Review: Star Trek: Discovery, “Into the Forest I Go”

Picking up where the last episode left off, “Into the Forest I Go” sees the crew of the Discovery on course for a confrontation with the Ship of the Dead (or the “T’Kuvmobile” as some have dubbed it). In order to save the planet Pahvo, Discovery must find a way to defeat the Klingon cloaking technology, but it is a plan with many risks.

The official logo for Star Trek: DiscoveryStamets will have to conduct over a hundred spore drive jumps in order to gain the readings necessary to pierce the cloak, putting his health and sanity at severe risk, whilst Burnham and Ash beam aboard the enemy ship to conduct crucial sabotage.

This episode works very hard to be an epic tour de force, and in places it does succeed, but it also has many flaws that detract from what could otherwise be a great experience.

I got off on the wrong foot with this episode immediately because the fundamental premise is so flawed. Starfleet orders Lorca to retreat, but he refuses to leave the Pahvans to their fate. This is the exact opposite of the dynamic that has been established to date. Starfleet abandoning a new species to suffer a likely genocide that would be the direct result of Starfleet’s own actions is a breathtaking betrayal of everything the organization is supposed to stand for, and Lorca of all people being the one to put his foot down and stand for what’s right is equally baffling.

There’s a theory going around that Discovery is going to visit the Mirror Universe soon, but in this episode, it seems like at least one character has already crossed over, because the Gabriel Lorca of “Into the Forest I Go” is, again, pretty much the exact opposite of the character we’ve grown accustomed to over the course of the series to date.

This is a guy who has a secret lab full of exotic weapons, a Gorn skeleton, and for some reason a collection of agony-murder balls whose only possible application could be in war-crimes. From his introduction, Lorca has been nothing but nakedly sinister and conniving, and now all of he’s sudden he’s selflessly fighting for the innocent and waxing poetic on the nobility of exploration? Overnight he’s transformed from a Bond villain to Jean-Luc frickin’ Picard.

The titular ship in Star Trek: DiscoveryIt’s also a bit convenient how the spore drive turns out to also be the miracle cure to the Klingon cloaking, and I am bothered by the fact that that neither side deigns to send more than one ship to the battle over Pahvo.

Discovery’s lack of back-up could be explained by Starfleet’s decision to abandon the planet — though that in itself is, as discussed above, incomprehensible — but why does the Ship of the Dead come alone? I realize Klingons can be a bit reckless, but one would think that their flagship would travel with an escort as a matter of course.

Really, it’s just to set up a dramatic confrontation between two ships. And this is the problem with Discovery. It has repeatedly proved itself all too eager to throw logic to the wind if it can up the drama or cool factor. Any story will do this sometimes, and in small doses it’s fine, but Discovery has done it so often and so flagrantly it really damages the integrity of the show.

It happens again with Ash. Why would you send someone who spent seven months being tortured by Klingons onto a ship full of them? That is so obviously a bad idea. Ash is the absolute last person who should have been sent on that mission. Yes, we get some good character moments out of it, but it’s so dumb.

All that ranting aside, there is still a fair bit to like here.

I have been harshly critical of Burnham’s character from the outset, but she’s grown a lot over the course of the season, and “Into the Forest I Go” brings her arc to fruition. She’s every possible kind of badass and awesome there is, and I think she’s finally succeeded in winning me over.

Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Paul Stamets on Star Trek: DiscoveryMeanwhile, Stamets continues to be the best character on Discovery, in every sense of the word, and Tilly continues to be adorable, even if her role is relatively small this time.

This is also a beautiful episode to look at. And I don’t just mean the raw quality of the special effects — which I cannot fully enjoy because of Crave’s mediocre video quality — but the way they’re used. “Into the Forest I Go” has fantastic cinematography, and there’s some real artistry to the way it’s shot.

Shazad Latif is putting on a great performance as Ash, but I’m still not sure how I feel about his character.

This episode adds yet more weight to the idea that he’s a Klingon sleeper agent, though I’m not quite ready to sign on to the idea he’s a Klingon in disguise. But this is more because I don’t want it to be true than because it seems unlikely. It would be a very cheap twist and waste all of his character development. I want to believe Discovery is better than that, but it’s seeming less and less likely that it is.

For now, I’m hoping he simply got brainwashed or something. That I could live with.

I want to like this episode. It’s got a lot going for it. But it also has too many flaws to be truly great.

Overall rating: 7/10


Review: Star Trek, Discovery: “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”

After suffering heavy losses in battle, finding a way to counter the Klingon cloaking technology becomes a priority for Starfleet.

The official logo for Star Trek: DiscoveryThis is the premise of “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellem,” an episode that devotes itself mainly to two very unrelated story arcs.

The first focuses on Starfleet’s efforts to defeat the enemy’s cloaking. To this end, Burnham, Ash, and Saru are sent to a strange forest world called Pahvo, whose unique ecosystem produces a constant harmonic signal that Starfleet believes can be used as a kind of sonar to detect the Klingons.

Their mission is quickly complicated when they discover a race of intelligent energy beings native to Pahvo. Following Starfleet protocol, Saru initiates first contact procedures, but the alien nature of Pahvo soon begins to takes its toll on his mental state.

I know expecting scientific accuracy from Star Trek is a fool’s errand, but I have to say I did find the absolutely outlandish nature of Pahvo and its inhabitants a bit hard to swallow. It’s just pure space magic, and the fact they throw all of this at you in this wall of magitechnobabble right out of the gate doesn’t help matters.

Also, while I’ve wanted to see a Saru-focused episode since… well, since the very first episode of Discovery, it’s a shame it had to take the form of him going space crazy. I think the character deserves better. His scene with Burnham at the very end was nicely done, at least.

As an aside, it occurs to me that Saru’s people could probably benefit a lot from Vulcan philosophy, or at least elements thereof. Like the Vulcans, they seem to have trouble keeping their emotions under control. Wouldn’t it be interesting if Burnham started instructing Saru in Kolinahr?

Doug Jones as Commander Saru in Star Trek: DiscoveryMeanwhile, the other main thread of “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” abandons the Discovery crew altogether and focuses on the Klingons, especially L’Rell, who seeks to curry the favour of Kol… or so it would seem. This is a very confusing story, and I’m not exactly sure what the writers were trying to achieve.

It seems to put a more sympathetic angle on L’Rell, making her a bit closer to the honourable Klingons we’ve known since the days of The Next Generation, but it’s not really clear if this is genuine or just a part of some elaborate ruse.

If it is genuine, that runs totally contrary to how Discovery has thus far portrayed Klingons in general and L’Rell in particular. I want to see Discovery’s Klingons gain some any nuance, but this is all a bit out of the blue.

The end result is a fairly uneven and overall rather mediocre episode. They had some interesting ideas, but the execution is lacking.

Overall rating: 6.9/10