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Star Trek Dis - Season 2 - Episode 08

Star Trek Dis - 2x08 - If Memory Serves

Originally Aired: 2019-3-7

Spock and Burnham head to Talos IV, where the process of healing Spock forces the siblings to confront their troubled past. Stamets desperately tries to reconnect with an increasingly disconnected Hugh, while Tyler struggles to shed the crew's suspicions of him due to his past as Voq.

My Rating - 8

Fan Rating Average - 7.13

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- Vulcan was stated to have no moon in TOS: The Man Trap. This episode is one of several now to have contradicted that.


Remarkable Scenes
- Culber lashing out at Stamets.
- The Talosians demanding to probe Burnham's memories of Spock.
- Burnham making fun of Spock's beard.
- Spock denying the murders.
- Culber confronting Tyler.
- Saru: "This must be allowed to play out." Tilly: "Are you sure about that?!" Later, Pike: "You allowed the fight to proceed..." Saru: "I believed the confrontation was a necessary and unavoidable catharsis for both men." Pike: "But hardly an example of by the book conflict resolution."
- Vina showing up in Pike's ready room.
- Spock: "I never believed I would ask this of anyone, but I need you to take me on faith."
- Spock smiling with Pike, like in TOS: The Cage.

My Review
The long awaited moment when Spock finally joins the story in earnest is a pretty satisfying payoff. With only a few relatively minor flaws, this episode delivers a tasteful tie-in to the beloved TOS episode The Cage and its sequel TOS: The Menagerie which adds lovely texture to those stories without creating any problems with the story canon in the process, finally delivers some details about precisely what the stakes are with the red angel, and sets up a story that is finally more about suspense than mystery; though the precise motivations of the red angel are still annoyingly a dangling mystery.

The most irritating thing about the episode is the opening montage of TOS: The Cage using stock footage. Discovery lost all rights to use stock footage the minute they decided to do a visual reboot. It frankly would've been far more appropriate (and impressive!) if they had simply reshot those scenes using Discovery's aesthetics and put those in the recap instead. Gone are the days of TNG: Relics, DS9: Trials and Tribble-ations, Voy: Flashback, Ent: In a Mirror, Darkly, and others when old footage or classic aesthetics were painstakingly integrated into modern Trek aesthetics in a loving and tasteful way. Instead, Discovery has fallen for the absolute worst kind of selective nostalgia: rebooting visual canon, except for when they're feeling sappy and nostalgic and want to literally reuse old shots in a stupid and jarring way. The climax of absurdity here is the cut at the end of the recap from Pike in the old footage to the new Pike which is clearly meant to be seen as an impressive transition, but it's totally disorienting and only serves to highlight just how problematic Discovery's attitude towards visual canon has always been.

What's strange is they actually got at least one notable visual continuity transition right: the transition to a new actor for Spock. Starting off with just his voice so we can get used to that change first was a nice touch. Then the detail of Spock having a beard implicitly grapples with the problem of switching actors (like all visual continuity breaks) being disorienting. If it is absolutely necessary to break visual continuity in this way, which is certainly the case here with the necessity of recasting actors, then changing the character's hairstyle or something and making that change notable in the dialog itself to lampshade things looking different is a good strategy to minimize this disorientation. The disorientation shifts from the actor changing to the hair changing and lets the audience suspend disbelief more easily on the visual changes by rationalizing it as, "Well time passed, so people look different." It's a cheap trick, but better than putting in no effort at all. And putting in no effort at all is what Discovery usually does with visual canon, so this bit of effort is appreciated.

Another wrinkle in the story is the fact that they're still so willing to jump at the chance to use the spore drive again despite compounding evidence that every time they use it they're possibly killing sentient beings or risking destroying whole universes or something. But hey, gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette. Getting to Talos IV is an emergency or something. We can still use the spore drive in the case of emergency right? Break glass and maybe kill a few sentient lifeforms to complete your mission a little faster like Captain Ransom in Voy: Equinox? No biggie.

Beyond that though, there is so much to love about this episode. The Talosians demanding Burnham finally spill the beans on what the details are of her family drama with Spock felt like they were speaking through the fourth wall as the audience to the characters. Like really, Burnham. Out with it. Now. Or we won't let the plot advance. Thank goodness! The acting for the new Spock was also truly excellent, as was the writing. His recklessness was perfectly in character. He encounters the red angel and doesn't understand it. So why not mind meld with it? That'll surely—crap now I have space madness. His exasperated sigh at Burnham making another Alice in Wonderland reference also felt like the audience speaking to Burnham through the characters. Very cathartic.

Speaking of catharsis, Saru letting that fight happen in the mess hall was fascinating. The way he rationalized it to Pike made more sense than it might be comfortable for us to admit. Likewise Pike taking a hard line against that sort of conduct in the future was exactly the right response. A very well-conceived progression of scenes. And of course the interplay between Culber and Stamets in this episode is heartbreaking and once again beautifully acted and written. That Discovery is taking its time with the two of them processing their trauma is quite worthwhile and appreciated. Overall this adds up to one of Discovery's finest episodes.

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