Episode 8 “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” of Star Trek Discovery is the penultimate mid-season finale. That is, this episode sets out to set up the climatic mid-season finale next week. Although it has some great Trek influences, the episode doesn’t stand out well and is probably the sloppiest episode of the season so far.
The war against the Klingons is going badly for the federation. As Kol has taken the ghost ship with the cloaking device previously, he is now giving more Klingons the technology in exchange for their loyalty.
Federation ships are constantly being ambushed by these undetected ships and only The Discovery ship with her spore drive is able to bring any sort of backup to the fights.
The episode starts with such a fight, however, with only USS Discovery at hand, the USS Gagarin is destroyed by the Klingons. Captain Lorca finds out from the federation that two other ships nearby were similarly ambushed and destroyed.
Welcome to Pahvo
Michael Burnham, Saru and Ash Tyler are down on a planet called Pahvo on a secret mission. The planet emits a ringing song, and they believe they can use it as a way to detect the hidden Klingon ships. They have no communication with the USS Discovery to try and stay hidden from the Klingons finding out about their mission.
Although the planet registers as uninhibited, the team are met by a new alien race made up of shining blue particles. The alien reaches out to try and communicate with Saru.
It turns out that the entire planet is in harmony with itself, that everything is singing to the same song because it’s one entity of sorts. Saru’s heightened senses make the planet too noisy for him. In the night, unable to sleep, he begs the being to give him peace.
In the morning, Burnham and Tyler are greeted by a new, happy Saru. He lies to them about contacting the USS Discovery and tricks them into giving him their communicators. Which he easily destroys with his bare hands. Saru is happy and wants to live on the planet forever, undetected and away from the war.
Unable to bring him back to his normal state, Burnham and Tyler decide to try and get a transmission out to the Discovery. They trick Saru, giving time for Burnham to appeal to the alien beings.
They are rescued by the USS Discovery. Saru admits it was the first time in his life he lived without feeling any fear and dispairs in the medical bay. It’s an interesting character development.
L’rell and the Admiral
On the Klingon ship, L’rell comes to Kol and offers her services as an interrogator. She meets the admiral who is being kept a prisoner. However, instead of torturing her, she tells her she wants to defect to the Federation.
L’rell explains that her friends and allies were all killed by Kol and that she is lonely. She has no one left and she knows the Federation does not kill its prisoners. She explains that she will escape with the admiral to the USS Discovery.
On their attempted escape, they are found by Kol and L’rell quickly knocks her to the ground. It’s unsure whether she is simply unconscious or dead. L’rell drags her to a room of bodies and leaves her.
Kol announces that he knows L’rell’s a liar and has her taken away.
The Pahvo send out a message inviting the Klingons to their planet. The Klingons accept. Although the Pahvo means to bring peace between the Klingons and the federation it feels more likely that a big battle will now break out. The Discovery realise they are the only protection the Pahvo have against the Klingon.
The overall pacing of the episode feels very off. It feels as if there was perhaps more scenes or longer scenes to explain things, but it was heavily edited down. The main plot was interesting, but I think deserves to be developed further. Meeting new alien species and first contact is a huge part of Star Trek. Side-lining that to the war storyline feels like a waste.
The development and conflict between Saru and Burnham could also be expanded. We learn a lot more about his species. It would have been great to see that expanded on and their relationship with each other develope.
Scenes with L’rell and the Klingons also don’t seem very well thought out. On the one hand, it might all get explained later on. On the other, it could just be sloppy writing. It does further the season story arc, but it didn’t feel compelling.
Finally, there was also a bit about Officer Stamets and his mental health due to continuous use of the Spore Drive. But it’s sort of tacked on and didn’t add anything to the episode.