With possibly one of the best and tensest openings since “The Best Of Both Worlds, Part II” or “The Year Of Hell, Part Two,” Star Trek: Discovery takes a deep breath before the upcoming season finale, but makes sure we don’t get too comfortable in this emotional and, once again, twisty episode.
Episode Number: 114
Episode Title: “The War Without, The War Within” or “Cornwell Takes Charge”
Written By: Lisa Randolph
Directed By: David Solomon
Cornwell: “Where’s Captain Lorca?”
Burnham: “Sarek… please!”
Cornwell: “Stand down, specialist. Now!” Beat. “Computer, initiate command level override. Authorisation: Admiral Katrina Cornwell, pi beta six.”
Computer: “Override confirmed.”
Cornwell: “The Lorca I came up with was measured, he was reasoned. I couldn’t have imagined…”
Sarek: “That Lorca was an impostor from an alternate universe was not the most obvious conclusion. We were all deceived.”
Cornwell: “All evidence of your recent journey will be classified and destroyed. We cannot risk the knowledge of this alternate universe leaving the confines of Discovery.”
Burnham: “I don’t understand?”
Stamets: “There would be… too many possibilities.”
Sarek: “Indeed. Our people have suffered terrible losses. What would you do if you thought that your dead wife, your lost child, your murdered parents might be alive on the other side and that the technology exists for you to see them again? This knowledge must be buried.”
Cornwell: “Command will want this locked down.”
Saru: “Of course, Admiral.”
Cornwell: “I want to be truthful with you. Your side is winning. When we met, you had nothing but contempt for the crumbling leadership of the Klingon Empire.”
L’Rell: “T’Kuvma sought to strengthen and unify the Great Houses. If he has succeeded in only this, it is cause for celebration.”
Cornwell: “Your ‘Great Houses’ are carving up Federation assets among their factions. A captured starbase bears the insignia of House D’Ghor, not of the Klingon Empire. Is that the kind of ‘unity’ your messiah proclaimed. They think nothing of the collateral damage caused by their brutal attacks. They target civilians, hospitals, food conveys. They slaughter innocents, and inspire terror across the quadrant.”
L’Rell: “This is war, not a child’s game with rules. We fight to preserve Klingon identity.”
Cornwell: “No one is looking to destroy your culture! Our laws are founded in equality, freedom.”
L’Rell: “T’Kuvma taught us that the Federation cannot help itself. It seeks universal homoginisation and assimilation.”
Cornwell: “T’Kuvma was an ignorant fool, and your people are moving closer and closer to my home planet. What are you looking for? More territory? Conditional surrender? I mean, your people won’t even make demands. Why? How does this war end?”
L’Rell: “It doesn’t. Klingons have tasted your blood. Conquer us, or we will never relent.”
Cornwell: “Thank you.”
Georgiou: “Your child is lost.”
Sarek: “Do not confuse my ward with yours.”
Georgiou: “My daughter was a singular example of brilliance until one foolish choice doomed her world. Sound familiar?”
Sarek: “If I understand correctly, my ward saw through the man who brought down not just your child, but your empire. Perhaps best not to make comparisons.” Beat. “Why have you requested my presence?”
Georgiou: “You were summoned, Vulcan, for one reason. I want to help you end this war.”
Sarek: “During my mind meld with Saru I learned of your attachment to the Klingon spy and what he did to you. Such events are clearly troubling.”
Michael: “I’m fine, Sarek.”
Sarek: “I remain unconvinced. There is irony here, of course, the man you fell in love with was a Klingon.”
Michael: “He… I don’t know what he was.”
Sarek: “There is also grace. For what greater source for peace exists than our ability to love our enemy.”
Michael: “I’ve made foolish choices. Emotional choices.”
Sarek: “Well, you are human. As is your mother. There is no telling what any one of us may do where the heart is concerned. We are at war, logic dictates that each farewell may be our last.” Beat. “Do not regret loving someone, Michael.”
Moments of Interest
We know from Star Trek: Enterprise that mind meld’s are, in Vulcan years, still relatively new by the time we get to Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: The Original Series, but we also know, thanks to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and multiple TOS episodes, that they’re an intimate and private thing. Forcing a mind meld on someone can be damaging for both the person undergoing the procedure, and the person initiating it.
In times of war and what sounds like the threat of extinction, it appears they also become a tool for quickly assessing a situation.
Sarek, at Cornwell’s behest, initiates an uninvited mind meld with Saru at the beginning of this episode. It’s not something any of us would expect of Sarek, but I think it’s a device that’s being used by the writers to let every Star Trek fan know how desperate the Federation’s situation is it at this point in the war.
Another interesting moment is when Admiral Cornwell mentions Captain Jonathan Archer and the crew of the USS Enterprise NX-01 during the episode, reminding everyone that Archer’s trip to the Klingon Homeworld was the only time humans had set foot on that world. Nice bit of continuity, and one I appreciated (being a Star Trek: Enterprise fan).
This episode is an acting tour de force for Jayne Brook and Michelle Yeoh in particular. Both women are outstanding. In every way. They drive the plot forward, add remarkable nuance to every scene, and carry the episode effortlessly.
That’s not to say everyone else wasn’t good. They were, as we’ve come to expect, and as per usual special mention needs to go to Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Chieffo and Shazad Latif. They shine in every scene and Mary Chieffo in particular is electric whenever she shares the screen with Jayne Brook.
For me, it’s all of these performances and the little moments that make the episode something special.
Some critics have said they’re not overly fond of “The War Within, The War Without,” and that the writers “dropped the ball” because the episode slowed the momentum of the last third of the season. I couldn’t disagree more. This episode was not only necessary as the inevitable prelude to the season finale, it was necessary for our characters as they start to process what has happened to them, and to process the fact that the war has gone terribly in their absence. I guarantee you that if the writers hadn’t explored some of these issues before the end of the season, many critics would have be up in arms about that.
“The War Without, The War Within” allowed us to see where Tyler and Michael are at after the horrific shocks of a couple of episodes ago – and it’s not a good place. It also allowed us to enjoy seeing L’Rell and Admiral Cornwell go at each other again, and it allowed us to see more of Emperor Georgiou. For me, the real pleasure in the episode was watching Georgiou. Michelle Yeoh was electric and menacing and she owned every scene she was in. Seeing the character interact with Michael, Sarek and Cornwell left me thinking no one in the Prime Universe would ever stand a chance against her if she chose to act up.
Another highlight of the episode was seeing Katrina Cornwell in the Captain’s chair. She looks good in it! Hey, sometimes it’s the small things that make a fan happy.
The episode began right where the last one ended, with Saru somewhat shocked by the appearance of the Mirror Georgiou in his transporter room.
Georgiou, for her part, is far from impressed an alien is giving orders and quips to Burnham that yesterday they were eating a Kelpian, and now Burnham is taking orders from one.
Yep. That’s one way to leave an impression!
A not too happy Saru challenges Burnham on her lie (in an earlier episode she had told him she had not seen any Kelpiens in the Mirror Universe), but quickly pushes through that without, thankfully, bringing up the eating bit!
Saru tells Burnham that Tyler is doing well, and that Voq seems to be gone. Michael tells Saru she’s not ready to see the spy. And then shit gets serious as phaser wielding Andorians and Tellarites beam aboard, followed by Sarek and Admiral Katrina Cornwell.
It’s a tense, wonderful scene where Cornwell takes control, literally, and brings the Discovery under her command.
We quickly learn that the Federation hasn’t lost the war, as Saru initially thought at the end of the last episode, but they are getting smashed.
Cornwell advises certain members of the crew that 20% of Federation space has been lost, and the Klingons have – without rhyme or reason, as Michael points out – slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocents.
As the episode progresses, the action quickly subsides (without ever completely losing the underlying threat of the defeat of the Federation) to focus instead on meaningful character moments, with one of the most intense being the briefest. Stamets coming face to face with Ash.
It’s a scene that I’m not sure I’m happy with. Stamets responded in a very Stamets way, and Ash certainly looked upset, even devastated, but it didn’t resonate with me. It felt somehow hollow. I didn’t want Stamets to bop Ash on the nose, but a quick scene of Paul rounding the corner and leaning against a bulkhead with a lone tear trailing down his cheek would have made the moment work. Hugh and Paul’s relationship has been played up as this great love story, but we haven’t spent enough time seeing the effect on Stamets and I think we need to. Anything less diminishes that love and Hugh’s time on Discovery.
The majority of the remainder of the episode deals with Georgiou and her manipulations.
Before we look at that though, there were two other important moments where enough time was given to the characters and their plight, that need to be mentioned.
The first is between Michael and Ash. After initially refusing to see Tyler, at the prompting of Tilly she finally goes to him.
Things don’t start well, and lead Ash to a moment where he lashes out at Michael, pretty much telling Burnham that she got frightened and all of this is a convenient way for her to back out. She doesn’t take that and fires back, reminding him he had his hands around her throat, and that she looked into the eyes of the man she loved to see nothing but hatred there and a desire to kill her.
That puts him in his place.
She very poignantly ends everything by telling him that his road to redemption, much like hers, will be a solo journey.
It’s a beautiful scene. I’m constantly astounded by how much meaning Sonequa Martin-Green can squeeze into one sentence, even one word, through a simple change in tone, an unexpected inflection, or the quirk of her mouth. Shazad Latif is similar. While Sonequa’s delivery is always very controlled, as you would expect from someone who is playing a character who has been raised by Vulcan’s, Shazad’s delivery is very open with every emotion crossing his face. What you would expect from someone who is essentially Klingon, a species not known for hiding their emotions.
The juxtaposition of the two is perfect.
The other meaningful moment didn’t play as well.
Before all of this, Ash visits the mess and everything goes quiet. He grabs his meal and sits down alone while people whisper behind his back and cast him sidelong glances.
Tilly, echoing how she befriended Michael, moves from her table to sit with him. He tells her she doesn’t have to, and she sets him straight. Then Keyla Detmer joins them, offering Ash a warm “welcome back.” The scene would have been perfect if it ended there, or with Lieutenant Bryce (the Communications Officer) joining them right after Detmer. But, after Bryce, a whole bunch of people come over and it all seems a bit much. It crossed from special to corny in seconds. I want Ash to be forgiven, because we all know it was Voq who did all of those horrible things, but would so many people so easily welcome him back that quickly? How has he redeemed himself? He hasn’t? Has he? Has the crew had time to process what he did and grieve Doctor Culber’s death? I don’t think so. That moment, for me, felt forced and false.
And now, back to Georgiou.
Starfleet in the Prime Universe doesn’t have a chance. If they don’t keep a close eye on her she’ll be ruling the Federation inside a decade.
There’s not much more I can say about Emperor Georgiou in this episode that I haven’t already. She walks circles around every character. While they innocently and naively (and a little warily) attempt to understand her, she is calculating in every moment and looking for an advantage or a way to manipulate things to her will. And it’s constant.
Michelle Yeoh is not just a ‘moustache’ twirling villain in this episode, though. She also shows compassion and even, dare I say, a smidge of love, to Burnham. It’s fleeting, but it’s there. Michelle conveys it all perfectly. Complex characters are so rewarding for the viewer, and they show good writing, and this Georgiou is definitely complex.
Like most people in the western world, I fell in love with her watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Now I’ve fallen in love with her all over again, first because of her portrayal of Captain Georgiou, and now because of her portrayal of Emperor Georgiou.
I think the joy here is that Georgiou is now a character who has represented the very best of Starfleet, and now the absolute worst in the visage of her Mirror Universe self.
I love how the writers have done that!
Out of all of the interactions between Georgiou and those characters who know she is on board, the best is her private meeting with Sarek.
The first time we see her interact with Sarek is after Michael confesses what she’s done. Cornwell and Sarek go with Michael to visit the Emperor, and Sarek is surprised (as much as a Vulcan can be) by how alike this Georgiou is to his now dead friend.
That quick interaction, though, gives Georgiou an idea. She picks up on the bond between Sarek and Michael and logs that in her memory for future use.
She sets about setting her trap. The first step is helping Michael formulate a plan. Michael shares that plan with Cornwell, who is excited. Cornwell convinces what’s left of Starfleet’s leadership it will work.
The second step is taking the plan to the next level. A dark and horrible level. Georgiou “summons” Sarek and shares her complete idea with him. It’s something she wouldn’t tell Michael because she didn’t think her “daughter who is not her daughter” could handle it.
During all of this we learn that Starbase One has been occupied by the Klingons (House D’Ghor to be exact) and that all of the Starfleet vessels and personnel are gone, presumed dead. It’s an horrific moment for Admiral Cornwell, and Jayne Brook plays it oh so well. I felt terrible for the character. She obviously lost so many people that she cared for, and in that moment was probably thinking she would lose the Federation too.
It’s this last act by the Klingons, I think, that pushes Sarek to take his next step.
All of this leads to another big twist. Yes, another twist, because apparently that’s what modern television is all about.
Sarek leaves the Discovery to make some “arrangements” and then, in the penultimate moment of the episode, we see what those arrangements are.
Emperor Georgiou becomes Captain Georgiou and is given command of the USS Discovery for a risky mission to Qo’noS.
She is introduced to the crew of the Discovery as the recently rescued Philippa Georgiou, much to the shock and joy of Keyla Detmer, and the shock and worry of Saru and Michael.
This twist actually took me by surprise. Of all the things they could have done with the character, this one I did not expect – though it makes so much sense.
The look that Georgiou gives Michael just before the episode wraps should make us all worried, and it should petrify Burnham. It’s obvious Philippa is playing them.
This episode works.
It’s not the fastest paced or most action packed, but it is character heavy and full of remarkable performances.
While some of the scenes don’t play out perfectly, the episode is strong and it deserves to be thought of favourably.
I don’t know if I can even hope to work out what the producers’ plan is for this wonderful new Philippa Georgiou, but I’d like to think they will try and make this work. It’s a brand new take on “the outsider” looking in and commenting on humanity.
Logic suggests Emperor Georgiou won’t live for long, but I hope, in this instance, the logical conclusion does not come to pass.
In other predictions, I firmly believe L’Rell is still up to something with Tyler and that he’s not as free of the Voq personality as we would like to believe. The producers of Star Trek: Discovery seem to like avoiding happy endings!
An excellent episode, an important breather between the conclusion of one arc and what, we’ve been told, will be the conclusion of the war arc, and a nice episode for character development.
I can’t wait for the finale, which, if the previews are anything to go by, looks outstanding.
Bring on ass-kicking Emperor Georgiou! I loved Captain Philippa Georgiou, but am really coming to adore this slightly twisted version of her. Someone give Michelle Yeoh her own Star Trek spin-off. Now!