Man, does some shit go down in this episode.
We begin with a distress call from another ship, the Gagarin. It’s captain, Kovil, puts out the message that they’re being attacked by six Klingon ships, and some help with that would probably be good.
Fortunately, the Discovery jumps in to save the day.
Lorca gives orders to his crew, evasive maneuvers and all that. He asks the operations officer, Owosekun, for a status report, which is that they can’t target any of the Klingon ships due to their cloaking devices. Lorca notes that the Klingons can’t fire as long as they’re cloaked, and orders to keep the pressure up.
Captain Kovil then hails the Discovery, thanking them for their assistance. Lorca responds that this “doesn’t look like a fair fight,” and asks if the other ship can go to warp. Kovil replies that their warp engines are currently down, so that’s a no. Plus their shields are also down, which is not great.
The tactical officer, Rhys, then reports that a Klingon destroyer has just decloaked, and Owosekun adds that 2 battle cruisers are now flanking the Discovery. So, yeah, again, less than ideal.
Then a bird of prey fires at the Gagarin, and Lorca orders to put themselves between the torpedoes and the other ship. They manage to intercept one torpedo. Unfortunately, the other one lands and destroys the other ship.
The crew looks on in shocked horror, but Lorca is all business as he states that the battle is over, and orders for the Discovery to leave and orders a jump.
After the jump, Lorca turns to the bridge crew and says that they can grieve later, before giving the bridge to Airiam (who I referred to in the last post as “the robot lady) and heading into his ready room.
The scene shifts to engineering, where Stamets disengages from the spore drive, looking a bit worse for wear.
Tilly asks him if he’s all right, to which he responds, “What are you doing down here, Captain?”
Nonplussed, Tilly asks Stamets if he just called her captain. He grumpily tells her that’s absurd, before accusing her of “daydreaming on the job.” Tilly stammers out an apology as Stamets stalks off.
In the captain’s ready room, we see the captain discussing the destruction of the Gagarin with Admiral Terral.
He asks the Vulcan admiral why there weren’t any other ships in the area able to render aid. Turns out that there were two other ships in the sector, but they were attacked and destroyed at the same time in a coordinated attack.
Terral asks how many of the Klingon vessels had cloaking devices; Lorca confirms that all of them did, confirming latest intelligence reports that Kol has been giving cloaking tech to houses that ally with him. He then asks for a status update on the mission that Lorca recently sent an away team on. Lorca tells him that the away team landed on a planet called Pahvo about 18 hours prior.
We then cut to the previously mentioned Pahvo, where we learn the away team consists of Burnham, Saru, and Tyler.
As they walk through some woods, Burnham explains what they’re doing there via a log in voiceover: basically, everything on the planet emits a tone, which will somehow allow them to detect cloaked ships. To that end, they’re heading for some kind of natural transmitter on the planet to do something that would help them with that.
The log ends, and Saru mentions that they’re currently 8.4 kilometers away from the transmitter. Burnham comments that, though the transmitter’s interference forced them to beam down 30 kilometers away from it, it “could be worse.” Tyler adds that they’ve been making good time, since they have two days before the Discovery comes back to pick them up.
Saru scoffs at this, and tells them that if he was alone, he could have made to the transmitter in 15 minutes. Tyler says he didn’t know Saru was “such a sprinter.” Burnham confirms this, and says that Kelpiens can reach speeds of up to 80 KPH if something’s chasing them.
Saru, sarcastically, responds, “And we particularly enjoy being discussed in the third person while present.” Burnham apologizes, but Saru adds that he also has better eyesight and hearing than the other two do. However, this isn’t really an advantage here, since he’s also more sensitive to the planet’s noise.
As if in response, the noise increases to the point where Tyler and Burnham can hear it as well, and a blue mist coalesces nearby, into a vaguely humanoid shape. Saru hands Tyler his weapon, telling him to keep it pointed at the ground, before going to investigate the cloud. Guessing that it’s some kind of life form, he greets it.
Tyler tells Burnham that he thought the planet was uninhabitated; Burnham starts scanning the cloud and reports that it isn’t coming up on said scanner as a life form.
The cloud makes a kind of trilling sound, and Saru thinks it wants them to follow it. Tyler points out that it wants them to go away from the transmitter, but their hosts seem to be rather insistent as more clouds surround them.
We then shift to the Klingon Ship of the Dead, where L’Rell approaches General Kol.
Kol tells her that her new facial scar is an improvement, and L’Rell responds that she’s proud of it, as she gained in battle before congratulating him on managing to ally so many houses to his.
Kol reminds her that he’s not T’Kuvma, and that he’s out for domination, not unity. L’Rell then says that she’s not here to fight him, she’s here to join him.
Kol is, naturally, a little skeptical, but decides to give her a chance when she reminds him she’s good at interrogation (i.e,torture), and that they have a rather important prisoner on board who’s refused to speak.. Kol decides to give her a crack at the prisoner, and tells her he’ll consider her request if she’s successful.
Back on Pahvo. Burnham, Tyler, and Saru follow their new cloud friends, who lead them to what looks like a kind of natural hut.
Upon entering, Tyler asks what the cloud is saying. Burnham takes out her communicator to attempt a translation, but it’s as stumped as the rest of them. Saru says he doesn’t think that they mean them any harm, but Tyler is less than convinced.. Saru reminds him that he’d be the first two know if there was any danger, and that they need to find a way to communicate with their hosts. He hands his gear to Burnham and Tyler and approaches the cloud.
He introduces himself and asks permission to see if the sounds they’ve been making constitute an actual language, reaching his hand towards it. It dissipates, and. he recoils. Burmham asks if he’s all right; Saru says that what he just experienced was more strange than painful, and that he thinks he felt the Pahvan’s intentions before adding that he needs some time to process this.
Burnham says that now they can’t touch the transmitter now, and Tyler asks about General Order 1 (aka the prime directive). She tells him that they’ve gone way beyond that and into first contact territory, which means that they can’t do anything until the natives give their permission.
Back on the Ship of the Dead, we see L’Rell walk into a cell, carrying a rack full of some rather unpleasant looking items. We also see who the prisoner is: Admiral Cornwell.
L’Rell tells Cornwell to scream, which she refuses. This prompts L’Rell to get into the admiral’s face and yell, which causes Cornwell to yell back. The guard, laughing, leaves the room, which is what L’Rell wanted. She tells Cornwell that her scream was convincing, and that they can speak freely now that the guard is gone.
In the hut on Pahvo, Tyler asks Burnham if she thinks Saru will be able to convince the Pahvans to let them complete their mission; Burnham responds that they kind of need to if there’s any hope of ending the war.
The conversation turns to what they would plan to do at the end of the war, with Tyler talking about a property he owns on a lake. Burnham responds that “sounds perfect,” and Tyler notes that she sounds less than enthused. She reminds him that she’s a convicted mutineer, and the only place she’s going after the war is back to jail.
Tyler, however, has a suggestion: basically, ditch their mission so the war never ends; therefore, Burnham remains free. Burnham starts to point out the old Vulcan adage about “the needs of the many.” Tyler interrupts by adding, “are worth fighting for. But so are the needs of the few.”
Burnham says, “Or the one,” and the two kiss.
In the Discovery’s mess hall, Tilly seats herself at Stamets’s table. She asks him what his deal is recently, but he doesn’t want to talk about it and brusquely dismisses her. He’s not going to get rid of her that easily, however, and he just decides to tell her if she won’t leave.
He says that he’s been coming away from the spore drive somewhat disoriented: “One minute, I’ll know where I am, who you are, what I’m doing, and the next, all of a sudden, what I know…changes. It gets jumbled.”
Tilly asks him if he’s told Culber about what’s going on. Stamets says he doesn’t want to hurt him, as if he told his partner Culber would have to report it to Starfleet, which would result in Stamets getting locked up in some lab somewhere, and not reporting it would destroy Culber’s career.
Tilly reassures him that they’ll keep an eye on him and that hopefully it’ll eventually stop, but Stamets doesn’t look very reassured, much to Tilly’s consternation.
Now we go back to the Ship of the Dead, where L’Rell asks the admiral what happens to Klingons who are taken prisoner; the admiral tells them they’re imprisoned, interrogated, and will likely be returned to their people when the war is over. L’Rell seems surprised that they’re not just executed; Cornwell tells her the death penalty isn’t really the Federation’s thing.
Then, L’Rell says something that surprises the hell out of Cornwell: she wants to defect. Cornwell looks at her surprised, and L’Rell explains: Kol has no honor, and she feels completely alone on the ship since all her fellow travelers have either been executed or chased off. She adds that her ship is in a nearby hangar, and that she’ll help Cornwell escape in exchange for asylum on the Discovery.
Which isn’t suspicious at all, given she’s a spy, but we’ll roll with it.
Cornwell, thinking along the same lines, asks why she should trust her. L’Rell, however, points out that the admiral doesn’t really have any other options.
Back on Pahvo, a rather tired looking Saru re-enters the hut where Burnham and Tyler have been talking. She asks him how the negotiations are going; Saru responds that they’re “still establishing a vocabulary, so not very far.”
Tyler asks if the entities in question are native to the planet, and Saru says it’s more than that: “They are the planet.” Am I the only one who had the Lifestream from Final Fantasy VII come to mind, or am I just that much of an uber-dork?
Anyway, Saru continues: “Everywhere you go, you can feel the symbiosis between nature and the living spirit. Amazing to think that while we fight our war, a place of peace and harmony not only survives, but thrives.”
Burnham asks if the Pahvans were the ones who built the transmitter. Saru isn’t sure, but adds that the locals have been trying to contact other life forms since they came into being.
He sags a bit, and Burnham says that he looks exhausted. Saru says that the planet’s constant noise is still getting to him, but is better when he’s with the Pahvans.
Tyler gets to the point and asks if he thinks he can convince them to let the away team do what they came to the planet for. He says that he hopes so, but suggests that they turn in for the night.
Later that night, we see Tyler and Burnham fast asleep, but Saru seems to be having some issues with that. He gets up, leaves the hut, and practically begs the Pahvan outside to do something about the noise before he goes completely nuts.
The being responds to this by surrounding him, and some trippy shit happens.
We get some battle scenes, with Saru in voice over explaining that they’re in the middle of a war, with him adding that he’s basically constantly afraid. He also tells him that they need their help to stop the war.
The creature withdraws, and Saru is significantly less agitated than he was before.
The next morning, Saru re-enters the hut. Burnham cheerfully comments that he looks like he’s actually gotten some sleep, and Saru says that he feels much better now. He adds that he’s already told the captain about their “new circumstances.” This confuses the hell out of Burnham and Tyler, since the ship is still out of range.
Saru explains this by saying that he linked his communicator with the transmitter to boost the signal, which prompts Burnham to ask if their hosts were all right with this. Saru says that they’ll give them anything they want, and Burnham again asks if that means they have permission to complete their task. Saru says their mission has changed, and asks the two for the communicators, which they hand over.
And then look on in shock as he crushes both of them in his hands.
He then adds that they don’t need them anymore, since the Pahvans have invited them to stay indefinitely. Burnham, still shocked and now somewhat angry, tells him that they can’t do that.
Saru responds, “In time, you will experince this world as I do. You must be open to it. Even your limited sensory abilities will improve eventually.” So, Saru’s gone completely insane, which is not super great.
Burnham tells him as much (though more politely), and Saru disagrees. He says that he’s going to tell their hosts the good news as the other two look at him dumbfounded.
As soon as he’s out of earshot, Tyler says that Saru’s clearly lying about having spoken to the captain, since there’s no way in hell Lorca would have let them ditch the mission.
Burnham reiterates Federation protocol regarding first contact, but Tyler counters that Saru told him they’d let them do anything. She tells him that they can’t tryst anything Saru tells them right now, but Tyler reminds her that with Saru seemingly out of commission, he’s the ranking officer on the mission now.
The scene then shifts to L’Rell and Cornwell making their way through the Klingon flagship.
L’Rell assures the admiral that she knows the ship like it was her home, which it actually used to be. She adds that she really, really wants to kill Kol, so they’ll set the warp core to overload before making their escape.
Cornwell comments, “He really disappointed you.” L’Rell responds that she’s disgusted by him before adding that the only issue with the plan is that she won’t get to see the look on his face as he dies.
So, naturally, this is about where they run into a pair of guards. Realizing they’ve been caught, L’Rell grabs Cornwell and says that she wasn’t what she had expected. Cornwell says, “Neither were you,” before grabbing L’Rell’s knife and attacking.
The two of them scuffle for a bit, and L’Rell gains the upper hand. She tells the admiral that she at least “won’t die in a cage” before slamming her against some kind of electrical device, seemingly killing her.
She then turns to the guards and explains that the prisoner had grabbed her knife and tried to make a break for it, and that she’ll take care of the body. The guards seem to buy this, and leave L’Rell to drag Cornwell way.
Back to the A-plot. Tyler is working on a rifle in the hut when Saru walks in, holding something that appears to be a fruit of some kind. He cheerfully tells him that they won’t be having “synthetic protein rations” for dinner that night, before noticing Burnham isn’t there and asking where she is.
Tyler, not exactly lying, says that the two of them had a fight and that Burnham decided to go for a walk to cool down. Saru says that he’s sorry about that, but “soon you will know what it means to exist without conflict.” He then says he’ll go look for her, since she must be hungry.
Tyler does not want this, so distracts him by asking why the noise doesn’t seem to be bothering him as much as it did before. Saru says that the Pahvans helped him with that, and that he “was not yet in harmony.”
Tyler says, “Sounds like you were fighting something, then you just stopped.” Saru agrees with that assessment , and Tyler says that he doesn’t know how to stop doing that. Saru asks what Tyler’s fighting, and Tyler says he doesn’t just want to defeat the Klingons. He wants to hurt them as badly as he can.
Saru tells him that’s natural, given the extent of the torture they subjected him to, but that is all in the past. Tyler tells him that he can’t “just forget something like that.” Saru responds, “What’s the other option? Allowing it to transform you into something worse than those who did this?”
Tyler says that if he make the Klingons suffer, then yes.
There’s an awkward pause, then Saru gets up and picks a rock up off the ground. He tells Tyler that he wants to offer the same peace that the Pahvans gave him, and prompts Tyler to put his hand on the rock. He does, and the rock starts glowing, which is weird.
After a moment Tyler pulls his hand away sharply, almost as if it burns. Saru then realizes that Tyler isn’t exactly telling the truth about why Burnham left. He is less than pleased with this development, knocking the device Tyler was using earlier out of his hand and demanding to know where Burnham has gone.
We then see Burnham arrive at the transmitter, to which she attaches a commications device.. The scene cuts briefly to Saru running through the forest after her, which shows that he can, indeed, book it if he needs to. Back at the transmitter, Burnham is trying to use the device to contact the Discovery, to no avail.
She then sees Saru running along the cliff nearby, and tries to get it to work faster.
On the Ship of the Dead, L’Rell drags the admiral to what appears to be a storage room, which is filled with corpses. Much to her horror, these are largely the corpses of people that she knew. Before leaving the admiral, she swears to those corpses that she will avenge them.
On Pahvo, Saru finally manges to catch up to Burnham, and pulls her away from the transmitter. She gets up and tries to stop him, but is thrown away again easily.She then tries to crawl towards her phaser which was knoced away in the fighting, but Saru pulls her away from it. Fortunately, she’s able to grab a hold of a nearby log, which she uses to smack him in the face.
He lets go of her, and she manages to grab her phaser as he goes back to try and destroy the comm link. She shoots him, but it only seems to stun him momentarily. Burnham tries to get Saru to back down, but he is beyond listening at this point, and so she shoots him twice more. He collapses, still conscious, as Burnham approaches.
Phaser still pointed, she asks him if this was what harmony looks like, and Saru angrily tells her she took that from him. Burnham then adds, “I would give anything for a second, a millisecond, of peace. But until the war is over, none of us can have it. Saru, staying here-it’s not gonna fix anything. We have the power to end this conflict. Saru, we need you.”
Saru again tells her that they won’t take this from him and goes back to the comm link, but is interrupted by the Pahvans bringing Tyler. He runs to Burnham and asks if she’s OK.
The Pahvans then seem to say something to Saru, who clearly doesn’t like what he’s hearing. He tells them he was trying to protect them, and that they “have to make them all understand,” before adding they should never have come and that the Pahvans shouldn’t involve themselves in their conflict.
Burnham asks the Pahvans to listen to her, and that they are also seeking harmony. However, their enemies don’t have the same goal in mind, and that they need their help to bring an end to the conflict. Saru, again, urges them to stay out of it.
The Pahvans say something in their “language,” and the transmitter activates, to Saru’s despair.. A message comes through the comm link from Lorca, saying they have a lock on their position and are ready to beam up. They are beamed aboard, Saru still kneeling on the ground and distraught.
A bit later, Burnham, Tyler, and Saru are in sickbay. Burnham gets up and goes over to a clearly ashamed Saru.
She asks Saru to look at her, which he does reluctantly, and asks him if he’s all right. He says that he’d lied to both of them, and that he could have killed Burnham. Burnham says that he wasn’t himself at the time, and Saru says no, that was pretty much all him at that point. He adds that his people are constantly afraid due to their status as prey on their homeworld, and that Pahvo was the first place he was ever unafraid. Which, ironically, led to him being afraid of that being taken from him.
On the Ship of the Dead, L’Rell reports to Kol that before Cornwell’s “escape attempt” she was able to confirm that the Discovery does indeed contain an extremely powerful technology Kol may find useful. Kol, however, isn’t super happy with her, considering that she almost let a prisoner escape. L’Rell gives the counterpoint that she didn’t get away from her for long, and that if he can’t see her value, she’ll just leave. She turns to do exactly that, but is stopped by two of Kol’s guards.
She turns back to him, and he tells here that there will be other prisoners, and that he would, in fact, find her skills useful. He then dips his fingers into a bowl, and paints a red streak over each of her eyes.
L’Rell, standing, says it would be her honor to serve him, but Kol responds, “Did you think I would not see through your deceit?” He then tells his guards to “show her how House Kor treats liars.”
The guards drag her away, and one of the crew tells Kol that they’re receiving a message. From Pahvo.
Back on the Discovery, Burnham and Tyler go to the bridge. Lorca, displeased tells them they said their mission was successful, and Burnham responds that she thought that it was, and that the Pahvans repaired their equipment.
The captain turns to the comms officer, who tells them that there’s a signal being transmitted from the planet, but it’s an electromagnetic wave rather than the tone they were hoping could decloak the Klingons’ ships. Tyler is confused, and says that he watched Burnham install the device exactly as ordered.
Lorca tells them that said signal from the planet is being transmitted on the subspace channels used by both the Federation and the Klingons. Which is essentially inviting the Klingons to join them there.
Burnham moves to the captain, and explains that the Pahvans think that they’re helping with this, by bringing the Klingons there to try and work out their differences. And, as if on cue, the tactical officer tells them there’s a Klingon vessel coming in at high warp. And, of course, it’s the Ship of the Dead.
Burnham tells Lorca they have to stay and fight, because they’re the only chance the Pahvans have. There is one last shot of the transmitter before the episode ends.
So, I want to take a moment to talk about the episode’s title, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum.” The phrase is Latin, and translates to “If you want peace, prepare for war.” This fits the episode perfectly, as this is what the central conflict revolves around: both Saru and Burnham want peace, but have differing views on how to gain it. Burnham thinks that the way to peace is by defeating the Klingons, while Saru mostly seems to want to run away from the conflict. It’s pretty clear that the episode is on the side of Burnham, however.
Note that I do not necessarily agree with the core idea of the phrase, however. I just thought it was an extremely fitting title for the episode’s themes.
I also just wanted to point out how great an actor Doug Jones is. I already knew that, largely from his work with Guillermo Del Toro, but thought it bears mentioning. The fact that he’s able to do this through a metric fuckton of prosthetics is amazing to me.
All in all, I thought this was a pretty good episode.