“ST:Discovery” Ep 8 Beautiful; Barely Moves Story Forward ★★★☆☆

L'Rell and Cornwell share a moment

Episode summary

Directed by John S. Scott

The crew of the USS Discovery attempt to rescue a Starfleet vessel engaged in battle with the Klingons.  Commander Saru, Lieutenant Tyler, and Burnham are tasked with investigating planet Pahvo to determine if a naturally-occurring phenomena may help the Federation penetrate Klingon cloaking devices.

Meanwhile the Klingons are busy implementing cloaking technology within their fleet, and General Kol tasks L’Rell with interrogating Admiral Cornwell aboard the Klingon Sarcophagus ship.

Saru’s interactions with planet Pahvo cause him to experience fearlessness for the first time, impacting him in unexpected ways.

Quick take on ‘Si Vi Pacem, Para Bellum’

Initial Rating: ★★★☆☆

Stardate 1308.9.

This week’s summary was short because I didn’t feel that much happened in the episode.  Star Trek: Discovery battles between a season-long arc and weekly episodic stories.  Si Vi Pacem, Para Bellum suffered from that mix resulting in an episode with very little of either.

Enhanced image of the USS Gagarin NCC-1309
Enhanced image of the USS Gagarin NCC-1309

The episode starts off pretty action-heavy for a Star Trek tv show, but we finally get to see what the USS Discovery has actually been up to during the war.  The Discovery crew perform a rescue attempt on the USS Gagarin, which is caught in a battle against a number of Klingon ships, but fail at their objective.  We later learn the battle resulted in 462 deaths across 3 Starfleet ships.  The visuals for this were top-shelf.

Most of the episode focuses on the away mission of Commander Saru, Lieutenant Tyler, and Specialist Burnham, who are on planet Pahvo doing science.  Of course rather than science for science-sake, their objective is to try and understand and exploit a naturally-occurring phenomenon that they hope will allow Starfleet to peer through Klingon cloaking technology, securing a favourable outcome of the war.

The episode felt a little disjointed being neither episodic nor serial.  Instead it tried to be both, making for a slow-moving segment of the season-long story arc, and a somewhat hollow standalone plot.  Of course both can be done – just look to Deep Space Nine for proof – but I haven’t found that Discovery does that very well yet.  It’s only the show’s first season so there’s plenty of time for the series to find a more fluent balance.

There was beautiful scenery but didn’t feel new

The beauty of planet Pahvo
The beauty of planet Pahvo

It’s cool that Star Trek: Discovery is using natural settings for performing science, and Si Vi Pacem, Para Bellum does that again.  It’s very true to the way so much of science works.  Planet Pahvo has natural properties, frequencies, that Starfleet feels can be used to advance their cloak detection technology.  The idea of an audible signature sound of the planet as being almost musical is a beautiful concept.

I understand there’s a lot of science fiction around, so being original can be difficult.  Planet Pahvo made for a very beautiful setting for the Discovery away team.  However it evoked more than a passing similarity to Pandora, the moon featured in the movie Avatar, both in appearance and substance.  Not only were there noticeable visual similarities between Pahvo and Pandora, but also the concept of planetary unity and a natural unifying network is shared between the two.

Still, Pahvo felt fleshed-out more than most planets on Star Trek and certainly more beautiful.  The natural colours and vibrancy were a nice juxtaposition to ship interiors and battle scenes.

Planet Pahvo in Star Trek Discovery shares strikingly-similar traits to the moon Pandora in the movie Avatar
Planet Pahvo in Star Trek Discovery shares strikingly-similar traits to the moon Pandora in the movie Avatar

Saru story interesting in theory but missed in execution

During the away mission, Saru physically engages with the Pahvan consciousness in an attempt to communicate.  Communication is key to being given authorization to use the Pahvan’s naturally-occurring transmitter, as defined by first contact protocols.

As a result of the interaction and the peaceful state in which the planet exists, Saru becomes almost euphoric from a lack of fear.  Being Kelpien, Saru has felt fear literally his entire life and to exist without it, like most life forms, is intoxicating to him.  The desire to remain fearless essentially overpowers his logical mind and he takes it upon himself to try and convince Burnham and Tyler that they can just stay on the planet.

Saru interacts with life on planet Pahvo
Saru interacts with life on planet Pahvo

I understand what the writers were going for here.  A person who’s life is completely defined by fear would be impacted most by a sense of fearlessness.  But in what world does Saru actually believe that he’ll get to stay on Pahvo?  Especially with Lorca for captain.  The change in character felt so far in left field that for a while I thought he was possessed by an alien life form.

Intriguing Klingon Plot

General Kol, still in charge of the Klingon Sarcophagus ship, has been distributing cloaking technology to other Klingon vessels that vow allegiance, which makes the away team’s mission success ever-so critical.  L’Rell beams aboard Kol’s ship to offer her allegiance in hopes of attaining cloaking technology.  Allegiance isn’t enough for the General, so L’Rell makes another suggesting, partially-revealing her true intentions to us.  She will interrogate Admiral Cornwell and bring glory to Kol.

L'Rell and Cornwell share a moment
L’Rell and Cornwell share a moment

Where things start to get interesting is when we learn L’Rell isn’t actually interested in torturing Cornwell but instead in helping her escape.  In exchange, L’Rell wants to be granted asylum by the Federation so that she may plot her revenge against Kol.

But things take a turn when L’Rell and Cornwell are spotted escaping and L’Rell must convince Kol she has killed Cornwell.  However the General later learns that Cornwell survived L’Rell and has since escaped, putting a damper on L’Rell’s plans.

Intriguing as this twist my be, it’s all we get in terms of advancing the season-long story arc.  That and the initial distribution of cloaking technology among the Klingons has been better explain in canon.

Other things of interest or questionable

Anyone else find it strange that these seemingly non-corporeal entities brought the away team to a physical domicile?

We see that spore drive jumps are clearly having an impact on Lieutenant Stamets.  He has a bit of an episode at one point, calling Cadet Tilly “Captain”.  But the episode doesn’t go far into any sort of details and a scene with Tilly, Dr. Culber, and Stamets in the mess hall was cut from the episode.

Kelpiens can run up to 80kph.  Wow!  That’s only about 30kph slower than a cheetah.

I found a lot of the story and dialog between Burnham and Tyler fell flat, which is unfortunate considering I felt the previous episode did it so well.  Also, there was a scene where Burnham essentially quotes Spock in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.  Lt. Tyler, discussing their needs, says “but so are the needs of the few” to which Burnham responds “or the one”.  I personally found that to be a bit too much.  The the rehashed “needs of the many” conversation yet again.

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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