This episode begins in medias res. A Federation ship is under Klingon attack and the Discovery is unable to prevent its destruction at the hand of their enemy. The Klingons have “invisibility screens” which sure sound a lot like cloaking devices. I have to say that I was excited when we began in the middle of battle; one of my other favorite sci-fi shows, Battlestar Galactica, took advantage of this technique and it always led to an amazing episode. I don’t know if this episode is amazing, but it’s as close to classic Trek as we’ve gotten so far this season. Here are five thoughts about “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” that most definitely include spoilers.
1. War and Peace
Or is it “war is peace?” The title of this episode translates into “if you want peace, you must prepare for war.” We open in a battle within the war with the Klingons, and transition into an away mission on a planet the Federation hopes will help them not just win a battle, but the war as well. Burnham, Saru, and Tyler are on the planet Pahvo looking for a way to detect the invisible Klingon ships. This is the first time we’ve seen a landing party on a mission of discovery. Classic Trek. A transmitter on the seemingly uninhabited planet sends Pahvo’s vibrational frequency into space. This transmitter is the power the Federation hopes to harness in order to defeat the Klingons. The landing party soon realizes there is life on the planet. First contact! Another throwback to classic Trek. As it frequently happened in the Original Series, it turns out the planet’s life forms throw a wrench in the landing party’s plans. Burnham, Saru, and Tyler discover that the beings on the planet all live in perfect peace and harmony, while the Federation languishes away at war. Saru becomes enamored with this life of peace and tries to prevent Burnham and Tyler from completing their mission-therefore leaving them stranded on Pahvo. We see Saru is willing to go to war with his own crewmates to maintain a life of peace on the planet. The beings on this planet have that perfect peace, and are in no way prepared for war.
2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
I’ve probably already mentioned this is my favorite Star Trek movie. It’s probably also one of the most quoted. (I have no actual support for this claim.) We are privy to an intimate moment between Burnham and Tyler on Pahvo where they are discussing their lives after they leave the Discovery. Burnham mentions how their futures are different – the fact is she will go back to prison after she leaves Discovery and her freedom is only temporary. Tyler suggests that maybe they don’t figure out the transmitter…this leads to an endless war and Burnham never has to go back to prison. Burnham begins to tell him, “The needs of the many….” Tyler, “Are worth fighting for. Are worth dying for. But so are the needs of the few.” Burnham, “Or the one?” I’m not sure how I feel about these words coming from individuals other than Kirk and Spock, but it does raise the question of how these ideas came to be in the first place. Is this a philosophy Sarek ingrained in his two children, Burnham and Spock? Is it a common Vulcan philosophy? Will we hear it again?
3. Admiral Cornwell
It looks like it might be curtains for Cornwell, though I’m not totally sure. L’Rell enters the Admiral’s cell, but does not interrogate her. At least not in the way we expect. She inquires as to what the Federation does with its prisoners, and informs Cornwell that she wishes to defect; that she has nothing left with the Klingons. L’Rell is caught by Kol and it looks like she is forced to kill Cornwell to save face with her leader. Kol obviously does not trust L’Rell and sentences her to death. I’m guessing she won’t make it to her execution. Maybe we’ll get some more details about her plan to seize power.Continued below
4. The past
Throughout the series, we’ve seen Burnham unable to escape her past, or if she does, it’s only momentary. She is a mutineer and that is how she is identified by every person she meets. We know Saru has not forgiven her for the death of Captain Georgiou. But in this episode, we see Saru is unable to escape his past-for the worse. At the conclusion of this week’s story, he reveals that he behaved as his true self on Pahvo. All he did: deceiving his crewmates, physically attacking his crewmates, and planning on never returning to the Federation – was because of his past – his fear. He spent his entire life consumed with fear, and his time, with the beings on Pahvo, was the first time he never felt fear. His past has shaped his life to such an extent, he is unwilling to do his duty as a Federation officer. We can’t escape our past. Burnham can’t escape her past. Here we see Saru can’t escape his. Maybe this will lead to an understanding between he and Burnham that we haven’t see before.
5. Random Thoughts
There was a kiss between Burnham and Tyler while on their away mission. It’s like a terrible vacation on the planet. I want the two of them to get together – the tension and attraction is believable, but I am afraid it is not going to end well. Tribble noise makes a reappearance! Were those lens flares on long shots of Pahvo? Where is Abrams? Stamets is obviously going through some frightening changes because of the function of the spore drive. He confided in Tilly, but made her promise to not reveal his problems to anyone else. This seems like a setup for future conflict. The episode ends with the beings on Pahvo sending a signal to the Federation…but it appears it was also sent to the Klingons. Was this the doing of these new life forms to bring the warring factions together? Possibly. Or was this sabotage? It looks like this incident sets us up for the midseason finale – a battle between the Federation and the Klingons. Hopefully this battle within the war leads to peace.