Star Trek: Discovery, Season 1, Episode 14
The War Without, The War Within
Posted by Clinton
In the “Star Trek” universe, the galaxy is teeming with life. In fact, on one planet, Gideon, overcrowding is such a problem, the inhabitants attempt to become deathly ill to reduce their own numbers. Despite this, in “The War Within, The War Without,” we find a universe filled with little more than isolation and loneliness.
The war has not gone well for our side during Discovery’s nine month absence. Without the information that would have rendered the Klingon cloaking device useless, the Federation finds itself in retreat and on the verge of collapse. Vice Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) orders the Discovery to Starbase One, calling that outpost Starfleet’s last remaining sanctuary. Unfortunately, upon arrival, we learn that the station has fallen to the Klingons. The Discovery must flee, isolated in its own universe.
In a way, the same can be said for the Klingons. The 24 houses that T’Kuvma hoped to unite have once again fractured. Each house is now acting in its own best interests, not for the benefit of the Klingon empire. In this context, the Federation has become little more than collateral damage in the fight for faction dominance. T’Kuvma’s dream of unification, a vision shared by Voq and L’Rell, is now a distant memory.
Of course Voq the Torchbearer is also now little more than a shadow. The Klingon’s essence has been disconnected from the body that also houses the personality known as Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif). Stripped of this dual identity, Tyler finds himself a stranger in his own body. He is left to wonder who he is and how he can move forward, knowing the horrific things he has done. He tries to apologize to Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) for the death of Dr. Hugh Culber, but Stamets offers no hint of absolution. Worse still, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who had become his tether to humanity, no longer feels comfortable in Tyler’s presence. “I know in my head that you couldn’t be responsible for Voq’s actions,” Burnham explains, “but I felt your hands around my neck, and I looked into your eyes, and I saw how much you wanted to kill me.” She tells Tyler that he must work his way through his pain on his own, facing the demons of his actions as she once did.
The one person who feels compelled to connect with Tyler without judgement is Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman). She sees that Tyler is being shunned by the crew the same way Michael Burnham was shunned when she first came aboard Discovery. Tilly, however, has grown in the months since Burnham arrived. While the Cadet first tried to distance herself from Burnham, she now makes the effort to sit with Tyler. This act draws out the compassion in others, who come to sit with Tyler.
Meanwhile, alone in her cell, L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) must reflect on the fact that she has lost Voq, her lover and inspiration, and that her dream of a unified Klingon empire appears to be crumbling around her.
The only visitor L’Rell receives is Vice Admiral Cornwell, a commander who has also lost practically everything. On a personal level, Cornwell is trying to come to terms with the loss of Gabriel Lorca. As a commander, she is facing the collapse of Starfleet and the Federation. Her inability to respond when she sees Starbase One laid waste signals how alone and desperate she feels.
In the end, only one individual seems to be functioning normally: Emperor Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius (Michelle Yeoh). Plucked unceremoniously from her own reality, the Emperor is well aware of her isolation in this universe, but she never resigns herself to her fate. She acknowledges that she is now on her own, then begins looking for a way out of her situation. Georgiou pokes, looking for weaknesses in those around her. She maneuvers like a figure totally accustomed to the idea of operating solo. It is how one survives in the Terran Empire. By the end of the episode, she has managed to manipulate those around her into giving her what she needs to feel whole again: Power. She is still alone, but she doesn’t care.
It would seem that Discovery may have escaped the unbearable isolation of the mirror universe, only to bring it with them.
Next episode: Will You Take My Hand?
Random Notes and Observations:
- Dr.Pollard! At last, another doctor on the Discovery. All it took was the death of Culber. Oh, and is Pollard the CMO?
- Once again we have a ship approach the Discovery (the one carrying Cornwell and Sarek) and we never get a glimpse of it.
- Starbase One is said to be 100 AUs from Earth. That places it outside our solar system, but not by much. It would take the Klingon fleet almost no time at all to arrive at Earth from that location, yet our home world has apparently not yet been approached.
- Also, why were fighter ships not immediately deployed to intercept Discovery when it appeared at Starbase One?
- Nice touch to have Cornwell vaporize the bowl of Lorca’s fortune cookies.
- How does the rest of the crew feel about the appearance of “Captain Georgiou”? They have all just returned from the mirror universe, so you would imagine their first thought is, “That’s Emperor Georgiou!”
- While it was subtle, we did see the “I” on “I.S.S. Discovery” being restored to a “U.”
- Was there any practical reason story-wise for the Discovery to be in such a poor state of repair when it arrived back in the prime universe? That did not seem to play out as a plot point.