Discovery's eighth episode, Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum. There's an awful lot going on in this episode, maybe too much... As we return to the more serialised story after two fairly standalone episodes we also seem to be returning to Discovery's familiar air of mystery; who is playing who? What is everyone's real motivation? Continue below for my thoughts (spoiler filled) on those unfolding mysteries.
This episode is written by Kirsten Beyer, and the perhaps-naive swirly energy lifeforms, the Pahvans, feel not too far removed from her Children of the Storm (of the eponymous novel) and the waveform beings (from the Protectors trilogy). Those previously encountered beings (from of perspective at least, both are from the late 24th century in-universe) led to some fascinating storytelling to uncover their true natures; something which just barely seems to have been started in this episode - But with the action apparently centered on Pahvo in the next episode too, maybe there's more to come.
Which I think is the source of my mixed feelings in general with this episode. Is it basically part one of a two parter, or is this section of the story meant to be tied up in this episode? If it's the latter then I find this episode a bit rushed, and a bit too unresolved.
But working with what we've got for now... The Pahvans, a sort of mini Federation as manifest within an ecosystem, are a lovely idea. It gives us a nice way to reflect on the peace and harmony ideals of the Federation currently kept at arm's length - Indeed that reflection was made by Burnham towards the end.
On the face of it this seems to be an episode for Saru. The definitely paid off by the episode's end, with his touching moment describing finding some semblance of peace.
However I feel a stronger link to Burnham, in that the Pahvans seem to parallel her own story arc. They seem a bit naive, they have access to some facts which lead them to certain conclusions about the situation at hand, and thus they take some possibly rather rash actions - In this case summoning the Klingons. With Burnham apparently feeling protective of them come the end of this episode, could this parallel path (and whatever fate awaits the Pahvans) prove a point of reflection for Burnham later on when the immediate events are passed?
What are you up to L'Rell?
Meanwhile in Klingon space... My first instinct is not to believe for a second that L'Rell really wants to defect. Surely really she just wants to get aboard the Discovery (she said as much) to carry out some clever plan involving Tyler or Lorca (her former prisoners), or Voq (who has vanished).
But, I do believe, even before her finding-all-the-bodies moment, that she doesn't much care for Kol, so might indeed just do whatever it takes to dethrone him. And given her duplicitous nature I don't think we know enough about her real motivations with T'Kuvma before to know what her true overall objectives are - Although of all her scenes her devotion to T'Kuvma and distress at her fallen comrades do seem the most genuine.
I supposed next time we see L'Rell we'll find out she meant to be caught out by Kol all along for some other part of her elaborate plotting - That would certainly help explain her incredibly botched escape routine with Cornwell...
Meanwhile on the Discovery...
The other Discovery moment was that fantastic space battle at the beginning. Giving us Lorca in his element in the battle, commanding his crew while restlessly roaming the bridge. It was lovely to see the Discovery bridge crew in action, functioning as a unit.
I feel I'm probably reading too much into everything. But this is what Discovery seems to do to me! I expect mystery and intrigue at every turn!
I welcome the return of the serialised stories, especially as I'm hungry for more of the Klingon side of things. But gosh I do immediately also kind of miss the self contained simplicity of the last couple of episodes!
Too much of this episode feels incomplete to me, so I'm hoping it does play like part one of a two part story, with the next episode tying up a few more loose ends before setting up inevitable other dangling threads to lead us into the rest of the season.
Loose ends aside there were some great ideas in this episode, I guess maybe more than anything I just wish it had been longer to expand upon them all.
Star Trek: Discovery is be distributed almost everywhere in the world on Netflix, except for the US where is will be available on CBS All Access, and Canada where it will be on Bell Media channels and services. For an overview of the series, behind the scenes coverage, and tie-in products, visit my Star Trek: Discovery guide page. Or for details of each episode, including links to previews and reviews, see my episode list.