Warning: This Star Trek: Discovery season 3, episode 4 review contains major spoilers – many of them set to stun. Boldly go further at your own risk…
The third season of Discovery may be exploring the new frontier of the 32nd century, but "Forget Me Not" feels like a throwback to the Star Trek of the '90s. As well as delving into the mythology of Deep Space Nine stalwarts the Trill, the episode follows the blueprint of many a Next Generation story: member of crew/guest star (delete where appropriate) suffers from an affliction the doctor can’t fix, so the ship travels to the one place in the galaxy that may be home to a cure.
Luckily, the cover version vibe does the episode no harm at all. The subject of the mission is Adira, Discovery’s new teen recruit (introduced in Star Trek: Discovery season 3, episode 3 who has a ”squid” in her torso, but no idea how it got there. Like Dax in DS9, she’s host to a Trill symbiont, the worm-like creature that bonds with its humanoid hosts, passing memories from one to the next. But because she’s human rather than Trill, nobody has any idea how her body will respond to the creature in the long term.
The Trill homeworld is clearly the only logical place to sort out the problem, so Discovery spools up the spore drive to make the trip. Although no longer members of the Federation, the Trill welcome the return of one of the symbionts sacred to their culture – until they realise the host is human and prescribe removing the symbiont in a process that would kill Adira.
Of course, now that regular Starfleet protocols have become an alien concept to Burnham, it’s not long before she’s fighting her way past the locals to get Adira to the sacred Caves of Mak’ala. Georgiou would be so proud…
The Caves of Mak’ala previously appeared in DS9 episode "Equilibrium", and while they look significantly less like the interior of a TV studio these days, these pools of milky goop are still where symbionts get to swim around in their natural habitat. More than that, however, they’re an excuse to get Burnham inside Adira’s head, as a dip in the electrically charged pools connects them both to the symbionts’ hive mind.
The revelations go way deeper than simply introducing Adira to the previous hosts of the Tal symbiont – among them Senna, the Starfleet admiral who sent out the Federation beacon received by Discovery. Adira’s backstory is truly tragic, as her partner, Gray – Tal’s previous host – was fatally wounded in an accident with some interstellar debris, and Adira volunteered to take the symbiont to keep it (and a piece of Gray) alive. (That they were travelling a “generation ship”, making a centuries-long journey to find the remains of the Federation, shows how much the Star Trek universe has regressed since the Burn took warp drive out of the equation.)
With Adira opting to return to Discovery – rather than staying on Trill to help them replenish their pool of hosts – she’s clearly been primed to become a full-time member of the crew. In fact, her conversation with Gray suggests he’ll function as her very visible inner voice, much like Number Six in Battlestar Galactica.
Despite Burnham’s gung ho approach to diplomacy, the Trill have been changed by Discovery’s visit and hope to rejoin the Federation when they get the chance. Discovery’s one-ship mission to make the galaxy a better place is already becoming a cliche, though it fits the Next Generation tribute nearly as much as Tilly delivering nuggets of technobabble like “dark matter energy to pierce the subspace domain”.
While running a ship-based B-plot in parallel to the planet-side adventure is also very ’90s, the episode tackles mental health issues in an impressively 2020 way. In Star Trek, we’ve become used to seeing high-flying crew members casually brushing off traumatic events – Jean-Luc Picard’s post-Borgification R&R in TNG episode "Family" is a notable exception – but ‘Forget Me Not’ acknowledges that leaving your whole life behind is going to leave some collateral damage. Indeed, the revelation that Lt Detmer’s problems may have more to do with PTSD than rogue AI Control is both clever narrative sleight-of-hand and – more importantly – a very human development for a member of the bridge crew.
With Dr Culber pointing out that “When we find the Federation…” has become the Disco crew’s mantra, Captain Saru’s efforts to maintain morale among a crew veer from the clunkily misguided to the endearingly sweet. A dinner party for the senior crew is a nice idea until all those simmering tensions rise to the surface via the medium of haikus – as awkward as the meal is, it’s the perfect environment Georgiou, who continues to relish her role as the crew’s slightly acidic aunt.
Ultimately, screening Buster Keaton movies in the shuttle bay turns out to be a lovely touch. Who knows, it may be an early influence on the Discovery computer’s love of classic movies, previously revealed in distant-future set Short Trek "Calypso".
New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery season 3 land on Thursdays on CBS All Access in the US, and on Fridays on Netflix in the UK.