Star Trek Discovery “Into the Forest I Go” review

Adam Mathew 16 November 2017

Star Trek Discovery S1E09

Star Trek's new series stays the course by going waaay off it.

Here we are DISCO fans – the mid-season finale is upon us, like a horny Klingon jailer that's all sorts of lonely (note: that reference will make a lot more sense in a minute). It's war or warp time for the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery, the only federation vessel standing between a Klingon Ship of the Dead and the unprotected planet of Pahvo. Being hideously out-gunned and up against a foe that can vanish at will, the Discovery has been told to fall back. But, when you're Captain 'loose cannon' Lorca, every order is open to interpretation.

After placating Admiral Terral, by pretending to see the clear logic of the situation, the good Captain agrees to immediately warp back to friendly space. Why go this route instead of teleporting back via a black alert? The long way home will give his crew a window of 3 hours to come up with a plan B. Once a solution has been found, they can blink right back to Pahvo and give it a shot.

Problem: in order to not get court-martialled afterwards, a data trail must exist that explains their slower method of travel. Thus begins a mock medical examination of Lieutenant Stamets, the key organic component of the spore drive tech (and, whoops, he's genuinely been trying to hide an illness brought on by being a transdimensional turbo charger).

Even still, desperate times call for desperate measures. Discovery's finest eggheads theorise that the Klingon cloaking causes small imperfections in the surrounding gravitational field. An algorithm could be fashioned to detect it, but only if two sensors can be placed aboard the enemy vessel. Once a gutsy away team installs them, a process not unlike 3D scanning would need to take place – the Discovery will have to make 133 microjumps around the Ship of the Dead to gather readings from every necessary vector in minutes.

It's an ill-advised plan that will put incredible strain on Stamets, but Lorca gees him up. It's pretty manipulative, if I'm being honest with you: he feeds the Lt. a delusion of grandeur where he's cast not as a scientist, but as an explorer who can save trillions of lives. Lorca also dangles a new carrot (both for Stamets and to us as an audience): he's been secretly data mining every time Stamets has made a jump, discovering what could be alternate universes connected to the mycelial network. When this Klingon mess has been mopped up, they can truly go where nobody has gone before. The (literally) starry-eyed Stamets eats this up.

Curiously, though Lorca more or less sees Stamets as expendable, balking at Lt. Tyler's request to take Burnham on his two-person away team. Burnham protests with a good ol' Vulcan logic smackdown. Why should she not be used? She's a criminal, plus she's the only crew member with first-hand knowledge of the ship's layout. Lorca begrudgingly accepts Tyler's request. Why does he value her so much anyway?

When it comes time to stare down the bow of The Ship of the Dead, the captain has one more rousing speech to the crew. When he met them, they were all polite scientists (read: pacifist poindexters) but now each and every one of them has become a fierce warrior. It gets everybody's head in the game. They'll need it too, because the Klingon captain, Kol, would like nothing better than to board their ship, execute everybody and take their "enchanted" weapon for himself.
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The Discovery jack-in-the-boxes near the Klingon flagship, and a cosmic ballet begins. Burnham and Tyler successfully beam across and remain undetected, thanks to some nifty signature-masking tech. Speaking of life-signs, a human one is detected as our daring duo are en route to placing the second beacon. It seems Admiral Cornwell has managed to survive the slight electrocution she received last ep, though she's found to be paralysed from the waist down and locked in a Klingon slammer.

Unfortunately, this cell also holds L'Rell, torturess supreme and nemesis of Lt. Tyler. The mere presence of her is enough to trigger his PTSD and render him immobile. Disturbingly, the flashbacks we get indicate blood-letting as well as sexual abuse. Cornwell breaks the spell by stun-blasting L'Rell into a heap. Even still, the damage has been done. Tyler is a gibbering mess. Burnham must go it alone to the bridge, and she manages to stealth her way in and plant the second beacon.

Meanwhile, it's less than smooth sailing on the Discovery. By the time he's made the 62nd jump, Stamets' vitals are falling and he's trippin' spore balls. As Dr. Culber administers as much care as he can, Stamets voices a strange hallucination: “There's a clearing in the forest,” he tells his partner. “That's how they go.” Your guess is as good as mine at this point.

The situation worsens when Burnham overhears Kol's plan to bug out. He doesn't understand the Discovery's erratic behaviour, but he smells a Federation ruse. Gutsy as hell, Burnham reveals herself and tries to stall Kol with a monologue-off between them (this series seems to be quite big on this tactic). She calls him a piss-poor version of the Klingon messiah, T'Kuvma. In comparison, he's a parasitic opportunist who snuck in when all the fighting was done. She should know; she was the one who killed their space-Jesus. This revelation works and triggers an honour duel with blades.
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Meanwhile, the Discovery's jump protocol finishes and the Discovery beams back Cornwell and Tyler. L'Rell makes a last second tackle that earns her a free ride off this doomed vessel as well. Burnham gets extracted, too, but not after she draws blood on Kol and steals his favourite toothpick (Captain Georgiou's insignia badge).

With the cloaking algorithm complete, and everybody back aboard, The Ship of the Dead becomes... well, the ship of the dead, thanks to a buttload of proton torpedoes fired into her unshielded hull.

The victory is short-lived, however. A tearful Tyler reveals to Burnham that he suffered 227 days of Klingon nakedness. Later we see that this ordeal has made him L'Rell's puppet; a sleeper agent she can activate at will, it seems. Meanwhile, Stamets reconciles with Culber with the first same-sex kiss seen by the Star Trek series, but he's not out of the woods yet. (Or should that be 'mycelial forest'.)

He agrees to do one last jump home to Starfleet HQ, but it goes awry and leaves him in a inter-dimensional stun-lock, raving about the beauty of “infinite permutations”. The spore drive stall has damaged the U.S.S. Discovery, too, and that's not even the worst of it. The starbase that was here before the teleport doesn't exist now. All that's left is a spaceship graveyard. Cue a slow pan away from a bridge crew whose faces have been set to stunned...

VERDICT

And that's how you do a mid-season finale, folks. Hand the main characters some much needed payback, but also hurl them off the grid into new and mysterious challenges. Let the destination speculation begin!.

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