Sunday, November 5, 2017

An Hour Without An Enjoyable Moment: "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum"

The Good: Nothing
The Bad: No organic character development, Huge plot holes, Lack of impressive performances, Wonky science for the episode's many macguffins, Klingon portions are clunky.
The Basics: Star Trek: Discovery has a first contact situation in "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" which introduces a colony-style life form that possesses Saru while Admiral Cornwell gets tortured.

It is hard not to go into each and every Star Trek: Discovery review without an opening complaining about how everything that came before is an insult to the Star Trek franchise and continuity. With "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum," that complaint would most certainly be that cloaking technology was not a thing in the Star Trek universe for about a decade after Star Trek: Discovery (though that had already been compromised by events in Star Trek: Enterprise) and Klingons did not have cloaking technology of any sort until after they made an alliance with the Romulans in the third season of Star Trek. So, as "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" features the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery investigating Klingon cloaking device technology, it is hard not to kvetch right off the bat.

"Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" continues where "Magic To Make The Sanest Man Go Mad" (reviewed here!) left off and revisits the idea that Captain Lorca set Admiral Cornwell up to be captured - if not outright killed - by the Klingons. And the Klingons have captives yet again.

A StarFleet ship is under attack by six Klingon vessels when the Discovery appears to attempt to save them. A Klingon battlecruiser decloaks and when the Gagarin is destroyed, the Discovery flees. Saru, Tyler and Burnham are dispatched on the planet Pahvo where there is a crystal transmitting a signal that they believe will allow them to see through the Klingon cloaking device. When the Away Team discovers a native life form on Pahvo, their mission changes and they are forced to alter their approach in getting access to the transmitter crystal.

Meanwhile, Admiral Cornwell finds an unlikely ally in the Klingon prison; her interrogator does not want to follow Kol and pitches working with Cornwell to escape the prison. On Pahvo, Saru communicates with the alien life forms and he becomes obsessed with staying on the planet. Believing Saru has been infected, Ash Tyler takes over and begins to work on a way to get them off the planet.

Everybody continues to be a dick in "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum." One of the real strikes against Star Trek: Discovery is that none of the characters are particularly likable. Anthony Rapp's Stamets is suffering the ill-effects of now being genetically-modified to interface with the Spore Drive and he treats the ever-nervous Tilly poorly. But it wasn't like Stamets was a nice guy to begin with and his altered personality is more that he has changed how he is an asshole.

In a similar way, Saru is possessed in "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" and the traits that are brought out are only the most negative in his personality. "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" is essentially the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery that deals with an alien first contact situation and unlike the best episodes in the Star Trek franchise, there is no well-developed theme in the episode that makes it relevant outside this particular story. Instead, in "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" first contact is a desperate attempt to get new alien life forms to aid StarFleet in fighting the Klingons through their macguffin technology.

It is hard not to watch "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" and wonder if the writer had ever actually watched any Star Trek. A Vulcan says "souls" in reference to casualties, the StarFleet admiral who was a counselor (a medical professional!) holds her own with a Klingon warrior in hand to hand combat and Saru is in telepathic style contact (what the hell is it with Star Trek: Discovery and telepathic contact?!) with a life form that is everything on the planet and he has to ask where Burnham went.

"Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" feels like what happens when Star Trek writers just give up. The episode mashes together "This Side Of Paradise" (reviewed here!) and "Man Of The People" (reviewed here!) to make something that is just terrible on every level.

For other works with Jayne Brook, please check out my reviews of:
Boston Legal - Season 2
Sports Night - Season 2
Superman IV: The Quest For Peace


For other Star Trek episode, movie, and seasons, please check out my comprehensive Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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