STAR TREK: DISCOVERY SPOILER ALERT: There are episode spoilers in these reviews.
From Latin: Vis pacem, para bellum: “If you want peace, prepare for war.” While the team on the U.S.S. Discovery is on a mission to save a Federation ship from a Klingon attack, Burnham, Tyler, and Commander Saru are exploring the Pahvo planet, which is filled with a life form which resembles an aura and lives in perfect harmony with the environment. Meanwhile, among the Klingon, Kol is suspicious about L’Rell’s intentions.
An Invisibility Screen
When Discovery is called upon to rescue a Federation ship from a Klingon attack, they mention their enemies’ new technology, the Invisibility Screen, which they cannot detect until the last moment in which they appear and fire. The cloaking device of the Klingon ships had been given to them by the Ship Of The Dead.
The Discovery is having trouble attacking the Klingons, despite using their cloaking device with great agility. The Discovery falls under heavy attack while attempting to save another Federation ship, which eventually explodes, leaving Captain Lorca no other choice than to escape and order the ship to go into Black Alert.
The spore drive connecting into Lieutenant Stamets has been obviously affecting him in obscure ways. When the ship stands down from the Black Alert, Stamets steps out of the engine and calls Cadet Tilly “Captain.”
After regaining his senses, Stamets goes back to his old grumpy habits and leaves engineering, leaving us with a strong curiosity on the extent of the damaging effects the jumps are having on him.
Welcome To Pahvo
The Klingon’s prime defense, the Invisibility Screen, leaves no choice for Discovery but for Captain Lorca to beam a team (consisting of Commander Saru with Lieutenant Tyler and Burnham) onto an unoccupied planet. What urged the team to beam down to the planet was its giant, sky-scraping natural crystal, which emits a strong electromagnetic field. The Discovery hoped to use to use this crystal to amplify their signal to find where Klingon ships are cloaked.
Admittedly, I wondered how they would show new planets and environments in Star Trek: Discovery. Knowing that most of the time, the other series would use map paintings to depict a widescreen view of an alien world, I was uncertain how we would interact with these and how they would stage new strange worlds. Doubting they would go with a more organic feel, I was pleasantly surprised to see the team not using not CGI, but instead, we ended up surrounded by majestic, mystical wildlife.
I also found Pahvo uniquely captivating, particularly as I learned more about Commander Saru’s features. He showed tremendous discomfort as he, Tyler, and Burnham were running through the forest toward the crystal. Walking at a pace that was almost inhuman for Tyler and Burnham, the two inquire why he was in such a hurry. He explains he has much keener senses than them and could hear the planet singing nonstop.
Each and every form of vegetation and form of life sang in harmony. Although enchanting to Burnham, this life song proved to be overwhelming for Commander Saru. He was attempting to rush their mission for not only Discovery’s success, but his sanity.
Then, when near the crystal, Saru is greeted by a fairyish, spirit-like entity, which was this wonderful, shimmering, translucent being without a physical form. The being tried to communicate with Saru and explained to him how dear it was to them to come and share their existence with others, with hope to bring harmony into the universe.
These creatures’ intentions left Saru in an immensely amicable state, and despite their team’s directive of not interfering with the development of other worlds without warp capability, they were now obliged to apply the rule of establishing first contact. Burnham added that they would now have to ask for permission to use the crystal as a way to boost the signal to their ship.
The Commander then experiences the beings’ peace. Everything changes for him when he tells Burnham and Tyler that he had contacted Captain Lorca to let him know about the success of their mission, as the entity allows them to use all they desire on the planet.
Pahvo is a planet of peace and harmony and its grace certainly appealed to Saru, whose race is born with an overwhelming fear of and sense of death. Burnham notices that Saru was not the same as when they first beamed on Pahvo. Once he crushed their communicators to let them know of his plans to all live on Pahvo, Burnham knew she had to act quickly.
The plan took deception on Tyler’s part to fool Saru into believing there was nothing more that he desired than to bring pain on the Klingons in the war to make them pay for their torture they put him through for seven months before Captain Lorca saved him.
But when in contact with a piece of crystal from the planet, with both their sets of hands on it, Saru felt Tyler’s lies and immediately ran to stop Burnham. Burnham was in the process of contacting the Discovery when Saru appeared and fought her at the crystal. She reached for her phaser and stunned Saru three times before he finally gave up and begged her not to contact the captain.
Saru’s intentions were not only to protect Pahvo from a world of violence, but also to find his own inner peace and finally let go of his exhaustion with violence. He begged the entity not to allow a communication with the ship, but the request was in vain.
The shapeless entity had an endearing, fantastical, trusting, young animal type of sound, which was touching and connecting. I wanted to beg with Saru for the entities to not to involve itself in a war among races so prone to violence.
We witnessed the race’s pureness, innocence, and kindness. The nature of these entities was managed and portrayed with such intense sincerity, especially that the esoteric, shimmering “fairy-like” dust entity, which moved in such curious ways. I also dug deep into knowing more of the depths of Saru’s senses and how surprisingly dangerous he could be when tempted to become free of fear.
With a life defined and purposed by violence, Saru’s inner fight against destruction and terror is undeniably strong and could actually be dangerous for others. Sadly, I also think this means we could see more opportunities for Saru’s corruption.
Meanwhile, among the Klingons, Kol detains Admiral Cornwell. L’Rell is sent to question Cornwell.
When entering the dungeon on the Sarcophegus, she convinces Cornwell to scream. L’Rell says that thanks to the scream being so convincing, they could talk now and any other guards would leave them alone.
L’Rell’s intentions are clear when she asks how prisoners of war are treated in the Federation. When Cornwall notes prisoners of war are imprisoned, but not hurt or killed, L’Rell asks for the Admiral’s help to defect. All that L’Rell had ever cared for was gone. L’Rell’s cry for help to the Admiral is seemingly realistic, so Cornwell agrees, realizing that she had nothing to lose.
As they attempt to leave the ship, Kol and his guards corner L’Rell and the Admiral. Both whisper they were not what they expected the other to be and then fight before Kol. Not standing a chance, L’Rell, who says the Admiral almost got away and electrocutes Cornwell and implies that the fight ended well and Cornwell was now dead.
The moment L’Rell brings the Admiral to a dark room, there’s also a pile of dead Klingon bodies stacked on top of the other. L’Rell recognizes most of them and swears to avenge them all, also leaving the Admiral in the room.
Sadly, when Kol has L’Rell swear her allegiance to him, he orders his guards to show her what they do to those who deceive him.
It may seem as if the Admiral is dead, but personally, I only think she’s unconscious and that L’Rell’s plan is indeed to go back to her and together, leave the Sarcophagus.
However, now that she will be punished for her deceptions, who knows what will happen to L’Rell.
All Well That Ends Well, Or Not
The ending of the episode was starkly strange, which seems to be the norm for the show. When beamed back on board the bridge, Captain Lorca is angry with Burnham. Apparently, the signal she sent to Discovery went not only to them, but also the Klingons.
Burnham explains that Pahvo is a world of serenity and that the entity below reached out to both the Discovery and the Sarcophagus to meet as a hope to end the war and bring peace to both sides. Discovery’s mission will now be to defend Pahvo from the Klingons.
Look, I don’t doubt that Captain Lorca will protect Pahvo, but I do wonder if we’ll see more of him now. It’s been two episodes and we’ve seen a lot less of the Captain. That leaves a lot of time for his dark tendencies to bloom and manifest in the background. But also, will we have any answers about Stamets and his health? What about Cornwell? And Tyler?
Content Warning: PTSD, r*pe
The team of the U.S.S. Discovery is ordered to Starbase 46 by Starfleet. Despite Captain Lorca’s explanation about the defenseless planet Pahvo, Starfleet firmly insists on their greatest asset being safe at their starbase. Lorca orders his pilot to go to warp 5, thus giving them time to devise a plan not only to save Pahvo, but also to take down the Ship Of The Dead, which is about to jump out of warp.
The plan consists of Burnham and Tyler beaming on-board the Klingon ship, while Lieutenant Stamets will do 133 micro-jumps to mark the ship’s data into Discovery’s computers. While doing so, Stamets will put his health at risk, Tyler will be faced with his torturous past at the hands of L’Rell.
Captain Gabriel Lorca the Lionheart?
At the end of the last episode, we were left wondering what the Discovery would do once the Klingon ship jumped out of warp and attacked not only peaceful planet Pahvo, but also the most significant asset of the Federation: the Discovery. Knowing Commander Saru’s affection for the entities of Pahvo and his previously bewildered alliances, we also question what Saru would now be ready to do for Pahvo and the ship.
Lorca stares into space, pondering when the Klingon ship would appear. When given instructions from his Vulcan superior from Starfleet to get the U.S.S. Discovery back to Starbase 46, Lorca doesn’t hesitate and orders his pilot to take the Discovery to the starbase at Warp 5. Commander Saru, concerned, begs the captain to let him talk to Starfleet and explain how defenseless the Pahvoians are and that such a peaceful race shouldn’t be victim of this war. Lorca explains that he plans to rescue Pahvo and take advantage of the situation to take down the Klingons, which was why he ordered Warp 5 instead of going to Black Alert.
With what we know of Captain Lorca so far, why does he wish to save Pahvo when all he did from the beginning of the season was follow his own secret agenda? I mean, remember what he was ready to do to Reaper in order to use the spore drive? That probably means Lorca has plans to somehow use Pahvo for his own uses or that he simply wanted to use the opportunity to take the Klingons down at that moment. Hard to say.
When asking (rather than ordering) his crew to find a solution to save Pahvo, Lorca reminded the bridge that they needed a reason for Discovery not to have used the spore drive to arrive at Starbase 46 faster. At the Captain’s interjection, Stamets says that of course he has a few troubles with the spore drive, but just that it was itchy around the edges.
That’s when it got trickier for Lieutenant Stamets: when Captain Lorca ordered him to have a full medical examination so he could have something to present to his superiors at Starfleet. Afraid Dr. Culber (also his significant other, of course) would find out about the condition the spore drive had left him in, Stamets follows his Captain’s orders, but fears the worst.
Meanwhile, it is established that it would be possible to come up with an algorithm to find the cloaking frequency of the Klingon ship. However, to do so, the Discovery not only would need to beam a crew on board the Klingon ship to place receivers on the bridge, but a way to get the data back to the Discovery.
The problem was that to beam the team on board, no shield could be up. Burnham mentions that while cloaked, the Klingon ship couldn’t have its shields up, nor could it fire. For a fraction of a second while de-cloaking, the team would have to beam on-board. For the plan to work and to acquire the frequencies needed, the Klingon ship would have to be cloaked again. That’s when Lieutenant Stamets would become the most necessary accessory of the mission.
When Lorca meets with the doctor in the Medical Bay, he is made aware of Stamets condition relating to the “… restructuring of the tracts within the white matter of the median of his temporal lobes.” Lorca asks Lieutenant Stamets if there were any side effects to the condition.
Despite us knowing that there were indeed quite a few precarious side effects, he agrees to follow Lorca to his Ready Room to be brought up-to-date with the mission, in spite of the doctor pleading for his patient and lover not to be used again as a navigator.
In private discussion, Captain Lorca warns Stamets that to accomplish the mission there would have to be a total of 133 micro jumps around the Klingon ship so the Discovery could extrapolate the necessary data for the cloaking device. Troubled, Stamets expressed his concerns regarding such a high volume of jumps, micro or not.
Lorca turns on a 3D holographic map of all the jumps Stamets had done and shows the data they had accumulated via the Black Alerts.
Stamets is surprised that the Captain cared for his research and his passion, as
indicated by the data the Captain presents. Lorca mentions that once the war is done, the purpose of the U.S.S. Discovery will be to return to scientific investigation and that of course, they will need Stamets, so the Lieutenant agrees.
Well played, Lorca… well played. Sigh.
Glory & Gore
After convincing Captain Lorca that she was the most competent officer to beam onto the Ship Of The Dead, Burnham and Tyler mask their life signs to imply they are Klingon and then place the first Starfleet transmitter on-board.
I would like to point out might not be so spy-efficient when a transmitter emits a bright blue light every second and yells abbout being online, by the way. Just a thought.
When on their way to place the second transmitter, Burnham reads another human life sign on board on the opposite direction and in a closed chamber. Tyler wishes to be done with the mission, seemingly on edge, and with reason. Hey, he has been tortured by Klingons for a good seven months and managed to lock away his turmoil while showing no signs of depression or other traumatic symptoms. But being surrounded by those who tortured him, wouldn’t that awaken these terrible paths? Well, yes, actually. And unfortunately.
After making it clear that she wouldn’t leave anyone behind, Tyler hesitantly follows Burnham to the room and opens the doors by cutting all the wires to the locking system. Once inside, Burnham helps revive Admiral Cornwell to consciousness and asks her if she is okay. Cornwell admits that she couldn’t feel her legs, so Burnham helps her to a column to help so she can sit up.
Lieutenant Tyler is now immobilized by the presence of L’Rell, who is hiding in a corner with blood on her face and hands.
For a short moment, we witness flashes of Tyler’s torture: blades, blood, plastic over his face, screams, growls, nude stained flesh and darkness. Tyler is shaking, his eyes are watering and you can tell that he is conflicted between wanting to kill L’Rell and needing to flee as fast as he can. Burnham raises her phaser, stunning L’Rell and moving Tyler by Cornwell’s side. Cornwell, with her years as a counselor/psychologist, reveals what we all are guessing: Tyler is suffering from an acute relapse of PTSD and can’t be of any use to her in this mission due to the incomparable levels of psychiatric damage he is actively reliving.
Burnham gives Cornwell her phaser and leaves to finish the mission and promises Cornwell that the Discovery would soon beam them to safety. She gets to the bridge and plugs in the transmitter (which again, a horribly non-subtle transmitter).
But then, General Kol announces a premature win over the Discovery, unaware of the Discovery’s micro jumps which are gathering data on the Klingon’s flagship. Flipping on her universal transmitter, Burnham hears that Kol has now been alerted that a human life sign is found on-board: Admiral Cornwell. To protect her colleagues, she jumps out of her hiding spot and challenges Kol to a dual. In that moment, she also notices that Kol holds Captain Georgiou’s delta badge.
The fight scene is carried out nicely and proves that size doesn’t matter when you are well-trained. Burnham might get tossed around a bit, but succeeds in her attacks, including stabbing Kol’s thigh. When it comes to the final blow, Burnham grabs the delta badge and propels herself into the air where she is simultaneously beamed out of the Sarcophagus and back aboard the Discovery.
Lost In Space
When Tyler, Burnham, and Cornwell arrive safely back on-board, Captain Lorca orders his crew to destroy the Ship Of The Dead. The ship becomes completely enveloped in explosive waves of flames.
But will Voq come back with a new fleet? I’m asking for a friend…
Commander Saru warns Captain Lorca that a Klingon tagged along when the team was beamed back to the ship and was now being transferred to the Brig. And maybe, just maybe, Lorca should’ve shown some concern when he was told Admiral Cornwell was being relocated to a starbase where she would make a full recovery. Instead, has Saru wish her well on his behalf and, as usual, manages to keep his anxiety hidden.
In Tyler’s quarters, Burnham sits by his side and listens to a story he’s been hesitant to tell anyone. We finally know a little more about Tyler’s seven months of torture at the hands of L’Rell. He confesses that not only he was physically tortured, but raped, as he knew it was the only way he could survive. All of this past had him feeling massively guilty to still be alive where others of his crew had perished. In a small spark of happiness, though, he mentions he felt like the fight to survive was worth it in the end because he ended up with Burnham. He had found a little fragment of peace.
The moment was seepingly (and appropriately) heartfelt. As he was in Burnham’s arms, a tear trickled down her cheek and she admitted, “I’m glad you’re alive too.”
So much pain was revealed in the remembrance of torture and darkness. Tyler felt it hard (but time) to verbalize and to someone he loved and trusted what had occurred. This was one of the best scenes to date for Star Trek: Discovery. There were accurate, realistic depictions of how those with PTSD tend to hide their inner demons and show little-to-no signs to raise concern for those around them, despite internally feeling like a ticking time bomb.
The scene also reminded us that gender doesn’t define strength. Even the most capable, strongest fighters can end up horribly crippled, particularly by the scourge of war, and almost always at no fault of their own. But even more significantly, Burnham, a female/femme, held and comforted Tyler through his relived trauma. Once again, Star Trek: Discovery is assisting our geekdom community move forward in leaps and bounds by reminding us that to better help our fellow humans, we should discard the idea of gender roles.
Later, Tyler wakes up in sweat after a horrendous nightmare in which he spent time with L’Rell, reminding him of the times she initiated unwanted intimate relations. He finds Burnham curled up on his couch and leaves to go to the Brig. On the Brig, we find L’Rell standing and looking at Tyler with what appeared as misguided (?) compassion. Then, she mutters some utterly confusing words: “Don’t worry, I won’t let them hurt you.”
Meanwhile, Captain Lorca is ordered to bring the Discovery back to Starbase 46 and so asks for Stamets to make one more jump. The Lieutenant declines Lorca’s offer to stay on board the Discovery to further experiment with the spore drive after this final jump. Then, when Lorca says, “Let’s go home” (where admittedly, I had second thoughts that maybe Lorca was becoming better or less shady), we hear Stamets screams in horror and the entire ship shudders. Stamets leaves the chamber and falls to the floor. His eyes have lost pigmentation and appear ghost-like and frosted. Outside the ship, mystery debris floats freely.
So, uh… in which dimension (or time) is the Discovery stuck in now?
Discovery: A New Star Trek Indeed
The Fall finale was not as much as a cliffhanger as I expected, but it was enough to give me debate regarding the possibility of an alternate dimension or space-time thanks to the spore network.
And before everyone goes crazy on Captain Lorca’s sudden change of heart, yes, he really is still the same person we know from the beginning. He manipulated Stamets into willingly agreeing to do a dangerous 133 jumps (which yes, is obviously a bit excessive), for the algorithm to work.
Captain Lorca is still as mysterious and shifty as he was before, still constantly overprotecting Burnham and molding his people into agreeing to his demands. Really, he’s not changed at all. Wanting to protect Pahvo was surely in his plan for an excuse to take down the Klingon ship. One way or another, Lorca is Lorca.
Even though I think I’ll make some enemies by saying this, I’m going to say it anyway: Lorca’s voice is probably the best a Star Trek Captain has ever had. At the same level as Picard of potency, though, can you imagine if they would’ve had Jason Isaacs keep his British accent for the role?!
So… lost in space, possibly in an unknown time, and maybe in an unknown dimension, but it won’t be until January that we get answers. But until then… Live Long and Prosper!
All images from Star Trek: Discovery from CBS.