Star Trek Discovery: “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” (S1, E8 review)

It’s peace, love and mung beans at 40 paves as Tyler, Burnham and Saru discover they may not be on the same existentialist page (image courtesy CBS)

 

  • SPOILERS AHEAD … AND ALIENS TOO DAMN PEACE-LOVING FOR THEIR OWN GOOD … AND PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE ELSE’S 

Grab your tie dyed T-shirts! Get used to eating tofu and mung beans! Make love not war and slap a peace sign and some rainbows on a Volkswagen Beetle – it’s time to get your Star Trek: Discovery hippy on!

Well, at least it is for Lt. Saru (Doug Jones) who, on an away mission to the planet Pahvo, which owes a debt of gratitude to Avatar, down to the colour scheme, with Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), found himself rather caught up in the peace, love and harmony (and maybe tofu? Hard to say but let’s say yes) of the ethereal blue-energy inhabitants of the planet who were the planet.

While not a note of “Kumbayah” was heard, it was fairly evident that Saru, a Kelpien (the first in Starflee, no less) whose species evolved on a planet with apex predators that hunted them, leaving them perpetually fearful and able to sense death (what a cheery combo!), had drunk the peaceful Kool-Aid and was hellbent on getting Burnham and Tyler to stay with him in his New Age commune.

Trouble was, and doesn’t real life always get in the way dammit, they were there to analyse the planet’s unending harmonic frequencies in the hope that it would give them some insight into detecting the Klingons’ invisibility cloaks that was giving their spaceships a rather sizeable tactical advantage.

Burnham and Tyler weren’t buying the new chilled Saru and did their best to carry out the mission, with Burnham getting as far as integrating their computer into the planet’s crystalline transmitting structure – handily it came with a USB port thus making the process all that much faster – but they kept getting violently waylaid by Saru who wanted PEACE NOW DAMMIT!

Yep, ain’t nothing worse than a fervent new believer is there? Doesn’t matter if its religion, washing detergent or a blue shimmering alien consciousness, recent converts are determined that you will join them come what may and Saru was definitely living out the cliche, doing everything he could to make Burnham and Tyler chillingly vibe along with him.

 

“So you’re acting really weird.”
“No, I’m not.”
“You thought I was the Captain.”
“Then yes I am.” (image courtesy CBS)

 

And frankly who could blame him?

After a lifetime of fear personally, and millennia upon millennia for his people, here was a chance to kick back, walk mindfully among the trees, commune with an alien race who simply want everyone to get along.

It’s an appealing idea, and one that, in a time of war where hundreds can die in an instant – “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”, which means “If you want peace, prepare for war”, began with a dogfight with the USS Gargarin, Discovery and some cloaked Klingon ships with the former Starfleet vessel losing out in the exchange – becomes even so.

The story, which combined good old-fashioned Star Trek story-within-a-story with the ongoing arc that has sustained Star Trek Discovery rather magnificently over the last eight episodes, gave us some touching insight into Saru who, later back on the ship was aghast at the lengths he had gone to in order to keep the peace, love and mung beans vibe kicking on for eternity.

Beyond that though, it spoke to the existential exhaustion of war – once begun it has to be fought especially if you want to preserve your way of life which the Federation won’t certainly wants to do but it is nightmarishly tiring on just about plane of existence.

The pressure, the tension, the loss, the death – it all goes on and on and on and it makes sense that Saru, run down by a lifetime of fearfulness, wouldn’t want to kick back and let the Pahvoans take charge.

Which, even once they’d all got to Discovery, they did, naively sending out an invitation to the Klingons to come and join them and the aghast people of Starfleet – what what? Yes we know they’re curious and love peace and we told we were at war and they want to fix it? WHAT?! – for some lovely, warm-and-fuzzy peace talks.

All very nice and life-affirming but when you are squaring off against a race whose highest honour is dying valiantly in war, and who live for a good old bit of biffo (Aussie slang – physical or verbal conflict; your new word for the day!), it can only end in near-disaster, likely that of the Pahvoans who have no idea what they have unleashed on themselves.

Burnham does however and urges Lorca (Jason Isaacs) who stick around save Saru’s tofu-loving friends; whether he will or not is another matter entirely since he has proven himself pragmatically ruthless in almost every situation, even sending his good friend, Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) into harm’s way where she was captured by the Klingons.

 

Love is in the air … and weird energy beings, strange vibrations, insanity … so lots of stuff really (image courtesy CBS)

 

Speaking of whom, are still not entirely unified and Pahvo-ing the hell out of life.

Clear evidence was provided by a clearly disgruntled L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) who decided, under the guise of interrogating Cornwell in a bid to please Kol (Kenneth Mitchell), sprung the Admiral from her cage, in return for some asylum in the Federation.

A thoroughly wonderful plan that almost came a cropper when Kol, ruthlesslsy uniting the Klingon houses with the promise of invisibility cloaks for their ships, saw him escaping down a passage way with Cornwell.

L’Rell naturally did what anyone would in that situation – she beat the crap of Cornwell, something Kol quite approved of (although oddly he left her to it, indicating he’s either way too trusting for his own good or late for dinner) – and dragged to a waiting shuttle which was, rather delightfully, full of the bodies of her slain friends and fellow T’Kuvma devotees.

But while things were looking decidedly south-ish for L’Rell, and it has to be said for Cornwell who has no doubt had way better days, Tyler and Burnham were going in for their first kiss, all while fending off a peaced-up Saru.

Of course, Burnham had to break the spell by pointing out that when the war ends, she’s back to a penal colony but that didn’t stop Tyler who suggested they keep the war going for years if it keeps them together.

Awwww that’s not the least bit selfish at all now is it? OK, WAAAAY selfish but also really sweet and romantic, as was Stamets’ (Anthony Rapp) decision, after being challenged by a concerned Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) who saw him wig out after a Spore Drive jump, not to tell his hubby, and the ship’s doctor, Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), that powering the ship’s super fast drive was doing weird things to him.

Yes, just as Saru was lost in vistas of brotherhood, love and peace, Stamets was going back to being angry and loopy, a sign that maybe being a human engine – let’s hear for power by genetic manipulation! – was not really working for him in the long term.

Alas though it’s working for the Discovery, Lorca and the Federation and so you get the feeling that regardless of what he, Saru or Tyler or Burnham wants that the fight will go on at god knows what cost to everyone. (It was nice to have a little peace for a moment though wasn’t it?)

  • So what’s up next, Doc? Well, a mid-season finale in the form of “Into the Forest I Go” where Klingons and humans get up close and hostile and everything could go to crap  or … c’mon it’s cliffhanger so what do you think?

 

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aussiemoose

I am an extrovertive gay man living in Sydney who loves Indian food, current affairs, music, film and reading, caramel anything, and a beautiful guy called Steve who makes every day a delight. I am trying to get two novels in a trilogy ready for e-publication, love my iPhone & iPod, and am secretly Canadian in my soul. Life is fun, exciting and joyful and I aim to make the absolute most of it!

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