Star Trek Discovery: Forget Me Not

"Aye."

By nature I love brevity: The Trill bits are a mixed bag, but the Discovery material is exquisite, deepening and starting to realize several characters that had seemed almost lost causes.

Okay, we'll start with my two big takeaways because I absolutely can't wait to get them on the page. First, Dr. Culber is a character now. Not just that, he's an interesting, and dare I say, compelling, character. Wilson Cruz has been given difficult work so far, and he's played it well, but it's never been very good material. The character has rarely ventured out from being Stamets' partner. Here he does that in a big way. The clear difference is this: Until now, Stamets has practically been Culber's only meaningful relationship. He was connected in some way to Ash Tyler, but he's gone now. In just this episode, he developed a connection with Burnham, Saru, and Detmer. It expanded his character and made him a more well-rounded person with more connecting points for the audience to relate to. It's a big step for Culber, and it makes me much more excited about where he's going in this show.

Speaking of Detmer, my second big takeaway is this: Emily Coutts can act. In fact, she's really, really good. If you thought Culber hasn't gotten any interesting material – and I do – Detmer and the other bridge crew have been slighted even further. Here Coutts gets some well-written dialogue (now that's new), and she sinks her teeth into it with aplomb. She's an absolute revelation in this episode, and I can't wait to see where she goes from here.

While we're on the subject of actors, let's talk about the central performance in this episode: that of Blu del Barrio. Though, as I said, the Trill parts of this episode were hit-or-miss, that is not the fault of del Barrio's performance. Any nerves or difficulties they had in the previous episode seem to have resolved, and they recovered brilliantly here. Del Barrio completely sold me on their character's plight, and as the episode went on, it was the other elements, particularly some of the pacing and teleplay choices, that interfered with my ability to enjoy it.

I guess the crux of what bothered me about the Trill part is the sheer simplicity of the issue as presented. The Trill cannot abandon their principles and accept a non-Trill joining, but some think they should. There's no nuance to these views, and more importantly, there's no nuance to the performances. Andrew Shaver in particular is quite dry as Commissioner Vos. The change of heart among the Trill people comes abruptly and without any real reasons for it.

While you could certainly argue that there isn't enough time in the episode to devote to something like that, I remember many a classic Trek episode that had ample time to flesh out its side characters. I almost wonder if this is the result of the super-serialized nature of this show. Instead of writing each episode as its own story, in which case side characters important to that particular episode are treated as 'main characters' for one story, Discovery's individual episodes seem to be written more as pieces of a puzzle, which makes side characters ultimately unimportant and therefore not worth spending time on. It seems a small thing, but if this is the cause of the lack of fleshed out one-time guests, it bears looking into.

Anyway, the scenes inside Adira's Trill mind (soul? micro verse? hangout room?) fare better, mostly on the strength of the striking visuals. It takes perhaps longer than it needs to to discover what's really going on inside Adira and Tal's mind(s?), but once we do it's an interesting if somewhat predictable outcome. Newcomer Ian Alexander, who plays Gray, however, is a disappointment. The young actor almost never comes across as genuine, and his expressions of love and really any other emotion feel extremely fake to me. He and del Barrio have chemistry, but the latter seems to really be carrying these scenes, and I think most of it is due to their natural talent rather than his. Part of the issue may also be the saccharine dialogue he was saddled with delivering. To be entirely fair, I don't know who could deliver 'I already was perfect, that's why you love me' in a way that doesn't come across as attention-grabbing and self-centered. The quilt was cute, though. I liked the quilt.

This is made all the more disappointing by the fact that the B-story is so well-written, well-acted, and well-directed. The way Detmer is positioned at the end of the table to emphasize that she feels separated from everybody else, and the fact that Hanelle Culpepper never sees any need to hammer this home with an obvious shot showing her physical distance from the other characters, just illustrates why Culpepper is one of my favorite new-Trek directors. She has a sense of subtlety and flow that some of the others lack at times (Frakes, of course, being the obvious exception).

Overall, I'm quite pleased. I'm much more sold on Adira than I was last week, and I look forward to seeing where she goes from here. The long-awaited fleshing out of some of our biggest supporting players was makos more than welcome. And Georgiou bothered me less this week, so that's a bonus.

Strange New Worlds:

This episode takes place on Trill, the home planet of Jadzia and Ezri Dax from DS9. It has been unclear in Trek canon whether or not Trill is a member of the Federation, and this remains unclear even after this episode.

New Life and New Civilizations:

We learn frustratingly little about the Trill in this episode. Much of the information we are given we already knew, and the big questions, such as how Adira's joining has not been as difficult as Riker's in TNG's 'The Host', the episode that introduced the Trill.

Pensees:

-Adira can now cook a Bajoran hasperat, which is fun.

-Loved the establishing shot when the Disco jumped to Trill.

-It was weird to hear Saru call Stamets 'Dr. Stamets' for some reason. I just never thought of him as 'Dr. Stamets', and I don't think most characters call him that.

-Speaking of Stamets, Anthony Rapp gives one of the best world-weary looks I've ever seen.

-Okay, so in the movie scene, the laughter bothered me a lot, both times. That's not how people laugh. It's just not. That was a clear laugh track, and it really bugged me for some reason.

-Usually, when a Trill sees and interacts with one of their previous hosts directly, it's because they've performed the rite of Emergence. Ezri performed this in the DS9 episode 'Field of Fire', tapping into Joran's memories in order to solve a murder mystery. (Side note: that's a fun episode you should check out.) Here, it seems to be something different.

Quotes:

Adira: 'Wake up with a squid in your abdominal cavity, you'll do your homework too.'

Saru, to Stamets: 'You were impaled by a spike and placed in a coma.'
Tilly: 'Yeah, but other than that, he's fine.'

Culber: 'You are a responsibility hoarder.'
Burnham: 'Yeah, I am working on it.'

Culber, about the crew: 'If they were mice in a cage, they'd be gnawing at their own tails. So would you, by the way.'
Saru: 'My tail and I appreciate your concern.'

Disco computer: 'The crew would benefit from: exercise, medication, limited dairy.'

We're getting there. 4.5 out of 6 cello lullabies

--
CoramDeo has been really busy lately, but he's still thankful he gets to write for this site!

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

CoramDeo, thanks for another fine review. I was happy to see them revisit the Trill. I really like that sort of continuity. Plus I named my latest new kitten Dax. :)

TJ said...

I like Discovery, but it has it flaws. Like in every other ST series there are unfortunately characters I don't care much about. I mean, who cared about Harry Kim in Voyager? Or Captain Archer in Enterprise?

Sadly for me, the one character that I find totally uninteresting in Discovery is the main character Michael. It's not Sonequa MG's fault, she's a great actress, it's just the character for me. Totally bland and uninteresting. And being the main character she takes up a lot of space in Discovery...sadly.

That said, I thought this episode was fun! Nice to see the Trill again!