they want to meet this host right away. Did you notice the crucial piece of info that Saru left out about this particular host?
Down in Engineering, Saru pays a visit to Stamets. He points out that Stamets almost died, and he’s the whole key to the spore drive, which has become a lot more critical in this future where they might not be able to rely on the warp engines. Saru reasonably suggests they find another way to interface with the spore drive in case Stamets almost dies again. Stamets protests for a little while but agrees to look into it. Once he’s gone, Tilly says she’s come up with a possible “dark matter” interface to the spore drive, but Stamets gets all snippy with her for no reason and says, “Don’t waste my time!”
In Burnham’s quarters, she’s looking at the holographic equivalent of that corkboard you see in every police procedural with thumbtacks and strings of yarn connecting 8x10s, and it’s everything she’s learned so far about the Burn. She puts it away when Culber stops by and asks Burnham to accompany Adira to the surface of the planet instead of him. He comes up with some dumb rationale about how Adira needs emotional support, and Burnham knows what it’s like to have everything “stripped away”. Okay, but why can’t all three of them go down to the surface? Is there only room for two in the shuttle?
Burnham tells Culber she’s having trouble adjusting to being back on the ship. Culber, who seems to now be ship’s counsellor, warns Burnham that she has a bad habit of taking on too much responsibility in her life. Which I guess is why he asked her to take on one more responsibility, taking Adira down to the surface of Trill.
Burnham and Adira head to a shuttlecraft, and even Adira is confused about why Burnham is going. Adira considers going alone, but then has second thoughts and wants Burnham to come along after all. They board a shuttle, and I don’t know why they don’t just beam down. It’s not because Trills can’t be transported, because despite some assertions to that effect in the TNG episode “The Host”, we saw Dax get beamed around plenty of times on Deep Space Nine.
Meanwhile, Culber meets with Saru to tell him he’s examined the crew and their stress levels are “off the charts”. It’s because they’re in a new, totally alien future where no one knows them, so they need something to make them feel “connected”.
Burnham and Adira land on Trill and it’s a paradise of lush foliage and flying fish. They meet up with Vos, plus some other Trills named “Guardian Xi” and “Leader Pav”. I’m honestly not sure who’s who, so for the sake of expediency, I’m calling them Friendly Trill Guy (in red), Asshole Trill Guy (in yellow), and Trill Woman (in white) who’s on the fence between them, and I’m sure you can see where the nature of this episode’s central conflict is about to come from.
It seems Burnham is just now explaining to them that the symbiont is inside a human host. They couldn’t have given the Trill a heads up about this before they flew down? All the Trills are stunned about an “outsider” being a host. Asshole Trill Guy asks Adira to “speak your names”, as in the names of her previous hosts, but she can’t do it.
Asshole Trill Guy yells that Adira is “an abomination” and wants her symbiont separated immediately, while Friendly Trill Guy argues that due to the Burn, they don’t have enough “viable hosts” anymore. He thinks allowing outsiders to be hosts could be the future of the species. Friendly Trill Guy wants to take Adira to the “Caves of Mak’ala”, but Asshole Trill Guy says this could “contaminate a sacred space”. Burnham says they have to help Adira access her memories of Senna Tal, but the Trill Woman orders them to leave immediately.
Cut to them being escorted off the planet by Asshole Trill Guy. Before they reach their shuttle, two heavies show up with electrified staffs, and it seems they’re not about to let Adira leave the planet with the symbiont. A fight breaks out and Burnham pulls out a phaser and shoots everybody, and maybe these Trill monks might look into replacing their staff weapons with guns one of these days. Burnham holds Asshole Trill Guy at phaser-point and demands to know where the sacred caves are. He refuses to tell her, so Burnham just shoots him. He shows up alive later, so he’s only stunned, but it’s a refreshingly unexpected move, and more evidence of Burnham having learned to do things the “non-Starfleet” way.
Luckily for her and Adira, Friendly Trill Guy shows up and wants to show them the way to the caves, and he truly believes that Adira can help save Trill society.
Meanwhile, Saru is asking the ship’s computer what would help the crew reduce their stress. The computer screens go wonky for a minute, and then the computer voice starts laughing and being flirty. Her voice changes several times, but at least one of those voices sounds exactly like Zora, the voice of Discovery’s computer used in the Short Treks episode “Calypso”. So between this and the use of “V’draysh”, it seems like they’re actually trying to make that short fit into continuity, which might be a bit of a challenge, since it established that Discovery had been abandoned by her crew 1,000 years ago.
Regardless, Discovery’s computer/Zora tells Saru that the crew should try using humor to unwind, and specifically cites 20th century figures like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin who used comedy as a “communal unifier”. She then suggests giving the crew the night off, and hosting a private meal with the Nameless Bridge Crew to show his appreciation.
Down on Trill, they reach the Sacred Caves of Mak’ala, which look a lot like the Trill caves as seen on DS9, and Adira prepares to take a dip in some symbiont soup.
Back on the ship, the bridge crew shows up in Saru’s ready room where he’s prepared a massive spread. Saru starts to give a heartfelt speech, and Georgiou interrupts by jamming her fork into a piece of food very loudly. Saru reminds them of his speech last episode, where he said they all had to join together to bring about a better future, and how they all said “Aye” in unison. He then goes around the room making them all say “Aye” again, and they all do it except for Georgiou, who simply says, “I’m here.”
Down on Trill, Adira appears in a white robe and Friendly Trill Guy says Adira will have to face her repressed memories of the joining if she ever wants to connect with her previous hosts. Adira wades on in, then lies back and floats in the pool Minority Report precog style, and her eyes turn into cue balls.
Back at the crew dinner, Linus the Saurian is doing some shtick, and Stamets and Tilly are getting annoyed at each other. Saru says this dinner reminds him of feasts on his home planet of Kaminar after they would harvest kelp from the ocean. This prompts Georgiou to make up on a haiku on the spot: “Kelp dries in the sun / An existential crisis / Is there some dessert?” This leads into a whole stupid, cringeworthy discussion where the rest of the crew try to come up with their own haikus, and congrats, show. You just topped the dumb “Auto-Antonym Game” from last season. Culber starts to make up a haiku that involves “snarfing cookies” and it’s the most embarrassing thing ever.
They ask Detmer to come up with a haiku, and she’s still got Something Wrong With Her, so she makes crazy faces and giggles out a morbid haiku about not being able to clean up Stamets’ blood from the medbay floor. Everyone is disturbed, and then Stamets gets offended because she’s laughing at his near-death experience.
Demter fights back that he’s not the only one who flies the ship, and she saved them when they crashed into the ice planet a couple of episodes ago. “I flew us into the future!” Tilly yells that they’re both acting like “complete assholes”, which leads to Stamets storming off and Culber following after him. Then Detmer storms off and that’s about the end of the dinner. The last two remaining at the table are Saru and Georgiou, who declares, “Well, at least the wine was good,” before taking off too.
Back in the pools on Trill, there’s trouble when Asshole Trill Guy and Trill Woman show up and demand that Friendly Trill Guy stop what he’s doing. But then Adira starts convulsing and gets pulled into the water. For some reason, they make Burnham dive in after her, even though you’d think they’d be horrified at another outsider stinking up their sacred space. But Burnham comes up from the water and says that Adira is gone. Somehow, communing with the symbiont has transported her… somewhere else? And now the only hope of finding her is for the Trill guys to shoot neural impulses through the water so that Burnham can communicate with Adira and guide her out of wherever she is. None of this makes any sense, but Burnham gets the Ororo eyes and is pulled into the water too.
Back from break, Burnham is falling down into
the sunken place an alien land with glowing wispy threads everywhere. Adira shows up, saying she can’t find a way out, and those glowing threads keep attacking her.
Burnham figures out that the threads are trying to connect with her, and communicate with her symbiont. So Adira lets the glowing threads connect to her fingers, and her face starts glowing with the Extremis effect from Iron Man 3. This triggers a flashback where Adira is with her boyfriend Gray. Gray is a Trill, and he’s just been joined with a symbiont, and Gray is somehow even more androgynous than Adira.
Adira’s voice explains they were together on a generational ship looking for Federation headquarters, which sounds pretty interesting, but we learn dick-all about who or what was operating this ship. Adira says she and Gray were both orphans on this ship, but they had each other.
Back in Glowy Thread Land, Adira snaps out of the flashback, because she doesn’t want to remember more, but she has no choice if she wants to connect with her former hosts. There’s another Extremis effect as she flashes back to Gray playing the cello for her, which was one of his former hosts’ talents. Adira wonders what part of Gray is still him and which part is now the other hosts, but Gray says that thanks to his symbiont Tal, he now contains multitudes.
She’s got a gift for him wrapped up in her lap, and this is going to be our mystery box for at least the next few minutes. He opens it, but she freaks out and snaps out of the flashback. Burnham says she has to go back and find out what’s in the box. Adira yells at Burnham, saying she’s only egging her on because she wants Admiral Senna Tal’s memories. Well, yeah, duh. Doesn’t Adira want to find the Federation, too? That’s the whole reason she decided to join the Discovery crew.
More Extremis effects lead to the box appearing in Glowy Thread Land. The camera shakes violently as Adira walks to the box. And… she continues walking to the box. Getting close up to the box! Now she’s at the box! Now she’s opening the box! And then, commercials.
When we come back from break, we learn the box contains a quilt. Well, that was quite the cliffhanger. Adira made this quilt herself, and the entire story of her and Gray’s relationship is told in the patches of the quilt. Gray notices a drawing of a rook and declares, “This is from the time we played imaginary chess!” Not chess, but imaginary chess? That’s a whole new level of loserdom.
Obviously, Gray has to die in this flashback—Adira is now hosting his symbiont, after all. But prepare to be amazed at the subtle way they kill off Gray: As they’re both basking in bliss over the love quilt, a huge rock appears in space and hits the ship, and things blow up. I’m positive it took the writers at least the length of one coffee break to come up with this.
Gray is seriously wounded and his condition is assessed by automated medical drones. Despite having an injury that doesn’t look nearly as bad as the one that Stamets survived with medical technology from 900 years ago, the robots declare that he’s a lost cause. He’s dying, and they have to save the symbiont by immediately transplanting it into another host. And guess who volunteers to take it?
Back in Glowy Thread Land, Adira cries, and apparently this was the big breakthrough, because the glowy threads drip down and form physical representations of all her former hosts. This includes a guy wearing a Starfleet admiral’s uniform who must be Senna Tal, and the newest previous host, Gray Tal, comes popping up behind him and goes to hold hands with Adira.
Admiral Senna says that even though Adira is human, the symbiont Tal accepts her. “Welcome to the circle.” They all fold their arms over their chests and do what must be the Trill Bow. Burnham and Adira look up and decide for some reason that it’s time to go. The former hosts all fade back into glowing threads, with Gray lingering a little bit longer than the rest. Burnham and Adira emerge from the pool back in the caves, and Friendly Trill Guy once again asks Adira to “speak your names”. This time, Adira easily rattles off a list that include Kasha Tal, Jovar Tal, Cara Tal, Senna Tal, Gray Tal, Supplemen Tal, Experimen Tal, Anecdo Tal, and of course, Adira Tal.
They all do the Trill Bow to her and Asshole Trill Guy gets emotional and apologizes for trying to kill her and stuff. The Trill Woman says she’ll be more than happy to mentor Adira on her new path. However, Adira says she has to stay with Discovery, because clearly this season is all about Discovery dropping into the orbit of a different planet each week, and only spending a couple of hours there before heading to the next destination, even if a longer stay is warranted. Trill Woman accepts Adira’s decision, and says that possibly the next time the Federation comes knocking on Trill’s door, a different sort of “joining” will occur.
On the ship, Tilly goes to Saru’s ready room to thank him for the dinner, even if it was a disaster, and she tries to cheer him up by saying dinners like this were like “a Tuesday” at her house growing up. Saru notes how much easier it was for Captain Pike to connect with the crew, but Tilly says he’s showing real leadership by reminding everybody why they decided to sign up for these adventures in the 32nd century. Stamets enters to apologize to Tilly, saying everything he’s done would have been “impossible” without her, and there are tears all around. Who knows why he was pissed at her in the first place, but they’re friends again and he wants to know more about her proposed dark matter interface.
Meanwhile, Detmer goes to Sickbay and takes up Culber on that offer to talk. She finally says she’s not okay and that it’s hard for her to admit that, because she’s a pilot and they’re supposed to be “macho”. Just then, an announcement calls the whole crew to the shuttlebay for a “surprise”.
Cut to a Buster Keaton movie being project holographically, and the whole crew is sitting around laughing uproariously. Even Georgiou is watching, and Linus the Saurian walks up and offers her popcorn. Are they an item now?
Stamets sees Detmer and they hug things out. Saru watches the crew with Culber, saying he’s amazed at how the joy and laughter “fills the room”. Culber says Saru has pushed his crew ever so slightly closer to feeling normal again, and praises the captain for his choice of movie. Saru says the Buster Keaton movie wasn’t his idea, and casually mentions that the Sphere data might be joining with Discovery and causing the ship to become sentient and now maybe it wants to take care of its crew. Oh, okay then.
In Adira’s quarters, she hands Burnham the coordinates to Federation HQ, fresh out of her subconscious. Then she casually picks up a cello and starts playing. She plays about five notes and Burnham calls it “beautiful”, and Adira says it’s a lullaby that Senna Tal’s parents used to sing to him, and it seems she’s got all the memories now.
Burnham leaves, and suddenly a force ghost of Gray Tal is there, telling Adira that her bowing could “use some work”. Gray and Adira are both mystified by how he’s sitting here like this, but they decide they might as well make the best of it. He takes her hand to show her how to play, and that’s the end. I’m assuming Gray only exists in Adira’s mind, and if so, there’s plenty of precedent from DS9 where Trills were able to visualize their former hosts talking to them.
This episode seems to fit a pattern with Discovery so far this season: Lead off with 45 minutes of a dull, predictable plot that wouldn’t have been out of place on Voyager or Enterprise, then bring in the waterworks and the overpowering score in the last ten minutes for an undeserved emotional climax. It was the same old Trek plot where an away party meets with three people who somehow represent an entire planet, and there’s some major societal conflict that gets instantly solved thanks to the appearance of our crew. Also, the buildup to Adira’s repressed memories was kind of half-assed. It was already obvious that Tal’s previous host died; they couldn’t come up with something more interesting than two teens who were totes in love until one of them got randomly hit by a big rock?
Also, all the dialogue among the crew was once again pure cringe. Have the writers ever spent any time in an actual workplace, where actual adults talk to each other and socialize? Because they’re not sitting around playing the antonym game or spinning haikus off the top of their heads. Despite that, I have to say the whole cast does a good job at bringing real emotion to these silly scripts; I wish they had better material to work with.
Next time: Discovery reaches Federation HQ, but the admiral in charge (guest star Oded Fehr, from the Mummy movies) is distrustful of them. Lots of action unfolds, and there’s a brief cameo from… David Cronenberg?
Well, he was also in Jason X, so you can’t say this is the weirdest place he’s shown up.