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Star Trek: Discovery - Si Vis Pacem. Para Bellum - Review: "Ash and Michael"

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Star Trek: Discovery 1.08: "Si Vis Pacem. Para Bellum" - Review:

The eighth episode of Star Trek: Discovery continued to feel more and more like traditional Star Trek, like the show has been doing for the past few episodes. The opening narration by Michael and her log of info-dump and exposition is very much a trademark of Trek shows in the past, and it's almost refreshing to hear it back again. But before that however, we get a pretty awesome scene of showing the Discovery in action.

The opening space battle was pretty cool to watch and I love seeing the Discovery in action, arriving to the rescue of The USS Gagarin (so named after the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin). However the Klingons currently have an advantage over Starfleet because despite the Discovery's ability to jump pretty much anywhere thanks to Stamets, there's only one ship in the Starfleet navy that has the power to do that, meaning that the Discovery can still be isolated and outnumbered. As a result the Gagarin is destroyed and its crewmembers are killed by the Klingons, adding to the casualty list. There is however, no time for the crew of the Discovery to grieve, dispatching Saru, Ash and Michael to the world of Pahvo where the planet itself has a unique sonar ability that can be amplified to break the stealth technology that the Klingons have. This meant that we got our first proper episode set largely on an alien planet, as whilst we have been on planets before so far in this series, it's largely only been in small scenes. Seeing Pahvo brought to life was great, as the show dipped into its extensive special effects budget to once again give it a properly alien look and feel whilst still keeping it distinctively recognisable as a planet that could fit right at home with the Star Trek universe.

However, Pahvo itself was not all that it seemed. Despite not detecting any lifeforms on the scanners, Saru, Ash and Michael quickly encountered a different kind of being that like Starfleet, wanted to bring peace. Its main objective was to bring peace and harmony everywhere, but their method of communication was something that Saru himself was having trouble with, affecting him and not the humans, causing severe discomfort. This was a big episode that put Saru to the front and centre as we got to see how well he handled himself on an Away Mission, but he was immediately met with a problem in the form of the aliens themselves. It's important to remember however that Saru has never gone a day without fear in his life due to his species' abilities and he was overwhelmed with the positives that the aliens brought to the table. He could live in perfect peace and harmony away from the war forever, not having to worry about any responsibilities. Doug Jones' performance really bought depth to Saru's character, and the writers handled it in a way so that it's hard to hate him for turning against Michael and Ash when he was under the influence of the aliens. This again felt very much like it could have been right at home in the original series.

The war with the Klingons was very much ongoing throughout this episode however as we got plenty of scenes with L'Rell and Admiral Cornwell in the sideplot that saw L'Rell apparently want to defect. Whilst some of this stuff was intriguing it was probably among the weaker scenes of the episode as there was no real clear resolution here. We don't know whether L'Rell is genuinely wanting to defect yet or using it as a cover to get on board the Discovery and steal their technology (Voq, it's worth mentioning - has still not been seen in a while), and we don't even know whether Cornwell is actually properly dead or not. I'm leaning towards her being alive at this point as she still has the dirt on Lorca and it would be kind of anticlimactic if there wasn't some kind of a reunion between these two characters at some point in the near future. It's another case of wait and see what happens next, because remember, there's still next week's midseason finale to go.

And what a midseason finale-teaser the show sets up based on the cliffhanger. The aliens are able to get the transmitter working for Michael and Ash once they convince them that they're trying to bring about peace to the galaxy, allowing the Discovery to arrive, but what Starfleet don't plan for is that they've contacted the Klingons as well. The impending Klingon arrival is a result of good intentions going a little bit too far as the aliens don't exactly know what they're dealing with, and as a result, Discovery finds itself pitted against the Klingons in what no doubt will be the main focus of the next episode. The gauntlet is thrown, but given how the show has so far struggled with handling the Klingon side of things so far, I really hope that there is an improvement for the next episode. It hasn't always been easy to identify which Klingon is which as aside from L'Rell they haven't really been developed properly enough to really stand out.

The relationship and character development that we got this episode was intriguing, especially for fans of the Ash and Michael pairing. I must admit that I'm not overly sold on their relationship yet, but those who do like the pairing probably will have enjoyed the fact that they bonded outside of the time-loops. Michael raises a valid point when she admits that she's going back to prison after the war is over for life, and Ash is quick to remind her that the war doesn't have to end soon. The longer it goes on for, the longer she stays out of jail. The more these two spend together and the longer Voq remains off-screen and not on screen at the same time that Ash is around, it does add further weight to the theory that Voq is actually Ash. This went a long way to establishing that if it does happen, the revelation will no doubt be all the more heartbreaking, for Michael in particular.

It's also worth briefly mentioning Stamets here who's continuing to serve as the Discovery's main means of transportation. He's putting himself at risk by his mood-swings and memory lapses. Are they alternate universes or glimpses of the future that he's getting? I do remember the showrunners talking somewhere about how they're going to do a Mirrorverse episode at some point and this seems to be suggesting that will happen in the near future, especially with his comment about Tilly being the Captain. I do love the dynamic that Tilly has with pretty much everyone too, and hopefully we'll get more of Stamets and Tilly working together as they work out what's wrong with him.

For now the stage is set for a really exciting midseason finale and it almost hurts that we've only had nine episodes of Star Trek: Discovery so far. There's plenty of room for more it seems as it feels like the show is really finding its groove now, a few minor issues aside. The fact that the show put emphasis on Saru's development really helped, and I loved the cool touches that made him a fun, if temporary antagonist, giving him the ability to run super fast, and making him super handy in a fight. He was more than a match for Michael it seemed. It's also worth noting the title of the episode's translation from Latin - If you want peace, prepare for war. It's an adage that feels right at home in this episode, and perfectly suits the series as a whole so far.

What did you think of Star Trek: Discovery's latest episode, "Si Vis Pacem. Para Bellum"? Let me know in the comments section below and check out the next episode on Sunday on CBS All Access, or the following day on Netflix outside of the US and Canada.

About the Author - Milo MJ
Milo is an Arsenal FC supporter and loves TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Justified, The Wire, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Person of Interest. He reviews Preacher, The Exorcist, Star Wars Rebels, Star Trek Discovery, Silicon Valley and Veep for Spoiler TV and will be covering Castle Rock, Counterpart, Krypton, Marvel's New Warriors, Rise, Marvel's Runaways, Succession and Trust. He also contributes to comic reviews on a weekly basis for All-Comic. He also regularly watches and reviews films on Letterboxd, and you can find his ever-changing list of 300 favourite movies here.
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