Star Trek #1460: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

FORMULA: This Side of Paradise + Errand of Mercy

WHY WE LIKE IT: Saru's funny run.

WHY WE DON'T: The dull first contact story.

REVIEW: The show's characters continue their trek to counter whatever the Klingons throw at them, which at this juncture, means getting access to a giant tuning fork to broadcast a signal that will interfere with the Klingons' cloaking devices. Is that pseudo-science any less realistic than the "invisibility screens" we've seen in use since the original series? Sadly, that mission is rather dull. Pahvo is a good-looking forest planet, but its inhabitants (if we can call them that - they're more of a presence that seemingly includes all of nature) are boring special effects. There's no one to talk to. Saru just stands there and has orgasms as energy washes over him. I'm all for truly alien aliens, but the Pahvans are too close to the god-like beings that pepper the Star Trek universe to feel all that original. They play as standard "possession ghosts", and eventually resolve into proto-Organians, trying to force the Federation and Klingons into peace to suit their peaceful ethos. At least the Organians were played by actors. I don't feel engaged by speechless floating lights.

Perhaps worse is that this adventure does to Saru. It starts out well, exploring his heightened senses in a way that really does make you want to see others from his world, and the planet/society as well. So it's unfortunate that when the Pahvans take his fear (on 3... "I NEED MY FEAR!" oh, wrong emotion/version of Trek, sorry), he actively makes the choice to sabotage the mission, betray his teammates, etc. He seems brainwashed, but he admits to being in control at the end. I guess we can sweep it under the rug by calling it temporary insanity - after all, removing one of your emotions (and one key to your identity) would change your personality and possibly unbalance you. Still, Saru isn't exactly the most sympathetic cast member to begin with, so throwing him under the bus by having him savagely attack Burnham in the name of "peace and harmony"... not helping.

Tyler and Burnham finally get an in-continuity kiss, but since it already happened for us in the previous episode, it's kind of a non-event. Her reference to "the needs of the many" could feel forced, but I guess this an aphorism learned on Vulcan (or in the Sarek household). More interesting is the number of lines of dialog said by Tyler (or about Tyler) that could have a double meaning and point to him being a Klingon agent. Even the "Previously" montage at the top of the show has him say the word "honor". This is at odds with his seemingly sincere wish to go back to his favorite fishing hole once the war is over. If he IS Voq (or some other Klingon), his memory implants are holding strong. That's the only way this makes sense. (Or it's masterful misdirection from the showrunners, that goes as far as what credits they shared with IMDB, casting announcements even before that, etc.).

Speaking of Voq, he is referenced in the Klingon parts of the episode, as L'Rell makes an alliance with Admiral Cornwell against Kol. L'Rell is a mistress of lies, so her vague story about Voq being "chased away" doesn't ring true. We know something's up, but what? Do her plans really fall apart when Kol has her men killed? She drops everything (including the prone body of the Admiral) and Kol stops trusting her even as he gives her hope that she might be favored. But I wouldn't be surprised if this were part of her plan as well. Since we can't know what's real, we can't trust anything said or done. I like the uncertainty, but may be disappointed to find there's actually less there than first thought.

The other subplot shows Stamets getting frustrated at his increasing confusion coming out of black alerts. His calling Tilly "captain", given his ability to stand outside time, hints at a bright future for the cadet, and the ethical quandry he finds himself in regarding whether or not he can tell Dr. Culber is well expressed.

LESSON: In Latin. For example, the title means "If you want peace, prepare for war".

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-Low - The subplots are all pretty intriguing, but the A-plot is dreadfully dull. With the mid-season finale right in front of us, we'll see if any of this pays off and makes Si Vis Pacem stronger as a result.


Radagast said...

I have to reserve a warm feeling for this one, given that it was filmed very close to home - at the striking natural spaces along the Niagara Escarpment in Milton, Ontario. I'd recognize those cliffs, and their red cedars, anywhere.

Siskoid said...

So that's where that is. Cool! Yeah, the location is certainly gorgeous, and a chance from the deserts of California and forests of BC we're so used to.


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