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‘Star Trek Discovery’ 2×08 recap: “If Memory Serves”

Spock! Spock! Spock! And also: TOS!!!

Star Trek: Discovery recap: Season 2 Episode 08, “If memory serves” Aired March 7, 2019.

Wow… last night’s brand new episode really was something else! Finally, we have been given what we craved for since the beginning of season 2: Spock, Spock and even more Spock! Yep, that’s right: “If memory serves” was a Spock-centric episode, and if you don’t like the character (and we are not quite sure we do yet, even though we have a strange feeling we might be getting there soon), you won’t enjoy this episode much. That’s not to say that there wasn’t tons of other stuff happening as well. Let’s break it down!

Star Trek Discovery recap 2x08 If memory serves (4)
Michael Gibson/CBS All Access

A TOS-style recap? Flashback to the 1960’s, everybody!

The episode kicks off with a “previously on”-recap done in the old TOS-style which connects viewers not only with the events of the unaired TOS pilot “The cage”, but also uses original material from it. This way, it seems that the events we are familiar with from Star Trek: The Original Series” happened only a couple of weeks ago max, and not 50 years ago. Clever! Merging elements from the classic series with elements from the latest series was more than just a nice touch – it actually worked really well!

The episode in a nutshell

So yeah, we are once again revisiting Talos IV, everybody, and with it the the creepy, telepathic Talosians who don’t seem to know the first thing about consent. This is the plot summary given by CBS All Access:

“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.”

For this week’s episode, we need to divide our attention between Michael and Spock on the one hand, and the events on board the Discovery on the other hand. Let’s stick with Michael and Spock for the moment, shall we?

Star Trek Discovery recap 2x08 If memory serves (7)
Michael Gibson/CBS All Access

Spock and Michael, finally re-united

What has been teased for weeks now has become a reality: “If memory serves finds the unlike siblings re-united. Buckle up, for we are finally about to find out a couple of hard truths! Not to mention there are tons and tons of angst!

As it turns out, Spock has guided them to Talos IV in order to get mental help. They are finally “on the other side of the looking glass”, as Michael puts it, once again using an Alice in Wonderland metaphor – a tale that both siblings are quite fond of.

What a relief: Spock’s not crazy, he’s just lost his anchor

We find out that Spocks mind isn’t in disarray because of the Red Angel,  but because his visions of the future have made him lose his anchor: His sense of time itself. The Red Angel – a human time traveler, it appears – has shown him a horrid future in which all life has been wiped out by an unknown race.

Getting to see Spock’s visions comes at a cost for Michael: As payment for letting her get a glimpse into her brother’s mind, the Talosians want to witness what actually transpired between the siblings in their childhood, leaving them painfully estranged. Thus Michael needs to re-live this memory. She reluctantly agrees to the deal, knowing there is no other way to save her brother’s sanity.

Facing childhood trauma and its consequences

Okay, I’ll admit it: I spent hours and hours trying to figure out what horrible thing Michael could possibly have done when it was first teased that she hurt her brother gravely.  However, the reality of it is quite simple: When Michael ran away from home to keep the people she loves save from becoming a target of logic extremists, she stops her little brother from following her. After all, that’s the right to do, isn’t it? Her methods, however, are not exactly savory: When Spock isn’t easily deterred, Michael is intentionally cruel by bringing up his heritage, calling him a “half-breed” and a “freak of nature.” Ouch! Not nice Michael, not nice at all.

But while we – and Spock, for that matter – recognize her cruelty for the action of a frightened child meaning well, Spock still cannot find it in him to forgive his sister. So, Star Trek Discovery‘s Spock basically is a bit of a jerk who is really, really good at holding grudges. And while he claims that ultimately, Michael’s harsh words have been a catalyst that caused him to turn away from human emotions and embrace logic, there still seems to be so much pain and hurt.

On the other hand, the fact that Spock doesn’t just forgive Michael and everyone lives happily-ever-after, makes things so much more interesting for us viewers. Obviously, Michael and Spock still have a long way to go – and we’ll gladly accompany them every step on their way.

Star Trek Discovery recap 2x08 If memory serves (1)
Michael Gibson/CBS All Access

Best quotes – Some sibling banter, anyone?

Now, to balance all the angst, let’s have a look at two quotes that highlight some sibling-banter:

Michael: You saw the red angel.

Spock: As a child, then again a few months ago.

Michael: What is it? Who is it?

Spock: If I knew, we would not be here.

Michael: I was asking rhetorically.

Spock: Now at least ask something I never asked myself.

Michael: Can we have a better version of this conversation?

Spock: Is there a valuable question in your arsenal?

Michael: Yes, You actually think the beard is working?

 

Michael: Spock, there is so much that I …

Spock: No. I am not here to absolve you, Michael Burnham. This is not about your feelings.

Michael: I am a fool for taking that personal.

Spock: Agreed

Stamets and Hugh’s attempt and failure to re-connect

Stamets and Hugh’s relationship was the other big focal point of this week’s episode. It was downright painful to watch  both men struggling to re-gain what they lost. Actually, it is Stamets who is trying so damn hard to reconnect that it makes you want to cry, especially seeing how all his attempts go south. He tries everything to get through to his husband and to make him feel comfortable, but to no avail: Hugh just feels wrong in his skin which causes his frustration to spike again and again.

Stamets, on the other hand, cannot imagine what Hugh has been going through. He seems to lack the level of empathy required, and Hugh calls him out on it:

I have that memory. It’s just… my senses, my feeling don’t connect with it. Or anything really. […] I don’t know what to do. You keep pushing me to feel something. You want me to just pick up where we left off before? As if nothing happened? You have no idea!

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Michael Gibson/CBS All Access

Showdown: Hugh faces Tyler

When Hugh sees Tyler for the first time after being murdered by him, he feels the need to confront him – or rather Voq- and does so rather violently in the ship’s mensa. Commander Saru watches the fight playing out and prevents others from intervening. He believes that allowing them to physically come to terms with everything will be like a catharsis for both men.

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Michael Gibson/CBS All Access

In the end, Hugh and Tyler come to an unsettling conclusion, an uneasy truce even: It seems they are not so different after all:

Hugh: I don’t even know who I am anymore.

Tyler: Who do you think you’re talking to?

Star Trek Discovery recap 2x08 If memory serves (5)
Michael Gibson/CBS All Access

We loved…

  • getting to know more about Michael’s and Spock’s backstory
  • learning that Spock didn’t commit any of the crimes he is accused of – not that we believed them in the first place!
  • seeing Pike once again with Vina – strange, but so, so good
  • watching the long-awaited Pike and Spoke re-union – and witnessing Spock’s very real smile in light of it
  • that TOS-style recap – what a throwback to the good old times!

And the award for “Best quote” goes to… Saru!

The Starfleet manual offers no regulatory guidelines for interactions between humans with Klingons grafted to their bones and a ship’s doctor returned from the dead.

Okay, everybody! There’s a universe to rescue, Star Trek regulations be damned! Now that the Discovery went rogue and with an unknown alien presence on board (possibly a spy for the alien race set out to destroy the universe), things are bound to become very, very interesting. It will be a long, long week!

What did you think of “If memory serves”? Let us know at @PureFandom on Twitter!

Star Trek: Discovery airs Thursdays at CBS All Access

Featured Image: Michael Gibson/CBS All Access

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Silke Milpauer

Fictional worlds and words have always been my best friends. A college teacher and professional writer in real life, I use writing fandom stuff as my personal form of escapism. Love all things Sherlock (BBC), Shadowhunters, Star Trek and Harry Potter. Enjoy Lucifer, A Discovery of Witches, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, CAOS, True Blood and The Originals. Avid reader, traveler, introvert, fangirl. Hate Mondays and drama, love coffee and laughter.

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