Star Trek: Discovery S01E08 “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” REVIEW

Star Trek: Discovery S01E08 “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” REVIEW

0 comments 📅12 August 2018, 12:00

Airing in the US on CBS All Access and in the UK on Netflix
Written by: Sean Cochran
Director: John Scott

Set phasers to ‘spoiler’…

“Si vis pacem, para bellum” is a Latin adage translated as, “If you want peace, prepare for war” and can be dated back to around the 4th or 5th century.

Much like the last episode, there’s no pre-credit sequence before the long list of producers appears. Instead we’re reminded by flashback, after Mudd’s shenanigans distracted us last week, that poor Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) is still very much in a world of trouble aboard a Klingon battle cruiser, somewhere this side of the Neutral Zone.

Also, don’t forget there’s only next week’s episode before the mid-season break. After next week, we have to wait until…at the earliest, January, before CBS airs the final six episodes.

Straight away, we see the USS Discovery plunged into combat as she tries desperately to defend the USS Gagarin against an overwhelming number of Klingon warships, including battle cruisers and birds of prey. Sadly, the Gagarin is lost, with all souls onboard. But it confirms disturbing reports received by Starfleet intelligence, that the Klingons are uniting under Kol (Kenneth Mitchell) and he is offering any the cloaking technology to any Klingon house that aligns itself with him.

With the Gagarin destroyed, the Discovery engages the Displacement Activated Spore Hub (DASH) drive and gets the flock out of there…and as Stamets (Anthony Rapp) unplugs himself, he seems disorientated, sees Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and asks, “What are you doing down here Captain?” Resulting in an awkward moment…and possibly the first sign that this could be Mirror Stamets. Or at the very least, indicating a possible look at the future where he has seen Tilly as a captain, especially since she’s expressed her strong desire to one day become a starship captain.

Meanwhile, Captain Lorca (Jason Issacs) has sent an away team consisting of Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) and Saru (Doug Jones) down to the planet of Pahvo, which is basically Pandora from Avatar (2009), in an attempt to turn the planet’s natural resonance into a sonar-of-sorts to help detect cloaked Klingon warships. Along the way, they discover a lifeform that exists as part of a planet-wide symbiotic relationship with everything on the the surface. So, Pandora then.

The planet has a giant tree-like structure that extends high into the atmosphere – so, Pandora then – with crystals woven into it along its entire length. Having accidentally already broken the Prime Directive, Saru initiates first contact procedure and attempts to communicate, since Starfleet protocols prohibit simply taking advantage of another lifeform without first trying to explain why it is you want to take advantage of them.

Tilly confronts Stamets in the mess hall and at first he just dismisses her, leading us to hope he’s gone full evil. But sadly no, she persists and he explains that sometimes, in particular after they’ve used the DASH drive, he doesn’t have a clue where he is, who anyone is or what he’s doing. He can’t report this for fear of being wheeled off on a gurney and dissected at Starfleet Medical and if he tells Dr Hugh Colber (Wilson Cruz), who then doesn’t report it…and it’s still discovered, then poor Colber’s career is pretty much over. Granted Tilly is supposed to be overcoming her social ineptitude and showing everyone out there that there’s hope for all of us, but how the blazes did she manage to get through Starfleet Academy?

This exchange also more or less shoots down any chance of a Mirror Universe sub-plot at least until season 1b starts next year. Also, here at MYM after weeks of careful consideration and in-depth deliberation, we’re calling caca on the whole Tyler is Voq thing. It’s just not plausible. (There’s even an “Ash Tyler, The Human” Twitter account.)

However, the pace at which the relationship between Burnham and Tyler is blossoming does suggest that we’re being set up for a combined Starfleet betrayal and Burnham heartbreak, “I’ll never love anyone ever again…sob” etc. So, it’s quite possible he could still be a spy. Or at the very least, we’re given the whole I-was-sent-to-spy-at-first-but-now-my-feelings-have-changed cliché.

Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose Starfleet. Choose a family. Choose a fancy uniform and life aboard a starship

We saw poor Admiral “Deadmeat” Cornwell in the opening “previously on Star Trek Discovery” sequence, so we suspected we might get a chance to catch up with what’s been happening in her exciting life…and we do. She’s being held prisoner aboard the Klingon sarcophagus ship, which is now repaired and appears to be fully operational after the command of Kol after he seized it from Voq in episode 4 “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry”.

Cornwall is about to be tortured by L’Rell (Mary Chieffo), the Klingon who tortured and weirdly, developed the opposite of Stockholm Syndrome with Ash, when he was prisoner with the enigmatic, the charismatic, the mesmerizing and memorable, the one and the only Harcourt Fenton Mudd (Rainn Wilson) in episode 5 “Choose Your Pain”. On a side note, Mudd really should have his own radio show like Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element (1997).

So, thoughts are racing through our minds; will L’Rell say something like “We have spies everywhere…even among those closest to you” – or something, anything – breathing life back into the flatlining Tyler-Voq fan theory. But no. Not a squeak. Not so much as a sausage.

Instead, she wants to defect.

Admittedly, we didn’t see that one coming. She explains to the equally shocked Cornwall that’s unhappy with the way things are going on Qo’noS and doesn’t believe Kol has what’s best for the Empire at the forefront of his agenda.

On the planet Pandora Pahvo meanwhile, Saru has become overwhelmed by the power of the symbiotic lifeform. Not in a Star Trek Original Series type way…but instead, he’s become blinded by their peaceful, harmonious existence and believes he must stay, along with Burnham and Tyler, disregarding their original mission and regardless of whether the other two members of the away team agree or not. The notion of a living/breathing planet where all lifeforms sing along together might feel too Kumbaya-around-the-campfire for some tastes and the need to convince said flower-powered lifeforms to allow Starfleet to harness the power of their incidentally-important, bio-inorganic, ‘natural’ space beacon is a little contrived…but, it succeeds – just about – with the added element of Saru fighting tooth and nail to achieve a happier state of being.

Run Saru! Run!

Why Burnham and Tyler can’t just say “we’ll come back…” and “then you can stay as long as you want…” is not adequately explained.

Back on the Klingon sarcophagus ship, L’Rell and Cornwall are trying to make their way to a shuttle-of-sorts, chatting along the way, as you do. Unfortunately, their route is rumbled by Kol himself and in a nicely, understated way, L’Rell says to Cornwall, “You’re not what I expected,” to which Cornwell replies, “Neither are you.” And they kick the crap out of each other…knowing this is the only way they both stand a chance. Some fans are suggesting this was all a ruse by L’Rell, but later as she drags the unconscious-but-faking-it-as-dead body of Cornwell to dispose of it, she find also finds the corpses of several of what we assume were her friends/allies and she swears to bring down House Kol.

Also, it could possibly be a lack of imagination with the VFX team, but the lifeform on the planet Pandora Pahvo looks an awful lot like the spores. So maybe bonding with them will pay dividends? There is also an interesting moment when Tyler is attempting to distract Saru while Burnham goes off to hook into the Tree of Life crystal tower-transmitter thingy. Saru asks Tyler to touch/bond with the lifeform, in the way Saru has already done. When Saru did it earlier in the episode, we saw flashbacks from events earlier in his life…but we weren’t shown any at all when Tyler touched it. Clearly a deliberate move by the writer and/or director. Despite only touching it for a short time, it was enough to show Saru that Tyler’s intentions weren’t truthful and he was lying to delay Saru and give Burnham more time.

I know what you’re thinking, did I change the setting to ‘kill’ or is it still on ‘stun’

It all comes to a climax at the base of the tower and Burnham explains everything to the lifeform, while Saru begs it not to participate. Saru has managed to disable the communications device that Burnham hooked up to it, but the lifeform makes it possible for a transmission to be sent and the three are beamed back aboard the Discovery. However, instead of simply acting like a giant sonar to detect cloaked Klingon warships as planned, the lifeform has taken it upon itself to instead send a powerful, long-range transmission inviting the Klingons to travel to this location, more than likely to force Starfleet and the Klingons to talk. Of course, it has no idea what to expect from the Klingons…and so it sets up next week’s mid-season cliffhanger.

Heisenberg compensator ✓

 Nice chance for Saru to develop – he’s got some issues though. Watching him run was pretty cool
 L’Rell’s defection means Starfleet might get its hands on a Typhoon Class submarine with a caterpillar drive
Nice that we didn’t see Tyler’s flashbacks, but wouldn’t Saru have seen something, if he was a spy?
The relationship between Burnham and Tyler has a chance to develop, but is it too much too soon?

Heisenberg meth maker ✗

It’s a shame that Saru, or the Klingons, can’t show more emotion under the full-facial make up
L’Rell and Cornwell trusted each other a bit too quickly to be believable
Kol first initiates L’Rell and then tells her he knows she’s lying? Is this a bad Agatha Christie novel?
The oh-so-artistic episode titles are getting tired, it works every now and again, but not all the time


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Star Trek: Discovery S01E06 “Lethe” REVIEW
Has Star Trek: Discovery set up a clever Klingon spy sub-plot?
Massive Mirror Universe hint at end of Star Trek: Discovery S01E05
Star Trek: Discovery S01E05 “Choose Your Pain” REVIEW
• Star Trek: Discovery S01E04 “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry” REVIEW
 Star Trek: Discovery S01E03 “Context is for Kings” REVIEW

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