This week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum,” really felt like a classic original series episode in that we finally got an episode with an away team on a new planet … and not a red shirt in sight. And while that felt like classic Trek, the episode had a lot of twists and turns that often bordered on the confusing, but whatever was going on was obviously designed to lead into the next episode which is billed as the “Fall Finale.”
We know the Federation is desperate to get this war with the Klingons over and done with. But now that Kor has revived the sarcophagus ship and shared their “invisibility shield” with any other House that pledged loyalty to Kor, it makes it that much more difficult for Starfleet’s greatest weapon to fight ships it can’t see. They can detect something, but they can’t actually fire until the ships become visible.
But they have discovered a planet, Pahvo, that has a natural crystalline structure jutting high into the sky that has a property to it that can allow the Discovery to find the invisible Klingon ships. So Saru, Burnham and Tyler are sent to the planet to modify the structure for their use. Except when they get there, they find every object on the planet vibrates at a specific tone in harmony and the sound, while pleasant to Burnham and Tyler, is excruciating for Saru and his heightened senses. They also determine that the glowing blue particles (that happen to look a lot like the Discovery’s spores) are sentient and Saru needs to find a way to communicate with them since protocols forbid then from interfering with new species, initiating “first contact” protocols.
Still in agony from the sound, Saru begs the Pahvians to give him some relief and they oblige by apparently amassing inside his cranium … and totally affecting his personality. While Burnham and Tyler are bonding, Saru is plotting to protect the planet from the Federation and the war they will surely bring. He tells Burnham and Tyler that the Pahvians have agreed to let them use the crystal and asks for their communicators … which he destroys. Oh, this can’t be good and Saru is obviously under the Pahvians’ influence … or is he? The two concoct a ruse of an argument to get Burnham to the crystal so she can contact the Discovery, but Saru doesn’t buy Tyler’s story and goes after her. They fight, she gets in touch with Lorca, Saru is distraught about the Pahvians and we’re left with a whole lot of questions about Tyler.
In getting to know more about Tyler and seeing a relationship grow between him and Burnham, it seems obvious that the theories of him being a Klingon spy are going to be correct, no? Yes, he seems to know a lot about Washington state but he said and did quite a few things that just didn’t sound or look right. When talking to Burnham about their futures, she reminded him that once the war is over, she goes back to prison for life. No camping and fresh flounder for her. He says then why not just let the war rage on, putting an ominous twist on the “needs of the many” speech from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Another odd thing that happened while Burnham and Saru were fighting at the base of the crystal is that Tyler was somehow transported to the site by the Pahvians. Ummm, how did that happen? No one bothered to ask and he didn’t tell, so it all seemed rather suspicious.
Bolstering the concerns about Tyler were the scenes with L’Rell on Kor’s ship. She convinces Kor that she is the best interrogator they have and offers to “question” the prisoner, who just happens to be Admiral Cornwell. But it appears to be a ruse as she tells Cornwell of her pure hatred for Kor and how she wants to defect to the Federation. She wants to accompany Cornwell back to “her ship,” the Discovery because she knows it has some special features. Mmmmm, I’m not sure where this is going.
L’Rell takes Cornwell to allegedly escape, but Kor finds them in a corridor and the two women engage in some hand-to-hand combat … but is it for show or the real thing? L’Rell appears to electrocute Cornwell and tells Kor she will dispose of the body, so we still have no idea if Cornwell is dead or alive as L’Rell drags her through the corridors. L’Rell gets to a room where she seems shocked to discover the bodies of her fallen (or missing) comrades which then appears to make her resolve to destroy Kor even stronger. She pledges her loyalty to him, but he sees through her ruse and has her carted off, leaving Cornwell apparently either dead or trapped in a room with dead and decaying bodies. If she’s alive and is the Lethe character from the original series, this certainly could be enough to drive her mad.
But while L’Rell was talking to Cornwell during the “interrogation” she said a few things that also supported the “Tyler is a spy” theory. She tells Cornwell that she had “like-minded brothers and sisters. Even the one chosen by Lord T’Kuvmah to be his successor, But he was chased away. Forever gone.” Of course we know that she’s speaking of Voq who was banished to the remains of the Shinzhou, and whom L’Rell visited and told him there was a way out of this but he would have to give up everything. Suddenly Tyler shows up in the cell on the Klingon ship, having survived for seven months by pleasuring Captain L’Rell. Yeah, it seems we are in for a big reveal come the “fall finale,” one that is sure to rock Burnham’s world. One more suspicious moment with Tyler came on Pahvo when Saru presented an object to Tyler and asked him to touch it to find harmony. There is some kind of energy transference there that makes Saru tell Tyler he’s being deceitful. Tyler looks a bit panicked but Saru means he’s discovered what Burnham is up to. But did he discover more about Tyler than we know?
Back on the Discovery, Burnham tries to assuage Saru’s “guilt” for how he behaved saying he wasn’t himself. But Saru says he was in full control. Being from a race that is born afraid and lives in fear every moment of their lives, the Pahvians gave him that freedom from fear and he wanted to do all he could to protect that and the Pahvians. In the end though, the Pahvians went ahead and altered the crystal’s signal themselves — for which Lorca blamed Burnham, but it was not her doing. Now, instead of a frquency that can help detect the invisible Klingon ships, they’re sent out a signal attuned to Federation and Klingon radio frequencies — an invitation for the two warring factions to meet there and come to peace. Something tells me this isn’t going to work out as the Pahvians think it will.
There was one other subplot on the Discovery this week as Stamets is definitely feeling the effects of being connected to the spore drive. After making a jump, he looks at Cadet Tilley and calls her captain, and then snaps at her for questioning him. In the mess hall, she confronts him, in a friendly way, about his behavior. One moment he’s his usual, grump self, then he’s the happy-go-lucky guy we’ve seen the past couple of episodes, and now he’s back to being even more grumpy than usual. He admits that sometimes after making a jump, he has no idea where he is. When Tilly asks if he’s told Doctor Culber about it, Stamets is really in a catch-22 situation. If Culber reports how Stamets has altered his biology, he’ll be sent away to be poked and prodded, and if he knows and doesn’t make a report, his Starfleet career is over. Either way, Culber gets hurt and he can’t do that to him. Let’s assume for now that someone, somehow will find some way to make Stamets function normally again and find something else to run the spore drive.
What did you think of the latest episode? Is Cornwell dead? Is Tyler actually Voq? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.