This is a recap of Star Trek: Discovery’s episode “If Memory Serves.” There are spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t yet seen the episode, proceed at your own risk.
Ever since Hugh came back from the dead, we’ve known that this episode’s events were coming. He hasn’t seemed quite right since his return. The Dr. Culber we knew before was patient, with a sense of humor and a smile. He was empathetic and sure of himself. This Hugh is very different. He has the capability for all of that, certainly, but right now he’s more concerned with the fact that, quite literally, he doesn’t fit inside his own skin.
Who is Hugh Culber? Mentally, he has all the memories of being the former Dr. Culber, partner to Paul Stamets. But when you’ve quite literally died and been reborn, in a body that is almost exactly like your former one, but just not quite right, who are you? This is a question I think we’ve just started to see Hugh grapple with; there are no easy answers here.
I knew to expect the scenes between Paul and Hugh just because it was clear that’s where the character’s trajectory was leading. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t painful, of course. Paul is not a nurturing sort, and I was looking forward to him playing the supportive partner. But his version of support is a bit smothering; he's too afraid of what Hugh needs.
Stamets is trying his best, but you can see the cracks in just how hard he’s pretending. Deep down, he knows that what Hugh needs is space and time, but Paul is just so glad to have Hugh back that he doesn’t necessarily want to give it to him. But the only emotion Hugh feels right now is anger, and he doesn’t want to let go of that because it’s at least feeling something, which is better than being numb.
I’m excited to watch this relationship develop once more, because Paul and Hugh were pretty fully formed as a couple when we first met them. They were happy and ordinary, seemingly comfortable with one another and firmly established. Now they have to find their way back to that place, and Paul will have to reckon with the fact that he wasn’t the best partner in the past. This journey is going to be hard, but I’m hoping they’ll end up at a better place.
I’m also incredibly intrigued by the fact that the key to Hugh’s healing might actually be with Ash, the man who murdered him. Ash might be the only one who has some idea of what Culber is going through — that “I don’t know who I am anymore” / “Who do you think you’re talking to?” exchange was pretty much perfect. I can’t wait to see where that goes; maybe a Garak/Odo relationship is developing. (If you didn’t watch Deep Space Nine, Garak and Odo became friends and started having lunch dates after Garak tortured Odo — it’s a lot more complicated than it sounds, and clearly Ash and Culber have a lot to work through before they can brunch.)
I also loved how Saru handled the conflict between the two by just letting it play out. That shows a lot of wisdom, and while I understand why Captain Pike had to come down on him, it was the right decision. (Also did anyone else laugh out loud when they heard Saru’s description of the situation? The humor in this season is on point.)
Moving on because, as much as was going on with Dr. Culber, it wasn’t actually the main focus of this episode; we finally figured out what was happening to Spock thanks to the Talosians. Because of the Red Angel’s influence, he was experiencing time as fluid, rather than linear, and it was driving him mad. He knew the Talosians could help him — and help Michael — make sense of things, which is why he took her there. (There’s a whole lot of backstory that isn’t necessary to the plot of this episode, but if you want to see it, watch the episode “The Menagerie” from the original series.)
We got a real reckoning of sorts between Spock and Michael in “If Memory Serves.” We finally discovered what Michael had done to wound Spock so deeply that he no longer thought of them as siblings (while I expected something like this, I still flinched when I actually heard it on screen). And it’s clear, despite what he says, that he has never gotten past it. Now that it’s out in the open, though, it’s a first step toward the two reconciling. They may never be as close as they once were, but perhaps they can be family again.
Watching those interactions between Michael and Spock, it really became clear for the first time that they are siblings. We’ve been told over and over again that they grew up together, but we haven’t actually seen their relationship. We’ve seen Amanda be a mother to Michael and Sarek be something of a father. But Spock has been an unknown until now in that dynamic with her, so when we saw their interactions this episode, I finally really believed they were family. (“Can we have a better version of this conversation?” and “Do you actually think the beard is working?” are gems of sibling banter.)
We also discovered a little bit more about the Red Angel: Spock concurs that the being is from the future, and that its thoughts are human. We also know its endgame: to prevent catastrophe. Spock says that the Discovery crew needs to trust the Red Angel, but I still have questions about its intentions. For now, it’s clear that it’s operating in shades of gray, but it’s best to follow its lead in order to prevent the annihilation of countless worlds.
The Discovery is going rogue now, following the Red Angel, shutting out Section 31, and defying Starfleet. It’s not anything new for this crew, but it will be interesting to see where the journey takes them. Once again, there’s a lot I’m leaving out of this recap — Michelle Yeoh puts Leland in checkmate, there is some interesting tension between Tyler and Pike (that smirk???) — but onward!