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Star Trek Dis - Season 1 - Episode 08

Star Trek Dis - 1x08 - Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Originally Aired: 2017-11-5

Synopsis:
The U.S.S. Discovery is tasked with a high priority mission to planet Pahvo and learn the science behind the Klingon's cloaking technology.

My Rating - 1

Fan Rating Average - 4.67

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Problems
- Burnham says the stardate is 1308.9. In the previous episode it was 2136.8.
- Saru is stated to be capable of running 80kph or faster, which would put him on par with a cheetah. But given that Saru is humanoid and lacks any of the anatomy necessary to give him that kind of speed, this seems pretty unlikely.
- Cornwell says there is no death penalty in the Federation, but this is contradicted both by TOS: The Cage which is set only two years prior to this episode and TOS: The Cloud Minders which is set ten or so years later. She isn't necessarily completely wrong though. Past Star Trek series have made a point of insisting the death penalty is mostly extinct and that it only exists as an exceptional (albeit cruel and unusual) punishment for certain obscure laws in niche corners of the Federation.
- The hand phasers are shown to fire pulses instead of beams in this episode, further compounding the visual continuity issues raised by previous Discovery episodes depicting phasers on ships firing pulses rather than beams as well.

Factoids
- The Gagarin was named for Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first person ever to go to space.
- Saru's threat ganglia can sense predators from a distance of as much as 10km.

Remarkable Scenes
- The battle to save the Gagarin in vain.
- L'Rell pretending to torture Cornwell to get a moment alone to talk with her and expressing her wish to defect.

My Review
This episode had a promising start. In addition to the cool space battle, we finally see Stamets is suffering from some concerning consequences of piloting the spore drive again, L'Rell is conclusively revealed to have been the same Klingon female captain who held Tyler, Mudd, and Lorca captive (the scar matches the injury she suffered during Lorca's and Tyler's escape), and L'Rell engages in some kind of plot to overthrow Kol. But none of these plots get a chance to sufficiently develop. The Stamets stuff is swept under the rug quickly and the L'Rell plot dangles several loose threads in the most annoying possible fashion. For instance, is Cornwell really dead? It looked like L'Rell intended to deceive Kol and revive her after staging the fight where she killed her. But if so, then did she succeed in deceiving Kol about Cornwell being dead? And if that was her intent, then she sure took her time reviving Cornwell, what with that lengthy scene mourning her dead comrades and then seemingly getting her cover blown by Kol anyway. Instead of coming off as a dramatic cliffhanger as the narrative seemingly intended, it just comes off as annoyingly vague.

Meanwhile, on Pahvo, AKA Disney's Pocahontas planet of perfect balance and absolute harmony, every tree, rock, and blade of grass vibrates with its own specific tone. Together these combine to form a kind of music. Nobody on the landing party could quite tell what song it was, but obviously it was Colors of the Wind. After all, according to Saru everywhere you go you can feel the symbiosis between nature and the living spirit. Groovy, man! Perhaps every rock and tree and creature has a life, has a spirit, has a name! Perhaps if Saru meditates hard enough, he'll be able to paint with all the colors of the wind!

Even setting aside awkward aesthetic similarities to one of Disney's less savory films, just about every detail of the away team plot is cringeworthy from start to finish. For starters, as soon as they discover the swirly alien spirits, Saru immediately abandons the mission of directly examining the giant transmitter thing to study the alien life form despite the fact that they're on a ticking clock. Even if they were making good time as they said, you'd think they'd want to stay focused on their primary mission of investigating this technology for the war effort rather than exhibit this "oh look, a squirrel!" degree of distractibility. Compounding this irrational decision-making process, Saru immediately insists that his risky behavior couldn't possibly bear any risk because, which he proclaims with total certainty, if the aliens meant them any harm, then his threat ganglia would surely sense it. The overwhelming stupidity of the concept of threat ganglia notwithstanding, everyone seeming to just tacitly accept the notion that threat ganglia are straight up infallible adds yet another layer of cringe.

Saru isn't the only one smoking the peace pipe though. Burnham prattles off a range of reckless, dumb lines insisting on following first contact protocol rather than use the transmitter tech, even after Saru is compromised. Tyler has to argue with her to try to talk her down from all that. Ultimately he seems to fail to convince her and resorts to simply ordering her to do her job and complete their mission to use the alien tech to build a cloaking device unmasker. And even Tyler doesn't seem immune to the planet's numbing effects on rational thinking when he idiotically equivocates when reciting the famous Vulcan idiom "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few," reversing it to "so are the needs of the few or the one." He basically says to Burnham let's not complete our mission and let lots more people die so we can have our forbidden love. What uninspired melodrama.

Then when Saru goes to stop Burnham, Burnham looks up, sees Saru coming, and instead of pulling out her phaser to stun Saru, she turns her back to him, continues to fiddle with the computer, and ultimately allows Saru to disarm her and destroy her work. Only after that does she realize hey it might be a good idea to grab that phaser and stun Saru after all. A bit slow on the uptake there, huh? In any event, all is well. The aliens then conveniently transport Tyler to Burnham, conveniently fix the broken computer, and Discovery then conveniently arrives instantly to pick them up. Behold, everything moving at the speed of plot!

But the cringe doesn't end there. The annoying Pahvo plot isn't done making the characters act like morons. Because it turns out Saru wasn't under some kind of alien coercive influence at all. Burnham gives him that out when she says "you weren't yourself," but Saru will have none of that. "But I was!" he insists, determined to destroy all credibility he has as a character. "My whole life I've never known a moment without fear!" You see, the narrative expects us to find it believable that Saru would try to trap his comrades on that planet forever on a whim and forget all about the war and his responsibilities to the Federation simply because he's learned the bliss of painting the colors of the wind. But then perhaps that is par for the course for an episode which pretentiously names itself Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum (a latin adage which translates to "if you want peace, prepare for war") with only the loosest attempts in the plot to justify the false profundity of such a title. What a mess.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From ismellofhockey on 2017-11-07 at 6:00pm:
    It's unfortunate that Trek shows have often done away with facts from previous episodes, sometimes even within the same series. It's annoying, I don't understand why they aren't more big picture focused, but that's how it's always been.

    What I dislike most about Discovery so far is the ultra fast paced plot, which you point out. Oh look! The tower sonar was fixed just in time for Discovery to beam them up! How convenient! How lazy! Had the show actually taken time to exploit its various devices, we would have had the chance to build an emotional bond with the admiral as she was tortured by the Klingons. We could have developed a stronger enmity towards Mudd during Lethe's incarceration. We could get a feel for what Stamets is actually going through. But nope! Who needs character development anyway? The answer to that being: not Saru... please stop trying.

    I'm also disappointed that the show doesn't deal with more philosophical concepts like what humanity's morals and values look like in the 23rd century. TOS showed us a female second in command, a black woman on the bridge, a Russian and a Japanese at the helm. There was a vision of the future that inspired, promising better things to come. TNG built on that with an unabashedly atheistic captain, the prime directive (introduced in TOS), Barclay's holosuite problems...etc. It would have been nice to delve deeper into this topic, or at least renew it. You can still have grey characters in a society whose values and morals have progressed far beyond where we are today. Stamets's augmenting and inability to ask for his doctor/lover's help could be a door towards this, but seeing how little anything gets developed in this show, I'm not holding my breath.

    Still, this episode was perhaps the most beautiful visually so far, and losing the Gagarin was a great opening.

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