(written from a Production point of view)
Burnham and Adira visit the Trill homeworld while Saru's efforts on the Discovery to help the crew reconnect yield surprises.
USS Discovery floats in space as DOT-7 drones repair the ship. Doctor Hugh Culber conducts examinations of the crew, who are still processing the leap forward in time. He finds them physically well but psychologically stressed. In a voiceover log entry, he notes that the ship's goal of searching out the remaining Federation members has provided motivation for some crew members while leaving others detached. He offers to talk to Keyla Detmer, who is taking it harder than many on the ship, but she declines.
Adira undergoes medical scans in attempts to retrieve their memories from the Tal symbiont. Culber and Dr. Tracy Pollard find that the symbiont is wrapped around Adira's heart, which they say is to protect them. They remembers nothing of their life before the joining; noting that they can remember how to speak seven languages and make Bajoran hasperat but their earliest memory is being in an escape pod before being rescued by the United Earth Defense Force. Culber suggests that they travel to Trill to seek the help of experts on the symbiont, and Adira agrees.
Using the spore drive, Discovery jumps to Trill and goes to yellow alert, wary after their reception at Earth. They open a channel to the planet and receive a holographic reply from Commissioner Vos, who says the Trill population was decimated by The Burn and is excited to encounter a returning symbiont. Captain Saru says he will send the host and a medical officer to the planet, though he does not mention Adira is Human, not Trill. He also cancels yellow alert.
In engineering, Saru approaches Paul Stamets to discuss his health – and more broadly, the risk posed by having a single person capable of operating the spore drive, especially with the era's dilithium scarcity. Stamets is defensive, noting he researched the matter for more than a decade before the discovery of the tardigrade aboard the USS Glenn allowed him to make controlled jumps. Saru notes there has been over nine hundred years of technological developments since then and that alternatives are necessary in the event Stamets should ever again be incapacitated. Ensign Sylvia Tilly says she has been developing a new interface for the spore drive utilizing dark matter, but Stamets is immediately dismissive and tells her not to waste his time.
Culber visits Burnham in her quarters as she reviews clues about The Burn that she collected during her year alone in the future. Culber notes her living area is now more decorated than before. He asks Burnham to accompany Adira to the planet to provide emotional support since she has experienced a similar feeling of disorientation and loss. Culber describes post-traumatic growth, a means by which people can grow and evolve after a difficult life event like nearly dying or being isolated. Burnham worries she wouldn't be able to function in this role, but he calls her a "responsibility hoarder" who focuses on work during times of emotional struggle.
As they approach the shuttlebay, Adira questions why Burnham is accompanying them to Trill and decides to go alone. However, after a few seconds they change their mind, saying they do not wish to let anyone down. Boarding Shuttlecraft 31, Adira also jocularly urges Burnham not to say anything "annoyingly inspirational," to which Burnham laughs and agrees.
In the captain's ready room, Culber delivers his report to Saru; the crew is "physically sound," but not "healthy." The crew is experiencing high anxiety due to their solitary circumstances. Saru wants to help, but the typical Starfleet remedies of duty and routine may not be effective, Culber says. Because Discovery is unknown in 3189, the crew needs to feel connected.
On Trill, Burnham and Adira land and walk through a lush forest where flying fish leap from ponds. They encounter Vos, along with Guardian Xi and Leader Pav, among others. Burnham introduces herself and Adira. The Trill are confounded to see a non-Trill host. Xi asks Adira to "speak your names," but they can only respond with "Adira." The Trill grow hostile, since the memories have not transferred from symbiont to host. Vos notes there is no record in over two thousand years of a successful joining between a symbiont and a non-Trill species and calls Adira's joining with Tal an abomination. He suggests excising the symbiont, though Xi warns forced separation might kill the host, alarming Burnham. Xi apologizes and explains that Trill society and the population of Trill who could be joined was devastated by The Burn and its aftermath, with the survival of their culture through joining in doubt. He says symbionts joining with Humans could be a solution to their problem. Pav decides that they will not forcibly remove the symbiont, but agrees with Vos that the joining is an aberration. She orders Adira and Burnham to leave the planet immediately.
As Burnham and Adira walk away from the meeting towards their shuttle, they are accosted by Vos and two men with bladed weapons. They prepare to kill Adira to recover the symbiont, but Burnham pulls out a phaser and stuns the two guards. Vos refuses to tell her where to find the Caves of Mak'ala, and Burnham stuns him as well, which Adira notes is not Federation protocol. Xi approaches and offers to show them the caves.
On Discovery, Saru consults the computer as to how to "heal [his] crew." The computer's voice changes and it chuckles. It recommends silent film comedies by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Saru, perplexed, orders it to perform a level 10 diagnostic, but the computer replies that it is fully operational. The computer also suggests giving the crew a night off or inviting them to a meal.
On Trill, Xi leads Burnham and Adira to the sacred pools in the Caves of Mak'ala. He notes that as the symbionts' ancestral home, it is the most likely place for it to communicate with Adira, who says the caves feel safe. Adira asks Burnham to say something inspirational before they enters the pools. Michael tells them to get in "before someone shoots us."
Saru hosts a dinner party in his ready room. He announces he has given the rest of the crew the evening off and that the dinner for the bridge crew is to be a ritual to "take the measure of loved ones and what we've all accomplished together." He reminds the crew of the "small prayer" they said before they leapt into the future, "Aye," though Philippa Georgiou playfully notes she did not cast such a vote. They toast one another, again saying "Aye."
Burnham asks if Adira may have been joined against their will. Xi says symbionts cannot survive in an unwilling host and that Adira must face whatever the issue is. Adira, dressed in a traditional white gown, walks into the pool. Xi uses a Mynh'ta Orb to track Adira's isoboramine levels; so long as they remain steady, Adira will be safe. Burnham reminds Adira that Senna Tal's message is vital. For a few moments, Adira floats on their back, and as sparks dance across the water's surface, their eyes flash fully white; Adira is now "in communion" with the symbiont.
At Saru's dinner party, the crew eats quietly. Culber inquires about tension between Stamets and Tilly, but Stamets deflects the inquiry. Saru tells a story of his life on Kaminar, and the crew pivots to playing a game where they try to speak in haiku. Detmer refuses to participate at first, before starting to form a haiku about Stamets' blood. She refuses to stop as Stamets protests and the rest watch awkwardly. He cites his rapid return to duty after being injured, but Detmer argues that all of their jobs are important. Tilly enters the fray and tells them to be united as a crew. Stamets and Culber walk out, followed by Detmer, then the rest. Georgiou compliments the wine before leaving too.
Meanwhile, on Trill, the Mynh'ta Orb cracks, indicating Adira is in distress. Burnham attempts to enter the pool, but Pav, Vos, and several guard enter and stop her. Adira begins to hyperventilate and twitch in the pool before disappearing beneath the milky liquid. Pav reluctantly agrees to let Burnham enter. The Trill deploy neural stabilizers to allow her to commune with Adira for a short time.
Burnham finds herself in a strange place with colorful threads floating through the air. She finds Adira, who says they are trapped and confused. One of the threads touches Adira's foot and they reacts with pain; if they remain in one place for more than a few seconds, the threads attack them. Burnham surmises Adira is in this place to connect with their symbiont and that the threads are attempting to connect with them, not harm them. The threads are connected to its memories. Adira allows multiple threads to connect with their fingertips.
Suddenly, they accesses a memory of themselves in a medical bay standing over their lover, Gray, a Trill about to receive the symbiont. In the memory, they hold hands as Adira wonders whether Gray will be the same after the joining. In the thread space, Adira tells Burnham that they and Gray were both orphans aboard a generation ship searching for Federation headquarters. Stressed, Adira tries to walk away, but Burnham tells them that they cannot leave until they accesses the full memory.
In their memory, Adira sees Gray, now joined with the Tal symbiont, playing cello in their quarters. They tells Gray that that he promised he would be the same after the joining, but that his newly-gained skills made him "kind of perfect." Gray jokes that he "already was perfect" but insists he is still himself, just more so. However, Adira questions what is truly Gray and what comes from the prior hosts. They marvel that he is able to navigate the joining so well, and he assures them the joining is based on trust between symbiont and host, just as he trusts Adira. They present him with a handmade art gift, but as Gray opens the box, Adira pulls out of the memory, telling Burnham to back off. They accuse Burnham of being interested only in the message from Senna Tal, but Burnham says her interest is in securing a future for everyone and that Adira will never move forward without facing whatever painful memory they are suppressing.
Adira re-enters their memory as Gray opens their present. They explain that many cultures pass on stories via tapestries or quilts, with each piece representing a special moment or person. On the quilt they stitched for Gray, for example, one panel depicts an instance in which they broke a replicator and it would not stop producing apples. Another shows a time they played imaginary chess. Gray says he loves it and calls Adira an "art genius." Suddenly, an asteroid impacts the ship, severely damaging their quarters. Adira calls for medical drones to attend to Gray, who has been impaled. The drones determine Gray will not survive treatment, but that the Tal symbiont can be saved. Adira volunteers to become a host, knowing that the memories of Gray and all the prior hosts would be lost otherwise.
Exiting the memory into the now-calmed neural space with Burnham, Adira is greeted by manifestations of the prior Tal hosts, including Senna and Gray. Senna notes that a Human joining is unusual but says Tal accepts Adira as a host. Burnham tells Senna that his message gave her hope. The manifestations disappear, and Adira and Burnham emerge from the milky waters in the cave pool. Xi asks Adira again to speak their names. They respond: "I am Kasha Tal. Jovar Tal. Madela Tal. Cara Tal. Senna Tal. Gray Tal. And I am Adira Tal."
The other Trill apologize for their prior treatment of them and say they will impact generations of Trill to come. Pav offers to mentor Adira, but they decides to stay with Discovery as it seeks out Federation headquarters. Pav hints that when the Federation returns, Trill would consider joining.
On Discovery, Saru mopes over the remains of his ruined dinner party as Tilly returns to thank him. Saru laments that Captain Christopher Pike made connecting with the crew seem effortless. Tilly says that the crew decided together to travel into the future and are living together with the consequences of that decision, but that Saru's reminder of their connection shows leadership. Stamets enters and tells Tilly he has failed to appreciate her contributions and apologizes. He inquires about her spore drive research. Tilly says she was examining dark matter and energy coefficients but that she could not make the math work. Stamets says her idea would be revolutionary and that they should research it further.
In sickbay, Detmer approaches Culber and says she obviously is not okay but that it was hard to admit. She accepts Culber's offer to talk sometime. Then the computer directs available crew to the shuttlebay for a surprise. There, the crew is watching a holographic projection of the 1924 Buster Keaton silent film Sherlock Jr.. The crew laughs, and Linus hands the aloof Georgiou a box of popcorn. Detmer and Stamets silently apologize and embrace. In the rear of the crowd, Culber notes to Saru that the crew had to admit they were not "fine" before they could begin to feel joy and heal. Saru reveals the movie was the idea of the Sphere data that has begun to integrate into the ship's systems. The crew worked to protect the data, and it now is trying to protect the crew, he speculates.
In their quarters, Adira tells Burnham that Senna knew the necessary algorithm to find Federation headquarters, handing Burnham a PADD with the coordinates already entered. Adira pulls out a cello and plays a lullaby that they say was sung by Senna Tal's parents when he was a child. Their past hosts' memories are slowly returning. Burnham leaves, and a manifestation of Gray jokingly tells Adira that their bowing could use some work. He notes Adira did not tell Burnham that they can still see Gray. They both admit they do not know why or how they can still see him, and he helps them practice their bowing as Discovery flies away.
- "Medical officer's log, supplemental. Our trip to Earth was eye opening; a reality check, such as reality is. It's starting to hit everyone, just how little we have to hold on to. The personal moments we use to define ourselves – birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, funerals – we've jumped past all of them. They feel lost, disconnected. I tell them I've been alone, I've been lost. Both are survivable, and surviving can become living again… But first they have to accept help. For a crew of overachievers, that kind of vulnerability can be hard to hold. Five words keep everyone going: When we find the Federation. It's become a mantra for the crew. In some cases, it seems to help. In others, not so much. Adira, who joined us from Earth, may be able to guide us to Federation headquarters and those of her former host, Senna Tal. This mission could be a gift, a reminder that we are and always will be connected to something greater than ourselves – the Federation."
- In the outline stage, this episode was titled "Grace Notes." ("Stunted" featurette, DIS Season 3 Blu-ray)
- 27 August 2019: Filming of scene 425 in Saru's ready room 
- 4 October 2020: Title publicly revealed 
Cast and characters
- This episode features the first appearance of the Trill homeworld and the Caves of Mak'ala since the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine third season episode "Equilibrium".
- Pav's promise to consider joining the Federation, should it return, does not clear up the long-standing mystery of whether Trill ever was a member, either in the 24th century or before the Burn.
- It is stated that no symbiont has been successfully joined with a non-Trill in 2,000 years, although it was not made explicit if this is due to lack of effort or interest. The Odan symbiont was joined to William T. Riker in TNG: "The Host" 822 years ago, but this may not be counted as a "successful" joining, since it was only temporary (as intended).
- In this episode, the Sphere data retrieved during "An Obol for Charon" begins to incorporate itself into Discovery's computer, begins to show the beginning of a personality that will eventually become Zora, as seen in the Star Trek: Short Treks episode "Calypso". During this initial emergence, both Annabelle Wallis and Julianne Grossman provide the voice of the computer.
- Georgiou's true identity now seems to be open knowledge among the crewmembers, as Culber has no hesitation about referring to her as "emperor" during his haiku.
- One of Tal's former hosts can be seen wearing a command division 2390s Starfleet uniform, introduced in Star Trek: Picard.
Links and references
- Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
- Doug Jones as Saru
- Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets
- Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly
- Wilson Cruz as Hugh Culber
- Rachael Ancheril as Nhan
Special guest star
- Ian Alexander as Gray Tal
- Andreas Apergis as Guardian Xi
- Blu del Barrio as Adira Tal
- Karen Robinson as Leader Pav
- Andrew Shaver as Commissioner Vos
- Annabelle Wallis as Zora (voice)
- Kenneth Welsh as Senna Tal
- Emily Coutts as Lt. Keyla Detmer
- Patrick Kwok-Choon as Lt. Gen Rhys
- Oyin Oladejo as Lt. Joann Owosekun
- Ronnie Rowe Jr. as Lt. R.A. Bryce
- Sara Mitich as Lt. Nilsson
- Julianne Grossman as Discovery Computer
- Raven Dauda as Doctor Tracy Pollard
- Elana Dunkelman as Discovery Engineer #1
- Christine Nguyen as Discovery Engineer #2
- David Benjamin Tomlinson as Linus the Saurian
- Gloria Belle as Discovery sciences crewmember
- Jayne Dineo as Discovery sciences crewmember
- Andrea Gallo as Discovery sciences crewmember
- J. Adam Huggins as Discovery engineer
- Pamela Mars as Discovery bridge crewmember
- Daniel Montlouis as Discovery operations crewmember
- John Mucciacito as Discovery engineer
- Shelley Owens as Discovery medical crewmember
- Ronald Tang as Discovery engineering technician
- Unknown performers as
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- "Forget Me Not" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Discovering Season 3 "Forget Me Not"" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
"People of Earth"
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