Friday, 9 February 2018

Setting It All In Place: S1 E14 The War Without, The War Within

For all intents and purposes it appears the war is lost. The Klingons have control of over 20% of Federation space and there's also the small matter of Emperor Georgiou to accomodate.

The Discovery has returned to its universe of origin but nine months late. The arrival of Admiral Cornwell and Sarek is somewhat unexpected with both shocked to see the return of the Crossfield Class starship - a craft that the senior Starfleet officer saw for herself destroyed by the Klingons.

Of course it wasn't and now the return of the ship and the information concerning how to overcome the Klingon cloaking technology is going to come in very handy. Cornwell's attitude towards the Mirror Georgiou is another matter and the presence of the emperor provides a chance to find a new way to combat the warrior race since the Terrans have left Quo'noS a blackened ball of dust and conquered more of the galaxy than the Federation has yet to explore.

With 24 separate houses taking on the Federation, Starfleet is feeling the pressure and their trip to Starbase 1 reveals that the station has been overrun by the Klingons so the plan is hatched to jump the Discovery inside their homeworld, map it and its defences and then jump out. Since the ships’s mycelial forest has been wiped out, Stamets terraforms a barren moon into a source of spores thus also creating a brand new supply for future use in a matter of minutes.

But it doesn’t stop there because a deal has been struck that sees Mirror Georgiou step out onto the bridge of the Discovery in full Starfleet captain’s attire, announced to the crew as the rescued commander of the Shenzhou who will lead them to Quo’noS and begin the end of the war.

Another week and another bunch of twists to take stock of. The return of both Sarek and Cornwell was unexpected but logical in the big scheme of things. The admiral isn’t quite the military commander I thought she would be, seeming to lose track when the overrun Starbase 1 is seen and her moves within the episode being more political than tactical leaving the finer and riskier decisions in the hands of the Discovery crew. The vapourising of Lorca’s fortune cookies was a cool touch drawing a line under that arc and any further use of his name in the episode. 

Now that we are back in the main universe it does feel that the trip to thE Mirror Universe was a nice sojourn to relieve the tension of the bigger season arc which hasn’t lost any of its impact. The break cleverly has allowed for a lot of changes to take place off screen and for the plot to actually be accelerated from the opening of the war to what will more than likely be the final gambit in the finale next week. 

What is glaring from this episode though is how much the main cast tend to take a backseat to the driving force of Cornwell, Sarek and L’Rell. While these three do not dominate the episode, there are a great deal of the key moments of this episode dedicated to them. It's even more obvious in the way in which Doug Jones' Saru has a much more subtle part to play here but his evolution as a character is eloquently understated with him stepping in to assist the out-of-depth Cornwell in a moment of weakness to help steady the ship. Every episode since the break has made me re-evaluate the brilliance of Jones and the writing for the Kelpien officer making him now one of the highlights of the show even when he's not at the forefront of the story.

Admiral Cornwell’s reintroduction to L’Rell is a pivotal point in the episode. Contrasting starkly to Saru’s one on one in which he stated the Klingons were on the back foot (albeit in a Mirror Universe) here the admiral switches the other way admitting that the war is actually going pretty well for her people. The challenge with L’Rell has been to keep her interesting and fresh even though she has spent nearly half the season confined to Discovery’s brig. Placing her here has worked phenomenally well and applauds the amazing work of  the writers, directors and it goes without saying, Mary Chieffo to use L’Rell as the continuous Klingon voice and presence reminding us of the greater threat that has loomed across the season. Her character may have not altered much but having her present has opened up the opinions and thoughts of the Starfleet crew in regards to the war and what has happened to Tyler/Voq. 

Sarek's relationship with Michael receives a little more screentime this week with him realising just how much she has had to endure through the time since her incarceration for mutiny. Their final scene together in which they bid each other farewell feels somewhat ominous however I can't believe that they would kill off Martin-Green's Burnham seeing as she is the series' main character. Surely the finale will offer her the chance for some form of redemption back into the official ranks of Starfleet or are we going to need to wait until season two for that? 

Shazad Latif also deserves a ton of recognition for his work here and throughout the season. My god has he been through the mill virtually every week. This time we see the aftermath and the shell that has been left behind following Voq’s exorcism. Tyler is even more broken than the apparently post-conflict officer we met back in Choose Your Pain and now faces the rest of his days carrying the memories of his transformation from Klingon to human and his brutal, emotionless murder of Doctor Culber. The encounter he has with Stamets is incredibly telling and a powerful moment as he attempts to apologise for such a gruesome act that he did not willingly commit. Indeed, Tyler is almost ostracised by the crew in the mess hall only to be rescued from solitude by Tilly and then the other bridge crew.

That scene in reflection to the meeting with Stamets are like chalk and cheese. One where we recognise it's not Tyler's fault and the other seeing past that but still not being able to come to terms with the individual they see before them. This also goes for Burnham whom Ash almost killed in the Mirror Universe.

Her declining of Saru's request to visit the recovering Tyler almost reminded me of the decision by Worf in The Enemy not to give blood to save the life of a Romulan; it came across that harshly but you can see where she's coming from. For no fault of his own (in some respects), Tyler could not control the Klingon inside - what I do wonder is how this is going to be fully wrapped up in episode 15 and if Tyler does stay around, what will his character get up to next season?

Episode 14 is a huge amount of set up for the finale without question and with the run time of 49 minutes (minus a few for the lengthy recap), a lot of work is set up here to close off the year neatly. If you think about it there's actually nothing rounded off this week. It's all about the planning, the preparation for the spore drive jump to end all jumps and the war at the same time.  The War Without, The War Within isn't a big hitter for the season, more the chance to catch a breath and take stock of where the show has been and come back from. 

Now we stand at a key time in the war, the Federation is on the backfoot, all is at stake and we have just one more hour of Star Trek Discovery left to conclude this amazing first season...

What are your expectations for the season finale?

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