Star Trek Discovery “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” review
It's been a while since we've had a good ol' fashioned cliffhanger episode – a bonafide first half of a two-parter that absolutely must be resolved in the very next ep. Up until now, Star Trek Discovery has had a habit of introducing crises but not resolving them (quick examples: Stamets and his evil twin self that lives in the mirror, and the way a career-focussed Lorca may be plotting to eliminate his friend-with-benefits and commanding officer, Admiral Corwell). The week after those things happened, we got whisked off on some other tangent. If the crew of the Discovery doesn't address the end result of this episode, man, they're space-dust.
Speaking of atomisations, Lorca and his vessel may have the ability to jack-in-the-box anywhere, anytime, but there's only so much he can do to save Federation ships who have too many Klingons on their starboard bow. Case in point: the 1308.9 incident with Captain T'Shen Kovil of the Gagarin. The Discovery made a valiant effort to vaporise the six klingon vessels engaging it, but Lorca and co. aren't miracle workers. Being out-gunned against an armada that's increasingly outfitted with invisibility tech is beginning to be problematic. The Gagarin can't be saved, and Lorca has to flee with his tail between his legs.
Worse, the process of Back Alert teleportation is taking its toll on Stamets, the guinea pig lynchpin of the technology. His personality has become increasingly erratic, wavering between his old severe self and a much more light-hearted version. Cadet Tilly notes this and Stamets reveals he can't seek medical help from Dr. Culber as it would put his doc/boyfriend in an impossible position between his love and his duty to report gene-splicing going bad.
For now, we just have to accept that Stamets' grasp on reality and timelines is going to be slippery as hell. In one confused exchange, he finds it weird to hear that Cadet Tilly isn't the Captain. Parallel dimension oddity, or future spoilers?
What is certain in this universe: the Klingon's ability to play hide-and-seek is only going to get worse, because Kol of House Kor is drawing other Klingon houses who want to swap fealty for cloaking tech. This “free gift with every membership” promotion attracts the attention of L'Rell, spymaster and an old nemesis of Lorca who's hoping to barter her interrogation skills. Kol has made no progress with Admiral Corwell, and so he agrees to arrange an intense D&M session between the gals.
Ever the strategist, Lorca, has been scouring the Federation databanks for a possible counter-strategy to the Klingon tech. An away team composed of Lt. Tyler, Specialist Burnham and LtCdr. Saru is deployed to Pahvo, a mysterious planet with a unique sound-emitting crystal tower. The place is lousy with pretty blue trees, but is thought to be devoid of sentient life. If true, there's a potential for this tower to be scooped up for free, and be used as a ship-detecting sonar that could win the war.
When the team hits planet-side, they begin scouring the surface using Ridley Scott's Alien Covenant approach to biological discovery (we don't need no stinkin' helmets). Sure enough, when a sentient mist rolls in, the usually shit-scared-Kelpien of the group, Saru, oddly isn't fazed. He thinks this Pahvan wants to converse, which, obviously, thwarts the Starfleet regulation that states: thou shalt not steal stuff off of aliens smart enough to file a report about it.
Back in Klingonville, L'Rell is surprisingly using her torture time to talk to Corwell. After the latter paints a rosy picture of the Federation, what with its policy to not kill prisoners, L'Rell states that she wants to defect. Her reasoning: Klingon society in its current state is whack and Kol is a few live serpent worms short of a full bowl of gagh. Also, Kahless bless her, she's lonely. Seems her prison squeeze Lt. Tyler made an impression (though the affection is not reciprocated). He's moved on to human females.
On Pahvo, ol' dreamy bangs is putting more moves on Burnham. Talk has turned to what they'll do after their tour is up. Tyler says he'll go trout fishing. Burnham, always the Vulcan mood-killer, says she'll just go back to prison for mutiny. Not long after they share their second smooch, an out-of-character Saru appears and destroys everybody's communicators. He's high on peace, love and pahvan mungbeans – the nature borg that runs this planet wants to hold them here, to prevent escalating the war further. He's basically in the planet's thrall.
At first, Tyler and Brunham go along with Saru. But, as he's talking to Tyler – about the oppressive, instinctively fearful ways of Kelpien society – Burnham zips off to go hack the tower with a transponder. It's a rookie mistake, folks. Never, ever monologue. When Saru finally tweaks as to what's happening, he furiously sprints off to confront Burnham (with a pretty hilarious super-speed run animation). Fisticuffs ensue and a victorious Saru is admonished by the Pahvan presence. Nothing would make it happier than to see this war turn into harmony. It wants to help.
Help is a relative term though, people. Upon returning the away team to the Discovery, planet Pahvo's idea of 'help' is to signal the entire Klingon fleet and invite them all over for blood tea and crumpets. Kol RSVPs more or less instantly with his armada, and Lorca will have no help from the inside: Corwell and L'Rell have been caught trying to escape together, and are either dead or imprisoned.
Be that as it may, Lorca knows that he's the only line of defense for the Pahvans, and so... Shields up! Roll credits! Damn you, cliffhanger ending.