Review: Star Trek: Discovery | Episode 8: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum [2017]

a review by the Crow.

Captain’s log, Stardate 95451.24: These are the voyages of the blog-ship The Corvid Review. One of its continuing missions: to explore strange new episodes of Star Trek, to seek out new characters and plots, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

And this week, we saunter out into the forest, and search for peace in:

DSC-08 Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

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Bringing Harmony to Discord

WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS

This week’s episode (title translates to: “If you want peace, prepare for war”) was originally intended to be the mid-season finale of Star Trek: Discovery. Recently, it was instead announced that it would instead be the penultimate episode of the current run of the series. And it shows.

But I’ll get to that in a moment.

The USS Gagarin is under attack by a band of Klingon ships (both the Hoover and the Muroc bite the dust off-screen), and is about to be destroyed when the Discovery spores in to lend a hand. The Klingons show off their new cloaking tech (handed to them at Kol’s discretion), and make the fight a difficult one, even for the Discovery. Once the dust settles, Lorca convenes with an admiral in his ready room.

Starfleet has been working on a theory relating to the planet Pahvo through the Discovery — one they hope will render the Klingon’s cloaking tech useless in the war. Burham, Tyler, and Saru have been on the planet for the past eighteen hours, making their way to a unique formation on the surface that might help Starfleet detect cloaked ships.

While the away team march towards the formation, L’Rell deals with Kol — offering to pledge fealty to him, and work under him as an interrogator, while we are also shown a glimpse into what’s going on with Stamets.

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Overall, I find this a tricky episode to talk about. I assume that the episode was heavily re-cut following the decision to make it the penultimate episode of the fall run. The meatiest section of the episode follows Saru, Burnham, and Tyler’s adventures on Pahvo. They run into a life-form which “isn’t registering as a life-form”, according to Burnham, but it’s certainly sentient, and manifesting on a planet where you are surrounded by TREES, Burnham. You’re completely surrounded by life-forms, making this planet quite clearly “inhabited”, and the thing cooing at you a life-form. Your tricorder’s broken and you need to go back to school.

This storyline is pretty alright, and would’ve made for a nice single episode, but it suffers from being crammed in with two other storylines (admittedly, one is very tiny) in an episode that clocks at a few seconds shy of forty minutes. The ending raises a few interesting ideas moving forward, though, especially in terms of the next episode. And we also find out what that crystalline thing at the very start of the intro is. I don’t expect what happens on Pahvo to go too quietly into the archives of Memory Alpha.

The Klingon storyline suffers the most from the rough cuts. L’Rell bounces around considerably. She offers services to Kol in exchange for cloaking technology, gets a job, springs a plan of her own, ends up right back where she started, visits a meat locker, and is finally faced with a not-so-pleasant future. I understand that they’re moving quick to set up the next episode (where she will undoubtedly do something major), but this entire section of the story was an utter mess. Kol — funnily enough — is the gel, along with Mary Chieffo’s performance as L’Rell, that holds it from shattering completely.

Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Finally, we come to the Stamets storyline. It gets a grand total of a few minutes of screen-time, but I don’t find much of an issue with it. We get all we need heading into next week’s “Fall Finale” of the series. Having seen the trailer for the upcoming episode, I’d say the set-up of the Stamets storyline in this episode has done a fair job of foreshadowing future events.

At the end of the day, I find the rushed re-edits of the episode, in addition to some poor writing choices (Saru and his friends’ communicators and L’Rell’s incompetence, for instance), and the utter mess of the Klingon storyline makes me dock this episode a fair number of points.

I particularly enjoyed how Saru was dealt with, and the Pahvian’s decisions near the end of the episode. Saru truly shines in this episode, and his private ‘de-briefing’ with Burnham once back on board the Discovery grounds his character in an immensely satisfying way. It’s a moment of raw nature that is inspired in him earlier in the episode, and he knows what he was doing on Pahvo, but he couldn’t help it. After all, his eyes were opened to a clarity he had never known himself to be capable of. But the overall story is still nothing special. It’s okay, at best.

The cliffhanger is played straightforward, and it sets up for a head-on collision between our major players in the grand finale. And it leaves us with one question in particular: why so many shots of her after the fact? What are you trying to tell us? She’s clearly not breathing (woman holds her breath in quite well, I must admit).

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Martin-Greene has come into her own as Burnham, and Isaacs delivers another perfect performance as Lorca, as does Merkin. Isaacs’ effortless ‘scolding’ of Burnham, and his curt direction of his bridge crew during the initial battle involving the Gagarin all adds up to a captain I really like. Add to that his psychotic tendencies and his by-any-means-necessary approach to problems resonates with me to a significant degree, and I’m happy to see a captain of his calibre on “our” side.

The episode also works to acquaint us slightly better with the rest of the bridge crew, and I really hope future episodes take the time to flesh these characters out more. There are so many stories to be told — just look at them. Ariam and Detmer get my votes for the first two. Rhys, I have no idea about, but he and “random communications officer man” Bryce could team up for a ‘below decks’-style episode — if for nothing more than to humanise the background cast a little more. The party in the previous episode did little to that effect.

As always, I’ll leave you with a spoiler section below, but I don’t think I have that much to talk about, this week. It’s mostly because of the cliffhanger ending. Until certain things play out, I might not speculate too heavily upon them.

Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum is an adequate episode that simply does its job. An extra ten minutes, smarter writing and editing choices, and it could’ve been great. But as it stands, it’s simply a flawed set-up to the finale, and oh my, does the trailer make it look epic.


fuhneob

FINAL RATINGS

THE CROW: 5/10

THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 5.5/10

Spoilers lie ahead. Please stop scrolling.

This is your final warning.

Failure to comply will result in your being spoiled.

Complaining afterwards is futile.


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An Invitation to Stay Awhile

WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

So, the Sarcophagus ship takes on the Discovery in the next episode. Lush.

It does look like it’s going to be an interesting battle, given how the Discovery will be popping in and out of the Ship of the Dead’s parking space and raining all hell down on the Klingons. But then… how much is Stamets going to be worn away by the use of the spore drive. I don’t think this bodes well for either ship.

I really, really don’t want the Pahvians to act as a deus ex machina at the end of the episode. That path has been walked so much, it might as well be made out of horse hide. I’d rather prefer both ships to be battered and adrift in space, leaving us to wonder what might happen to them next. Will the other Klingon ships arrive to peck away at the remains? Can Starfleet mount a rescue?

And on that note: ending the conflict via combat between Kol and Burnham would also be a bit of a downer, since Kol is seemingly cleverer than playing for stakes piled that high (his Klingon nature be damned — he has no dumb “honour”). Maybe this is where L’Rell comes into play. Who knows?

Is Tyler Voq? I still don’t know. But I think it’s still within the realm of possibility, since the show is going to great lengths to cover up Voq’s absence. Another nudge towards the possibility was dropped today, and I maintain that the only way to resolve Voq’s disappearance is to have him in a tank somewhere, awaiting his turn to wake up in Tyler’s mind. And I also think that having Tyler’s recent experiences re-mould him ‘post-activation’ would be an interesting avenue for the show to explore.

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Just at the moment, though. I would leave Tyler untouched. Everything can’t be rushed. Maybe some flashbacks involving Voq would be nice, too, since I want to know how our favourite slightly-dim, fanatic nutjob Klingon came to be where he is, pre-T’Kuvma.

And on that note: what of Cornwell? Why was she shown so many times post-death (if she is dead at all)? The actress is clearly trying not to breathe in the scenes, and she is dropped off in the ‘meat locker’. Is this an indication of what might have happened to the ‘original’ Ash Tyler (if is the case that Klingons have been snatching bodies)? Is this how L’Rell makes her escape? There are simply too few facts on this front to form a solid hypothesis. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see, I wager.

I still maintain my first reaction to the idea that Ash might be Voq: that it’s ridiculous. But, the show seems to be setting it up quite a bit once you start considering it.

Now, on to Stamets. Seriously: what the hell is happening with him? Is he simply being tossed around in the time-stream with each jump? Who or what in the hell made Tilly (Tilly!) captain? Is he resetting between two personalities, or is it a slightly different personality with each jump? Is this the Stamets we met in Context is for Kings up until he hooked himself into the spore drive (I find this one a weak argument)? Or, did the reflection in the mirror nod to the fact that he might have become opposed to a certain alternate universe?

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I throw my hands up. I don’t know. However, the strain that the battle with the Sarcophagus ship will put on him will most certainly cripple both him, as well as the Discovery, possibly directly leading to Burnham’s challenging Kol on the very ground where she once “murdered” T’Kuvma. This is the aspect of Discovery I want to know the most about just right now.

As always, the production quality is high, until we get to my ever-present problem with this series: the run time, both in terms of how many episodes they have to work with and how long they run. This episode in particular could’ve done with an extra 10 to 15 minutes, and we could’ve done with one extra episode in the middle to flesh out the multiple plot threads that have been evolving during the course of the series. It’s a shame that they money’s already been blown on effects, props, and set dressing, but there’s a silver lining to all of this:

The second series of Star Trek: Discovery goes into production in two weeks’ time. Now that the main sets are built, and can be quickly put up, it might free some resources for the showrunners to be more patient with the story in the future. Discovery has started the strongest of any Star Trek series so far, and it can only get better (or, heck forbid — everything goes to pot and it becomes an unwatchable mess).

And just as a side-thought (and I might’ve mentioned something similar before): how “fucking cool!” would it be if the Discovery were to damage the mycelial network, only to show up in a post-Voyager era, to ‘hand off’ the series to a successor show? Only time will tell; but as a fan, I want to keep Star Trek on TV, and I want it “to boldly go”.


fuhneob

FINAL RATINGS

THE CROW: 5/10

THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 5.5/10


See Also


— Crow out

47 thoughts on “Review: Star Trek: Discovery | Episode 8: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum [2017]”

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