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Recap / Star Trek: Discovery S2E08 "If Memory Serves"

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Burnham and Spock receive help from the Talosians in restoring his sanity, while Discovery continues their investigation of the probe from the future.


Tropes in this episode:

  • Armor-Piercing Response: Leland to Georgiou on how she didn't let AI dictate policy in her universe - 'how did that work out for you?', given how she's now an ex-emperor stranded in a different universe.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Burnham calls Spock a "freak" and a "weird little half-breed" in her flashback, to sever their emotional bond and protect him from the logic extremists.
  • Butt-Monkey: Between being ignored by the admirals in favour of Georgiou, being humiliated in front of his crew when the Talosian illusion is revealed as such and the imminent prospect of having to account for losing Spock and Burnham to the admirals, Leland isn't having much fun this episode.
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  • Call-Back: Scenes from "The Cage" give the viewer a quick recap of how Spock and Pike have previously been involved with Talos IV.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Starbase 11 is where the Enterprise will one day be sent to pick up Pike to return him to Talos IV.
    • The choice of insult is a huge reference. Tellingly, Burnham calls Spock a "half-breed," which is exactly what Kirk (or rather, his duplicate) calls Spock in the original series episode "What are Little Girls Made Of?"
  • Dramatic Irony: Pike and Vina share a few minutes together and give each other what they assume is a final goodbye. Star Trek TOS viewers know it isn't.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The robotic army in the future is shown blowing up various Federation planets, and apparently did so to every inhabited world in the galaxy.
  • Evolutionary Retcon: Aside from different actors playing the characters, the Previously On… that begins the episode with scenes from the Original Series' "The Cage" shows the very different head designs for the Talosians, changing them from My Brain Is Big humans to sleeker Rubber-Forehead Aliens (with enlarged craniums), more elaborate costumes, and even a more alien-looking version of the "singing" blue-leaved plants. Vina's true appearance is also significantly different, with the makeup looking less like the patchwork original version.
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  • Evolving Credits: The Red Angel in the credits is shown in much clearer detail, reflective of what the characters and audience learned in the previous episode.
  • Frame-Up: Tyler is framed by Airiam for the sabotage of the spore drive and for several unauthorized transmissions.
  • Literal Metaphor: Tyler says that his relationship with Michael ended because he wasn't the man she thought he was. He really, really, wasn't.
  • Literal-Minded: Burnham tells Spock "Say goodbye, Spock," when illusions of them are beamed aboard Leland's ship. Spock gives the Vulcan salute and says "Goodbye, Spock" as the illusions fade.
  • Manchurian Agent: Pike believes that Section 31 may have affected Tyler's mind to make him sabotage Discovery without his knowledge. He's right about there being an unwitting agent on Discovery, but wrong about who it is or who's responsible.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • During young Burnham's breaking speech to Spock, she describes his humanity as a lone person on a cold moon. This literal situation is where Kirk finds future Spock in the Star Trek (2009) reboot film.
    • The episode's title is a piece of phrasing Spock himself occasionally used through the original series.
    • Spock smiles on seeing Pike, much like how in "The Cage" Spock was more emotive thanks to some Early Installment Weirdness.
  • No Body Left Behind: Tilly reports that they've collected about a metric ton worth of debris from the shuttle explosion, but not a single bit of it is from the modified probe.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: The Talosians are not just selfishly looking for other beings to enjoy their memories and experiences, which is what Michael initially assumes when they ask for her memory of hurting Spock. Vina provides herself as an example, since the Talosians want her to live a healthy life without being crippled through their power of illusion. The Talosians just need Burnham's memory to help heal Spock. Later, they help Michael and Spock return to Discovery by causing the illusion that they were captured by the Section 31 ship.
  • Not So Different: At the end of Culber's fight with Tyler, he screams in frustration that he doesn't know who he is anymore. Tyler, sympathetically, responds "Who do you think you're talking to?"
  • Orbital Bombardment: This is how Georgiou mentions she wiped out the Talosians in her universe, after they attempted to deceive her using illusions.
  • Percussive Therapy: Culber gets into a fist-fight with Tyler to help work out his issues. Saru allows it because he figures there's no recommended therapy for a Back from the Dead doctor and the human/Klingon hybrid who killed him. Pike buys this reasoning, but doesn't want it happening again.
  • Previously On…: The show begins with a recap from the original episode "The Cage".
  • Punctuated Pounding: When Culber attacks Tyler to reawaken Voq.
    Culber: BRING! HIM! OUT!
  • The Reveal:
    • Spock attempted to mind-meld with the Red Angel, seeing a vision of the future where probes like the one that attacked the shuttle last episode wiped out all intelligent life in the galaxy.
    • Spock's mental breakdown was caused because he depended on the concept of forward-moving linear time as a basis of reality. After his encounter with the Red Angel he started remembering future events and past events, breaking his sense of linear time and thus breaking him.
    • The Red Angel is a human from the future, attempting to change history to avert the tragedy Spock was shown.
    • In a more predictable vein, Starfleet lied about Spock murdering several people during his escape.
    • In order to protect him from the logic extremists, Burnham called Spock a half-breed and claimed not to love him.
  • Room Full of Crazy: A flashback shows Spock in a holding cell with the floor scribbled all over with symbols and formulas.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Pike disobeys General Order 7 to return to Talos IV to pick up Burnham and Spock, then goes rogue when ordered to go to Starbase 11 once Burnham and Spock inform him what the stakes really are and what the Red Angel is trying to prevent. The rest of the crew don't even wait for him to make the standard "I'm about to disobey orders" speech to give them legal cover before they announce they're with him.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong:
    • The Red Angel showed young Spock where to find Burnham because otherwise she would have been mauled to death by one of the native creatures in the forest.
    • The Red Angel's larger goal is to manipulate events to keep all life in the future from being wiped out.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The illusory black hole at Talos IV is one to Interstellar, even using some of the same camera angles.
    • The “Goodbye Spock” joke is likely a reference to the famous ending line attributed to, but never used by George Burns and Gracie Allen.
    • Discovery in a warp tunnel and under pursuit by a Section 31 ship is reminiscent of the Enterprise being pursued by the Vengeance in Star Trek Into Darkness, albeit without weapons fire.
  • Silent Running Mode: Pike's plan is to warp towards a nearby starbase before changing course to Talos IV and running silent. It fails to throw Section 31 off Discovery's trail.
  • Spotting the Thread: Although there isn't time to deal with it this episode, when Leland and his ship show up on the way to Talos IV, Pike realizes it couldn't have been Tyler who tipped them off because he was in custody.
  • That Man Is Dead: Culber tells Stamets that the Hugh that he knew is gone, and that the sooner he moves forward the better.
  • There Are No Psychiatrists: Culber is clearly not adjusting at all to his resurrection, showing signs of severe trauma - lack of interest in eating, detached, easily angered, but no-one thinks it's a good idea to even suggest taking him to see a shrink.
  • Troll: The Talosians, Burnham, and Spock troll Leland when the illusory Burnham and Spock on the Section 31 ship disappear with the "Say goodbye, Spock" joke.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: Just as Discovery is about to jump to Talos IV, the spore drive conks out, thanks to Airiam's sabotage.
  • You Didn't Ask: After the illusions of Burnham and Spock fade, Georgiou mentions the Talosians tried that trick in her universe and she wiped them all out. Leland demands to know why she didn't mention it, and she responds that she can't wait to see him explain this to "the Admirals".
  • Your Favorite: Stamets prepares Culber's favorite dinner for him, but Culber doesn't enjoy it since he's still messed up over coming back from the dead.

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