Adira Tal is a human joined with a Trill symbiont – but she doesn’t remember how or why the joining even happened. Since one of Tal’s previous hosts was Starfleet Admiral Senna Tal, Discovery has a vested interest in helping Adira unlock the symbiont’s memories. To that end, Discovery travels to the Trill homeworld in search of answers.
Long-time readers of my Star Trek blogs may already be aware that the Trill are one of my favourite Star Trek species – not least because of my massive teenage crush on Jadzia. Anything that delves into their lore is therefore immediately going to pique my interest.
This episode also sees a complete about turn for me on the character of Adira. In People of Earth, she threatened to become yet another annoying teen genius. Here, however, we see a far more interesting and sympathetic character. Adira has inherited all sorts of random skills from the symbiont Tal, but without any context. What kind of person was she before being joined? Why was she joined? When DS9 did this with Ezri, it was hard to get on board – after six years with a cast we knew and loved, a new character was suddenly parachuted in and given centre stage. Adira takes the same concept but makes it feel a lot more sympathetic. If the show ditched the starship at this point and just had Burnham, Book and Adira (plus maybe Tilly) exploring the galaxy with Grudge cat at their side, I’d be satisfied.
In order to unravel this mystery, Discovery heads to the Trill homeworld, only to find that they, like Earth, have seceded from the Federation. The remaining Trill are horrified that one of their precious symbionts have joined with a human, but fortunately Burnham and Adira are able to find someone sympathetic enough to help them out. We then delve into the mystical caves of Mak’ala, whee Adira manages to unravel her past – with Burnham’s help. Burnham did feel a bit surplus to requirements here, seemingly only included to add some main character legitimacy to events.
As it turns out, Adira used to live on a generational ship with her Trill boyfriend Gray, played by trans actor Ian Alexander. I mention this last point because, having teased trans representation in the run-up to this season, Discovery goes right ahead and kills the trans person off in flashback.
After joining with Tal, Gray’s relationship with Adira necessarily changed a bit, but they might have been able to work through it – had Gray not died in an accident. In order to save the symbiont, Adira joined with Tal herself, only to block all memory of those traumatic events. By recalling and accepting them, Adira manages to become the first human to make a stable joining with a Trill symbiont – albeit one who can still see the ‘ghost’ of Gray. It’s a shame Gray doesn’t seem like he’s going to be a fully-fledge character who will get to interact with the rest of the Discovery crew, but given that Hugh was able to come back from the dead, maybe we should wait and see what happens next.
The B-story for this episode involves Saruu realising that the crew’s mental health is really suffering under the current circumstances. With the help of the Discovery computer – which seems to be becoming sentient – he plans some recreational activities for them, including a very awkward dinner party, and a movie night. Naturally, the movie night is all about 20th century silent comedy, because sci-fi writers can’t resist making the people of the future obsessed with 20th century film.
Notes and Observations
- A note on pronouns – I’m aware that Adira is played by a non-binary who uses they/them pronouns, but so far Adira has been always referred to as she/her onscreen, so that’s what I’ll use in the reviews until that changes.
- In the 24th century, symbionts were so rare that the Trill Symbiosis Commission claimed that only 0.1% of Trill were suitable for joining. In fact, this was a lie designed to protect the symbionts, as it was likely up to 50% of the population could successfully join with a symbiont.
In the 32nd century, the Trill claim that the Burn killed many of those who were suitable as hosts, suggesting an excess of symbionts who wee unable to be joined. Given the little details and references the Discovery writers slip into each episode, it seems unlikely that they are unaware of the fact that half of the Trill population is secretly suitable for joining. With that in mind, how can there be so few Trill left who can join?
One could argue that over the centuries, host and symbiont physiology has changed enough that overall compatibility has been lowered, but in that case it seems highly unlikely that a joining with a human could possibly be successful.
- It’s harder to really believe in Adira and Gray’s great romance when she was only fourteen at the time of his death – yes, some teenaged sweethearts stay together for many years, but that’s the exception rather than the norm. Imagine having to spend the rest of you life with the consciousness of the person you liked at age fourteen stuck in your head. Let’s not forget what happened in Black Mirror’s Black Museum when a man agreed to have the consciousness of his comatose wife transferred into his brain.
- Discovery’s computer has started merging with the Sphere data, and seems to be gaining sentience as a consequence. This possibly foreshadows the sentient Discovery computer we saw in the Calypso Short Trek.
Summary – Forget me Not: The Trill are back!