“We are born afraid, we Kelpiens. It’s how we survive. As such, my whole life, I have never known a moment without fear. The freedom of it. Not… one… moment. Until Pahvo.”
To establish that “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” was a stand-alone episode, a minor distraction from the overall story of Discovery, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum*” begins with a recap of everything prior to the Mudd-centric story. It’s a light slap in the face to the dozing viewer, yet we jump right into the action. Discovery maneuvers apace with the spore drive (powered by Stamets) arriving just a little late for battle with the Klingons. After witnessing the destruction of several Starfleet ships, Lorca beats cheeks and gets out of there. He chews out Starfleet, wanting to know why there were so few resources.
The Klingon cloaking technology is an advantage even the spore drive cannot defeat, but it comes with a design flaw: a Klingon ship cannot fire while cloaked. I made a point a couple of days ago about the contradiction of Klingons. If they prize honor above all, why do they resort to using deceptive technology such as the cloaking device to gain a tactical advantage over their opponents? Why do the Klingons cheat death every chance they get when it is the hope of every Klingon soldier to die in battle?
A strange, natural transmitting source is found on the planet Pahvo capable of providing advance warning of Klingon cloaking activity. Burnham, Tyler, and Saru beam down to either make contact with the alien species that reside here or obtain the technology for use in detecting cloaked ships. When we last left Admiral Cornwell, her aides were slaughtered and she was abducted by L’Rell, the disgraced former “torchbearer” to fallen leader T’Kuvma. Like every Klingon on this show, she wants to seize and consolidate power. Oddly, she tells Cornwell she wants to defect. I don’t know that I believe her. To paraphrase Chief O’Brien, “You learn to watch your back when you’re around those people.” It’s a decidedly bigoted sentiment, but I think it’s good advice. On Pahvo, Saru has been studying the alien species. He tries to communicate with them, to ask for their help in their war with the Klingons. The communication is on a telepathic level. After a night of “conversation” with the natives, Saru is a changed man. He even smiles, as best he can smile. He assures Burnham and Tyler the aliens have agreed to help, but he takes their communicators and destroys them.
L’Rell and Cornwell engage in some phony fisticuffs, but it looks real to me, and more importantly, it looks to real to L’Rell’s rival Kol, who was just about to catch them attempting to escape. L’Rell “kills” Cornwell with a severe head-butt and asks to take her body to a burial chamber. I thought the Klingons regarded a dead body as nothing more than a shell, but whatever. Kol, being a moron, agrees. Burnham and Tyler decide to use the transmitter in Saru’s absence. Tyler stalls Saru, who is obviously under the influence of the natives (initially revealed to be sentient swirls of sparkling blue energy) while Burnham uses the transmitter to attempt to contact Discovery. Saru attacks Burnham, so she phasers him, at least wearing him down long enough to be upset that his “inner peace” has been disturbed by her intervention.
The aliens appear and Burnham appeals to them for their help. Saru warns them that they will become a target for the Klingons if they cooperate with Starfleet. The aliens get the final word by activating their transmitter. There is no explanation given for their advanced organic technology, but I don’t mind. This isn’t a terrible episode, and it does give us another layer of Saru’s characterization. He does not enjoy his telegraphed fear. With L’Rell’s assistance, Cornwell escapes. L’Rell goes to Kol and promises to bring them the secret of the spore drive. Kol calls her a liar. The transmitter on Pahvo sends a message to the Klingons, inviting them to the planet, and now it’s up to Discovery to protect the planet. Stay tuned!
*”If you wish for peace, prepare for war”
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