Star Trek: Discovery Review – “The War Without, the War Within”

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Star Trek: Discovery Review – “The War Without, the War Within”



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The best of both worlds.

Full spoilers follow for this episode. Click here if you want to learn how to watch Star Trek: Discovery.

Discovery took something of a breather this week — by Discovery’s standards anyway — to regroup after the many big twists of the past few episodes. The result is a bottle show that nonetheless still manages to feel big and expensive while also getting back to the Burnham/Tyler storyline that had been on hold while the Mirror Universe saga was wrapping up.

Picking up pretty much right where we left off last week, Captain Saru’s tenure in the center seat is unfortunately cut short when Admiral Cornwell and Sarek arrive, informing everyone that the war situation isn’t quite as bad as it seemed at the end of the previous episode… which is kind of lame, really, because it makes that twist in “What’s Past Is Prologue” now feel more like a cheat.

Anyway, Cornwell takes command of the Discovery, putting Saru back at his station as executive officer. As cool as it is to see an admiral throwing around her authority during a moment of crisis like this, it’s still disappointing not only because the Doug Jones character truly feels like he should be captain after the events of last week, but also because Cornwell isn’t so great at command as it turns out. We kind of saw this when she went off for those peace talks on the late, lamented elders of Cancri IV’s planet earlier this season (which resulted in her ambush), and again here when the Disco arrives at Starbase 1 only to find it now occupied by a Klingon faction. It’s Saru who takes action and orders the ship to warp while Cornwell just stands there dumbstruck. Perhaps she’s been flying a goddamn computer console for too long instead of getting out there and hopping galaxies! It shows.

But Saru and many of the other crewmembers, including Tilly and some of the supporting bridge crew players, come across as full-on Starfleet in “The War Without, the War Within” as they accept and forgive Tyler despite what he’s done. It’s a very Star Trek sentiment, and it flies in the face of the critics who accuse this show of not being “real Trek.” Ditto Tilly and Burnham’s conversation about whether or not they knew what they were getting into when they joined Starfleet. Even Saru and Burnham appear to be back on completely good terms, and, if anything, the drawback here is that Discovery often moves so fast that we don’t get the chance to see the smaller character moments where such wounds are healed.

At the same time, the relationship between Burnham and Tyler apparently will not be so easily repaired (nor will Stamets and Tyler’s for that matter, and it was nice to see Paul finally acknowledge Hugh’s death back in the real world). It would’ve been too pat for them to just kiss and makeup already, especially since Burnham didn’t even know “Tyler” was back until this week. And the performances from Sonequa Martin-Green and Shazad Latif really sell the pain of the situation — they’re both great here. Also, how cool is it that Sarek of all people tells Burnham to not regret loving someone? But for now, anyway, the irony of it all is that they’re both just too damaged to stay together.

And they need to focus on the plan ahead: The crew is about to use the Discovery to infiltrate the Klingon homeworld itself, and beneath its very surface to boot. That sounds a bit Death Star-y to me, but we’ll find out next week how it all shakes out as Captain Georgiou makes her return — sort of — to lead the final battle of the season, and perhaps of the war. See, I told you Cornwell is prone to making bad decisions…

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Questions and Notes from the Q Continuum:

  • I’m trying to parse the use of the term “reassignment protocol” but I can’t quite tell if there’s anything more there.
  • And that’s the second Captain Archer reference we’ve gotten on this show so far!
  • It’s kind of funny that Discovery feels the need to/spends the money on showing us the “ISS” being returned to its proper “USS” designation on the ship’s hull.
  • Also pretty fancy: The Genesis Planet Light move the team pulls of on that spore world.
  • Admiral Cornwell’s phasering Lorca’s bowl of fortune cookies was pretty perfect. “Bastard!”
  • We apparently now know why the Mirror Universe is an unknown phenomenon in The Original Series — because the admiral orders all evidence of it “classified and destroyed.” The reasoning makes sense too, mostly (avoiding the urge of those who’ve lost someone to want to look for their counterpart in the Mirror U).
  • Everyone’s gotten super casual about keeping their uniforms zipped up, eh?
  • It’s nice to see Cornwell and L’Rell reconnect after their almost-alliance in the earlier part of the season, though I do wish they’d get L’Rell out of that cell for good at some point.

The Verdict

It’s refreshing for the typically breakneck-paced Discovery to slow down a bit for a change and examine what has happened to several of its characters over the past 14 episodes with a bottle show that isn’t really a bottle show at all. Punctuating these character moments with bigger VFX-laden showpieces, “The War Without, the War Within” is a combination of the best of both worlds for Star Trek: Discovery. And next week, in the season finale, all roads have led to this point: an attack on the Klingon homeworld.

For more on “The War Without, the War Within,” listen to Scott Collura’s Transporter Room 3 podcast review here.

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