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I’ve been ragging on Star Trek: Discovery a lot over the course of these last seven episodes, so I’m delighted to say that “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” (Latin for “If you want peace, prepare for war”) gets a whole heck of a lot right. From giving Saru a chance to shine (and giving us a better idea of what his limits and strengths are) to actually explaining what’s going on with the Klingon power struggle (seriously, they finally had a Klingon flat-out explain the current situation, much to my utter joy), I really enjoyed watching this episode. It felt like a Trek episode, with character beats that rang true, a real-stakes struggle for survival, and an interesting cliffhanger setting up the Fall Finale clash between Discovery and the Klingon Kol. All-in-all, it was a pretty great episode (with two plot points I didn’t like, that I’ll get into in the spoiler section).
After struggling to find its way, and relying waaaaaay too much on the less-than-compelling Klingon side of things for too long, Discovery seems to be finding her space legs. If this continues through next week, I think we might actually have a real Star Trek series on our hands. Now, onto the spoilers.
Let’s dive into what worked, and then get into what I was particularly disappointed in. First off, I loved that Tilly was given the chance to call-out Stamets for his refusal to address his growing issues being the Spore Drive uplink. Tilly has been, for better or worse, the show’s go-to comic relief, used to humanize Burnham (which was a key role in the early episodes). But if the show wants these characters to grow beyond their basic plot filler roles, it needs to give them moments like the one afforded Tilly here. Seeing Stamets trust her with a deeply important and potentially damaging piece of information was a huge moment for both characters. That simply conversation also takes a big step toward humanizing Stamets, a character who still isn’t well-defined at this point.
In this same vein, the episode allowed Saru a chance to deepen as a character, exploring the elements of the Kelpien race in a way we haven’t seen before. Considering Saru has been the most sympathetic character of the series so far, it was particularly crushing to see him achieve something he’s always sought- a lack of fear- only to lose it. Saru’s actions will also have far-reaching consequences, as they have brought the Klingons and Kol to the Discovery’s doorstep. I don’t particularly care for the Pahvan planet, and, frankly, they deserve what they might get for meddling in the affairs of other races (although, I suppose Starfleet will get what they deserve for messing with the Pahvans as well). I do, however, care about what happens to the Discovery. So, hopefully they manage to make it out relatively unscathed. . .
Now, for the two plot points that really bugged me. I loved the scene between Cornwell and T’Rell. Sure, T’Rell was a horrific torturer a few weeks ago (and boy, would it have been interesting to have them return to Discovery for asylum), but I really bought into her decision to defect to Starfleet. And I really wanted to see how that shaky alliance would play out. So, when Cornwell was (presumably) killed, I was crushed. That also makes three dead female Starfleet officers so far this season . . . another thing I was super displeased to see. Cornwell was also the only person who could shut down Lorca and get him the help he needs for his PTSD, which might mean the show doesn’t delve into that particular plot point again.
I was also particularly unhappy to see Kol imprisoning (or worse) T’Rell. The series took great pains to flesh out her character and then opted to toss her into the bring/possibly kill her off. It’s just a complete waste of the character to do all that for that result (also a potentially missed opportunity: not letting Tyler go toe-to-toe with T’Rell again, almost certainly forcing him to confront the psychological damage his POW status caused). Of course, we could find out next week that both Cornwell and T’Rell are alive and well (which would be a nice change of pace), and all my displeasure will be for nought. I hope that’s the case.