Season 1 / Episode 14 / CBS All Access
We’re back in the Prime Universe now with Star Trek: Discovery, Episode 14, “The War Without, The War Within”. Everything has changed. Mirror Georgiou is here. Mirror Lorca is dead. Dr. Culber is also dead (A fact about which no one seems to be sad?). The war with the Klingons has gone directly to hell, no handbasket. A fact which Mirror Lorca would take as proof of the effectiveness of his tactics, but that’s another article.
What is for sure is that Discovery, with so much action and twists, has had some pacing problems, that continue for me in this episode. They’ve shown all the cards in the first 13 episodes; now they have to deal new cards to set up for season 2. However, we viewers are smarter now, we’re not going to fall for the old 3-card monty again. Will the showrunners try to run past us with more drama-stuffed, who-is-who-isn’t plots? Or will they have to settle down into a more steady stream of exploration and adventure? For now, this episode seems to promise more of the high drama, as you’ll see.
What Did You Do Michael?
We kick off with the moment that Saru goes into the transporter room to meet Burnham, and who does he see? The Emperor! Or who he thinks is Captain Georgiou. Once Saru gets the low-down, he’s as shocked as I was about what Burnham did. This is the least logical action in a world absolutely chock-a-block full of illogic. As she’s trying to excuse her emotional behavior, Saru has a bomb of his own: Your man Ash… yeah… Ash. L’Rell’s magic fingers seem to have killed whatever remained of Voq’s personality, leaving a grieving, confused Ash Tyler alive in the sick bay. You wanna see him?
HE TRIED TO KILL ME!
Michael may be kidnapping folks from mirror dimensions, but she hasn’t totally lost her senses.
Is he human or Klingon? Who can say?
Let’s ask him.
It turns out that Ash remembers it all. He has Voq’s memories, they are a hot mess of pain and trauma, and he now has all of Ash’s guilt as well. (sarcasm) This is a cocktail for relationship greatness, I can tell you that. (/sarcasm)
Saru, while limiting Ash’s movement around the ship, doesn’t lock him up. He seems to forgive him Voq’s crimes on the spot. I guess some folks get the benefit of the doubt.
On the bridge, the still optimistic and not-at-all battle ready Bridge Crew finds themselves completely overwhelmed by a boarding party of Federation fighters, followed by Admiral Katrina Cornwall, Pi Beta Six, herself and everyone’s most useful traveling mind-reader, Ambassador Sarek. Sarek hits Saru with the Vulcan face pinch and everything gets explained.
The Klingons have taken over much of the quadrant, killing indiscriminately and blowing up ships like the warriors they are. The 24 houses are trying to rack up kills like in a FPS, so that finally one house will get that Achievement Unlocked: You’re the Baddest MotherFucker In the Quadrant badge. Discovery is going to warp back to Starbase 1 to regroup, putting all of the Discovery’s spore drive/multiverse spanning jumping info on lockdown. Oh, and also! Emperor Georgiou!
Emperor Georgiou is gracious, condescending, threatening — and she wants to go home. Well, they can’t get her home. We’re all stuck here on Disco together.
Speaking of stuck on Disco together, Ash is cruising down the hallway when he runs in to Stamets. Now, in a perfect universe…I don’t know what would happen, but it ain’t this. Ash pulls out his now tried-and-true sensitive guy routine, which I’m sure *some* of you people fall for, but I ain’t the one. I’m.Still.Mad. Tyler says I’m sorry to Stamets. What does Stamets do? He repeats what we all know: that Dr. Culber was the best of us and now he’s gone. Stamets hopes that Tyler suffers in his guilt, and pushes on. This is perhaps the most unsatisfying confrontation ever in a show full of satisfying confrontations.
Next Tyler has to go get lunch. Maybe he’ll get what’s coming for him in the mess hall. Nope. Tilly has to go all compassionate and agree to eat at his table. Then once Tilly is there, everyone else on the bridge crew joins up. It is like the happy lunch room scene from the end of a teen drama.
No punishment. No guilt. They all accept that Tyler was possessed by a Klingon. We’re all good now. Srsly? HE KILLED THE DOCTOR AND ATTEMPTED TO KILL BURNHAM! Is that something y’all just forgive? I mean, I’m not campaigning for a 23rd century industrial prison complex or anything, but can a sister get some justice? Even restorative justice where the folks who have been harmed can feel restored to wholeness? Can we get some punishment? I’m.Still.Mad.
The Disco arrives at Starbase 1. Buuuut, Starbase 1 isn’t there anymore, at least not the Federation Starbase 1. The Klingons House D’Gor have attacked it and taken over. So much for that.
Cornwall has turned into a fabulous character in the Discovery, in fact her story arc could replace Lorca’s as she decides what is enough violence and what is too much. She’s mature, decisive, never cruel or flippant. She thinks things through, speaks plainly, and goes to the heart of the issue. That’s how she ends up in the Brig, having a heart to heart with the resident captive Klingon, L’Rell. I don’t know why they don’t slap L’Rell with a wrist monitor and let her wander around with Tyler, but hey.
She comes clean to L’Rell: What do you people, I mean Klingons, want?
L’Rell’s answer is unchanged: This is war. It does not end until all of you are gone or all of us are.
How Georgiou Got to Be Emperor
Terran politics are brutal. We know that. But we haven’t seen the back room deals, the manipulations, that actually make the empire run. You can’t run a quadrant if everyone is dead. Georgiou, tired of sitting in her room and now aware that she’s not going home, has to get to work. First, she has to gather some intel to find some weaknesses. She and Burnham have a chit chat, in which Burnham admits that Sarek is her father. Further, Georgiou, knowing that Burnham feels like they’re related, even though they aren’t, hands out some advice:
Burnham and Georgiou talk about how to end the war. Georgiou puts on her maternal face and gives Burnham the details for how to defeat the Klingon homeworld of Qo’noS. It is perfect work by The Emperor to find out more about Burnham, and Sarek, that may be useful to her later, while also giving Burnham just a taste of what she knows. Just enough to prove she’s useful. Next, she’ll put her new information to use.
Going On the Offensive
Georgiou tells Burnham that the inside of Qo’noS is effectively hollow. The crew, in their mandatory 15 minutes of science per show, cooks up a plan to grow some more spores. Stamets will use those spores to jump the Disco INSIDE the planet. They will map all the good stuff from there, then jump back out and beam the intel to StarFleet Command, who will use the details to plan a coordinated offensive to crush the Klingons. Easy.
That 15 minutes of science is a’ight, but it is most interesting because it has some familiar echoes from Star Trek: Wrath of Khan, particularly to the Genesis Device, that can terraform entire planets in one shot. Is this the beginning of that research? Maybe. A coincidence? Probably not.
Sarek goes to see Emperor Georgiou at her request…her summons as she puts it because she’s extra like that. Together, they get into a little parental bragging match about which version of Burnham was better, with Sarek getting in the last blow in a perfect, understated moment.
Together, Georgiou and Sarek craft the best scene in the episode, as they plot and counterplot with each other, revealing a little, hiding a little, until they finally come to an agreement. We see why Sarek is an Ambassador. He’s a cunning, lying SOB. Okay, he doesn’t LIE, Vulcans don’t lie. (not that they can’t, they generally don’t) But they omit details like a kid trying raiding the fridge for the last ice cream sandwich — that is bold-faced and unashamed. We also see how, with just the information that Burnham and Sarek are related, Georgiou can change everything.
Burnham Gets Some Advice and Gives Some
One of the ongoing themes of Discovery thus far has been Burnham’s growing up emotionally, detaching from her parental figures, exploring romantic love — Freud would love this show. When Burnham starts talking feelings with Sarek, you think you know what’s coming. But you don’t. Sarek, on his way home to set up whatever plan Georgiou has kicked off with him, calls Burnham out: you’re mad because you fell in love with a Klingon and Klingons killed your folks. Yeah, that’s fucked. But also:
Burnham, turned around by Sarek being (what?) PARENTAL, goes to talk to her bestie Tilly. Tilly, instead of commiserating with Burnham (Yeah, parents are on some shit, am I right?) lays into her about how this emotional turmoil is because Burnham hasn’t talked to Tyler and given him a hug. I’m not about to forgive him, Tilly! He.Tried.To.Kill.Burnham.I’m.Still.Mad.
Tilly goes into a pep-talk about how we become who we are because of how others treat us. So, to save Tyler from becoming the monster they fear, Burnham should go see him and save him from the darkness inside. Tyler needs you, Tilly says. He.Tried.To.Kill.Burnham.I.Don’t.Care.What.He.Needs.
Being all honest and compassionate and forgiving is too much for me.
Burnham, however, does decide that maybe a clean break is the best way to go with Tyler, so she goes to see him. He apologizes, all choked up and teary. But Burnham is my girl, and she ain’t having it. Tyler lied to her. He knew he was losing it and he didn’t admit that. He endangered her, promised to protect her, then betrayed her. All.Facts.
Tyler accuses her of abandoning him when “things got complicated”. Yo. You were flayed and filleted into a Klingon deep cover spy who, when your trigger word came through, killed the doctor and tried to kill your commanding officer/lover. “Complicated” ain’t the word for that.
They put all the cards on the table. True, the reason the trigger word didn’t completely turn Tyler into Voq is because of his love for Burnham. He needs her. Also true, Burnham had to put herself back together after the Battle of the Binary Stars. She did, is still doing, that work.
Tyler has to put in that work. That punishing, relentless, deep dive, who the hell am I and why am I here work. Then maybe, they can have pudding in the mess hall together. Until then.
Captain Georgiou is Back!
Admiral Cornwall has been briefed on Ambassador Sarek and Emperor Georgiou’s plan, and she shows a bit of her own Mirror Universe plotting. She introduces Emperor Georgiou as CAPTAIN Georgiou, who has just been rescued from a Klingon prison ship. Georgiou is going to lead the Discovery on its most dangerous mission ever: Inside the Klingon homeworld. Cornwall gives Saru and Burnham, the only people who know definitively about the Emperor, the hard eye and they fall in line, while Georgiou, her manipulations of the StarFleet officers going smoothly, takes the captain’s chair.
That’s right folks. The Discovery is once again captained by a person from the Mirror Universe. I sweartogawd this is too much. Or just enough.
This is that “setting up for Season 2” work I referenced back in the intro to this recap. Now Georgiou is in charge. Can she be trusted? We know she’ll turn this to her advantage, but when? How? Will she hold up her end of the bargain or go off her own way? Has Cornwell fallen for that Terran charm *twice*?
This will certainly bond Saru and Burnham more closely. And it should result in some fun and fighty “on planet” scenes as they infiltrate and spy on the Klingons to get more information.
Listen, I know Burnham and Tyler will end up back together. Or he’ll sacrifice himself bravely to prove his love, so then he’ll be dead and she’ll know the truth. Either way, she won’t stay mad long. I’m just glad they let her be mad for a while, even if the rest of the Bridge Crew is acting like Tyler just had a bad day.
I’m just gonna call it now: They’ll find Culber’s body down amongst the mold at the beginning of next season. Don’t worry, if I’m right, I’ll say I told you so early and often.
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I am so, *so* glad they are letting her be mad (and hurt, and compassionate, and wise, and also mad). I am also kinda glad they made Tilly and the crew be the voice of “Tyler needs a hug” so those of us that ship-it don’t need to burn up the keyboard like the show disagrees on that point just because they let the strong female character *also be a person that needs things*. It felt like the screen-equivalent of addressing your opponent’s viewpoint in a debate: yes, we all know Tyler needs a hug. Have you considered that fix-Tyler should not be job-one for the person he directly traumatized? So so happy with that set of decisions.