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Star Trek: Discovery - The War Without The War Within - Review: "On The Losing Side"

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Star Trek Discovery 1.14 "The War Without, The War Within" - Review:
Directed by David Solomon & Written by Lisa Randolph

Star Trek: Discovery has been moving at a breakneck pace pretty much ever since it returned from its winter break, so it makes sense that the episode slowed things down a bit for our first time back in the prime universe in an episode that primarily dealt with the fallout and consequences of the actions in the Mirrorverse.

Let's start with Ash and Michael. Ash himself has seemingly pushed Voq to the side, and has won out for now. But he faces the biggest difficulty of being able to live with his crime of killing Hugh whilst Voq was controlling him. Understandably, the crew of the Discovery aren't immediately keen on welcoming him back with open arms until Tilly decides to approach him while they're having food. He faces a long, hard road to recovery and to convince people that he can be trusted again is going to be different, especially as he's not entirely the same Ash Tyler that they knew beforehand. But neither is he Voq. He's something else, and for now, it's unknown as to what direction the writers want to take with his character going forward. I wouldn't be surprised if they killed him off in the season finale, in the form of making some big heroic sacrifice, but the show could just as easily decide to keep him around for more. Michael is having a much harder time forgiving Ash than the rest of the crew, as although she fell in love with him, whenever she looks in his eyes now she sees a Klingon who tried to kill her. Stamets is also not as keen to welcome Ash back, and it will be a long time before he can regain his trust again.

The Discovery spent this episode reeling from the consequences of jumping several months into the future. It appeared that the mirrorverse Discovery was destroyed when it switched places with the Prime Discovery, and as a result, this has led to Starfleet thinking that the Discovery is dead. However, whilst it has been sidelined for such a long time, they have lost their best asset in the war and are now on the brink of destruction from the Klingons, who have divided into multiple factions without a clear leader to guide them and are now taking the fight to the enemy in an attempt to see who can conquer the most, launching suicide runs and harming innocent civilians in an attempt to cause as much devastation to the Federation as possible. Their Starbases are being wiped out one by one, and things are looking incredibly bleak.

The arrival of Sarek and Katrina Cornwell sees an interesting addition to Discovery's ranks. Until Sarek learns of what the crew of the Discovery have been through in the Mirrorverse, he and Admiral Cornwell don't entirely trust them, and Cornwell uses an executive decision to place herself in charge, removing Saru from his position. They decide the best course of action would be to head back to Starbase 1. However, a more pressing issue must be dealt with first in the form of Georgiou, who represents an interesting wild card addition to this show. She's clearly not the same Georgiou they knew, and Michael's excuse to bring her back is motivated more by the fact that she couldn't bear to watch her die again than anything else. The resemblance, both Sarek and Cornwell agree, is uncanny, but she also brings something far more valuable to Starfleet, information on how to stop the war with the Klingons. By making a critical strike against the Klingons at their home planet, she argues that it will force them to regroup and allow Starfleet time to rebuild. What she doesn't tell Michael however is that the Terran Empire completely obliterated the planet, sending them into a constant state of disarray.

It's interesting to see just how unready Cornwell is to handle a situation like this. It's clear that The Federation have been without strong wartime leaders and their assets are fading rapidly. She's shocked by the destruction of Starbase 1, something that she didn't think could be possible, as Saru steps up to warp the Discovery away. It's interesting that the show has explored the many different types of leadership roles like this and no one leader has been exactly like the other, with Cornwell being different from the hard-edged Lorca, and Lorca being different again from both versions of Georgiou. Doug Jones' Saru has been clearer and calmer than most would have been in the role too.

The show itself needs a way for the Discovery to get to the Klingons' home planet so they can use travel through its Volcanoes and map the surface. There's a direct shoutout to Captain Archer of The Enterprise here, and the first clear shoutout since Lorca did a Scottish accent whilst posing as the Engineer of the Discovery to talk to the Shenzhou in the Mirrorverse. Nobody has gone to the Klingon homeworld since Archer from Starfleet it seems, and they're truly headed into all-but uncharted territory. The solution to the lack of a spores is rather conveniently presented and some would say it's a deus-ex-machina solution presented in record time, but it's not like Star Trek has done something like this before and it is science fiction after all. The end result does look beautiful to witness, but more importantly, it gives the Discovery less of a chance of being detected inside the most hostile of hostile territories.

There's one thing that the crew don't have however, and that's a Commander. It's clear that Cornwell isn't going to be the Admiral to lead them into the Klingon homeworld. No, that duty falls to none other than the Mirrorverse Georgiou, who somehow is given the position over Saru and taking up the guise of her Prime-verse counterpart, only ten times more unpredictable. Even Tilly would have been more trustworthy, surely? It's certainly an unexpected decision and seems a clear result of an agreement struck with Sarek and Cornwell about how best to take care of the Klingon homeworld. Sarek's goodbye to Michael seemed a little final, as though it's the last we'll see of him, but she hopes it's wrong.

Whatever form of goodbye it is, it's clear that now, all the pieces are in place for an exciting, high-stakes finale. I'm not quite ready to see this show go on hiatus just yet as it only barely feels like it's come back from a winter break, but it's certainly left a powerful and effective impression.

What did you think of The War Without, The War Within? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to check out the Season Finale of Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access this Sunday and on Netflix outside the US and Canada from Monday onwards.

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