Star Trek Discovery: 2.08 If Memory Serves
It's taken a season and a half but its with If Memory Serves that it feels like Star Trek: Discovery really embraces its past. Acting as a semi-sequel to the original pilot episode, The Cage, the episode even opens with a 'Previously On Star Trek' segment featuring footage from that episode.
The original pilot remained unbroadcast for a couple of decades - remaining only watched by a few people until it was released on VHS in 1985 and then had its TV premiere in 1988. The story focused around Captain Pike - and was set around a decade before Kirk's first episode. It also featured a much less stoic Spock who was certainly far more emotional - none of which was omitted from the footage we get to see here.
So with Discovery seemingly bring emotional Spock into canon we can now see on context that the events surrounding the 'Red Angel' have an intrinsic effect on Spock's character and makes If Memory Serves along with the rest of the epiosdes of this season something of a bridge between both the 1960's and 2019 and between The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before. The Cage sees the Enterprise arriving at Talos IV where they discover what appears to be a human settlement made up of survivors from an earlier Starship Crash - among them Vina, a human woman who was allegedly born at the time of that disaster. However we soon find that the Talosians are presenting something of an illusion to the Enterprise crew and eventually it transpires that Vina was the only survivor and she was horribly disfigured as a result of the Talosian's attempt to save her.The episode ends with an illusionary version of Pike staying on the planet with Vina while the real crew return to the Enterprise.
Jump forward a couple of years and now, Spock is on the run accused of murder and is in something of a catatonic state with no control over his mind; the numbers he has been repeating turn out to be coordinates of Talos IV so Michael decides to take him to the planet in the hope that she can find a way of restoring his mind and finding out what he knows. Unfortunately Section 31 are also on the hunt and it's a race against time for Michael to help Spock and for Discovery to come to their rescue.
The updated Talosian make is great - respectful of the intention of the original work but clearly of modern Trek. Similarly, Talos IV has the modern makeover - gone are the polystyrene rocks and in comes a more natural environment with pretty convincing CGI versions of the singing plants we saw in the original pilot. We may not have the day-glo pastels but it's clear that the effects team have made an effort to make Talos IV both recognisable and still up to date.
There are some lovely moments with Michael and Spock and we finally get to find out what happened between them to make them so distant. Michael's insult of Spock's genetic make-up may have been mean spirited but was born out of concern for the family's safety so it's good to see that bridges may be starting to be built. That said, we still know that Spock never mentions his sister during his appearances at any other point in the franchise history so any reconciliation could be short lived.
Pike's reunion with Vina is heartwarming - there's a genuine affection and Melissa George makes a decent stab at a modern take on the character originally played by Susan Oliver. We know there is more to their story and Pike is exposed to lethal delta radiation between this point and The Menagerie so there's every chance this may happen during the run of Discovery.
Elsewhere the fallout from the return of Culber continues and his relationship with Stamets reaches breaking point. We also witness his confrontation with Tyler - which plays out in front of Saru and other bridge officers; as Saru comments to Pike after the event there is no protocol on how to deal with a clash between someone who has returned from the dead and their Klingon-Human hybrid murderer. Maybe not, but surely there must be something in the future of supporting a victim who might come face to face with their attacker.
If Memory Serves yet again covers a LOT of ground. It really doesn't work from a standalone perspective but this can be forgiven. It also sets up the second half of the season well - Discovery is now on the run having snatched Spock away from the grasp of Section 31; who, despite being innocent, is still right now in the frame for prosecution for murder. With Tyler now restricted to quarters, it is also obvious that Section 31 still have their eyes and ears on board Discovery and if the hints Airiam may well be the leak are true we now know have a pretty good idea that the probe that infected her may well have been sabotaged by Section 31 at some point in the future.