Episode 9, Mid-Season Finale Recap and Review

Episode 9 Recap and Review Banner

Holy crap.

What an episode!

Lorca is a… PIG.  A manipulative, sociopathic ass!  I had to stop myself from hurling my phone across the room toward the end of this episode because of his actions.

Last week’s “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum” was touted as the ’emotional’ episode for the first-half season, but for me it was this episode.  I shed tears three times, twice because of the tragedy of a particular situation, and once out of surprise and anger.

“Into the Forest I Go” was (for me at least) a roller coaster ride – and I loved it.  Eight out of nine of the episodes this season have been my favourite for at least a week, but now this and “Lethe” hold equal first place for this ‘chapter’ of the story.

Some reviewers have had issues with the episode, or have been unimpressed.  I was the exact opposite.

It was so so good.

Let’s get into it.

The Facts
Episode Number: 109
Episode Title: “Into the Forest I Go”
Written By: Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt
Directed By: Chris Byrne

Quotable
Culber to Lorca
: “Well I’m not ready to play roulette with his brain.

Stamets to Lorca: “You want me to make 133 jumps?!

Lorca to Stamets: “I know what drives you, lieutenant.  You’re not just a scientist, you’re an explorer.  You could’ve just stayed in a lab on Earth, but you chose to go where no one has gone before.” *squee!*

Stamets to Lorca: “You’ve been accumulating this data from my jumps the whole time?  And these scattered pockets of negative mass… it’s… they could indicate alternative parallel universes connected to the mycelial network… and with more jumps we could find a pattern – perhaps even the coordinates to reach them!
Lorca to Stamets: “You showed me this invention could take us to places that we never dreamed we could reach.  This is far beyond our preconceptions of time and space.
Stamets to Lorca: “Captain, I didn’t know you cared.
Lorca to Stamets: “We have to win this war.  But then…
Stamets to Lorca: “Then the journey continues.  (*squee* again)  If we can save Pahvo, defeat the Klingons and do all this… 133 jumps it is.

Lorca to his crew: “We are about to face the most difficult challenge we have ever attempted.  Today we stare down the bow of the Ship of the Dead.  The very same ship that took thousands of our own at the Battle of the Binary Stars.  When I took command of this vessel, you were a crew of polite scientists.  Now, I look at you, and you are fierce warriors all.  No other Federation vessel would have a chance of pulling this off.  Just us.  Because mark my words, you will look back proudly, and tell the world you were there the day the USS Discovery saved Pahvo and ended the Klingon War.

Interesting Bits and Pieces
– In this episode we get the first real indication of the existence of the Mirror Universe for this series.
– Starfleet has ‘pattern simulators’ that can mimic the life signs of other species’.  This is a great idea.  New tech for Trek, but tech that makes sense!
– The 133 jumps are an homage to the Battlestar Galactica Episode “33,” source: After Trek.”
– When the Discovery does it’s ‘last’ jump, for a moment, the ship is split in two, evoking a scene from the TOS episode “Mirror, Mirror.”

The Recap and Review
Before jumping into the episode I need to correct something, last week I wondered if “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum” was the shortest live-action Trek episode ever, coming in at only 41 minutes.  It wasn’t.  The shortest is actually “Battle at the Binary Stars,” which runs only 39 minutes.

Okay… after a brief orientation to what’s happened across the last few episodes, we go into a teaser!  No cold open this episode.

The Discovery is still at Pahvo, and Lorca is arguing with Vulcan Admiral Terral (via hologram) on the bridge.

Lorca and Admiral Terral

I don’t think that’s a great move.  If I were Terral I would have demanded privacy because he knows how insubordinate Lorca can be.  Discovery‘s bridge crew get to watch their captain argue with a senior officer which doesn’t seem wise to me.

Terral wants Discovery to leave Pahvo and return to Starbase 46.  Lorca wants to stay and protect the Pahvo.

Lorca, eventually, seemingly complies, to the surprise of his crew.  But, this is Gabriel Lorca, he does exactly what he wants to do – and is smart enough, in this circumstance, to at least give the appearance of obeying orders.

He has Discovery warp to Starbase 46, rather than jump using the DASH drive.  At warp, the Starbase is three hours away.  He wants to use those three hours to devise a plan to save the Pahvans.

Using the excuse that Stamets is having issues with his interface for the spore-drive (if only Lorca knew), he rationalises his choice to go to warp, delaying their return.

Lorca orders Stamets to Sickbay for a full examination, so that there is a data trail backing up the decision.

Stamets is not happy to comply, but he does, obviously concerned to discover what Hugh will find.

Doctor Culber Delivers Bad News to Stamets and Lorca

After the opening credits sequence, we return to the bridge where the crew, using some very Trekkian technobabble, find a way to crack the Klingon cloak.

The problem?  To get their attempt to work, they have to beam someone aboard to plant sensors.

Another problem?  It will take days to collect enough data to succeed.

Lorca decides the spore-drive is their best bet because, with enough jumps, they can gather the data at speed.

He leaves the bridge and goes to Sickbay where Culber tells him that Paul Stamets’ brain is being changed by his interaction with the spore-drive.  The scans show that the tracts within the white matter of Paul’s medial temporal lobe are being restructured.

Culber doesn’t want the captain to play games with Stamets’ brain, Lorca is less than concerned with what the doctor wants and orders a report. He’ll decide whether or not to risk Stamets then.

Prick.

Hugh Culber is not a happy doctor and Lorca’s all no nonsense and captainy.  He takes Stamets with him to implement stage one of his heinous efforts to use and manipulate this overly dedicated and naive scientific genius.

Lorca Tempts Stamets

In his private chamber, he shows Paul what they need to do, telling him he needs him to make 133 jumps so they can map the cloak, break it and save the Pahvans.

Stamets is a bit overwhelmed, so Lorca swoops in for the kill, showing Paul a map full of data from every jump made that shows scattered pockets of negative mass that could indicates alternative, parallel universes.

More jumps might let them access these universes.

Paul, like a junkie, is hooked.  Lorca has convinced him to put his life at risk.

Jason Isaacs is amazing in this scene.  So is Anthony Rapp.  Jason is so manipulative and uses his voice so well, you can hear him weaving a spell just for the lieutenant.  He’s both mesmerising and contemptible all in the same moment.

Anthony, for his turn, plays the wide-eyed naive explorer and self-sacrificing scientist to absolute perfection.

It’s a great scene.

Back on the bridge, Lorca orders a boarding party of two, there’s a little back and fourth around who should go, and it ends up being Michael and Ash.

Some fans have been annoyed by this scene, because Michael’s argument is that she is familiar with the vessel.  Of course, she only spent minutes on it in episode two – however, the Shenzhou was taking detailed scans when they first encountered the vessel, and she probably is pretty up on its specs and is able to use her personal memory of the bridge of the Klingon Ship of the Dead and those scans, and any Discovery has made since, to be an effective navigator.

Planning to Attach the Klingon Ship of the Dead

It’s a non-point, and people just need to let go a little and accept that she was trained on Vulcan to survive and thrive in a Vulcan educational institution, and she was accepted into the Expeditionary Group meaning she would have to have an incredible memory and capacity for reasoning.  She was also raised by a species who knows a lot about the Klingons, and has probably done her own research because they killed her parents.  Though she says she’s the right person for the job because of her time on the ship, that’s probably just a quick way for her to circumnavigate a lengthy argument with Lorca because he doesn’t actually know how long she and Georgiou were on the Sarcophagus ship.  This slight bending of the truth doesn’t derail the fact that she most definitely is the best person for the job.  Seriously people, deal with it.

Star Trek: Discovery has gone out of its way to focus on character, and everything we’ve learned about Michael says she is extraordinary in every way – except, of course, for all the emotional stuff.

Lorca’s expression, after giving Burnham permission to go, has me wondering (again) what does Michael mean to him?  It’s clear he doesn’t want to risk her, and despite denying that when she challenges him, it is obvious she is valuable or meaningful to him in some way.

Tilly is Concerned for Stamets

We leave the bridge and visit Engineering where Tilly accidentally lets the Stamets cat out of the spore-drive bag as Hugh hooks a medical-cuff to Paul to allow him to treat the lieutenant while he’s in the chamber.

Symptoms?  What symptoms?  Oh yeah… THOSE symptoms…

Hugh is going to stay and monitor the jumps.

Back on the bridge, Lorca gives a rousing speech which is beautifully inter cut with reaction shots from the crew, the process of readying the DASH drive, and Paul Stamets bravely facing what he knows is a series of jumps that could literally shred his brain.

Far out does Anthony Rapp sell those moments!

The Toll of Jumping Discovery Begins to Show on Stamets

They detect the signature of a cloaked Klingon vessel entering the Pahvo system, and jump back.

We switch to the Klingons.  They do their Klingon thing.  Growl a lot.  Act arrogantly.  Talk about destroying stuff, and decloak to face off against the Discovery.

Michael and Ash beam over, wearing pattern simulators that will mask their human life signs, and carrying the sensors needed to win this engagement and hopefully provide information that will help the war effort.

After placing the first unnecessarily large, bright and vocal sensor, Michael detects a human life sign!  Yay!!  Admiral Katrina Cornwell is alive.  Wasn’t just a fan boy wish after all.

They revive Katrina but she can’t feel her legs.  Not great.

Unfortunately, for Ash, L’Rell is there too and this triggers a pretty devastating Post Traumatic Stress episode for our favourite head of security, and we get the first of some very disturbing flashbacks to his torture (?) at L’Rell’s hands.

Ash See's L'Rell

Burnham shoots L’Rell as she slowly approaches Ash, who is frozen in place, unable to act.

Poor Ash has a total meltdown and collapses, and Michael is forced to leave him in the care of the Admiral, who, thankfully, is a psychiatrist.

Shazad Latif is incredible in this scene.  He so sincerely and so effectively shows Ash’s distress.  The scene affected me with its intensity.

In the real world, I work two jobs, one is as an actor, the main one is as an allied health professional working with people who have mental health issues.  I do a lot of work with people facing trauma, and who are having psychotic breaks right there in front of you.  It’s tough for them, it’s rough for you as their support person, and it’s just not pretty or sane or easy in any way.

I was so impressed by Shazad (and, later, Cornwell) and was happy with Star Trek and how they were handling this issue.  A lot of people experience PTSD in the real world, police officers, soldiers, emergency services personnel, doctors, nurses, teachers, youth workers, social workers, psychologists, and more.  The very fact the writers were finally focusing on Tyler’s PTSD at all impressed me.  We’ve gone here before in the history of Trek (most memorably with Picard), and it’s right we visit this issue again.

Another interesting part of this scene was Cornwell’s reaction to Burnham.  She seemed both surprised to see Michael there, pissed Michael was there, and then impressed with the new science specialist.  You were left with the distinct feeling Michael was not what Cornwell was expecting.

While this is happening, the Discovery is trying to keep the Klingons occupied by engaging them in battle.

Back on the Klingon Ship of the Dead, Burnham has activated the last unnecessarily large, bright and vocal sensor and is listening in to the Klingons.  To the writers’ credit, they have Burnham activate the Universal Translator which means we don’t have to listen to the Klingons growl, and the actors can focus on acting and not on getting their Klingon lines right.

All of these scenes build the tension perfectly.  They’re beautifully paced and as a result you’re on the edge of your seat.

We cut to Stamets at one point and he is not having a good time.  The toll is shown with some remarkable visuals and disturbing camera angles.

I did not think Paul would survive.

Back on the Klingon ship, Cornwell is trying to walk Ash through his episode as he suffers more terrifying flashbacks.  She uses the exact same techniques we use in real world de-escalations, which is great.  If only Deanna Troi had gotten this much meat in her role as a psychologist.

We visit with Culber, Tilly and Stamets as Culber tries to reason with Lorca, begging him to stop the jumps as he watches his partner writhe in the spore chamber.

It’s heart breaking, and one of the times I felt my cheeks get wet from the emotion of it all.

Michael Confronts Kol

We switch back to the Sarcophagus ship.  To buy the Discovery time to complete its 133 jumps, Burnham blows her cover and gets all wonderfully mouthy with Kol.

Kol is arrogant and over confident, Michael challenges his honour, he pretty much tells her human’s don’t understand honour, so Michael goes in for what she knows will be a powerful blow.  She tells Kol she is the human who killed T’Kuvma.

Back in the cell with Katrina and Ash, the Klingons discover them and Admiral Cornwell has to try to protect herself and Ash with a phaser Michael left behind, but unable to feel her legs she can’t move as much or as swiftly as she needs to, to take down both warriors.

Cornwell Defends an Almost Comatose Ash

She implores Ash to get up, and finally breaks through his PTSD episode.

He acts, and helps take out the last Klingon.

Back on the Klingon bridge, Kol thanks Burnham for killing T’Kuvma telling her that when he kills her it will seal his power.

She challenges him to a fight and he takes her up on it.

Throughout all of this, he taunts her with Georgiou’s Starfleet badge and it’s clear Michael wants that last artifact of her friend, captain and mother figure back.

The fight between Kol and Michael doesn’t go well for Michael, but she holds her own, proving that she paid attention while studying Vulcan martial arts.

Michael and Kol Go Head to Head

Kol grabs Michael and for a moment it looks like it’s all over for her.

He growls about becoming absolute ruler of the Klingon Empire, because killing Burnham will make everyone happy, but Michael isn’t too interested in Kols delusions of grandeur.

He pushes her back to cleave her in two, but she takes advantage of this and keeps her balance and fights back, stabbing him with a non-fatal blow, but a blow strong enough to make him stagger.

On Discovery, they locate their crew and start to beam them back.  L’Rell takes advantage of this and hitches a ride on Tyler’s back.

Burnham is Beamed to Safety

Back on the Klingon Ship of the Dead Kol gets over confident.  As he advances on her, Michael is contacted by Discovery and told to get ready to beam out.  In a daring move she lunges forward and grabs Georgiou’s Starfleet Delta badge from Kol, and throws herself over a railing and falls as Discovery‘s transporter beam takes hold and beams her to freedom.

With confirmation everyone is safe, and with the surprise that both Cornwell and L’Rell are on board his ship, Lorca orders a photon torpedo strike on the now cloaked Klingon vessel.

Lorca lets loose the dogs of war, and in a very surprising turn, Kol and the Sarcophagus ship explode.

The Klingon Ship of the Dead Explodes

I did not expect that, I didn’t think Kol would die so early and I didn’t think we’d lose the Klingon Ship of the Dead at the mid-point of the season.

That just leaves L’Rell as our main antagonist… but, what an antagonist she is!

This surprising turn of events gives us a beautiful moment between Saru and Michael.  I think this may have finally given the both of them the closure they needed.

As Michael watches the ship explode in a blinding flash of light, the look on her face is perfect.  Sonequa Martin-Green evokes so many emotions in this scene, relief, shock, satisfaction, regret, sorrow, confusion… it’s a big moment for her character.

Lorca’s reaction to her and Ash’s return is strange.  He doesn’t look happy.  He doesn’t look disappointed.  He looks angry.

I need to make a special mention of the music in this episode, but particularly this scene.  It is epic.  Evocative.  Moving.  Just beautiful.

As the Klingon ship gives it’s last dying shudder, Michael realises Ash isn’t behind her anymore.  She looks worried as we cut to a conversation between Lorca and Admiral Terral, who is telling Lorca that Cornwell’s emergency medical shuttle has arrived safely at Starbase 88.  She’s going to be fine!  Yay!!

Lorca tells Terral to send her his best (yeah, right), and then rattles off his successes, including the almost completed cloak-breaking algorithm to be sent fleet wide once it’s finished.

Terral tells Lorca to get back to the Federation where he’ll receive the Legion of Honour.

Lorca doesn’t look thrilled, even thought this probably means he’ll be able to keep his command, even with Cornwell arguing he needs time to heal.

Meanwhile, Michael has gone to find Ash.  She tracks him down to his cabin, and in a beautiful scene that is full of emotion gets him to talk about his experiences on board the Klingon prison ship.

The interaction between Michael and Ash is handled with such care by the director.  If anything, this first half of the season has been defined by that word.  Care.  Though a lot has changed from what we’re used to as Trek fans, we cannot deny how much care has gone into every aspect of this production.

Michael Comforts Ash as He Comes to Terms with His PTSD

As Ash and Michael sit together, Ash admits he cultivated a relationship with L’Rell to survive.  From the way he glances at Michael throughout the scene, it is clear he is unsure if she will understand what he did and why, or if she will condemn him.

For him, it’s laying everything to do with this new relationship on the line.

Shazad Latif and Sonequa Martin-Green play this perfectly.

Michael gives him the absolution he doesn’t seem to have been able to give himself, and we leave them, holding each other, to visit with Stamets and Lorca in the shuttle bay as the mycelial network traveling scientist stares into space in deep thought.

It’s this scene that made me loathe Lorca without reservation.

Up until now I’d been able to forgive or find a way to understand his machinations, not this time.  To so recklessly and possibly selfishly use another life, one already in pain and one that has already given so much, is reprehensible.

Lorca Manipulates Stamets

Lorca knows what the spore-drive is doing to Stamets, and after setting up the new dangers faced by an approaching Klingon fleet, paints a picture that has Stamets offering to facilitate one more jump to keep the crew safe.

Lorca thanks him, then starts to rabbit on about what they’ll be able to do with the spore-drive once the war is over.

Stamets stops him and tells Lorca that this jump will be it.  The last one.  Disappointment is etched in every line on Lorca’s face.  Eventually, he masks it, knowing it won’t be the last jump.

We cut to Ash, deep in a nightmare.  It’s a series of inter cut scenes that are quite confronting and appear to show Tyler being sexually assaulted by L’Rell.

Tyler wakes with a start.  He was asleep on a couch in his quarters, with Michael.  He leaves her and finds his way to the brig where he approaches L’Rell.

Another flashback causes him to collapse to his knees.

What did you do to me?”  He asks her.

L'Rell Has Something Over Ash

Do not worry, I will never let them hurt you.”  She responds seductively.

This is interrupted by the ships computer calling people to their command stations.

As Ash gets to his feet, L’Rell utters an ominous “Soon.

We cut to Stamets and Culber in Engineering where they are preparing for what both hope is the last jump the lieutenant will ever have to make.

Stamets walks up to Culber and clasps his partners face in both hands, giving Star Trek it’s first ever gay male kiss.  Can you believe that has taken 51 years?

The scene is handled perfectly.  There’s no fuss to it.  There’s no build, there’s no excessive use of emotion or reaction, it’s just there.  It’s just like two straight people kissing before the next part of a big adventure.

Though, for Trek, this is a history making moment, it was treated just right by everyone involved.

Finally, the First Gay Kiss on Star Trek

As Paul enters the spore chamber with Hugh watching on, we cut to Lorca over riding navigation and entering new coordinates into the DASH drive.  The image shows a list of spore-jumps, with the last three entries being:
SPORE-JUMP 132: 071-MARK-898
OVERRIDE-LORCA, G.
SPORE-JUMP 133–UNKNOWN

They jump, Stamets screams, something weird happens in the spore chamber as the walls appear to crystalise.

Tilly announces the computer is calling it an incomplete navigation sequence.

Paul opens the door to the spore chamber and collapses on the floor of engineering as Tilly and Culber rush to his side.

Hugh says Paul is starting to crash.  Paul opens his eyes and they’ve gone white with his pupil and iris barely showing through.  He’s rambling, making no sense, and we’re left wondering if he will survive.

On the bridge, they don’t know where they are.

The camera pulls back, through the bridge window, through a debris field of destroyed ships and fades to the closing credits.

Now that is a cliff-hanger.

Predictions
Weeks ago, Jonathan Frakes (yes, Commander William T. Riker himself) let slip that the Discovery goes to the Mirror Universe this season.  It would seem safe to assume that is where they are now.  I don’t think Lorca realises that, and it will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

That’s not really a prediction, I know, but I only have one for this episode.

Up until I saw “Into The Forest I Go” I had become convinced Ash was Voq.  I don’t believe that anymore.  I think it’s still a possibility, but one that seems less likely.  When I think about it, was there enough time between L’Rell sending Voq away and Ash’s discovery by Lorca on the Klingon prison ship, for Voq to have been fully transformed?

Could he have been surgically altered and healed in that short a space of time and then indoctrinated into Federation culture and taught it’s language, flawlessly, so quickly?

I’m thinking two things now.  Either Voq is meant to replace the real Ash – who is currently on Discovery – at some point, or Ash is a sleeper agent who has been brainwashed to work for the Klingons, who will be triggered later in the war?

Last episode and this episode, L’Rell was keen to get on board the Discovery.  Was it to reunite with Voq, or was it to trigger her sleeper agent?

I think this storyline will play out this season, and I can’t wait to find out what the heck is going on.

Scorecard
Five Starfleet Deltas

This episode was excellent.  I really enjoyed it.  It had me in suspense, it had me in tears, it had me smiling, gasping and even looking away at points.

Excellent acting (as always), incredible music, outstanding directing, brilliant effects, and perfect editing and pacing.

I don’t know if people would have tuned back in with as much excitement as I’m hearing out there in the fan community, if the last episode for this half of the first season had been “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum.”

This episode was the right choice to wrap up what the producers are calling ‘chapter one.’  “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum” was a great episode, but it’s cliff-hanger ending wasn’t big enough.

One of the really pleasing things about this episode, is that we’ve discovered two new bright and shining lights in the writing world.  Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt.  What an outstanding story and beautifully crafted script.

Star Trek: Discovery returns to CBS All Access on the 7th of January, and returns to Netflix on the 8th of January.

Star Trek: Discovery airs in the United States on CBS All Access, with new episodes appearing on Sundays at 8:30pm ET.  In Canada, the show airs on the Space Channel at 8:00pm ET, also on Sundays.  Outside of the US and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery airs on Netflix on a Monday – 8:00am BST in the UK, and 6:00pm AEDT in Australia.

I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did!

Star Trek: Sentinel‘s recaps and reviews will return in early January.

I can’t wait for the next episode.

Until then, and always, live long, and prosper.

LCARS Interface

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