Mar 9, 2021
Star Trek: Discovery "The War Without, the War Within"
Previously on Star Trek: Discovery: Lt. Ash Tyler was really the Klingon known as Voq, Son of None, with Ash Tyler’s psyche grafted over his own, and L’Rell was the only one who could treat him. In the Mirror Universe, Empress Georgiou killed Lorca (who was actually Mirror Lorca) and Burnham decided she couldn’t let Georgiou die again and transported her against her will to the Discovery. The ship got back to the Prime Universe but it turned out nine months had passed since they left, in which time the Klingons had (almost?) won the war.
We open on a shot of Discovery’s hull, where robots are busy changing the “ISS” back to “USS”. It’s good to see the crew is focusing on what’s really important right now.
Saru just kind of wanders into the transporter room and sees Georgiou on the pad and calls her “Captain”. Was he not briefed on there being a Mirror Universe version of Georgiou? To Georgiou, he’s just a random Kelpien and she immediately takes him for a slave, but Burnham says Saru is her captain. Georgiou reacts in disbelief and brings up how they actually ate Kelpiens last night back in her universe, and Burnham gets a total bitch what is you doing look on her face.
Saru orders Georgiou teleported to guest quarters, and it seems he’s really pissed at Burnham for not mentioning there were Kelpiens in the other universe. Yes, for some reason, Burnham lying about the presence of Kelpiens in the Mirror Universe is what he’s angry about, and not, you know, her eating one of his kind.
Saru then turns to the random nobody staffing the transporter room and says that Georgiou’s presence on this ship is “classified” and not to be shared with anyone, and if he violates this order he could be charged with treason. And this is the show’s first feeble attempt at explaining how the Mirror Universe remains completely unknown at the time Kirk and Co. cross over, but there’s more later, and it gets worse.
Saru then gets word from “Dr. Pollard” (Discovery’s Chief Medical Officer? Maybe?) that Tyler is awake after his treatment by L’Rell. Saru wants Burnham to accompany him to Sickbay, thinking that a “familiar face” might help Tyler to heal, but Burnham’s going to take a rain check on that, what with him trying to kill her the last time they were together and all.
Saru goes to Sickbay, where Tyler promises that Voq is no longer inside him. And Saru apparently takes him at his word, even though Tyler still has all of Voq’s memories and can fully remember the “species reassignment” surgery that Voq was subjected to.
Also, we learn the purpose of planting Voq/Tyler aboard Discovery was to take control of the ship and inspire more Klingons to follow T’Kuvma’s house. Fair enough, but I can’t recall Voq/Tyler making any move that could be even vaguely interpreted as a prelude to an attempt to take over the ship.
Ash remembers how he killed Culber and tried to kill Burnham, and says, “I belong in the brig.” Mind-blowingly, Saru disagrees, and blames all the violence on Voq. Saru decides that now that Voq is gone, Ash Tyler should be free to go, with only a tracking bracelet to limit his movements around the ship. No, seriously. According to everything explained on this show, Tyler is just Voq transformed into a human, and “Ash Tyler” is a completely manufactured personality based on a dead Starfleet officer. How can Voq be “gone” when Tyler is Voq and Tyler isn’t even real?
Saru is called to the bridge as a Federation ship approaches, and suddenly they’re boarded by an armed contingent of humans and Andorians and Tellarites that looks exactly like the rebels they encountered in the Mirror Universe a few episodes back. I guess these are supposed to be the prime universe versions of the rebels, but it’s kind of confusing, and made me momentarily think some of the rebels stowed away on the Discovery on its way back to its own universe.
Eventually, the contingent says it’s safe for two more people to beam aboard, and it’s Admiral Cornwell and Sarek. They had to take these precautions, because as far as they know, the Discovery was destroyed nine months ago. But then Sarek does a mind-meld on Saru and learns he’s who he says he is, and he also learns where they’ve been all this time. Wow, mind-melds sure were a lot more common than Spock led us to believe the first time he did one on TOS. Sarek also declares that Captain Lorca is dead.
In a briefing room, Cornwell reacts to the revelation that Lorca was an impostor (whom she also slept with—whoops!) by taking a phaser to his bowl of fortune cookies. Meaning she brought his bowl of cookies from his ready room to this briefing room just so she could phaser it in front of everybody. She says she saw the Discovery destroyed with her own eyes, but Saru explains that they switched places with the ISS Discovery and that’s the ship that was destroyed. So the Mirror versions of the whole crew aren’t running around causing mayhem in the Prime Universe? Seems like (yet another) missed opportunity.
Cornwell says they’re finally transmitting Discovery’s algorithm for cracking the Klingon cloaking technology to the rest of the fleet, but it may be too late. She runs down a list of deadly Klingon attacks on Federation colonies and starbases, with each attack conspicuously carried out via drastically different methods.
Sarek explains that without a common leader, all 24 houses of the Klingon Empire are separately waging war against the Federation. Cornwell then says all evidence of Discovery’s journey to the Mirror Universe will be “classified and destroyed”, because knowledge of an alternate universe would be dangerous. Sarek says that they’ve had lots of casualties, and people might be tempted to cross over to see their dead children or dead parents again. What? This makes no sense. This is our explanation for why nobody on Kirk’s crew knows about the Mirror Universe?
It’s worth pointing out that after Kirk and crew crossed over, and all records of his mission presumably weren’t classified or destroyed, it took about 80 years for someone else to cross over, and they only got there accidentally. So the notion of the Mirror Universe suddenly experiencing a massive influx of Prime Universe tourists is kind of ridiculous, especially considering how it’s not exactly easy to travel between universes (at least, not until Smiley invents his interdimensional transport magic wand thingie).
Cornwell wants Discovery to jump to Starbase One, but Stamets breaks the news that they’re out of spores and they’ll have to use warp power to get there. Sarek warns that a journey at warp speed will be “perilous” due to the Klingon presence, which of course never becomes important and is never mentioned again.
Burnham says she’s got one more thing to show to Cornwell, and takes her to meet Empress Georgiou. Burnham wants her to be granted “asylum”, but Cornwell simply says that once they get to Starbase One, she’ll turn Georgiou over to Starfleet authorities and let them figure it out. Yeah, this one seems like a bit of sticky wicket to me, too.
Meanwhile, Ash Tyler is walking through a corridor when he runs into Stamets, and the stupidity of allowing Tyler to roam free is highlighted when Stamets yells at him for killing Culber, the man that he loved. Yes, I can see that Tyler is totally going to be a productive member of a crew that constantly accuses him of being a murderer.
Tyler then goes into the mess hall and everyone gets quiet and stares at him as he sits and eats alone. But then Tilly goes to sit with him, and then a member of the Nameless Bridge Crew joins her, and soon he’s surrounded by various NBCs who all want to talk and eat with Tyler. Right. So everyone’s totally cool with the guy who’s actually a bloodthirsty Klingon with a fake human personality implanted over his own. Why not?
On the bridge, they’re approaching Starbase One and the ship drops out of warp, and ruh-roh! Saru’s Spidey-Sense/threat ganglia are tingling again. Sure enough, the starbase has been mostly destroyed by the Klingons, and there’s a Klingon crest on the Starbase that belongs to the “House D’Ghor”. And Admiral Cornwell, the supposed therapist who specializes in PTSD cases, completely freezes on the spot and it’s up to Saru to order the navigator to get them away from here at maximum warp.
Cornwell goes to see L’Rell down in the brig and admits to her that the Klingons are winning the war. But the bad news for L’Rell is that the houses are attacking separately and aren’t unified under T’Kuvma’s house like she hoped. Cornwell mocks her for thinking T’Kuvma was their messiah, and asks what it will take to end the war. L’Rell replies that the Klingons will never stop fighting. “Conquer us, or we will never relent.”
Burnham goes back to Georgiou’s quarters, and says that due to the attack on Starbase One, she’s stuck on the Discovery for the time being. Georgiou wants to know more about “the Vulcan” and Burnham admits that in this universe, Sarek was a father to her, in the same way that Georgiou was a mother to her in the Mirror Universe.
Burnham asks how Georgiou was able to defeat the Klingon Empire, and Georgiou says that in her universe, the Klingon homeworld is a wasteland, and the only way to defeat the Klingons is to wipe them out at “the source”. She asks Burnham what she knows about Qo’nos.
Cut to that same briefing room, where a group of captains appears via hologram, as Cornwell says they have to take the fight directly to the Klingon homeworld of Qon’os, and launch an attack so massive that the Klingons will be forced to retreat. But the captains protest that Qo’nos has a thick upper atmosphere that prevents them from identifying targets, and the Discovery would be “blown out of the sky” if they even tried to get close. Cornwell replies that they won’t be in the sky.
Cut to the bridge, where it seems they’ve devised a plan to actually jump Discovery inside the planet itself. We learn that Qo’nos apparently has underground caverns large enough to contain a starship. Because why not? Saru is a bit skittish about the idea of jumping the ship inside a planet, but Stamets assures them he can do it. Saru also wonders how they’ll get more spores to do the jump, so Stamets simply tells him to set course for the “Veda system” and he’ll do the rest.
In Engineering, Stamets pulls out some of his original mycelial samples and says he’s going to use them to “terraform” a moon in the Veda system. That’s right: He’s going to instantly terraform a moon at least a decade or two prior to the invention of the Genesis Device. Let me guess, this spore terraforming technology is going to end up “classified and destroyed” too?
In Georgiou’s quarters, she and Sarek have tense words about which of their Burnhams is the best Burnham. She then says she summoned Sarek here because she couldn’t tell Burnham the truth about what it takes to really defeat the Klingons once and for all. She’s willing to share this info with Sarek, and all she wants in exchange is her freedom.
Cut to Sarek and Burnham walking through a corridor, and Sarek making some excuse for why he needs to head back to Vulcan. He says that this being a time of war, it’s “logical” to assume this might be the last time they see each other, so he gives her the Vulcan salute before heading to a transporter.
Burnham goes to Engineering to talk to Tilly about the strange sense of finality in his farewell. And then Tilly starts talking about being in the Mirror Universe and how it reminded her of how much a person is “shaped by their environment”, and she insists Burnham should go see Tyler, because he’s not the same person who tried to kill her.
Meanwhile, Discovery gets to the Veda system and Stamets shoots some terraforming missiles at the surface of the Not Genesis Planet. It works, of course, and lots of glowing roots sprout underground and spore trees instantly start growing. So I guess somehow, it’s easier to grow spore trees on a totally barren, lifeless moon than in the big terrarium they have set up on the ship.
Burnham then goes to see Tyler. And Tyler thinks she’s just trying to come up with an “excuse” to end their relationship, and he even thinks it has something to do with him being Klingon(-ish) and the fact that her parents were killed by Klingons. So Burnham brings up how he killed Culber, and how he had his hands around her throat and a look in his eyes like he wanted her dead. Understandably, it might be a bit tough to get past that.
He insists that the only reason his Klingon programming didn’t fully kick in is because of her and his love for her. Ugh. It seems like they’re setting things up for these two to actually continue their relationship later, and it’s so dumb. Tyler should be in the brig, end of story. How could Saru or anyone else be convinced that he’s not going to have another Voq “episode” and start randomly murdering more crewmen? At this point, anyone hoping to see Tyler and Burnham get involved again probably saw What’s Love Got to Do With It and was really pulling for Ike and Tina to work things out at the end.
In the ready room, Cornwell has Sarek on holographic communicator, and he says Starfleet has been briefed on the “newly acquired intelligence from the Terran” and they’re all onboard with the plan, whatever that may be. Hmm, could it be a plan to completely destroy Qo’nos? I wonder. And knowing this show, they’ll try to destroy Qo’nos by blowing up its moon Praxis as a totally unnecessary shout-out to Star Trek VI. (Oh wait, Into Darkness already did that. Eh, doesn’t change my prediction.)
Cornwell then goes to the bridge and opens a channel to the whole ship and gives a speech about how they’re in “desperate times”, necessitating this mission inside of the Klingon homeworld. And she says they’ll be the first Starfleet crew to set foot on the planet since “Captain Archer and the crew of the Enterprise NX-01 nearly one hundred years ago.” And just copy-paste my previous rants about how this franchise seems to constantly want to remind us of Archer’s existence for reasons that defy all reason.
She then introduces the bridge crew to the person who will lead this mission: Captain Georgiou. Yes, it’s Empress Georgiou, now disguised as a Starfleet captain, and Cornwell lies to everybody and says that Georgiou didn’t die and was recently rescued from a Klingon prison. The whole NBC welcomes her with open arms, but of course Burnham and Saru know what’s up.
Well, that sure was a dumb episode. I can’t tell if this show is getting stupider, or if I’m just much less willing to give the writers the benefit of the doubt following the dumb Mirror Lorca revelation. Either way, it would seem all the potential that was there in the first few episodes of this season has finally been completely squandered, but I’ll save the post-mortem for next week.
Next up: The Discovery jumps into that cavern. Georgiou kicks L’Rell’s ass for some reason. An away party heads to the surface of Qo’nos, where they meet (sigh) Orion slave girls. A planet is going to be destroyed, while Burnham yells about principles. At long last, it’s the season finale!