Discovery is back with another episode this week, and so am I. While I didn’t hate the latest episode it was rather underwhelming and at times tedious. I’m frustrated by this series as a whole because so much of it has ingrained spoilers. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, there seem to be a great many problems that could easily have been solved by simply setting the show after the DS9/Voyager/Nemesis era.
The enemy they face could be a completely new race, with no need to bastardise the Klingons, they could use whatever tech they wanted without angering the continuity gods, and the main problem with this week’s episode (and a constant niggle through) would never have occurred.
We’ve seen what happens ten years from now and further into the future. We know the spore drive is ultimately abandoned. This takes away a lot of the mystery surrounding it and has been mildly irritating me throughout the series so far.
This week’s episode, Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum (meaning If you want peace, prepare for war) brought that issue sharply into focus.
A Fun New Planet Of The Week And Tower Of McGuffin
The episode swiftly revealed more and more of the Klingon fleet are being equipped with cloaking devices. In an effort to combat this, Burnham, Tyler and Saru embark on a mission after the finest Trek tradition: wandering around a new planet trying to find something useful, stumbling upon a new species, and getting into trouble as a result.
The planet (Pahvo) possesses unusual qualities that grant every living thing its own vibration, which all comes together to play a kind of music. That’s broadcast into space using a fancy spire of pretty blue crystals and vines (because, as any genre-savvy person knows, there is nothing that cannot be achieved through the magic of blue crystals). The trio are there to alter the frequency of this transmission in order to detect cloaked Klignon ships and end the war.
The episode is very focussed on driving home the point that the mission will end the war.
I’m really not sure how they think this, given that until very recently the cloak was inexplicably still stuck at the binary stars, and the fleet didn’t have so much as one at their disposal.
There was over six months of Star Fleet failing to end the war, even before the Klingons had cloaks. Taking their cloaks away won’t end it. All it will do it put them back to the point they were at last week.
Beyond that it feels like a really cool idea that they didn’t quite think through. Exactly how is this signal supposed to work? That’s not made clear, likely because they were aware from the start that they’d never need to show it in action, so didn’t bother figuring out a plausible way for it to actually function.
So there’s an illogical to the situation that really cuts the legs out from the driving force of the episode. This is only compounded by the fact that we already know they will fail.
We know they don’t defeat the cloaking devices.
It made the whole episode feel slightly redundant.
What’s the point in continually watching people embark on quests we know are never going to succeed?
The answer to that is simple: it’s all about the journey.
If the episode had been exceptional (or even halfway good) it wouldn’t have mattered that we know it’s pointless, because the journey would have been worth the watch.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
A Good Start And Some Nice Little Gems
The episode started promisingly, and the effects throughout were stunning. From the opening battle sequence, to the views of Pahvos given as Michael, Tyler and Saru are exploring, and the intriguing aliens made of sparkly blue mist.
Even the tower of magic McGuffin crystals looked good.
There were also some good character moments. Early on we caught a glimpse of the toll using the spore drive is taking on Stamets. He’s back to his usual self this week and I’m very glad. Much as I adored him in last week’s episode I’d have missed his sardonic sniping.
There was a nice call back to Spock’s iconic “needs of the many” quote, in an intimate moment between Michael and Tyler. Sure it was a blatant piece of fan service that wasn’t strictly necessary, but it made me smile and was fun to watch.
I’m very glad they didn’t drag out the Michael/Tyler thing and just let them kiss this episode. After last week’s ‘first kiss that never happened’ I was worried they were going to annoy us with a ‘will they/won’t they’ plot that just about got resolved in time for Michael to discover whatever he’s hiding and break them up again.
That would have been predictable and infuriating. Instead they chose to let them act like normal people and their relationship is all the better for it.
It was also very enjoyable to have an episode centered on more on Saru.
I just wish they’d done it through a better plot.
Setup And Stupidity
After Saru suffers from terrible headaches due to the music being made by the planet, he asks the Pahvans to make the noise stop for a moment and they do something to him that takes away his fear. He’s far more relaxed and at peace, and decides to derail everything as a result.
When Michael and Tyler try to go against him, he beats the crap out of the latter and chases off after the former, who is forced to shoot him.
I don’t often enjoy brain washing plots, this was no exception. While it’s true that the ‘crew member meets alien species and is overwhelmed into foolish action’ is a classic trope of Trek, that didn’t make it any more enjoyable. I found it tedious and frustrating, especially as the episode began so promisingly. I was slightly mollified by the twist that revealed it was actually Saru’s own deep seated fears that caused him to act as he did, rather than alien mind control, but only slightly.
Had we been aware of that in some way throughout it would likely have been less tedious to watch. Fortunately it wasn’t overly drawn out – I can’t complain at the pacing of the episode it was (for the most part) fine.
I think the crux of the issue with it was that it was all set up. The series will be taking a mid-season break after next week’s episode, and the cliff-hanger ending of Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum, along with the ‘end the war!’ theme running throughout, and the subplot with the Klingons, was all geared towards setting up next week, and keeping people hooked during the hiatus.
Much as the The Half Blood Prince was a crappy installation in the Harry Potter series due to it functioning solely as setup for The Deathly Hallows, Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum felt like an episode that sacrificed a good plot for the sake of ensuring the success of future episodes.
I know you have Lucius Malfoy playing your Captain, but really Discovery, there are some things you shouldn’t take from HP!
I commented after Choose Your Pain that the previous episode (The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry) seemed to have sacrificed it’s quota of awesome in order to give it to the next episode and ensure that was utterly epic.
I’m hoping the same is true here and next week’s episode makes up for this week’s rather lacklustre and at times baffling installment.
Rooms Full Of Dead People
I’ve rambled enough about the Klingons, you all know how I feel about them, but one thing cannot be ignored from this week’s episode.
As we catch up with L’Rell for the first time since Tyler escaped we find she’s now scarred (though not particularly badly, which I have to say was a bit disappointing), and has decided to defect. While I could just about deal with this, the manner she chose to do it was really dumb, and it was totally unsurprising when her ‘escape’ was discovered and she was forced to fake a fight with Admiral Cornwell in order to cover it up.
Cornwell dies (or does she? I kept expecting her to wake up!), and L’Rell drags her off to dispose of the body.
This leads to the biggest WTF moment of the series so far (including the time they ate Captain Georgiou’s face), as L’Rell drags Cornwell into a room which is, apparently, for disposing of corpses, and WHAT THE DAMN HELL?
Why do they have a room full of bodies?
Why do they appear to have been cut up?
Are they just randomly killed and dismembered or are we actually saying the Klingons have gone fully-fledged cannibal now?
Is that why those bodies are there? ARE THEY EATING EACH OTHER?????
It would have been one thing for L’Rell to discovered her murdered friends/family/house members in a room she ducked into to hide in, but when it’s apparently the room specifically designated as the area in which to randomly dump corpses, it’s confounding.
If you have a room for dead bodies, why are you surprised to find dead people in there?
And also, why are you just leaving them on the floor?
Despite this moment of insanity I continue to be bored and confounded by the Klingons.
Overall it was an episode with a very promising start, wonderful effects, but a disappointing execution.