With last night’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery, we’ve reached more than half way through the series and the story arc of the Federation war with the Klingons. While there have been some truly abysmal moments, there have been some lively and interesting ones as well. Star Trek: Discovery seems to be finding its footing.
Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum (‘if you want peace, prepare for war’ – it’s not often I get to trot out my meagre Latin!) is a rather grim title for this episode. It’s bleak outlook and one that’s not readily suited to the Star Trek ideal. However, title aside, Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum delivers a story that not only satisfies that Star Trek itch, it also drives the entire series arc forward.
In this episode we find the U.S.S. Gagarin in a desperate fight against an overwhelming number of Klingon ships, all equipped with the new invisibility technology. Gagarin’s captain makes a frantic call for help, and thanks to the magic of spore drive technology, U.S.S. Discovery jumps into the fray. Discovery shows its mettle in the battle, but can’t keep Gagarin from being destroyed. Sadly they retreat to safety.
It seems the Klingon invisibility shield could turn into the deciding factor in the war and unless a way is found for Federation sensors to see through this shield, the war may be ultimately won by the Klingons. Fortunately for the Federation there may be an answer for the invisibility shield on the lonely planet of Pahvo.
Discovery has dispatched a team to Pahvo to investigate and secure the method for countering the Klingon invisibility shield, a team comprised of Commander Saru, Lieutenant Ash Tyler, and Specialist Michael Burnham. But what’s so special about Pahvo? On Pahvo every living organism is in harmony and ‘sings’ its harmony into a towering crystal shard that projects its song into space.
The team has to march more than thirty kilometres to the crystal shard, but along the way they are surprised to discover a sentient race on Pahvo. This spoils the original plan of just using the crystal now that first contact has been made and General Rule One comes into effect. The hope that they could just march in and use the shard to somehow ‘uncover’ the Klingon’s invisibility has been dashed. They must now negotiate with the natives of Pahvo.
Back on Discovery Tilly is confronting Stamets about his sudden behavioural change. After having his DNA merged with the tardigrade Stamets revealed a softer and kinder aspect to his personality. Now he’s reverting to his impatient and smug former self. This seems to point to a time when he will no longer be able accurately guide Discovery through the spore jumps.
We are also back among the Klingons as L’Rell tries to ingratiate herself with the now dominate Kol. Kol who has no use for religious unity, but instead seeks to dominate all Klingons under his rule. L’Rell is tasked with ‘interrogating’ the, thus far recalcitrant, Admiral Cornwell. However, rather than torturing her for information L’Rell takes Cornwell into her confidence. A confidence that is short lived.
Star Trek: Discovery is back on track and focused on the Klingon war, but it also gives us further insight into the motivations of several characters including Kol, L’Rell, and perhaps most importantly Ash Tyler. Ash Tyler has been a mystery to both the viewers and the crew of Discovery. We finally get a little insight into what is driving him and his need to help Lorcas in his war efforts. While they seem plausible, they sounded a little trite and rehearsed to me. I have no doubt that Ash Tyler has a very prominent role to play in the war, but it’s probably not one we’re expecting, or even hoping for.
With Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum Star Trek: Discovery has given us an episode that finally feels like Star Trek. Yes there are the overt overtones of war, but they have been balanced with the mission on Pahvo doing what we expect from a Federation starship crew. Namely discovering new places and peoples and trying to learn from them while trying to teach about themselves. Star Trek: Discovery, having shown that they can do things outside the Star Trek mould, has now shown they can give what long time fans have come to expect from any incarnation of Star Trek.
Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum marks, I think, the point when the cast has started to trust each other and have become a more comfortable in their roles. The scenes during the opening battle sequence flowed smoothly and felt like the bridge of a starship in the midst of a pitched battle. This and the interactions between crew members are feeling more natural and less forced. Even the Klingon scenes, while still somewhat stilted, due mainly to the terrible costumes and teeth prosthetics, aren’t quite as cringeworthy as previously.
If you consider the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and even the original Star Trek, for Star Trek: Discovery to start emerging from its growing pains so quickly is quite propitious. I only hope that they continue to improve and that in the end, everything Star Trek: Discovery has hoped to achieve will come to fruition. I think I’m actually looking forward to the next episode for the first time since the series debut.