Show: Star Trek Discovery
Title: “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”
Air Date: November 6, 2017
In the penultimate episode of the fall, we had an away mission. And how refreshing, after weeks of shiny interiors, to stretch our legs outdoors – mostly, anyway. The Klingons have found a means of cloaking their ships, allowing them to sneakily attack Starfleet before they’re able to mount a defence. The solution, it seems, lies on the planet Pahvo. Despite being uninhabited, the planet possesses a giant crystalline tower which the Discovery’s crew believe will allow them to detect hidden enemy vessels using sonar.
Is Pahvo really uninhabited, though? Of course not! Burnham, Tyler and Saru, planetside, discover (finally) a sentient race of super-beings who live harmoniously with the planet’s natural vibrations; a race of pure peace and unity for whom conflict is an abhorrent, ludicrous concept. They’d vote Labour, I bet. The Discovery’s mission quickly becomes one of diplomacy. As per protocol, they need to establish a rapport with the natives, and ask politely to nab all their technology. This is complicated by Saru, who, seduced by the promise of harmony and an absence of fear, decides he wants to stay forever.
That seems a bit abrupt.
It is, but it’s well justified. Saru’s highly-advanced senses make him more susceptible to the Pahvan’s energy-based means of communication, and it’s established by the end of the episode that his race is naturally fearful. This, he says, is what ensures their survival. But being evolutionarily predisposed to terror must be knackering; for Saru, not having to be afraid holds the same magnetic lure as, say, infinite wealth and power might to a human being. Saru’s increasingly drastic attempts to strand Burham and Tyler on Pahvo do contain instances of hilariously wonky CGI, but they’re in-character, at the very least.
Has Starfleet remembered Admiral Cornwell yet?
Not as far as I can tell, but the show has. We join her aboard the Klingon Ship of the Dead, where L’Rell is attempting to trade her skills as an interrogator for membership of Kol’s noble House. Cornwell won’t break, but L’Rell insists she can get actionable information from her; if she can, she gets the job. But this is a ruse. L’Rell informs Cornwell she wants to defect, and she’d have succeeded if their escape attempt hadn’t been interrupted by Kol’s cronies. Cornwell is seemingly (though almost certainly not really) killed in the ensuing melee, and L’Rell is captured as a result of her see-through betrayal. Finally, after eight episodes, the Klingon storyline is starting to get relatively interesting.
I hear there’s a Star Trek fan theory circling around…
There is, and while I’ve neglected it until now, this episode offered up some further justification that’s probably worth noting. So if you’re not interested in potentially having the biggest twist of the season spoiled for you, maybe skip to the next heading.
Anyway, the theory runs thusly: Lieutenant Tyler is Voq, who we last saw being abandoned in the shell of the USS Shenzhou. If this is news to you, maybe ask Google for the details of how it might be possible. Anyway, in this episode there are a couple of things to consider. The first is a conversation between Tyler and Saru, in which Tyler admits that his goal isn’t to defeat the Klingons, but to hurt the Klingons who hurt him – a careful bit of phrasing that is in-tune with Voq’s anti-Kol sentiment. The other occurs on the Ship of the Dead; L’Rell, in an attempt to curry favour with Kol, reveals that the Discovery possesses technology that could greatly aid Kol’s expanding empire. (She’s talking, I think, about the spore drive.) However, Cornwell never revealed this information. How would L’Rell know, without someone on the inside?
It could all be bullshit, but it’s looking more and more likely.
What’s happening back on the Discovery?
Stamets is starting to experience increasingly weird side effects thanks to prolonged exposure to the spore drive, including calling Tilly “captain” and forgetting who and where he is. He’s reluctant to tell Dr Culber, as doing so would force him, as the ship’s doctor, to have to choose between his responsibilities to the Federation and his love for Stamets. I’m thankful that this partnership has been carefully developed until now. The behind-the-scenes decision-making of committed relationships is often something shows like this overlook. I’m grateful, too, that Discovery has taken the time to flesh out at least some of the more peripheral characters. We see the bridge crew every week and I couldn’t tell you any of their names.
What does the title “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” mean?
“If you want peace, prepare for war.” It’s Latin.
Oh, that’s ominous.
And also appropriate. At the end of the episode, the Pahvans inadvertently betray the Discovery by inviting the Klingons over for a chat. Being entirely peaceful, they believe that having a cup of tea and a sit down is the best means of conflict resolution in wartime. This is charming and clever. We’ll get to see next week how effective diplomacy can be. (I’m guessing not very effective at all.)
As we’ve established that Stamets exists slightly outside of space and time, I’m assuming that him calling Tilly “captain” is him seeing into the future. Maybe she gets the command she wants. But for that to happen, we’re going to need a serious personnel shakeup. Maybe next week’s finale will provide.
Definitely. As the episode’s title suggested, in searching for peace, the Pahvans have brought war straight to their doorstep. With the Discovery as their only line of defence against the Ship of the Dead, Discovery has smartly tee’d up a mid-season finale that I expect will bring more than one surprise. I’ll see you there.
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