Last night’s fantastic episode of Star Trek: Discovery had a bunch going on—but one of the most fan-pleasing events was a trip back to where Star Trek began over five decades ago with its fabled original pilot. But that required bringing back more than just a certain planet.
“If Memory Serves” took Michael Burnham and her adoptive brother Spock back to Talos IV—the alien world where most of “The Cage,” the scrapped pilot for Star Trek, takes place. That didn’t just mean an encounter with the psychic Talosians that call the world home, though. It meant bringing back a character not seen on Star Trek in decades: Vina, the lone survivor of the SS Columbia’s crash-landing on the world that Captain Pike falls in love with—and regrettably leaves on Talos IV when she elects to stay behind, while the Talosians psychically mask the grievous injuries she suffered.
Vina, originally played in “The Cage” (and in archival footage used from it in the first season Trek episode “The Menagerie”) by Susan Oliver, was played by Melissa George throughout last night’s episode. Speaking to Syfy Wire about the experience, she touched on how she wanted to portray a character that had not only been unseen on the series for so long, but interestingly how she wanted to establish Vina as more than just a woman chasing her former beauty, but one that has found herself in her own important role on Talos IV:
When you first see Vina with that perfect blonde hair and that perfect blue eyeshadow, you think, ‘Oh, she’s a bit off with the fairies.’ But she’s actually got such gravitas and is in fact very strong and grounded,” George explains. “So I decided I was going to embrace being a woman, with all her beauty and the hair, and those high heels, and being comfortable in my own skin. And that’s how I am in my own life, too. I think that women often get perceived in a certain way. If you’re ‘too pretty,’ you’re perceived as maybe not being smart enough. So, no, she’s not a victim. She’s everything, this woman. She’s clearly a woman in love, too. So [I] decided to be comfortable and strong with it.
George’s portrayal of Vina didn’t just require building on the arc the character went through in “The Cage”—it required going back to the pilot in a more literal sense too, apparently, even recording over lines of Oliver’s original dialogue so Discovery could blend the two voices together for some moments, connecting the same character despite the half-century between performances:
They did put some of my voice on top of hers to kind of meld the two together. I couldn’t recreate her acting because so much has changed the way we act today. There’s a different kind of inflection. But I wanted to watch it and pay homage to her and the way the character felt.
Given that Discovery heralded its second season by announcing the arrival of familiar Trek faces like Captain Pike, Spock, and even the Enterprise’s original “Number One” from “The Cage,” keeping Vina a secret until this episode aired led to a pretty lovely surprise last night—and it’s cool to see just how much work George and the crew behind the show put into bringing Vina back to life one more time.
Image: CBS All Access