Star Trek Discovery: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Burnham, Tyler and Saru have been sent to an alien planet to harness the power of a naturally occurring crystalline antenna that might be the key to detecting cloaked Klingon ships. Meanwhile, Admiral Cornwell finds an unexpected ally aboard the Klingon ship.

I have two preliminary observations to make this week. First is that Discovery is to be renewed for a second season, which is quite exciting in that it will let the writers expand the universe beyond the arc they had planned for season one. Secondly, this show looks absolutely gorgeous on an iPad’s Retina display – which is particularly good for the planet-based sections of this episode.

Now, let’s move onto the story. Apart from the teaser of the very first episode, Discovery has yet to send us to a planet, so this episode promised a welcome change. What follows has been likened to Doctor Who by one of my occasional viewing companions, but actually I rather enjoyed it. We get an insight into Saru as a character (more on that later), some development on the Burnham/Tyler relationship front, and some non-corporeal aliens instead of the usual humanoids.

The second plot thread takes place aboard the main Klingon ship, as L’Rell tries to trick Kol so that she and Cornwell can escape. I was actually rather enjoying L’Rell as an empowered female character for the duration of this storyline, at least until it all seems to go wrong. Will either L’Rell or Cornwell get out of their predicament? Whilst things seem grim for both of them, surely the writers wouldn’t throw away both characters.

Character insights

  • I feel that this episode really fleshes out Saru’s character as a member of a prey species. He’s always uptight and on edge, with his threat ganglia ready to flare out at any moment. Pahvo represents a sensory overload to him, and one he can scarcely stand – at least until the aliens help him adjust. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I can see how tempting it must have been to him to want to stay somewhere where he could finally achieve serenity.
  • Stamets mistakenly refers to Tilly as ‘Captain’ – a sign that the alien DNA might be having an adverse effect on him. I wonder if Stamets is getting ‘memories’ from the future – he may have seen a timeline where Tilly does indeed become a captain. It is her ambition, after all.

Other points

  • I appreciated that it was taking Saru time to learn how to converse with the Pahvans – I know it slows down the story but it’s a nice change from everyone immediately being able to converse with everyone else.
  • It’s not quite strong enough to be a Franchise Nod, but the Pahvans and their attempts to broker peace between humans and Klingons are highly reminiscent of the Organians in Errand of Mercy.
  • Admiral Cornwell says there is no death penalty in the Federation, but in the 23rd century, travel to Talos IV is punishable by death. However, since the events of The Cage occurred no more than a year before this episode, that General Order may not be in place yet.
  • I’m a little disappointed that the female Klingons wear more skirt-like armour. Given how heavily the Klingons have been redesigned, why give them standard male and female gender expression? Klingon society as portrayed on Discovery so far seems pretty gender neutral, so why not run with that?

Summary – Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum: When your new friends invite a bunch of Klingons over to their place.

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