Review: Star Trek: Discovery — S02E08: If Memory Serves [2019]; A Lot to Unpack

Cᴏɴᴛᴇɴᴛ Iɴᴅᴇx —

a (relatively shorter and more cryptic than usual) review by the Crow.

Note: Thanks to my passing out midway through the review (I believe I’ll term that as “pulling a Magpie”), this review is appearing much later than planned. The first part of the text is largely unchanged, but it may appear rushed nearing the end. This is still — however — a “first impressions” review.

Captain‘s log, Stardate 96782.81 96783: Once again, a crow has stayed up in wait of the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery, but this time, not through choice. A review of Star Trek: Nemesis was due out over the last 48 hours, but owing to the Azure-Winged Magpie’s ill-health, it did not happen. If she isn’t fit for duty by tomorrow, I assume I’ll have to fill that role. One way or the other: our Star Trek Celebration will be completed by the 17th of this month.

But now (as happened last week): here’s a personal anecdote (might as well be a “Tiny Team Update”).

One of the plans for our Star Trek Celebration was to review Star Trek Continues — which I found to be rather excellent, and only started watching hours before the last episode premiered. The reviews were drafted shortly following, but were never completed. This “Celebration” of ours seemed the right time to re-watch the episodes, complete the reviews, and post them; however, in light of recent allegations that the Azure-Winged Magpie has uncovered, she’s decided to veto that decision — and until we know more about the scenario surrounding Vic Mignogna (the creator and star of Star Trek Continues), the idea has been put on hold. At the end of the day, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and I once had no issue separating the art from the artist; but until I have more context to go on, all I’ll say is that we’ll have to sit down and go overhow we feel about the issue. 

That said, let’s lay in our course, and head at maximum warp into:

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If Memory Serves

SPOILER LEVELS at MODERATE

There is so much (in a positive, yet overbearing manner) that can be said about the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery. First, let me say: I did not expect this opening. We begin with a flashback to the unaired pilot of Star Trek itself: a callback to both the “first Pike” and Spock’s “experimention” — a follow-up to what was heralded in the previous episode.

While I might seem to be repeating myself, that’s what If Memory Serves — serves. I see this as an episode where “catching up” takes precedence over all else. It’s an episode which may have been sorely needed; and on that note, I see this outing as a solid step in a forward direction.

The first thing to say is: Discovery is unashamed of what it is. I watched this episode with someone who is unfamiliar with the Star Trek “mythos”, and that was probably the best way to see it. A lot of people are either grossly misinformed about what Star Trek is becoming, has been, or “should have” been. The crux is: Discovery is a Star Trek serial for the “modern” generation because it’s the only one that can be made.

I spoke about this the last time (and only allowed one “angry” comment through), but there are people who adamantly believe that Discovery is not “Star Trek enough”. And no: it will never be, in their eyes. My reply to them is: the series can do what it wants. Do we think that TOS would have done well in today’s world of “serious” television (and did it, in its time)? Do we think TNG (and its follow-ups)’s style of “walking and talking” would have worked in an environment where we see ultra-violence on screen to resolve issues on a regular basis? Of course not. TV (as is all public media) is styled to what its audience will take. Sometimes it hits. Sometimes it misses. Discovery is trying, and I think it’s trying admirably.

At the end of it all: TV is (as moves are) a business, but as much as business is the precedent, there are always people trying to make something the core audience will like. And in that light: why should the idea of Star Trek be one whole? The audience is ever-shifting.

The idea is Star Trek evolves. It was always meant to. Yes: there are rights issues. And those issues are miresome. Discovery is scrounging what it can to move forward. And what If Memory Serves attempts to do is to bridge the gap between the Star Trek of then and the Star Trek of now. This is something that’s happened before, to varying degrees, and while the episode isn’t as strong as some of the past instances — say Trials and Tribble-ations — it manages to bridge the gap nonetheless.

We return to Talos IV — in grand fashion. All the hallmarks are there. The events of The Cage have already happened, and Anson Mount (the new Pike) performs admirably. Some viewers might take issue with the episode touching upon what has come to be known as a classic, but I think the updates were tasteful. Vina (Melissa George) cuts a striking figure and the Talosians are as much of a brick wall as they have ever been. The one thing to point out is that this episode features some terrible CGI, which I have not come to expect from the show. So far, the production values have been high. This is a strange time for them to suddenly dip.

The episode does feel like two episodes mashed into one — a view also held by my viewing partner. The episode does feature one “closing shot” near the end, and this may have been a product of the re-working of Discovery during the period in which it changed hands.

But now, we arrive at the plot points that I feel like I should talk about. The Spock (Ethan Peck) angle is one I still find myself uncertain about, but it fits. I greatly liked his childhood exchange with Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green; the child actors involved were Liam Hughes and Arista Arhin, respectively), it did cut deep, and their adult reactions to the incident between them do work. Mr Mount’s Pike steals the show along with Ms George’s Vina, but there is still space left enough for Michelle Yeoh (playing Emperor Georgiou) and Leland (Alan Van Sprang) to push their own character moments.

If Memory Serves has so many narratives playing out during its runtime that it’s difficult to write about them, but one I’m particularly happy about was the exchange between Wilson Cruz’s Dr Culber and Shazad Latif’s Ash/Voq. I’ve long said that my countryman Mr Latif has been one of the — if not the — best actor on Discovery, and in this particular episode, Mr Cruz matches him. Their exchange is somewhere I’ve been before, and I loved how their character beats fell into place alongside one another. The Ash = Voq narrative is mired a little more, but ultimately the story just works. The bond that can be formed owing to circumstances such as theirs can be nothing but strong, and it plays out to near-perfection. It excuses the slipshod manner in which these characters arrive here (Culber’s death, and only excuses that moment), and I’m interested to see where they go from here. I would perhaps pick this exchange as my favourite moment from the entire episode. Mr Cruz gets to show off his acting chops, and Latif’s momentary shifting of voices is always welcome, to my ears.

And now, of course we arrive at Ariam 2.5 (Hannah Cheesman). I don’t think I have to spell out what I think of her, but I do think we’re looking at a three-episode arc starting now (please take into consideration the name of Episode 10).

I believe it’s safe to say that Discovery has finally found its feet. It’s been on an upward swing for a few episodes, now, and the narrative style is beginning to relax and settle in. Whatever happened behind the scenes was for the best, because we now have a show which is boldly going — albeit to places we’ve been before.

If Memory Serves was unashamed to explore the very genesis of Star Trek, and is stronger for it. Despite the slightly rushed tone and some examples of terrible CGI, the episode works and comes highly recommended by us at The Corvid Review. While this review might seem rushed, it doesn’t take away from the fact that just like the Romulans once declared: Star Trek is back. This is one of the best episodes yet — if not the best.

— Crow out. 


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Final Ratings

THE CROW: 7.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 10/10


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See Also


12 thoughts on “Review: Star Trek: Discovery — S02E08: If Memory Serves [2019]; A Lot to Unpack”

  1. […] Project Daedalus provides us with something that I believe has been long sought out: an episode featuring the crew apart from the starring cast. Starring here is Ariam 2.5 (Hannah Cheeseman), and she still remains largely a mystery to us. However, enough of the blank areas are filled in, and the episode is a solid continuation of the narrative beats from last week’s episode. […]

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