It took me a couple of months, and a re-watch of the previous eight episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, to process Episode 9, “Into the Forest I Go.” The first time I watched it, I didn’t know what to think. Eps 1-7 were great, as the show got progressively more complex and interesting, so the uneven nature of Episode 8 didn’t worry me. I figured it was a set up for Episode 9 which would no doubt be much better. Instead, Episode 9 was only so-so, even disappointing in some ways, while still managing to provide both resolution to certain plotlines from earlier in the season and a nice set up for the rest of its run.
So, let’s talk about Episode 9, both as a cap to the fall season and a standalone episode. Where it worked, and where it didn’t quite make the grade.
Episode 9 in a nutshell: Kol and the Klingons arrive at the planet Pahvo to destroy the Pahvans. Captain Lorca decides to stay to defend the Pahvans, defying orders from Starfleet to return to headquarters. He devises a plan to defeat the Klingon cloaking technology, which involves Tyler and Burnham planting techno-babble equipment on the Klingon ship, and Stamets taking Discovery through a stupid number of jumps in a stupidly short amount of time to map the Klingon ship’s location.
Tyler and Burnham plant one device and, along the way, find Admiral Cornwell alive. Tyler goes into PTSD shock after seeing the Klingon L’Rell—his chief torturer—there as well, so Burnham has to leave him to guard Cornwell while she finishes the mission alone. She plants the second device, and the Discovery starts jumping, but the Klingon captain, Kol, figures out something is wonky and decides to run for it, at which point Burnham jumps out of hiding to distract him by challenging him to a duel (Whaaaa??). So, they fight, which gives Discovery enough time to finish the jumps and beam Burnham (who manages to snatch Georgiou’s Starfleet badge from Kol first), Tyler, Cornwell, and L’Rell, who jumps into the transporter beam at the last minute, back to the Discovery.
The Klingon ship is destroyed, and instructions on how to uncloak a Klingon ship are sent to Starfleet with the injured Admiral. Tyler is comforted by Burnham, but he later confronts L’Rell in the brig.
In the end, Stamets agrees to do only one more jump to get Discovery safely to a starbase. But, during the jump, he collapses, and his eyes turns the color of blue ice. No one knows the region of space they are in, leaving the Discovery literally lost in space.
There were a lot of good things about this episode, but there was also a lot that made you go, “Wait…what? Hmmm…”
1) Kol: The Kooky Klingon
Kol and the Klingon Redshirts answer a galactic E-vite from a planet they’ve never heard of, from beings they know nothing about, to come for a visit. Then Kol decides to destroy his hosts, without exchanging so much as a “nuqneH”.
Why travel all that way, only to look at the planet and say, “Yeah, they gotta go?” How about getting close enough to send a Raider with a few expendables to scout the planet first? And, in the battle with the Discovery, even though he eventually figures out that there’s something fishy about the faux skirmish, Kol STILL lets Burnham tease him into a fight that leads to his ship’s destruction. WHY? This type of villain has been lambasted in so many comedies that it is hard to believe that they expect us to take him seriously. This storyline was the low point of the episode. At least they killed him, and we won’t have to deal with such a poorly-drawn, two-dimensional insult to Klingon cunning for the rest of the season.
2) Dr. Culber: The trouble with Ethics
After examining Stamets, Dr. Culber realizes that the spore-drive jumps may be damaging Stamets, and he doesn’t want him to jump again until they have it checked out. But Lorca needs the multiple jumps and Stamets insists, so he gives in.
Remember back in the day of the third and fourth episodes when Burnham was like, “The Tardigrade may die if we continue to use it to run the spore drive?” And Lorca was like, “Screw that. We have a war to win, etc.” And Dr. Hugh was all, “I won’t be party to murder. I’m not helping.” Yeah, he can’t be bothered in this episode, and allows the multi-jump plan to continue despite his misgivings…and, you know, ethics. Come on. He’s a Starfleet medical officer. Forget the fact that Stamets is his husband. What about, “First, do no harm?” Yeah, I know. “The needs of the many…” blah blah blah. But I don’t grok that she would let this happen without trying to work out an alternative.
Truth? The writers haven’t developed Hugh as a character, except as Stamets’ object of affection. In the Trek universe doctors are no-nonsense folk who can relieve a ship’s captain of duty if need be. From McCoy to Phlox to the Voyager’s EMH, the doctors are some of Trek’s best characters. So, I hope the writers step up and make Hugh a real doc.
3) L’Rell and Tyler: It’s complicated.
Tyler breaks down when he sees L’Rell and seems to be emotionally damaged. He tells Burnham about the forced sexual torture he endured to stay alive. She accepts that. We, the audience, see his flashbacks filled with screaming, torture, sex, so yeah, PTSD. End of story. Hmmmm.
Tyler saw L’Rell on the Klingon vessel when he was escaping with Lorca. That didn’t send him into shock. He was even able to fight her. Tyler fights like a Klingon and was able to disable the Klingon burial chamber door with an explanation to Burnham of, “Hi. On a Klingon ship for six months.” Later, Tyler goes to L’Rell in the Discovery brig after her capture, drops to his knees and asks, “What did you do to me?” Her answer is a gentle, “I won’t let them hurt you anymore.” Any of this seem odd?
Whether you believe Tyler is suffering from PTSD and/or Stockholm syndrome, or in some variation of the idea that Tyler and the Klingon Voq are somehow connected, this is REALLY interesting. Clearly, he and L’Rell are bound in a significant way. We saw flashbacks of them in flagrante delicto, but, to me, it seemed more like typical Klingon sex—rough, a la Worf’s explanation, not sexual assault. The other violent images could have been torture and/or surgery. Either way, I don’t think we can completely believe Tyler’s recounting of his memories since they may have been altered. It’ll be interesting to find out who Tyler is
As for L’Rell, who she is or has become is anybody’s guess. Does she want freedom? Peace? War? Twue wuv? Who knows? But at this point, we sure want to know more about her, and that is where both the episode and the series has succeeded: making her the most intriguing character so far. It appears we will see much more of her and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing her story develop.
4) Stamets. Kinda creepy now
I’m not the only one who detected attitude when Stamets was talking to Lorca on the observation deck before he took that last jump. That “I’ll always have you to thank for it.” seemed less grateful and more accusatory. In fact, his whole manner was slightly superior, even his kissy-face moment with Hugh seemed less loving and more like the act of a king bestowing a favor. The brief glimpses we got of the next season show us that he may have acquired other abilities as well. Is he a kind of predecessor to Gary Mitchell (ST: TOS episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”), who thought of himself as a god? Given as much of time and space as he must have experienced by now during the jumps, I can definitely see this happening to Stamets. Even the glow-y eyes are similar.
5) Saru: Not just another forehead alien
Saru has less to do in this episode than in Episode 8 but, so far as the character’s journey in the series so far, it is compelling. I’m still not sold on the idea that a member of his species is an asset on a battleship. In one episode (“Choose Your Pain”) did his instincts as a prey species seem to come in handy abut, otherwise, he seems to be a huge liability. But if fan rumors turn out to be predictive and we end up in the mirror universe for the latter half of this season, it would be interesting to see his species as predator, not prey. I imagine they would be terrifying. In any case, he and Burnham seem to have formed a bond in the wake of the destruction of the Klingon ship as payment for the death of their late captain, Philippa Georgiou, and I’m glad. Their continued tension in previous episodes was starting to get annoying.
6) Tilly: Not so silly after all
As usual, Tilly says what’s on her mind in this episode. I like her. She speaks for all of us in the audience, asking the tough questions: “Why?” and “Why not?” and “Why are you being stupid?” This time she badgers Stamets into telling her more about his recent weird behavior after the jumps, and she does the right thing by urging him to talk to Hugh (the same thing we are yelling at the TV). The great thing about this character is that we are actually seeing a lot of character growth. She isn’t the naïve innocent she seemed to be in the beginning, but is, instead, a smart, savvy, and unexpectedly worldly woman with a plan. Her stubborn search for answers and sense of adventure answers the question we were asking the first time we were introduced to her: What’s she doing on Discovery?
7) Lorca: Still the mystery man
I have no idea what is going on with Lorca. He started the series as an enigma in all but one area: his desire to win the war. Along the way we discovered a more personal reason than just following orders, and this episode revealed nothing more than his stated reason of avenging his crew. Well nothing has changed except that he got his revenge. We still know nothing about him except he once had a relationship with Cornwell and he has formed a possible attachment to Burnham. With no war, what version of Lorca are we going to get? I don’t have a clue, but I’m definitely looking forward to finding out.
BTW, speaking of Cornwell, here’s the scene that I wish we had seen between her and Lorca:
CORNWELL: I know who you are and I saw what you did. Just because they are pinning a medal to your chest doesn’t mean I’m not going to have a talk with Starfleet about your mental instability. Watch your back, Lorca. And by the way, you’re a lousy lay.
LORCA: But I–
8) Last but not least: Burnham
Burnham has finished what she started by helping Lorca kill his whale, er, end the war. In destroying the Klingon Ship of the Dead and figuring out the way to defeat the cloaking technology, they have quite probably helped the Federation win. Maybe this is why Burnham allows herself to sleep so peacefully before the last jump.
We have gotten a lot of Burnham so far. In a way, too much, too soon. We learned so much about her relationship with Sarek and Amanda (except how she ended up with them in the first place). We saw her make mistakes and find redemption, lose people she cared for and find new ones, and all before the end of the first season. Most of her journey has been so dark and tortured, driven by guilt, pain, and anger, that I really want to see more light. I’m not sure if, given the teasers we’ve seen of the next half of the season, we will get that, but I hope so. Discovery is entering uncharted territory in more ways than one, so I hope the writers take this chance to answer the question of who Michael Burnham really is inside, because both the actress and the character deserve that exploration.
Also, I was disappointed in the chemistry between she and Tyler in this episode. Their relationship began with some promise, but now they seem more like brother and sister. Can we have one steamy (dare I say Klingon-y?) love scene, please?
As an aside, to my mind, a Burnham/Lorca pairing is not outside the realm of possibility. We know he’s protective of her. Could there be an attraction? If the writers go that direction, I wouldn’t complain.
So that’s it. After re-watching all the episodes, though I still wasn’t terribly impressed with Episode 9, I did find myself wanting more Discovery. It capped off the midway point in the season nicely and, in a few more days, we’ll be back in the thick of it, boldly going where no one has gone before. We’ll find out where in the universe our good ship and crew have jumped to and what is waiting for them there.
My midterm grades of Star Trek: Discovery:
Star Trekiness: A
Overall series midterm rating: 4/5
Written By DaVette See
DaVette See lives in Inglewood, CA with her husband, Rob, her mother, and her seven (yikes) kitties. She has a BA in English and Theater and a Law degree. When not writing, reporting, and video editing for BGN, she operates Running Lady Studios and produces animated shorts. She was a geek before geek was chic. She loves books, plays, movies, and more than anything, she loves telling stories.