After the destruction of the USS Gagarin at the hands of the Klingons, Starfleet is finding itself at a critical point in the war: the losses are mounting and Starfleet needs a way to combat the Klingons’ cloaking technology, which is giving the Klingons an advantage in the ongoing fight. The answer, ostensibly, lies on planet Pahvo, which is being visited by an away team made up of Burnham, Tyler, and Saru.

Every object on Pahvo vibrates with a unique tone and a kind of harmonized energy. It also has a towering crystal transmitter that the away team believes can be modified into a sonar device to detect cloaked Klingon ships. While on the surface, however, Saru is overcome by a seemingly benevolent energy life form.

Lt. Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon) monitors the Klingon battle to take out the USS Gagarin. (CBS)

Consumed by the planet’s harmony and peaceful existence, Saru immobilizes the away team to keep them on the planet, forcing Burnham to defy Saru and use the crystal transmitter to contact the USS Discovery for an immediate rescue.

Meanwhile, the imprisoned Admiral Cornwell is paid a visit aboard Kol’s Klingon ship by L’Rell, who expresses her desire to defect after suffering her own personal losses at the hands of Kol. She offers to help Cornwell escape if she will allow her passage aboard Discovery.

In what may or may not have been a completely staged fight, Cornwell is incapacitated by L’Rell after they are caught during their escape. Kol places L’Rell under guard for deception and the ship is summoned to Pahvo by its inhabitants to confront Discovery in what Burnham suspects is an attempt to get the two warring races to end their fight.

L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) stuns Cornwell (Jayne Brook) with a request to defect to the Federation. (CBS)

Kudos to all involved for delivering, at the very least, a visually stunning episode. “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” begins with an exciting battle sequence that improves upon the more choppy and awkwardly directed war scenes from the show’s inaugural episodes. The days of cardboard rocks and obviously-painted backdrops on the reviled “Planet Hell” faux-location sets of earlier Star Trek series are long gone.

The episode offers the kind of scope, art direction, and special effects work to place it alongside familiar theatrical productions, filmed on location in various locations around the Toronto area.

What we also get again from “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” is another episode the moves the series’ continuing story of the Klingon war along while operating as an almost-standalone episode. It’s a welcome Saru-focused story after several earlier entries that have offered little in the way of development for his character. Even in this episode, Saru finds his ambitions –- however compromised they may be — ultimately undone by Burnham, something he has grappled with on-and-off since he began working with her.

Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) and Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) share a moment of peace on Pahvo. (CBS)

In the end, however, he comes to realize that her choice to pull them off the planet was necessary in a larger sense. Coincidentally, Saru’s last-minute beam-up from the Pahvo and despair on the transporter pad closely echoes Burnham’s fate and reaction when she is beamed back to Discovery by Saru before she can help the slain Capt. Georgiou on T’Kuvma’s ship. The two definitely have a complicated relationship.

Despite the episode’s scope and a refreshing planetary visit, Discovery as a show is starting to feel a bit claustrophobic, if that can even be leveled as a criticism for a focused war story. We haven’t gotten to know other character on the ship other than our core group, and our alien encounters have been largely limited to the Klingons and swirling masses.

As much as I’ve come to like our core group (and Lt. Tyler is proving himself to be welcome addition to the ship and series), it would be nice to get some character scenes with other members of the crew. That may hard considering Discovery has been a pretty lean, fat-free show intent on getting its primary storyline from Point A to Point B.

Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) goes tripping through the spore drive once more. (CBS)

As has been the case so far, Discovery isn’t quick to answer certain lingering mysteries – at least not in an obvious sense. We finally get to see Stamets hooked up to the tardigrade DNA manipulator again, but no answers are given as to why his personality charged or why it reverted back to being crusty and argumentative. The scene between Tilly and Stamets discussing his personality changes also feels a bit disposable; this subplot could have merited its own episode, or half-episode at the very least.

Also, we still don’t know what happened to Voq. L’Rell says to Cornwell he was pushed away, but we know his exile was at least orchestrated by her for a much larger objective. And is Cornwell dead? It seems likely that their fight may have been staged to deceive Kol. And if she’s not dead, what role will she play going forward?

L’Rell is drafted in to the ranks of House Kor by Kol (Kenneth Mitchell). (CBS)

Naturally, “Si Vi Pacem, Para Bellum” can be appreciated for its self-referential moments, including a well-written and performed scene between Burnham and Tyler in the alien hut where they consider the needs of the many versus the needs of the few, or one. In terms of story, the episode also closely mirrors Original Series episode’s “Errand of Mercy” and “This Side of Paradise.”

To be sure, having a character ‘brainwashed’ by alien forces that quiet some kind of internal turmoil in that character through an offer of utopia is a Trek cliche as old as time itself. We saw it with Tam Elbrun in The Next Generation’s “Tin Man,” with Sybok in Star Trek: The Final Frontier, and – dare I say (and this could be a bit of a stretch) – Dr. Crusher in TNG’s “Sub Rosa.” In the case of Saru’s brainwashing, it works, given what we know about his character and his upbringing of consumed fear.

Overall, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” is a satisfying entry that, despite its multiple subplots and rushed feel, delivers on all fronts. Even the Klingon portion feels satisfying and less distracting as it had in previous installments.

Burnham stops an enraged Saru (Doug Jones) using her phaser. (CBS)

“Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” is clearly a setup for next week’s fall finale, which certainly promises its own weighty cliffhanger. However successful next week’s episode will be, it certainly can be said that Discovery has found its footing and identity in the larger canon.

  • Mo

    The only “claustrophobia” I felt watching this episode was the relatively rushed treatment of Saru’s transformation by exposure to the planet’s native life. That we had a b-plot to advance was exciting, but it seemed to grab time away from what was happening on Pahvo. Even two or three more minutes of what Saru was going through—especially if it could have included his subjective point of view of a gradually changing emotional state—would have been helpful.

    I like very much that we still don’t know what L’Rell’s game is, but I’m enjoying the sight of her setting up all the playing pieces. I’m figuring everyone is a pawn, as far as she’s concerned.

    While Stamets is undergoing his continuing changes, I wish we could also be seeing more of Dr. Culber’s story in this shifting situation. We’ve been given very little of what he’s experiencing while his entire ship employs radical new technology that’s either killing entire ship’s crews, torturing innocent alien life, or altering the perceptions of his companion.

    He’s the CMO, for heaven’s sake, and we need to hear more about his take on where their captain is taking everyone during this war.

    • Culber is not the CMO on the Discovery.

      • Mo

        My mistake. Thank you. I’ve not done enough reading, apparently. Do we know who does fill that role, or is it an unrevealed background character?

        I still want to hear more from Culber, though.

        • Forest Elephant

          Unless they have mentioned the chief medical officer in passing, he/she/it has not been seen or heard from yet.

          • Nebula1701

            Hugh Culber said that he needed to assist the chief medical officer of USS Discovery with an Andorian tonsillectomy. (DIS: “Choose Your Pain”)


            That’s the only mention we get.

          • Mo

            Got it. Well, at some point, I expect we’ll see a bad day on Discovery when they suffer heavy casualties during a battle, and then perhaps we can get a glimpse of the rest of the Sickbay complex and how it handles major emergencies. Costs of war, and all that.

            I want to see Culber working as part of a larger professional team. Wilson Cruz has chops; I want to see him get a chance to use them.

        • SpaceCadet

          I agree but they haven’t focused on Culber and a bunch of the bridge/senior officers because they’re not part of the main cast. I think as the series goes on we’ll learn more about him since he’s the partner to one of the main characters or just maybe as the focus of his own story for once.

      • SpaceCadet

        Is Stamets the chief engineer? I’m unsure of that because so much of his build up in the press has been the fact that he’s a science officer with a specialty in astromicology.

        • Snap

          I wouldn’t have thought so, but in “Choose Your Pain” when Stamets first linked himself with the spore drive, his vitals were displayed on a console and his position was listed as “Chief Engineer.”

          But that brings into question whether the displays are entirely accurate, as the NX-01 Enterprise was listed as “USS Enterprise” in one of the on screen displays in season 4 of Enterprise.

          • TUP

            I believe it has been established that Stamets as Chief Engineer was a visual error.

    • TUP

      One can assume the CMO (and I love that they havent even shown him yet) is someone that is under Lorca’s thumb, either as an “inner circle” ally like the old security chief was, or intimidated. Its war and the CMO is going to defer to the Captain in areas he might not under normal circumstances.

      Its certainly an intriguing potential plot point though. And we could visit it THROUGH Culber.

      • Mo

        Agreed. That’s something I’d definitely want to see. Commander Landry gave me a tiny bit of a Galactica/Pegasus vibe with her willingness to torture the tardigrade.

  • Snap

    I actually hated the whole “needs of the many”/”of the few”/”ore the one?” bit. It’s one of those things which make portions of the novels so cringe-worthy, where they have to take ANY sort of line which has been uttered by a character in the TV series or movies and use it ad nauseum and using such a cliche in what is supposed to be a somewhat intimate scene just falls completely flat.

    I mean, this isn’t the first time Burnham has brought up “the needs of the many” and I am bettering it will be far from the last, when the line wasn’t used very often by Spock and Kirk at all. It was used in Wrath of Khan a couple times, and then it was inverted in Search For Spock when Spock asked why Kirk came back for him.

    The writers should let Burnham be her own character instead of a glorified stand in for Spock.

    • Mo

      Yeah, callback quotes are unnecessary. Especially for a show like this.

      • Nebula1701

        The call back quotes are there for fans but also for people new to star trek. (cbs is counting on this to bring in new people and this introduces well known quotes to a new audience.)

        • Mo

          Yep, I know what fan service is for. 😉

          But I don’t believe potential new viewers will necessarily be familiar with quotes that existing fans take for granted here. And DSC writers have generally been fairly smart about this sort of thing thus far.

          • Nebula1701

            It’s not that new fans will be familiar with the quotes. It’s introducing the quotes to the new fans.

          • Mo

            That’s just silly. This show has a lot of storytelling weight to carry. It shouldn’t also be tasked with teaching liturgy to people who might actually have avoided Trek in the past precisely because of nerds who incessantly recite it.

    • TUP

      It didnt take me out at all. I think it was meant as a callback to Michael’s adopted Vulcan heritage. It worked just fine. Perhaps its a Sarek Family saying.

      • Snap

        I don’t mind callbacks, but it’s not the first time Michael has quoted “needs of the many” and I fear it may become an overused cliche. I really don’t want Michael to be a “female Spock” (a bit of an exaggeration, yeah) rather I want to get to know Michael Burnham.

        Hopefully my fears are unfounded, and given that the episode was written by a novel writer, the more “cringeworthy” aspects, as I called it, make sense as they tend to regurgitate such lines at the drop of a hat… any hat.

        Is anybody else finding it just a bit difficult to get behind the Burnham character? I want to like her, but especially after the sneak peek on After Trek (all I will say to avoid spoilers), I wonder if it’s a failing of her character or of the writing as it reminded me of another example, which I will expand upon in the spoiler thread.

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    • scotchyscotchscotch

      I liked it for the same reason you mentioned, there’s history to people mixing up that line and correcting each other a la Kirk and Spock

    • Victorinox

      For me, that whole scene was really off putting. It felt forced, and didn’t really match the setting (“hey, we are in an unknown/strange planet, possibly at risk, without contact with our ship, but let’s have a camp fire and talk about our feelingzzz…). Meh!

      Completely different from their interactions in the prior episode, which were really good and their relationship seemed natural.

    • startrekker1701

      Hear, hear. It was as cringeworthy and empty as its use in STID.

  • Fiery Little One

    As far as Saru goes, it was interesting to see what makes him tick,, even if it was byway of alien influence.

    L’Rell… I’m not sure what her deal is, but even if it’s an act I’m inclined to buy it.

    • Mo

      That’s what she’s counting on.

      • Fiery Little One

        That’s possible.

    • TUP

      It was almost a sit up and take notice episode for L’Rell. Im very intrigued by her now. What almost seemed as something that came out of nowhere (her sending Voq away), we now see she has a big plan.

      There is a symmetry to the show in that the two females on either side of the war serve under a “warlord” male but are key to whatever outcome will happen for their side.

      The mystery of L’Rell and her plan is the best thing happening right now.

      • Fiery Little One



    Rhys sounds like “рис” (Russian for “rice”) and he’s Asian.

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  • James

    For me, this was the best episode yet. It really had a TOS vibe.

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  • Scott Gultz

    It’s amazing. There just isn’t too much to like about any of these characters. Speaking for myself. I don’t really care about any of them. Discovery seems to lack the emotional investment I had with prior Trek series. I know it’s relatively early in the series, but I am not enjoying this nearly as much as prior Trek series. They need to start focusing on the crew being a family, which I think is the missing ingredient. Also, the CGI is way too Abrams-esque for my personal taste. This show should be a seperate entity, not part of the original timeline.

    • startrekker1701

      A fair point and I think that’s why the method of focussing on the senior officers worked so well in the past.

  • Victorinox

    So, can we put to bet the theory that Tyler is Voq?

    McCoy detected a Klingon with a tricorder. Tyler was scanned by the entire Sickbay equipment, and nothing showed up.

    We are done here right? Otherwise, somebody really messed up the writing.

    • Adam Rasmussen

      He is certainly a Klingon, just apparently able to fool scanners.

  • startrekker1701

    Good Trek vibe but I’m baffled by the interaction between L’Rell and Cornwell as well as L’Rell and Kol in this episode and yet again am left with no idea with what I’ve watched (not in a good way).