Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery: Season 1, Episode 8: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

The war against the Klingons isn’t going well. While the Discovery is swooping in wherever it can to try and turn the tide, it is just one ship, while Kol has successfully shared out the stealth drive to every Klingon ship that declares loyalty which means Federation ships are being ambushed and destroyed constantly.

So they need a counter and they’ve found the planet of Pahvo which comes with lots of shiny noise which may be turned into a special invisibility beating sonar. So woo-woo science

They decide to make an away team of Michael, Saru and Ash because it’s standard Star Trek protocol that if an away team is devastated it should out a significant chunk of your command and send the crew into chaos.
The planet is all shiny and glowy and they begin their hike with Michael handily lecturing Ash on Kelpian anatomy (in addition to having ridiculously acute near psychic senses, they can also run incredible fast on account of being the ultimate prey species. And honestly at this point I want to know what the predators on the Kelpian world are like because they’re capable of taking down intelligent, super-fast psychic beings you do not want to mess with them) much to Saru’s vague annoyance at being spoken about like a science project. But he makes the point that the constant harmonics of everything on this planet singing with all the voices of a mountain is giving him a killer headache.

As they head to the great big crystal spire they come across clouds of glowy gassy creatures which are apparently sentient and connected to the whole planet in a this-is-sorta-cribbed-from-Avatar-kind-of-way-but-I-bet-Trek-did-it-first without all the plug-in-ponytails. This changes things and they’re now on First Contact Protocols

This means - no revealing they’re an advanced warp capable life form and no using their stuff (including the planet and great big shiny crystal transmitter) without the informed consent of the Pahvans

While it’s all nice and shiny you do have to wonder at Federation war footing “the Klingons are coming sir!” “yes, but there’s an endangered space whale on the port bow, we must arrange relocation to a zoo!” “We’re facing defeat in the war sir!” “yes, but new species, we should introduce ourselves in a long winded fashion”

Of course, Star Fleet’s standard operation in this war is to fight by finding random weird natural things and using them. I mean, are any of their scientists or engineers trying to develop new weapons and ships or are they hoping to run across a flower that creates force fields?

Dear Star Trek writers - we do not need a flower that creates forcefields.

Saru works at communicating with the shiny ones while Ash and Michael flirt and kiss and Ash discusses how he could totally extend the war a bit longer as when they win Michael goes to prison again for that whole mutiny thing. I’m not even going to repeat their philosophical argument about the needs of the many because no reasonable person needs to REASON OUT why “let’s extend this war so we can bone more” is a shitty shitty argument.

Saru communicates what he’s learned - the Pahvans are hippies. All about peace and love and harmony (which is damn easy to do if you’re whole planet is basically the same blissed out organism. I only rarely argue with myself). And they created their transmitter so they could broadcast peace and love and flower power to the whole galaxy so they can all join them in their hippy ways.

(Internet: I am disappointed by the lack of hippie vs klingon pictures, so here are some Klingon Biker Pirates)

That night Saru can’t sleep because of the endless noise and he appeals to the glowy ones for help  - and the next morning he wakes up utterly blissed out (the hippies may have shared their stash) and all happy and joyful. Also he’s changed the mission - the Pahvans will give them everything and help them achieve peace and harmony. So they should all gather on the planet and never leave and experience eternal harmony and bliss.

When Ash and Michael object he destroys their communicators and demands eternal harmony and bliss already. Michael is duly worried and Ash insists they continue with the main mission and he’s taking control since Saru is clearly unfit for command. Michael points out they still can’t use the spire without Pahvan permission - but Ash points out that Saru said they could use anything because of the hippie sharing

Michael decides to obey this command, the FIRST COMMAND EVER she’s obeyed. Never mind the internal inconsistency of Saru being competent enough to speak for this alien species but incompetent enough to command.

So she heads to the spire to do some Klingon revealing while Ash distracts Saru by talking about he doesn’t feel harmony because he wants the klingons to suffer as much as he did. The war doesn’t matter as much as hurting them which is… troubling. While Saru tries to talk him out of this with a hippie rock, he realises Ash is lying and demands to know where Michael is - pinning Ash with one hand

Wait wait wait -is this eternal prey species considerably stronger than humans?

He rushes after Michael with that super speed of his and fights her, smashing her equipment. Again we see him using pretty impressive strength until she shoots him. Three times. Ok… now I accept that this phaser may be set to stun - but she just shot Saru 3 times with this thing and unless one of the settings is “torch” or “tickle” does apparently nothing

Can we talk about these Kelpians that are super fast, have super senses, have enhanced strength and can shrug off phaser blasts? Because at this rate it’s a good thing they’re genetic cowards or they’d be the new master race

Ash arrives with the Pahvans and Michael appeals to them, telling them about their war with the Klingons and how the Federation only wants peace and harmony like them and to do that they need the Pahvan’s help (to kill as many klingons as possible). The Pahvans hear this and change their spire.

They hear and change the spire, broadcasting to the galaxy - and Saru despairs because the Pahvans have now made themselves a target for the Klingons.

Back on the Discovery, Michael visits Saru to see if he’s back to himself - he is, but he explains what the Pahvans did. They removed his fear. As a kelpien he has been afraid every moment of his life, this is the base state of his people - by removing his fear the kelpiens gave him the first peace he has ever known.

And, twist, the Pahvans aren’t revealing the Klingon ships - they’re sending out a message to the Klingons to come visit for more peace and harmony.

Also on the ship, Tilly finally realises something’s up with Stamets and he explains that yes the jumps are doing odd things to him -but he can’t tell the doctor because if he does his job he’ll be sent to Star Fleet to be experimented on and if he doesn’t he’ll be fired, either of which is bad for Hugh

I call shenanigans. He may be put on sick leave pending medical tests - but Stamets is making it sound like the Federation would subject him to vivisection! Also I don’t buy this. Hugh is his partner and a doctor how could he NOT have noticed Stamets’s personality change?

Over to the Klingons and L’Rell, newly scarred after Ash and Lorca’s escape, approaches Kol to offer him her loyalty. And in case we missed it, Kol has no wish for unity like T’kuvma, he wants to dominate the new klingon empire with his new shiny stealth ships ensuring everyone is subservient

L’Rell suggests she and her house want to do the same and to prove her loyalty she offers to show off her shiny interrogation skills - that would be on the captured Admiral Cornwell who is so expert at walking into obvious traps

She’s very defiant but quick to believe L’Rell when she says she wants to defect (after ascertaining that the Federation doesn’t torture or execute prisoners) because she hates Kol and what he’s done to the movement. She intends to destroy the ship and flee with Cornell to the Discovery

Oh gods. Please in the name of all that is sensible do NOT have Admiral Cornell lead L’Rell on board the Discovery. Please tell me this Starfleet Admiral is not that stupid.

She agrees - but they’re caught on the way; Cornell pretends to be trying to escape and she and L’rell fight - in the battle Cornell is apparently killed. L’Rell says she’ll dispose of the body - and takes Cornell to a room and sees many other bodies: bodies of people she knew. She swears vengeance against Kol

The intriguing part of this is it suggests that L’Rell may have even been at least partially sincere about her offer to Cornell, at least in part. It’s obvious she hates Kol and this dramatic oath of vengeance cannot be a way of putting on a show for Cornell - even assuming she’s alive (which is very much in doubt) there’s no guarantee (or even likelihood) that she speaks Klingon so wouldn’t understand anything L’Rell just dramatically uttered.

She goes to pledge her loyalty to Kol but he doesn’t believe her - before he can act on that though, they get the invitation from Pahvan

Which puts the Discovery in place to defend the hippie creatures

Ok, there are things to unpack here- other than how no-one else seems to be noticing Stamets imploding or the super powers of Sara.

Firstly Saru without his fear - I was kind of disappointed that he considered this freeing. This is a prey species that has evolved with constant fear - but his reaction is like a human being healed of severe trauma. From his alien standpoint that constant fear is a standard, reasonable and natural state of being - I’d have preferred a more authentic reaction rather than a human reaction

Also - are we not concerned by this? The Pahvan altered a fundamental part of Saru’s psychology, one of the basic building blocks and instincts of his species. In fact, fear and prey are the defining features of this species we’ve seen. That the Pahvan can alter this should be considered worrisome at least

Especially since they can apparently broadcast across the Galaxy on Klingon channels… how? How do they even know what klingon channels are?