by Eric Renner Brown | via Entertainment Weekly
As Star Trek: Discovery approaches its midseason finale — Sunday’s episode was the penultimate installment before it takes a break until January — the show has dabbled in plenty of the franchise’s plot staples. Discovery has devoted episodes to science and to intergalactic strife, to psychological drama and to the manipulation of time itself. But, perhaps because of the new series’ serialized nature, there hadn’t really been a disposable hour — until “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum,” that is. While the episode developed the plot in some significant ways, making it likely next week’s “Into the Forest I Go” will be a doozy, it wasn’t tremendously compelling in its own right.
That’s partly because the Klingons reappeared. So far, the Federation’s adversaries have proved most useful as specters lurking in the galactic background, driving the show through their mere existence. Stiff dialogue, flat performance, and a disjointed storyline make scenes with characters like L’Rell and Kol a drag — and there were multiple such scenes in “Si Vis Pacem.”
At the conclusion of “Lethe,” Cornwell led a mission to Cancri IV (in Sarek’s stead) to negotiate with the Klingons, who captured her and murdered her companions. Now the admiral is imprisoned aboard the vessel of the Klingon leader Kol, whom L’Rell visits to offer her talents as an interrogator.
But L’Rell — who saved Voq from death at Kol’s hands in “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry” — isn’t genuine: When she enters Cornwell’s cell, the Klingon says she wishes to defect and proposes that she and Cornwell escape. The plan goes awry when Kol and a companion see L’Rell and Cornwell walking through the ship’s halls — and to dispel suspicion, L’Rell murders Cornwell. L’Rell drags Cornwell’s corpse to an adjacent room, where she discovers corpses of some of her Klingon allies and swears vengeance upon Kol.
Later, when L’Rell meets with Kol aboard the Klingon vessel’s bridge, the leader chastises her for being “reckless” with their Federation prisoner. L’Rell swears fealty, but Kol sees through her deceit, instructing his minions to “show her how House Kor treats liars.”
In prior installments, thrilling Discovery stories have offset inert Klingon plots. But “Si Vis Pacem” mostly sidelines some of Discovery‘s most compelling characters — Lorca, Stamets, Tilly, and Culber — in favor of a mission on the planet Pahvo. As Terral, the Vulcan admiral, explains to Lorca at the outset, after a particularly bloody day for the Federation, the mission is of utmost importance. Fine — but that doesn’t mean it makes for great TV.
Burnham, Tyler, and Saru have descended upon Pahvo to harness what they believe to be a crystal structure that’s a naturally occurring transmitter. By modifying its electromagnetic frequency, Starfleet hopes to use the structure to detect Klingon vessels cloaked in invisibility.
Predictably, things don’t go as planned. The Discovery crew thinks Pahvo is uninhabited, but they’re greeted by peculiar, amorphous beings — whom Starfleet’s technology doesn’t register as lifeforms. Saru, a self-described “first contact specialist,” initiates a dialogue with the Pahvans, creating a hairy situation: As Burnham explains, now that they’ve revealed themselves to these sentient beings, they can’t borrow or alter any Pahvan property without receiving consent — including the transmitter they wish to harness.
Initially, that doesn’t seem like it’ll be much of a problem. Saru laments that establishing a vocabulary with the Pahvans has been difficult, but remains optimistic. And in the evening, after Tyler shares his hopes of returning to Lake Shasta, going sailing, and catching fresh trout for Burnham, the two kiss. The whole thing feels like a cosmic campout.
Click HERE to read the recap, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum (S1 E8)”