Star Trek: Discovery – Episode 14 “The war without, the war within” Reaction & Review

After the breakneck pace of the last 3 episodes, Discovery mercifully gives an episode for us to pause briefly and reflect on what the heck has just happened!  Although this breathing space was very much needed, I must confess that I feel that through this episode, the hot streak that the show’s been on for the last four episodes finally kind of came to a close.

Perhaps it was inevitable as no show can really sustain a run that’s is as incredible as DISCO has been these last few weeks! If I’m wrong, please let me know as I would love to watch whatever it is!

On saying that, this was not a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination but it just didn’t have the insane wow factor and just all-around edginess of the last couple episodes – and that’s okay!

So, we find the Federation in a position of full retreat! The Klingons have wiped out over a third of Starfleet, a lot of the commanding officers are dead and, as Kirk would say, the situation is grim.

So as this episode gives everyone (crew and fans alike) a chance to catch one’s breath we have a situation where Admiral Cornwall, Saric, Saru, Burnham and even Emperor Georgiou are somehow all working together – desperate times, desperate measures I guess! We find that each are sharing their ideas and resources, trying to come up with a viable strategy to prevent the total annihilation of the federation at the hands of the Klingons. One thing that I really did enjoy about this episode is that it delivered on something I’ve been hoping to see happen over the last few episodes, a hybrid Ash Tyler.

We discover that the person-formally known as Ash Tyler/Voq has become someone new – a hybrid or mixture of two very different individuals. This person is neither Ash or Voq, neither human or Klingon but someone (something?) completely new. Ash Tyler is back in control himself as Ash Tyler but all of his Voq memories seems intact. He remembers everything he did, including trying to kill Michael Burnham, which is an obvious source of friction between the two of them.

Speaking of friction, there was a little bit of sibling-esque tension between Burnham Saru about how she had lied to him about the fate of the Kelpians over in the Mirror Universe. Her reasons for this, she explains, was that she was trying to protect Saru from the knowledge that yep, pretty much everybody’s eating Kelpian over there. I’m sure Saru ultimately understands her reasons for this doing so.

It’s amazing how well the Klingons have been doing in the war, winning a series of overwhelming, but uncoordinated, battles against the Federation. What is quite strange about this state of affairs is that the 24 houses of the Klingons are now divided again and they’re basically competing with each other. Surely divide and conquer should apply here? Anyway, the Klingons are using the Federation as a sport, seeing which house can accumulate the most victories in order to do compare more favorably with their rival houses.

Even though the Discovery has now returned with the algorithm for detecting Klingon cloaking technology, it might be a little bit too little too late to make a difference – mainly because the Klingons have just been on a colossal winning streak, including destroying the Mirror-Discovery. This revelation was actually a bit of a surprise to me because a lot of people suspected that one of the ways that the Klingons were able to achieve such a massive victory overall would be that they were actually joined forces with the Mirror-Discovery and made full use of their spore technology. It is a bit of a shame, I think, that we’re never gonna see the mirror-discover crew. Admiral Cornwell says she saw the wreckage of the Discovery so I think there’s very little chance that we’ll ever actually see the evil Discovery crew in action.

Another detail that I particularly enjoyed was the moment when Admiral Cornwall had basically taken over the Discovery and they were retreating to Starbase One (to regroup, imprison the Terran-Emperor etc) but when they arrive they see that there’s a giant Klingon insignia painted on the base. The shock that the 80,000 inhabitants, including a lot of their leadership as well as three major star ships, have all been either taken or destroyed. This moment actually sent a chill down my spine and like Cornwall, I froze a little bit when I realized just how dire the situation had become! This moment, leads to a desperate Burnham going to have a little talk with Emperor Georgiou. She begs the Emperoress to tell her how to beat the Klingons. Georgiou’s response was to compares two Klingons to a cancer. They’re always dividing, they’re always spreading and the only way you can defeat them is by carving the cancer out of the source – which in this instance is the Klingon homeworld of Qo’noS (or Kronos in english).  Interestingly Kronos has not been visited by anyone from the Federation in over a hundred years!

So if the Discovery tried to map out the Klingon homeworld from orbit they would very quickly be blown out of the sky. So the crew develops an idea of trying to use their spore drive to jump in one of the giant caves, or a network of caves, that are littered throughout the the planet’s core. So here’s where I get a little bit frustrated with the episode because it feels like what I would regard a sloppy storytelling! They have no spores left so they decide that they will terraform a moon and rebuild the Mycelium Network so that they have enough spores to run the spore drive again. The reason I was frustrated because in a matter of minutes they completely rebuild their stockpile but for the last couple of episodes all the writing and all the structure the season have been building toward the idea that the Mycelium Network is a finite resource and it is rotten and it’s been destroyed – that the remaining spores are precious. I think it was a mistake to have them be able to rebuild their stockpiles so quickly and so easily – it makes me suspicious of stakes in the future.

If you present a dramatic situation that it’s supposed to have high drama high stakes, lots of risk involved, but you’re always suspecting ‘oh well, some sloppy writer can come on the next episode and just rewrite everything and it’ll never even really matter in the first place’. This really undercuts my ability to remain as invested in the show as I might be otherwise. Risk and consequences should be important and personally, I would be totally happy with the idea of the spore technology disappeared from the show entirely. A frequent grievance against the show from the hardcore Star Trek community has been that there’s no evidence of this spore drive technology in any of the other shows. We all are waiting for something monumental so that this technology no longer exists and I thought they had found that solution in the previous episode. B

There were two little details that resurrected my enthusiasm for the episode.  At one point Sarek is saying goodbye to Burnham as he’s heading back to Vulcan. It was a lovely little moment that was so well acted – Burnham thinks that the last she will see of her surrogate father, I’m hoping this is not the case.

Finally, let’s talk about the last major curveball which is no doubt gonna drive some people crazy! but the Admiral Cornwall ridiculous idea of having the Emperor Georgiou masquerading as Captain Georgiou in order to lead the scouting expedition to Kronos. Just because Evil Georgiou knows the way and has a detailed knowledge of an enemy she’s already defeated, doesn’t make this a good idea! Perhaps, she will be their best chance at success, but at what cost? Everyone except for Saru and Michael Burnham apparently believes that somehow Captain Georgiou has been found alive. However, we as the audience know exactly what she’s all about so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of tension there will be between her tactics and strategy and the principles and ideals of the Federation in the final episode. My suspicion is that Saru and Burnham will have to team up and oppose Georgiou at some point and use an alternate strategy that’s somewhat more humane than whatever the Emperor has planned.

 

Overall this was a very solid episode but it’s just a little bit of a step back from the excitement and exhilaration of the last few episodes. My feelings of this series overall (and I know it’s not quite finished yet) is that I’m enjoying it a lot more than I did GOT’s Season 1…which is a very good sign.  I already care about the characters so much! If the showrunners can keep up this level of quality, I am really excited about the future of Trek and can see DISCO becoming my favorite Trek series of the lot…perhaps even my favorite show, period.

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