Star Trek: Discovery Episode 8 Review — Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Burnham, Saru, and Tyler contemplate peace during an away mission to a strange new world.

This Star Trek: Discovery review contains spoilers.

Star Trek: Discovery Episode 8

If you want peace, prepare for war. That’s the translation of the Latin title of tonight’s Star Trek: Discovery. Perhaps a better title might have been: You can’t be neutral on a moving starship — something Saru learned the hard way in a riveting, thematically-complex episode that had these characters finally, you know, discovering something.

“Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” saw Burnham, Tyler, and Saru (#DreamTeam) on their very own away mission, exploring a planet called Pahvo (a half-Pandora, half-Fraggle Rock type planet) in hopes of using its natural vibrations to create a sonar capable of finding cloaked Klingon ships. 

Once on Pahvo, the team is greeted by the sentient energy beings that live there, changing the parameters of their mission. Per Starfleet first contact protocol, they must make sure the native species both understands their request and agrees to share any technology before utilizing the vibrating crystals. 

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Things become even more complicated when the aurally-sensitive Saru, who was initially overwhelmed by the “music” of the plant, goes full-on native. He wants to stay forever, lying to Burnham and Tyler about having contacted Discovery and crushing their communicators so they themselves cannot contact the ship. When Michael travels to the planet’s crystal communicator to complete the mission, Saru goes to drastic lengths to try to stop her.

Inevitably, it is for naught. The away team is beamed back aboard the Discovery and Saru is “cured” of his Stockholm Syndrome. But it wasn’t Stockholm Syndrome, not totally. Saru’s methods may have been drastic, but his motives were understandable and worthy of serious cnsideration. 

Harmony isn’t a crazy idea, though it is a concept that doesn’t seem as immediately viable in this world that is already at war, with an enemy who doesn’t share the Federation’s values. The Pahvons are still going to try, however, calling the Klingons to their planet so that they might broker peace with the Federation. It’s a noble concept, but one the crew of Discovery seems certain will fail.

And why would they think any differently? This is an episode that began with six Klingon ships destroying a Federation vessel with more than 400 people on it, the Discovery unable to prevent the casualties. This is an episode that saw Kol kill many of his own people for their disloyalty. Harmony is a noble goal, but sometimes it first requires conflict — or so Star Trek: Discovery seems to be arguing.

Saru isn’t the only character who is lured into the false security of Pahvo and its vision of peace. Before things take a turn for the drastic, Michael and Ash are allowed a quieter moment to reflect on what they will do when the war is over. Tyler says he will go to his lakehouse (damn, if he’s a secret Klingon, he is really in character), but Burnham can picture no such vision for her future. When the war is over, she will return to her life sentence. This reminder only makes her commitment to ending the war that much more inspiring.

In the mean time, however, Michael and Ash can pretend that they believe the needs of the few or the one outweigh the needs of the many. We know the truth. Their actions suggest otherwise. Well, at least Michael’s do. During a particularly meaty scene between Saru and Tyler, the latter admits that he doesn’t want to defeat the Klingons; he wants to hurt the Klingons who hurt him. If Tyler is Voq, then the phrasing checks out here. Voq isn’t anti-Klingon, far from it. He is anti-Kol.

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Speaking of Kol, L’Rell, and Kol’s minions hanging out on the Klingon Ship of the Dead, things get interesting in this storyline for arguably the first time in this show’s short history. When L’Rell pledges her allegiance to Kol, he insists she bring him something more to prove her loyalty (which, fair enough, L’Rell obviously hates his guts). As a master interrogator, L’Rell offers to get some answers out of a thus far laconic Admiral Cornwell.

So begins an interesting dynamic between L’Rell and Cornwell, which involves refreshingly little torture (because, as has been proven, torture does not yield real results). L’Rell asks Cornwell about the Federation’s policy on prisoners-of-war because she wants to become one — or, more accurately, she wants to defect.

It’s unclear if this is all part of L’Rell’s epic interrogation plan, but she seems serious. And, if Kol & co. hadn’t caught her sneaking off of the ship with Cornwell, presumably the two would have fled back to Discovery together. We may never know. Instead, L’Rell seemingly kills Cornwell and stashes her body on her ship with the bodies of her fallen Klingon comrades. Personally, I’m not convinced Cornwell isn’t dead. I’m also hoping desperately that she’s not because she is a total therapist badass.

Kol sees right through L’Rell’s flimsy “she was trying to escape” excuse, but doesn’t kill L’Rell because she actually offers up some information, supposedly garnered from Cornwell. L’Rell passes on to Kol that the Federation has some kind of weapon (aka the spore drive) that would make Kol’s empire even more powerful. L’Rell didn’t get that from Cornwell, which implies she has someone else on the inside. Perhaps someone Tyler-shaped?

Meanwhile, back on the Discovery, Stamets continues to suffer erratic side effects from his time as the spore drive ignition. Somehow, Tilly is the only one who notices — or at least is ballsy enough not to take “I’m fine” for an answer. Stamets admits that, sometimes, he doesn’t know where he is. Presumably, he also doesn’t always know when he is. When he first exits the spore drive in tonight’s episode, he calls Tilly “captain,” implying that, at some point in the future, she will achieve her goal of securing a command.

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Hopefully, Stamets will be there to see it. With the Klingon Death Ship coming to Pahvo and the Discovery as the harmony planet’s only line of defense, something tells me the astromicologist will be spending some quality time in the spore drive in the near future.

If Stamets continues at this rate, he will continue to change — perhaps he will come to resemble something more harmonious and energy-based, like the Pahvons. If this episode proved anything, it’s that Discovery is willing to go weird when it comes to its forms of wonder. 

Rating:

4 out of 5