Welcome back to the final week where we recap, react to, and ruminate about Star Trek: Discovery Episode 9: “Into the Forest I Go.” This post will contain mild spoilers, so don’t read ahead until you have watched episode 9.
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 and posts in this series are linked at the end of this article.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 9: “Into the Forest I Go” Recap
While episode 9 of Star Trek: Discovery served to confirm a lot of what we already know, it also setup the Mirror Universe episodes we’ve all been waiting for.
Lorca is still not opposed to disobeying Starfleet orders. He’s also still very good at the psychological manipulation game. After being ordered to not engage the Klingons, he instead orders the crew to devise a plan to detect a cloaked Klingon ship.
Part of the plan involves making up an excuse as to why they were returning to the starbase at warp, instead of using the spore drive: Stamets is having adverse reactions and needs a complete medical examination. What Lorca doesn’t know at this time is that Stamets is having a very dangerous reaction.
When Culber finds out the truth and informs Lorca that using the spore drive is doing something bad to Stamets’ brain, Lorca manipulates Stamets into risking his life with this grand speech about doing it not only for science but for exploration.
Once the plan is devised, they jump back to the Klingon ship. Burnham and Tyler beam aboard the ship to plant some censors and things don’t go according to plan. Burnham and Tyler find admiral Cornwell alive. They also find L’Rell alive which triggers some intense PTSD flashbacks for Tyler, leaving him paralyzed.
After they succeed with their mission, they return to the Discovery with not only Cornwell but also L’Rell. Having L’Rell onboard fuels Tyler’s PTSD. Tyler finds himself visiting L’Rell in her jail cell. L’Rell says something that makes Tyler’s PTSD worse while also solidifying theories that Tyler is Voq.
Stamets tells Lorca that he is finished in Starfleet. Once they return to the starbase, he plans to retire. He just can’t do it anymore, especially after the effects of doing 133 jumps within minutes. Lorca has other plans, and once again manipulates Stamets into doing one final jump. The jump goes horribly wrong and it looks like Lorca caused it to go horribly wrong.
We are left with the Discovery somewhere, surrounded by destroyed Klingon ships.
Of course, other events took place, like the fight between Burnham and Kol, but those events were plot devices. There were two events which some people reacted positively towards, but they sat very uncomfortably with me that I’ll address in the ruminations section: The kiss and the scene with Tyler and Burnham on the couch.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 9: “Into the Forest I Go” Reactions
The reactions from the Star Trek: Discovery episode 9 discussion thread are back to overwhelmingly positive. As one person pointed out, some of the writing was rather predictable, but there were still way more positive things about this episode than negative.
You can tell by the line Lorca says about this being the end of a chapter in Discovery‘s life that this episode was intended to be the mid-season break. So, it’s a good thing they were able to finish the post-production on it in time to extend the first half of the season. While some people were hoping for a major cliff-hanger, a lot of people are satisfied with that same hunger for more we felt at the end of episode 5.
There were a lot of discussions about Tyler/Voq and more theorizing about how the Klingon Mind-sifter or similar technology was used to implant the Tyler persona into Voq. Thomas Fleming theorizes even more with the following:
I’d even wager that there really WAS an Ash Tyler, and that they were able to somehow use the real Tyler’s experience and memories as a template for Voq’s new personality. (This would also solve the problem of how our new security officer passed a background check. Surely, someone would have verified that there was a Starfleet officer serving during the Battle at the Binary Stars.)
I have a small worry that the way they portrayed Tyler’s PTSD flashbacks are going to continue to perpetuate misinformation about PTSD. I’ll just note for now that visual flashbacks are not the only form of flashbacks. Somatic flashbacks are more common and are just as paralyzing. They also cause physical pain. The reason why I mention this is because a lot of people have PTSD but they don’t seek treatment or diagnosis because they only see PTSD portrayed as one thing that doesn’t mirror their reactions to triggers.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 9: “Into the Forest I Go” Ruminations
Originally, I had planned to focus this section yet again on trauma because of how the writers chose to deal with Tyler. I also planned to talk about brainwashing techniques. However, something kept eating at me: The differences in how intimate relationships are being portrayed between the same-sex couple and the opposite-sex couple.
Having a same-sex relationship in Star Trek is huge. It’s something the writers have wanted for decades, but the studio always said no. Having this representation is important. Not only for those of us in same-sex relationships who never get to see ourselves in media. But it also shows society, that defaults to cis and straight, what healthy same-sex relationships look like, instead of harmful stereotypes that feed into discrimination and fear.
So here have this long-term committed same-sex couple. The first time we see them truly affectionate towards each other is right before Stamets’ life is completely threatened. The scene was touching. The kiss was great. The problem is that it was used as an emotional plot device and to foreshadow the bad thing that was about to happen. It was used to manipulate our feelings.
Here we are, at episode 9 of Star Trek: Discovery, and it’s the first time we see intimacy between Stamets and Culber. We’ve seen more intimacy between Tyler and Burnham, who have known each other for a minute compared to Stamets and Culber.
The kiss Tyler and Burnham shared in the previous episode wasn’t nearly as heartwarming. It felt a little forced. That said, in episode 9, we see a very intimate scene between Tyler and Burhnam on Tyler’s couch. Not only were they cuddling, but they were talking about stuff that is really difficult to share: trauma. If you’ve experienced trauma, especially if it manifested into PTSD, you know that conversation was not something you just casually have. Even with someone who also has PTSD. In that case, you worry that sharing your story is going to retraumatize the other person. You need to really trust the person first. Den of Geek does an excellent job calling BS on this.
There is nothing about the relationship between Tyler and Burnham that makes sense or is natural. Yet, Digital Spy, and probably other writers who see life through a cishet-lens, will tell you that their relationship is very natural and touching while Stamets and Culber are “effective.”
The Kiss That Came Too Late in Star Trek: Discovery Episode 9
Digital Spy isn’t entirely to blame for this. Writers who inaccurately portray same-sex relationships or only show intimacy right before the gay person is going to be hurt or killed, are. Stamets and Culber have been in a relationship for years. We should have seen them kiss before certain doom was about to happen. I would be perfectly okay with certain-doom-kiss if this wasn’t also the first time “I love you” and a kiss was exchanged.
All too often there is criticism about same-sex relationships being shoved down throats when we see them oh so rarely and almost always right before something bad is going to happen to a character. Yet we see opposite-relationships all the time and conjured out of no basis for the relationship. I can’t think of a single show that doesn’t include opposite-sex romances or casual sex.
Tyler was nice to Burnham once and suddenly: romance. That isn’t healthy either, but that is a topic for another day. If Tyler is Voq, their relationship is ill-fated but that ill-fated-ness isn’t being used to toy with our emotions. On the other hand, emotion toying as Stamets and Culber make plans to see the opera when we, as the viewers, know that isn’t going to happen.
We know from episode 7 that Stamets and Culber have a very good relationship. But, that is because of a conversation Stamets had with Burnham, and not because it was shown to us directly. Except for Stamets and Culbur brushing their teeth together, everything we know about their relationship has been relayed to us through supposition. Yet, we’ve seen a lot of time between Tyler and Burnham.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see a good same-sex relationship on the screen. What bothers me is that, like most other portrayals, it’s not getting equal time or treatment as the opposite sex relationship even though it’s the better and more established relationship. The first moment of real tender intimacy was used as an emotional plot device rather than showing it during a safer time. It would have fit very nicely into episode 7. Even if it was just a quick peck rather than the great but doomed kiss we got in this episode.
I want the viewers to be emotionally invested in this relationship but not because something bad is about to happen. I want them to be invested in it because it’s a good and healthy and warm and loving relationship; I want them to be invested in it for all the same reasons people get invested in opposite-sex relationships.
The writers can make up for this in the future by showing us more of the two of them together when it’s not only to serve as a plot device. But, it was still a horrible way to introduce their first kiss and right before the break.
Until January, 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