Episode four of season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery, “Forget Me Not,” is not only easily the best episode of the season so far, and possibly the greatest ever. It’s also a historical episode that showcased its two newest characters Adira and Gray, played by actors Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander, who are non-binary and trans respectively, and will leave you in tears.
Ironically, this is the first episode that feels like old time Trek, and efficiently packs more in one episode than ever before and does so effortlessly. The episode touches on so many things yet weaves them into what is the closest thing to an “archetypal” Trek story.
Chris Blauvelt over at IndieWire says, “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.”
[Editor’s note: Linus is a Saurian.]
Variety said of the episode, “The latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery includes a storyline that viewers have almost certainly never seen before on a major television series: A romance between a non-binary character, a human named Adira, and trans character, a Trill named Gray. What’s more, Adira and Gray are played respectively by the non-binary actor Blu del Barrio and the trans actor Ian Alexander. It’s hard to overstate how significant of a milestone this is for LGBTQ representation, on TV in general and for Star Trek especially. Despite groundbreaking portrayals on shows like Transparent, Orange Is the New Black, Pose, and Billions, trans and non-binary characters remain quite rare on TV, and there has never been explicitly identified trans and non-binary representation on Star Trek.
Del Barrio, Alexander, Kurtzman and executive producer and co-showrunner Michelle Paradise all spoke with Variety about how Adira and Gray’s storyline first came about, how the show’s writers worked to reflect Del Barrio and Alexander’s experiences on the show and what it’s been like for the actors to make “Star Trek” history.
Infinite diversity in infinite combinations has been one of the core values of “Star Trek” ever since creator Gene Roddenberry put a Black woman, Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura, and an Asian man, George Takei’s Sulu, on the bridge of the Enterprise in the original “Star Trek” TV series in 1966.
But until out actors Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz were cast on “Discovery” as couple Lt. Stamets and Dr. Culbert, there hadn’t been any LGBTQ representation of any significance on a “Trek” TV series. With “Discovery” jumping so far into the future in its third season, the writers took advantage of the opportunity to further expand the scope of the show’s queer representation.
“We really wanted to look around and see what sorts of new stories we could tell,” says Paradise. “‘Star Trek’ has always represented a myriad of voices. Who are the voices that we are not hearing from? Which are the characters that we are not seeing? Right now, what’s an important voice that we want to hear through these characters?”
“Part of the joy of Star Trek, especially given the state of the world now, is that we get to create the world that we want to see,” adds Kurtzman. “It’s a responsibility that we wanted to take very, very seriously.” Along with expanding the show’s representation of gender identity, Kurtzman says the writers also talked about wanting to tell “a great love story” on Season 3, and the two ideas merged together.
Saru has agreed to take Adira to Trill to find out what is at the root of her problem accessing the symbiot’s former hosts including Senna Tal, the Starfleet admiral who sent the message Michael received.
Despite some concerns from Burnham, as when she asks Saru, “Do we know if the Trill are still the benevolent people they were a millennia ago?”
Only one way to find out.
Upon arrival at Trill, they are initially they are warmly welcomed by the Trill. But balk when they realize that the host is a human, referring to it as an abomination. When one of the high priests demands they remove the symbiot immediately, another warns it will kill Adira. When Michael objects, he tells her that the Federation has no jurisdiction there and that Trill law takes precedence.
“Adira’s life takes precedence,” Michael says in a line that cleverly evokes Black Lives Matter.
Adira is finally allowed to go to the Caves of Mak’ala, where they can access the Tal symbiot in one of the cave’s pools. The last time we saw these caves was the third season of Deep Space 9, when Jadzia Dax journeyed there to repair her psyche, called “Equilibrium.”
Adira’s memory problems have less to do with being human and more to do with some kind of Post Traumatic Syndrome related memory loss of the death of her boyfriend Gray whom she loved. Gray, played by Alexander, is a Trill who had just received his symbiot and then is killed in an accident, when Adira volunteers to accept the Tal symbiot.
“Tal accepted each of us. Joining made us more than we could ever be alone. And while a Human joining is unusual, Tal accepts you as well.” Admiral Senna Tal
With her memories restored she now can access Admiral Senna Tal’s (above) memories and also the coordinates for Starfleet headquarters.
The journey to Trill dovetails with the other storyline concerning Saru’s frustration at how to help the crew recover emotionally from all they have been through.
Space.com said, “Saru, in the meantime, has laid on an impressive spread and every member of the bridge crew is present, plus Culber, Stamets and Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). Saru gives an impressive impromptu speech as they prepare to dine and we see yet again that his character is maturing very nicely into the role of captain and a leader. With both Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, the whole dinner scene makes for a fun observation on the oft awkwardness and bickering during family dinners. There’s obvious tension between Stamets and Tilly, while Georgiou knocks back the wine, which is genuinely quite amusing and something we can all relate to.
A totally unexpected quirk is that everyone starts talking in haiku, because that’s what you do at dinner parties. (Haiku is a type of short form poetry originally from Japan that consists of three phrases that conform to a 5,-7-5 syllable pattern.) Georgiou starts, Culber attempts one but fluffs the last line. Tilly joins in and the whole thing is well-scripted with believable reactions and dialogue. They encourage Lt. Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts) to have a go and she starts to have thebreakdown that’s clearly been in the cards for some time. This sets off a chain reaction and the tranquility of what was once a pleasant meal quickly unravels as everyone leaves.
Ultimately I concur with Devon Maloney at Vulture: “It’s a bit bewildering how much of the new season of Star Trek: DiscoveryI’ve spent openly sobbing. Part of it is the catharsis of getting new Trek in the middle of a world that looks like…this. Another part of it is relief that, finally, Discovery might not just be good, but truly great. But the main thing about this week’s episode that sent me off the deep end was the heart-rending story itself, a symbolic vindication for trans, nonbinary, and genderqueer fans whose only representation in the Star Trek universe, for decades, was mostly limited to a species never played by actual trans, nonbinary, or genderqueer actors.”
Star Trek: Discovery airs Thursdays on the CBS All Access streaming service.
Watch Will Wheaton on The Ready Room, the official after show for Trek below.