In the eighth episode of the first season of Star Trek: Discovery, my HEART. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of trauma, PTSD.
Okay, I’m splitting this up by plot, LET’S GO.
There’s only one scene in “Si Ves Pacem, Para Bellum” that addresses this new direction in Stamets’s characterization, so I am guessing we’re about to see a much more in-depth exploration in the coming episodes. But look, just like Tilly, I immediately noticed that Stamets had fallen back into his grumpier self. SOMETHING WAS OBVIOUSLY WRONG. The truth is that Stamets has done something no other human has accomplished before, and there was no way to anticipate what the side effects would be. My preliminary guess is that Stamets is slipping out of our understanding of time and/or place. If the myceliar network allows an object to travel to any other place on said network, what if that’s what we saw? When Stamets exited the spore chamber, what if he was temporarily standing in front of the captain?
So, basically, everything is about to get a lot more fucked up, isn’t it?
L’Rell and Cornwell
I admitted at the end of the video that I was a little confused about what actually happened during this entire subplot. I think I was so focused on trying to figure out what was a trick and what was real that I simply got myself confused. WE ALL KNOW I’M NOT ALWAYS THE BEST VISUAL INTERPRETER OF THINGS. So: the fight between L’Rell and Cornwell was fake. Definitely. But L’Rell didn’t expect Kol to turn on her… right? Or is that part of the plan? And did the fake fight happen solely because they got caught? Because I’m STILL unsure if L’Rell genuinely wanted to defect or not!
But let’s put all of that aside, as I assume a future episode will make most of this a lot clearer. I never expected these two characters to interact, but y’all, this was the most interesting part of the Klingon storyline thus far. I love it when characters who shouldn’t ever meet actually do, and they bring out interesting things in one another. L’Rell is certainly still using Cornwell as a means to an end. I don’t have any doubt about that. But it was so WILD to watch her talk to Cornwell to determine whether she was worthy of respect and whether she could trust her, at least in the interim. That little moment where they both admitted that the other wasn’t what they expected? CHEF’S KISS.
Now, give me more of these two in the future, and I might start liking this Klingon plot a lot more.
HI, I HAVE BEEN EMOTIONALLY TARGETED BY THIS ENTIRE PLOTLINE. There is pretty much nothing here I didn’t like. Each of the three characters who travel down to Pahvo gets a big character moment, but no one shines brighter (or with more heartbreat) than Doug Jones as Saru. I mean, I shouldn’t be surprised. Look at Doug Jones’s career, y’all. Prosthetics never get in the way of his ability to absolutely CRUSH IT. And here, his character gets a story that is just… lord.
The idea of Pahvo fascinated me, and I was thrilled that we were finally getting an away mission on an actual planet. (I believe this hasn’t happened since the premiere.) There’s an inherent contrast that the writers play with through the stories of these three characters: In the midst of a terrible war, Tyler, Burnham, and Saru visit a planet that is in perfect harmony with itself. They get to see what peace actually looks like, rather than just imagining it.
Because each of them have their own idea of peace. While Saru works on communicating with the Pahvans, Tyler and Burnham get closer, and there’s a stunning scene in which they talk about life after the war ends. What does that look like? How will peace manifest for them? For Tyler, we get a portrait of an idyllic life spent beside Lake Shasta fishing trout. And then, Burnham reminds Tyler (and the audience) that her time on the Discovery basically IS her moment of peace? Because once this is all over, she’s heading back to prison. I say that this works as a reminder for the audience because I’d actually forgotten this detail. Burnham had done so much to find her place onboard the ship that I didn’t remember that she was never offered a pardon. So, her potential relationship with Tyler can only be a temporary peace.
Yet Tyler’s peace is temporary, too! I loved that despite that Lt. Tyler was trying to distract Saru to buy Burnham more time, he was telling Saru the truth. Lt. Tyler doesn’t have internal peace, not after the seven months he spent in captivity with the Klingons. This was a chance to dig into Tyler’s PTSD and address how it manifested in him. In his case, he felt not just anger, but a violent desire for revenge. He wanted he Klingons to hurt just as much as he had. There’s no “answer” provided as to whether or not this is a fair thing for Tyler to believe, but there’s no need for it. Tyler knows he’s messed up because of that experience; he also knows that these sort of thoughts are as painful to him as they are potentially relieving. I put this on the same level as Stamets’s admission to Tilly: This is more of a hint of a future story than anything else.
However, it’s Saru who has the most dramatic reaction to Pahvo, and my heart is breaking all over again because of his story. We learned early in Discovery that the Kelpiens were a species born afraid. Their biology allowed them to detect danger and death as a survival mechanism. Upon landing on Pahvo, though, Saru never once felt afraid of the native species or fauna. Not just that, though. As he dealt with the planet’s “music” and the stress it gave him, he slowly opened himself up to the possibility of harmony.
Which is something that he, as a Kelpien, has literally never experienced for a single second.
I admit it took until that gut-wrenching scene in medical at the end of the episode for me to truly understand what I had watched. Look, I’m used to Star Trek episodes about creatures that modify a person’s biology or possess them, but what made this such a brilliant episode is that Saru acted as he did not out of possession or coercion, but choice. It makes ABSOLUTE sense that as soon as fear was removed from Saru’s life, he would quickly wish to stay that way forever. Like… oh god, is this what my life would be like if I suddenly never felt anxiety again? Because hyper-vigilance is EXHAUSTING. That’s what Saru’s life is! So his break from protocol, his lashing out at Tyler and Burnham, his desire to stay on Pahvo and bring others into this existence… of course he would do this. God… Saru got to REST. I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same fucking thing if I could turn off my overactive brain, you know?
The Pahvans then drop the mother of all plot twists on us, though, and y’all. I was already into the fact that we got a noncorporeal life form (even though they’re not life in the traditional sense) so early into the show. AND ALSO!!!! They acted to bring about peace between the Federation and the Klingons by INVITING THEM TO TALK. It’s so fucking PURE, and there’s something deeply funny about that? Them thinking that just a little ol’ conversation will fix everything, so why don’t we just hail the Klingons and ask them to come hang? There we go! All is fine.
Oh, all is not fine at ALL, and I can’t wait to see how this turns out.
The video for “Si Ves Pacem, Para Bellum” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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