Ep. 9 “ST:Discovery” Breathtaking End of Chapter, Tantalizing New Beginning

Review of Into the Forest I Go

 

Warning: This review contains spoilers

Episode Summary

Directed by Chris Byrne

The crew of the USS Discovery are directed to leave the Pahvo system to ensure safe return to friendlier space.  Against Starfleet commands, Captain Lorca sets a battle plan in motion to defeat the Klingon Sarcophagus ship and find a way to defeat their cloaking technology.

Burnham and Tyler are tasked with infiltrating the Klingon vessel, making a surprise discovery that Admiral Cornwell is alive and on board in the process.  We’re given a glimpse of the trauma Lt. Tyler suffered at the hands of L’Rell when he’s triggered by her presence and overcome by PTSD, leaving Burnham to single-handedly complete their mission.  L’Rell manages to defect to the Discovery when Burnham, Tyler, and Cornwell beam aboard.

Lt. Stamets observes the map of 133 jumps he must make
Lt. Stamets observes the map of 133 jumps he must make

Meanwhile Lieutenant Stamets is directed to complete 133 spore drive jumps to help speed up computations needed for defeating Klingon cloaks.  His mission is not without complications when his health takes a turn for the worse, but finds himself able to continue with the assistance of his partner Dr. Culber and fellow engineer Cadet Tilly.

A final jump leaves the Discovery stranded in an unknown place after captain Lorca secretly enters a mysterious destination into his console.

Quick Take on “Into the Forest I Go”

Initial Rating: ★★★★☆

The 9th episode of Star Trek: Discovery brought, what CBS calls, the “first chapter” storyline to a conclusion.

Klingon Ship of the Dead is attacked by the Discovery
Klingon Ship of the Dead is attacked by the Discovery

We see the death of Klingon General Kol (Kenneth Mitchell), who for the first time felt like a character worth getting to know.  The Klingon Sarcophagus ship, also known as the Ship of the Dead, was destroyed in an exciting sequence of events.  Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) gets rescued.  There was also some insight into what Lieutenant Tyler (Shazad Latif) has been through at the hands of the Klingons.  The physical and psychological strain placed on Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) is finally out in the open after Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) lets the secret slip, and Stamets performs over 130 spore-jumps.  We also get what could be a turning point, or possibly the end, of the Klingon War.

Into the Forest I Go also whets the appetite for more by introducing us to the first season’s next chapter. The episode ends with the crew in a completely unknown place, but there are big hints earlier in the episode about alternate realities and “negative space”.  I’m intrigued by what’s coming next.

Let’s go into more detail.

First chapter of season 1 comes to a breathtaking conclusion, and second chapter offers a tantalizing new beginning.

Closing chapter 1

This episode probably had the strongest opening of any this season.  Actually, all around it was a very strong episode.

Captain Lorca ignores Starfleet orders
Captain Lorca ignores Starfleet orders

As a traditional Star Trek fan, I felt captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) finally appeared to be taking on more recognizable character traits of Starfleet officers, such as caring, respect, and morals.  Going against Starfleet Command’s orders, he chooses the moral high ground by deciding to fight the Klingons to save planet Pahvo.  It left me feeling hopeful for his character for the first time.  That is until the end of the episode.  More on that later.

Exciting action sequences

With the spore drive technology logically and predictably being weaponized, scenes of the USS Discovery micro-jumping while at battle with Klingons was exciting.  I’m not usually big on war in Star Trek but this was an exhilarating sequence, the likes of which I felt have never been seen before in any Trek series. The action induced an adrenaline rush, taking me back to the first battle of the USS Defiant.

Speaking of action – it’s an absolutely breathtaking scene when Burnham makes her exit from the Klingon Sarcophagus ship right in the middle of fighting General Kol.  Awesome!  And as General Kol is defeated, I found it visually reminiscent and possibly even more exciting than the destruction of General Chang’s ship in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  Not just more exciting but somehow more satisfying to see, even if Chang was a more relatable character.

Moving away from action and war, but still on the topic of Kol, Kenneth Mitchell was brilliant this episode.  Helped along by the fact he spoke english for much of his character’s dialog, I felt Kol’s emotion came through much better, his intentions were more clear, and I felt a genuine fear of him.

I was surprised to learn captain Lorca’s been keeping a much closer eye on things than we’re originally led to believe.  He’s amassed data on all the spore drive jumps conducted to date and it’s revealed some new intriguing possibilities.  Scientific possibilities that give Lorca a way to manipulate an enthralled Lt. Stamets into making the 133 jumps needed to acquire data necessary to calculate anti-cloaking algorithms.

As the episode nears conclusion, Lorca informs Starfleet the cloak-breaking algorithm will be handed over “in 11 hours”.  It’s unclear how much time passes between then and Discovery’s final jump, but my understanding is Starfleet doesn’t get the technology before the disappearance of the Discovery.

Plenty of great dialog

Besides action, Into the Forest I Go had a number of scenes made up of great dialog too.  The Burnham/Tyler discussion surrounding his imprisonment and the effects that’s had on him were handled very well.  It was a standout and memorable scene.

Burnham and Tyler share an intimate and emotional moment
Burnham and Tyler share an intimate and emotional moment

Separately, Doctor Culber (Wilson Cruz) did a great job of relaying his concern for Stamets while maintaining an objective and professional position.  We learn how deep his commitment to duty goes when he voices the need for Stamets to stop immediately, but then carries on when Lorca orders him to continue.  I felt all these scenes played out very well.  We also get Star Trek‘s first gay male kiss between Stamets and Culber.

I was a little bothered by the speech Lorca makes where he refers to the crew as having been “polite scientists”, but now are “fierce warriors”.  It felt like, as a viewer, I was being told that this is a good thing.  But I don’t see the latter as being desirable and I don’t think Starfleet officers would either.  It’s certainly not why people join Starfleet, which is about peaceful exploration and humanitarian missions.  But none of this means it wasn’t great dialog.  Lorca needs to find a way to rally his crew to fall in line with his agenda, and this manipulation seems to do just that, even if I am a little uncomfortable with the tactic.

Did I mentioned that we finally see the Discovery at warp?  9 episodes into the show.  We’ve always known the Discovery is of course capable of warp, but it’s good to see it in action.

Opening chapter 2

That last fateful move

With the conclusion of the first chapter we’re introduced to the second chapter of Star Trek Discovery‘s first season.  Lorca once again uses his power to manipulate and Stamets agrees to perform a final jump, after which he’ll have Starfleet’s best doctors analyze him.  Lorca, as usual, has his own hidden and possibly nefarious agenda.  During Stamets’ last jump, we see something into Lorca’s keypad – a mysterious destination – as he says “lets go home”.

When the spore drives starts up we see two USS Discovery vessels occupying the same space.  Intriguing!  Could we be peering into the Mirror Universe, a far off location in space, or another point in time?  My ears are tingling.  To end the episode, we have the camera pull out revealing a large debris field of unknown destroyed ships.

Into the Forest I Go proves that with Discovery we can have good Star Trek episodes that have action and still have the thought-provoking dialog and situations that Trek is known for.  I hope to see more of both when the season returns on January 7th 2018.

The final spore-jump of the Discovery reveals two USS Discovery vessels
The final spore-jump of the Discovery reveals two USS Discovery vessels

It’s a great episode but a few shortcomings bothered me enough to knock a 5-star episode down to 4 stars.

As mentioned earlier, this episode earns 4 stars.  Here’s what stopped it from getting 5.

Whatever happened to Pahvan peace?

A big problem I had with this episode, when considered as a finale to last week’s episode, is the way it concluded the two-part story line.  Last week, we learned of Pahvo; that its inhabitants are inherently peaceful, and they can/do transfer that peace and balance whenever engaged.  They go out of their way to.

At the end of last week’s episode, Pahvans send an invitation to the Klingons, seemingly in hopes of brokering some kind of peace between Klingons and the Federation.  But in this week’s episode, all that story build up is essentially ignored.  None of the Pahvan story seemed to matter this week as it wasn’t addressed – at all!  Sure the Klingons arrive and the fight is on, but I was waiting throughout the entire episode for the Pahvan peace-making storyline to appear and it never did.  So I’m not sure why the show runners bothered with world-building the planet’s life forms the way they did.

Planet Pahvo's life forms were introduced in last week's episode.
Planet Pahvo’s life forms were introduced in last week’s episode.

Speaking of detail, this episode gives us nothing to help understand the transmitter on Pahvo.  All we know is it’s naturally occurring, but we have no idea what type of transmission it emits, how that can in any way be used to break Klingon cloaks, or why it was even the purpose of last week’s away mission since it isn’t used.  I suppose it could be Starfleet never gets the go-ahead from the Pahvans and so it’s a moot point, but whether that’s true or not is completely unclear as it’s never addressed.

In the end, unless I missed something big somehow, this week’s episode pretty much makes last week’s episode irrelevant.

As an aside, there’s a few things seemingly out of character

Lastly, at the start of the episode we see Vulcan Admiral Terral direct Captain Lorca to essentially cut and run, which means leaving the Pahvans to certain death by Klingons.  That decision values Starfleet lives over Pahvan life, so this all must be pre-Prime Directive.  The order makes me wonder who’s running Starfleet.

Tangentially, the Vulcans have been bugging me.  It’s not specifically an issue I have with this episode alone, but whenever Admiral Terral is on screen he appears angry.  Rather than cool, collected, and logical like Vulcans are, both he and Sarek comes across as pissed-off all the time.  Ultimately this didn’t detract from the episode overall, but it is something irksome for a long-time Star Trek fan.

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About Cassius Adams

Cassius Adams is the creator of ncc-1031.com and is a content contributor. He has been a Star Trek fan for nearly three decades. Cassius discovered his passion for the franchise early into TNG's run, and nourished that passion throughout DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, and the movies. Cassius can be reached by emailing cass@ncc-1031.com or you can follow him on Twitter at @supercass