Welcome back to another week where we recap, react to, and ruminate about Star Trek: Discovery Episode 8: “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum.” This post will contain mild spoilers, so don’t read ahead until you have watched episode 8.
As with the other posts in this Star Trek: Discovery series, there won’t be a lengthy recap. Instead of we will focus on the basic of what we learn. As before, I’ll be pulling reactions and ruminations from my Star Trek community.
All previous discussions that are mentioned this week are linked at the end of this article.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 8: “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” Recap
In some ways, Star Trek: Discovery episode 8 felt like The Original Series episode “Errand of Mercy.” There are enough differences to the plot where it’s not exactly the same, but a lot of viewers drew parallels between the two episodes.
As a quick recap: Stamets is having difficulties with reality. The USS Discovery is called in to help a bunch of ships that are under attack by the Klingons and fail.
Burnham, Tyler, and Saru are on an away mission to the planet of Pahvo, hoping to use vibrations from the planet to sense cloaked Klingon vessels. While they are there, they discover the planet is inhabited and we get a lot of reminders about First Contact protocols. The inhabitants are only interested in peace, or so Saru would have us believe. Saru attacks both Tyler and Burnham, after lying to them. The episode ends with the inhabitants of the planets calling the Klingons to join the crew of the Discovery in orbit.
Meanwhile, on the Klingon ship, Admiral Cornwell may or may not be dead; she may or may not have escaped. A conversation between L’Rell and Cornwell about L’Rell wishing to defect causes more speculations among viewers about whether Voq and Tyler are one and the same. L’Rell tries to pull one over on Kol, but Kol doesn’t buy what she’s selling.
This episode was originally supposed to be the last episode before the mid-season break.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 8: “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” Reactions
In this week’s discussion, the Star Trek community felt mostly “meh” about this episode until we read an article on io9. We will get to that in the ruminations section.
There were also some discussions about some popular theories flying around about Voq/Tyler. But first, let’s explain the “meh” feelings.
We didn’t hate this episode, but we didn’t love it, either. The consensus is, we are all happy that this wasn’t the mid-season break because it didn’t have that “edge of your seat” cliff-hanger we’d expect. Star Trek: Discovery episode 5 left us with that “we can’t wait for the next episode” feeling more than Star Trek: Discovery episode 8. And all that happened at the end of episode 5 was a smiling Stamets stuck in a mirror as the real Stamets walked away.
Maybe once we watch next week’s episode, we’ll see this episode in a different light. But as of right now, we are mostly, “Well this episode just exists and didn’t do a whole lot to drive the plot forward or give us insights into the characters.” However, we did learn that other people aren’t taking away the same character insights that we are having.
We talked more about the Tyler/Voq theory. We also briefly discussed the similarities with “Errand of Mercy.” Personally, I think a lot of the theories that the inhabitants of Pahvo are bringing the Federation and Klingons together to broker peace are wrong. “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” means “If you want peace, prepare for war.”
I think they want the Federation and Klingons to erase each other because the Federation and Klingons are disrupting their peace. So, let’s have a big war now where both sides face huge amounts of loss; they are trying to accelerate the war, so they can get their peace back, which the Federation disrupted. This ties into episode 1 and 2 discussion about how others don’t see the Federation’s coming in peace as peaceful. After all, the Federation is there to use Pahvo’s resources to hurt the Klingons. I’m not sure a planet of peace and harmony would be cool with this.
I think many of us were disappointed because previous episodes have given us a lot to discuss in the way of human stories.
Thankfully, io9 wrote an article that focused on Saru and left some of us scratching our heads, with a little bit of anger. The reaction is because the author seems to be either missing a very vital theme of this season of Star Trek: Discovery or the author lacks compassion.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 8: “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” Ruminations
The io9 article spends a lot of time comparing Star Trek: Discovery episode 8 with the TOS episode “Errand of Mercy.” But the author also spends a lot of time talking about Saru. There were two things that caught our attention. First, the author finds it surprising that Saru “snapped.” Second, the author says, “Everyone on Discovery should be shipped off to a therapy planet.” (Warning: Major spoilers in that link.)
To this, Ani Hatzis had the following to say:
It’s like a surprise in the middle of a war with so many losses and sacrifices, and so much pain.
Maybe we are having a tough time understanding how people are missing this theme because this Star Trek community has spent many weeks discussing not only the theme of imperialism and why the Federation wouldn’t be welcomed, but also the very real psychological effects of war. I got angry when I read the therapy planet line.
What the hell do people think happens to people during a time of war?
This week’s episode begins with a battle and a huge loss of life. After the bridge crew of the Discovery is given a body count, Lorca says the following:
There will be time to grieve. This is not that time.
That line couldn’t have done a better job reflecting this part of the realities of war. People who are in them do not have the time to grieve and process what happened. They must push on, and it causes psychological injuries.
We’ve already focused on Lorca’s and Burnham’s PTSD.
Then, we have Saru who was born with hypervigilance. Hypervigilance is a symptom of many mental health conditions, including PTSD and anxiety disorders. It increases anxiety and can lead to exhaustion. When someone is exhausted, they can be more prone to behavior that some would describe as “snapping.” Hypervigilance causes damage to both the brain and the body.
The reason why Saru was born with this trait is because of generations of his species being prey. In our episode 6 discussions, we talked about how the effects of PTSD can change the genome and become hereditary.
Between already knowing that Kelpiens are born this way (“Battle at the Binary Stars”), plus things said in episodes 4 and 5, coupled with the danger of losing the calm he had never before experienced, what Saru did was definitely not out of character nor surprising. We already know that he blames Burnham for taking everything he cares about away from him. Now, she is doing it again but on an even bigger scale with more at stake. This is what we in the psychology field call a trigger. It certainly didn’t help that the inhabitants of Pahvo previously caused him to have flashbacks.
But what does this have to do with “therapy planet”?
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 8 Explores the Many Faces of the Invisible Casualties of War
Everyone on board the Discovery is a casualty of war. Far too often, we only talk about the casualties of war in terms of body counts or physical injuries that are visible to the naked eye, like the loss of a limb. As we talked about in the discussions for episodes 1 and 2, we are on the precipice of war and Star Trek: Discovery is exploring a lot of the realities of war. Psychological trauma creates the most casualities.
Let’s look at Tyler’s trauma. It doesn’t matter if he is a Klingon or not. In both cases, someone did him great harm and all he wants to do is hurt them back.
Monday night, on CBC’s The National, there was a segment that has a lot of parallels here. The National featured a soldier in Raqqa who reminded me a lot of Tyler (viewer discretion advised).
The solider used to be a pharmacist and the next thing he knew, he was a soldier. He doesn’t want the ISIS soldiers who destroyed Raqqa and tortured people to go to trial because he thinks that won’t do anything. He just wants to hurt and kill them all. It was very difficult to watch but it gave Canadian audiences some much needed perspective and hopefully empathy towards these soldiers who, while they lived, they are injured and are casualties themselves.
This isn’t the first time Star Trek has covered this theme. We had Kira throughout almost all of Deep Space Nine, Sisko blaming the Federation for his wife’s death, and Picard post-Borg assimilation, but explored even more in First Contact, just to name a few examples.
The difference is, in Star Trek: Discovery, they are showing this type of injury in better reality because everyone on the ship is injured. It’s a mass casuality because they are all participating in this war, instead of a character here and there who has experienced the horrors of war.
The “therapy planet” line dismisses these realities of war that the writers of Star Trek: Discovery have been exploring with great care. The reality is, they do not have time to grieve. Some characters have things from their past that triggers their past traumas and compounds them, while many others on the ship are becoming fresh casualties.
Way too many people cast negative judgment on these casualties instead of stopping for two seconds and asking about the human cost of war that isn’t a body count. Maybe if we spent more time trying to understand these effects as explored through these characters, we wouldn’t be leaving soldiers without treatment or so quick to engage in war.
Until next Wednesday, Live Long and Prosper!
Catch Up With Other Posts in the Star Trek: Discovery Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations Series
Star Trek: Discovery Episodes 1 and 2: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about Burnham’s actions as it relates to her past, and how the message of “we come in peace” will not always be received as such.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 3: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about Section 31, the many Starfleet officers who have broken the prime direction, and Alice in Wonderland.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 4: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about Captain Lorca and his requirement for unquestioning loyalty and the consequences; blindly following orders versus challenging them.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 5: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about the times some of our favorite captains did extremely questionable and unethical things, and how it related to Lorca.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 6: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about the effects of surviving trauma, C-PSTD, PTSD, and how it relates to Burnham and Lorca.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 7: Recap, Reactions, and Rumination: We ruminate about relationships in the context of Burnham and why the interpersonal relationships amongst the crew seem to be so important to fans.