Star Trek Discovery: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

"My whole life, I have never known a moment without fear."

Burnham, Tyler and Saru explore the planet Pahvo, while L'Rell interrogates her prisoner.

After the high of last week's episode (which was fantastic), perhaps inevitably this one felt a little disappointing, but only a little.

The show continues to improve overall, and the thing I love the most is that it's starting to feel more like an ensemble show, and less like The Michael Burnham Story. This is all down to personal taste, but I have a preference for ensemble shows with big casts, and Star Trek (even in the original series, but especially in its 1990s and early noughties incarnations) has usually followed that format, so I was a bit disappointed that the latest branch of the franchise was moving away from that model.

As the show goes on, though, and the regular cast has started to fall into place (after the early random killings of characters you might expect to stick around like the Chief of Security) it has started to branch off and feel more like an ensemble piece, albeit headed by the Burnham character. In this episode, we saw the kind of split narrative used so often in ensemble shows, following three different sets of characters in three different plots, with Tilly and Stamets largely removed from Burnham's story, and I was very happy to see it.

While last week's outing was largely a stand-alone story, this week's is all arc plot, all the time, so the viewer's enjoyment of it is dependent partly on how they feel about the arc plot. Two of the current strands interest me – one other, less so!

My favourite strand of this episode was the one with the least screentime, the interactions between Tilly and Stamets. These two are by far my favourite characters on the show – Stamets is the kind of prickly but likeable character I really warm to, and Tilly is just lovely. I'm also genuinely interested in what the spore drive is doing to Stamets, and very intrigued to see where this is going.

I also enjoyed the interactions between the Admiral and L'Rell a lot. I like Admiral Cornwell and I loved seeing her scream in L'Rell's face in a gesture of defiance. I felt a bit unsatisfied with the conclusion of this story within the episode though. I kept expecting the Admiral to turn out to be alive after all, and this was all part of a plot between her and L'Rell to escape – and that could still be the case, or it might not and she might really be dead. This level of uncertain around the death (or not) of a fairly significant character was a bit irritating to me – I know it's part of an arc plot and by next week all will become clear one way or the other but for the moment this feels like a thread left annoyingly dangling, rather than an enticing cliff-hanger.

My least favourite strand of the episode was the action on Pahvo, which just seemed too much like a cut price Pandora-from-Avatar. I enjoyed the character work with Saru and with Michael butting heads with a superior officer again, but overall that particular plot just didn't do much for me – and once again, the real consequences remain to be seen.

Overall, then, not quite as brilliant as last week's, but a solid episode nonetheless. The show is starting to feel a little more like it belongs in the Star Trek universe, which for an old Trekkie like me is a very positive development.

Bits and pieces

 - The title means 'If you want peace, prepare for war' and refers, of course, to the ongoing Klingon War plot arc, implying that more violence will be required to bring peace.

 - I love Stamets and I'm keen to see what the spore drive is doing to him – but I still don't like spore drive itself all that much. There's a lot of weird alien biology in this show, from the spore drive to last week's space whale to the harmonious planet of Pahvo. Giant space jellyfish and giant space creatures you fly into have always been occasional parts of Star Trek, but not quite as much as this.

 - I keep having to double check some of the main characters' names on occasion, but maybe that's just me being slow.

 - It looks to me like the red-haired woman who was on Burnham's previous ship and was injured (whose name, again, I have no idea of!) has slightly different coloured eyes, presumably implying that one is a false eye and she lost hers in the Battle of the Binary Stars?

 - I want to know what species the woman who looks a bit like an android but presumably isn't, is. I keep mixing her up with Isaac from The Orville.

Quotes

Burnham: Is this what harmony and balance look like?

Burnham: The needs of the many...
Tyler: ... are worth fighting for, are worth dying for. But so are the needs of the few.

A step down from last week, but solid stuff. Three out of four blue crystal-things that look like they belong on Pandora.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Juliette, I share your fondness for Stamets and Tilly, and I felt the same way about the planet plot, even though the planet was so wonderfully blue. This is a very blue show, isn't it?

Juliette said...

It is very blue! I love the uniforms, but the amount of blue on the planet was a bit overwhelming, and reminded me of that one time SG-1 tried to make the universe look less like Canada by colouring the trees purple!

Patryk said...

Damn, new week is already the fall finale. That was quick. So I guess this episode suffers from being mostly set-up, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

I think Stamets is now becoming un-stuck in time and he's seeing the future where Tilly is a captain and probably countless more time periods.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Patryk: That was my exact thought on why Stamets called Tilly "Captain" as well!