After a generally strong start to its third season, Discovery falters a little with a uneven ep that features a strong primary plot and a well-conceived but unconvincing secondary one.
Title: “Forget Me Not”
Directed by Hanelle M. Culpepper
Written by Alan B. McElroy, Chris Silvestri, Anthony Maranville
Doug Jones as Captain Saru
Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Blu del Barrio as Adira
Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets
Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly
Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber
Emily Coutts as Keyla Detmer
Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou
Rachael Ancheril as Cmdr. Nhan
Sara Mitch as Lt. Nilsson
Oyin Oladejoas Lt. Joann Owosekun
Patrick Kwok-Choon as Lt. Gen Rhys
Ian Alexander as Gray Tal
Kenneth Welsh as Senna Tal
Raven Dauda as Dr. Tracy Pollard
Karen Robinson as Leader Pav
Andrew Shaver as Commissioner Vos
Andreas Apergis as Guardian Xi
David Benjamin Tomlinson as Linus the Saurian
Julianne Grossman as Discovery Computer
While Burnham escorts Adira to the Trill homeworld to resolve her difficulties with the symbiont, the rest of the crew engage in histrionics over dinner.
Visually, the show continues to use its budget and the advanced special effects to create incredible sights. What “decimation” (insert language nitpick here) the Trill homeworld has undergone, it looks great, a bucolic alien world where I know I’d like to be about now. At the same time, it feels like a classic Trek world. As Gray Tal says, “Still me. Just more me.”
I felt the actors in the Trill plot acquitted themselves beautifully, and I actually cared about their ill-fated and very resonant genius teen romance. It is exactly the kind of character understanding required to make, say, the secondary plot work.
I understand what they hoped to accomplish with the secondary plot, and it fits their new context. The crew would be processing unimaginable stresses, whatever their training, and I think the show was wise to address this fact. The medical log set a foundation for this storyline, and created some interesting parallels with the main plot. However, the Holiday meal that goes awry did not work for me as I think they intended it. It felt forced and a little shallow. The conflict between Detmer and Stamets, for example, required a slower development. It feels arbitrary, when so many past emotional threads might have formed the basis of their conflict. Culber and Tilly’s spat felt like an after-school special. These are good actors with a good premise, and it didn’t feel so much bad as wasted.
Originality: 3/6 Crews have undergone stress, but we haven’t seen a Trek ep quite like this one before.
Acting: 5/6 The acting remains strong.
Story: 5/6 I address my feelings about the plots elsewhere. I know that many people will disagree.
Jett shows wisdom in not landing at this dinner party.
Emotional Response: 4/6
Overall: 4/6 The apparent changes to the data-sphere/computer and to Adira likely will have implications for the remainder of the season, at least.
In total, “Forget Me Not” receives 33/42
I think they faced a problem in dealing with the psychological effects of being completely cut off from home (even worse than Voyager who at least had a theoretical chance of getting home). If they let it develop a bit slower, they would have lost a fair bit of narrative momentum for the season (which was a major complaint I had about much of the first season), but, on the other hand, it was necessary to deal with it. By combining it with the Trill situation, they were able to at least acquire a plot coupon.
The psychological effects plot could have been an entire episode of its own and that would have given the various bits time to breathe and maybe made the resolution a bit less forced. Indeed, if this were an old time 20+ episode season, they probably would have done it as a bottle episode. But I don’t think that would have landed any better. At least they dealt with it instead of sweeping it under the dilithium storage cabinet.
Upon reflection, I’ve been in situations like that dinner party where spats between people boiled through and they were exactly that dumb and/or forced feeling. Does that make it any better watching it? Not really, no.
Yeah, Detmer seems off, and I think she was taking it out on Stamets because he happen to be there. Is it PTSD, AI corruption of cyborg implants, or something unrelated?
Stamets seems to be the perfect target for her, really. She’s got to be harboring some resentment over the fact that she’s a hot shot pilot, but he’s the one they go to when they need to get somewhere fast. Take that and multiply it by an AI that can’t tell low level resentment from target identification and you get the scene at the dinner table.
Or not. I could, of course, be giving them too much credit, but I tend to do that.
I keep seeing comments like this, about how unrealistic Detmer’s scene with Stamets is. Am I the only one who got the impression that it was supposed to be?
Detmer went way overboard, both in her aggression toward Stamets and her inability to recognize that a poem about his blood was inappropriate. To me, this seems like an intentional foreshadowing that there is something wrong with her. Did we not also see in an earlier episode that her implant is infected/affected by the AI? Or maybe that was a preview somewhere?
In any case, the rest of the B plot seemed perfectly fine to me, and that specific part seemed more intentionally foreboding than poorly done.
Yeah. I got the impression even before that scene that Detmer is “broken” somehow. And I don’t think it’s just “normal” psychological trauma. It remains to be seen where they go with it. There are ways that make it brilliant in hindsight and way more ways that make it mediocre or worse.
The explanations are both good– but it still didn’t entirely work for me. A bottle episode might well have solved the problem (at least as I see it). Either of the plots could have been full episodes, with some work, and I don’t think it would have felt like padding. In a weekly series, I don’t see that it’s necessary to maintain momentum across the story arc, if the individual episodes hold up and the overall arc makes sense.
I get that arcs allow for developed and mature storytelling. They’re generally a good thing. But they often mean that the strength of an episode gets shortchanged.
We’re finally watching The Boys now, and the chapters hold up quite nicely. The acting is stellar. A Trek-like show of that calibre would be great.
How long before the next season of The Expanse?
Too long. :-| Unless the date changes, I’m expecting the entire season to drop on December 23rd on Prime, so a very nice early Christmas present from Amazon. If we’re in any form of Covid lockdown (looking increasingly likely here in the UK), then that’s definitely going to help me get through it!