Sunday 7 January 2018

Review: Discovery #9 - Into the Forest I Go

Ready for the start of Discovery's second chapter, I sat down to rewatch the last episode, Into the Forest I Go, and finally reflect on what was a really outstanding episode!

This one had so much going on, with one of the best space battles in Star Trek history, exploration of subjects that, though they shouldn't be, are still pretty edgy and not well explored in TV, and a beautiful symmetry to Burnham's arc that would have made this a pretty satisfying season finale had the series been shorter. Continue below for my thoughts on all those points and more.

A beautiful and action packed episode episode

Visually I think this was one of the best episodes of Star Trek of any series. The space battle, conceived to take full advantage of the Discovery's unique spore drive was exciting, dynamic, and so much fun to watch unfold. And all that was happening while Burnam was busy battling inside in really energetic and visceral fight with Kol.

I feel like Kol was a bit dim here really, letting himself be distracted by Burnham while the Discovery was still buzzing about (easy to say as an outside observer mind you). But even despite that his character really started to have a bit more menace in these scenes, especially as he articulated the way he was manipulating the other houses to his whim. It was kind of a shame this episode saw his end, just as he was starting to really have some presence, but it was a great episode for him to go out on.

The whole rationale of this exciting visual sequence was also pleasingly Star Treky, with a technoble reason for all that spore jumping. This whole sequence made fantastic use of the Sarcophagus ship set too (presumably its last appearance, barring alternate realities), with playful shots taking the camera through the huge set and into space scenes. Revisiting this location was a nice moment of symmetry in Burnham's redemption arc, paid off with the respectful exchange between her and Saru upon her return to the Discovery.

The main mission of the episode was wound up two thirds in, giving us plenty of time to explore the fall out, dig into the characters outside the action, and setup the next events. And it also gave us that lovely breather of a scene in the shuttlebay, with Stamets and Lorca, taking in the beautiful view (makes you wonder how many of the Discovery crew must just hang out in the shuttlebay when they're near something pretty).

The implication seems to be that the Klingon war is all but done now, with the cloak defeated, Starfleet merely has to win the conventional battles... Which is fortunate considering the Discovery seems to have got caught up elsewhere.

Not afraid of sensitive issues

Despite all that beauty, what really stood out in this episode for me was the use of Tyler to explore some really serious issues, namely Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and male rape. The latter especially I commend Discovery for taking on, it is so little reported or explored in any media, and so often treated like a joke. But here it had all the seriousness is deserves, and played into the relationship between Tyler and Burnham so effectively. Perhaps only slightly tarnishing it was the flashback sex scene, which was played weirdly seductively - But, it was almost showing two points of view, with Tyler's moments in that scene anything but pleasurable, contrasted to L'Rell euphoria; I can see why these chose to play it that way even if it didn't wholly work for me.

I am so pleased they played a blinder and did in fact bring Cornwell back, as it put her counselling to great use with Tyler is a stressful scene for them both - Her psychiatric background has been one of the best things in Discovery, so much more effectively used than previous counselor characters. I'm rather disappointed they have swiftly shipped her off again, especially given the hint at a strong bond between her and L'Rell previously. But maybe that's exactly why she has to be out of the picture, ahead of whatever L'Rell scheme is unfolding.

And there we have the biggest mystery of Discovery right now, what the hell is the deal with Tyler and L'Rell (and where is Voq). The way she talked to him certainly implies the validity of the Tyler/Voq theory. However it plays out, one can't help but feel Tyler will be seriously changed by the season's end, if he remains at all - For Burnham's sake I hope he persists!

What next...

Lorca and Stamets scenes were perhaps the strongest clue as to the next twist in the Discovery story. Was Lorca really hoping to explore alternate realities; indeed does he already have some idea of them, with his tampering of that final jump - And if so why was he so surprised when they arrived wherever they were. Lorca never fails to disappoint in not knowing what the hell he is up to!

That cliffhanger ending was perhaps the weakest part for me, as I feel there just wasn't enough cliff. I would have liked a bit more answer, a bit more intreige than, we're lost. If this is the mirror universe, couldn't the ISS Shenzhou and Captain Georgiou have dropped out of warp. If elsewhere I just wanted some delicious morsel for us to speculate on for the last month. But hey, that wait is nearly over and I have every faith in Discovery at this point that they will deliver a satisfying twist to the tale.

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.

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