Welcome back to another week where we recap, react to, and ruminate about Star Trek: Discovery Episode 14: “The War Without, The War Within.” This post will contain some mild spoilers, so don’t read head until you have watched episode 14.
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 14: “The War Without, The War Within” Recap
Star Trek: Discovery episode 14 begins with Saru facing yet another betrayal. Once upon a time, he would not have believed Burnham’s explanation, but this time, he seems satisfied with her response, even if it caused him to pause for a moment.
Soon, Admiral Cornwell, Sarek, and a band of others board the Discovery and take emergency command. Sarek mind melds with Saru and learns all about their adventures in the Mirror Universe. We learn that the ISS Discovery was destroyed. Cornwell quickly classifies the entire ordeal and updates the crew on the status of the war.
Tyler is struggling with what happened to him and what he did when the Voq personality took over. The crew is also struggling with Tyler being among them. Saru and Tilly show him some compassion and understanding, and they give him a chance to work through his trauma. Even Sarek seems to understand what is going on here and what is required.
Burnham is struggling with a lot of conflicting feelings about Tyler. She is struggling with a lot of feelings about Georgiou. She is struggling with having feelings, period.
Starbase 1 is destroyed and Cornwell becomes desperate, giving up all hope. Cornwell has a meeting with L’Rell, telling L’Rell that this war has not united the houses as wanted but has fractured the Klingon Empire even more. L’Rell tells Cornwell that the only way out of this is to completely conquer the Klingons.
A plan is hatched to jump inside of Qo’noS, do some mapping of the planet since it’s been 100 years since humans have been to the planet, and put some fear into the Klingons. However, Sarek and Cornwell have decided to let Emperor Georgiou come up with a plan, lying to the crew about Georgiou’s identity in the process.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 14: “The War Without, The War Within” Reactions
The reactions to Star Trek: Discovery episode 14 from within my Star Trek community took a bit of different turn. It started off with one “great episode” remark, and then took off on a debate after Ryan Hayle said the following:
There’s no way they can let whatever Georgiou does stand. The idea that the Federation we all know and love owes its very existence to brutal Terran tactics is unconscionable.
Which was echoed by Scott Carpenter in the following:
This can’t stand – they can’t let Empress Bloodbath nuke the Klingon homeworld. There’s time travel in our future, there has to be.
To which I added the following:
So, I had the same reaction, “OH NO THEY BETTER NOT!!!” This “at any cost” BS is one of the reasons DS9 does not work for me. I know how this is going to end, maybe. Burnham is going to fight the Admiral (who is now the trope Admiral for agreeing to whatever horrible thing Emperor G has told them to do). In the end, the better angels will win. Because, as Ryan Hayle said, the alternative it unconscionable.
What I do find interesting are people who may be freaking out about the “at any cost” idea now and how that is just a big NOPE but were okay with it in DS9. I’d like to tweeze the psychology behind that cognitive dissonance.
This is also the first episode to nearly bring me to tears when Tyler was talking about what was done to him and trying to figure out how to move forward. Saru and Tilly’s compassion towards him was also A+. A few people were worried that the events minimize the previous PTSD storyline, but it doesn’t. He has undergone a major mindf*** (literally), and will be dealing with the aftermath for a very long time. Dude still has PTSD and he will forever have to live with the memory of what the Voq personality did; something over which he had no control.
That is when the following discussion took place:
Chila Kosande to me: It made sense in DS9 because they were in an impossible situation. Honestly, I personally don’t mind them enlisting the Emperor’s help, but I think them passing her off as the original Georgiou is a huge no for me; absolutely cringe worthy. They could have done better from a moral stand point but with that said, plot wise I think it’s pretty cool and will lead to an interesting final show down.
Me to Chila: It’s only impossible because people are too weak to find an alternative and think they deserve to live more than others.
Muma David Bwalya: Okay, I personally feel like the preview showing Burnham saying “principles are all we have” is just corny. I get what Starfleet stands for and everything, but this is war… Sometimes the end justifies the means.
I sometimes feel that her having no real relationships makes it easy for her to be somewhat more objective than others.
I don’t blame the Admiral for her “by any means” route. The thing is, she’s witnessed countless losses during this 7-month period when Burnham and the rest were in the mirror universe. And after Starbase 1, you could tell how torn up she was about everything… She and everybody else who have lost so many loved ones during this war will do WHATEVER it takes to end it, and probably get a teensy bit of vengeance in the process. They’re human too, they’re not perfect.
Scott Carpenter to Muma: “Sometimes the end justifies the means”
I reject that, categorically.
Me to Scott: I’m right there with you. It’s easy to give into revenge. It takes courage and strength to find an alternative and not become the thing you are fighting. This isn’t some Kobayashi Maru. The Federation has yet to address the very root of the issue that has caused that conflict. They should start there. Committing genocide is never acceptable.
Muma to me: They definitely can’t commit genocide, that’s unacceptable. That was probably a simulation of sorts. But this is a war, and casualties are inevitable… It’s not always possible to resolve conflicts without at least some.
Do you feel it’s fair to at least accept that?
Me to Muma: The Terran Empire’s entire MO is mass extinction of anything not human. The original plan calls for causalities, but Emperor G has something unconscionable in mind. Also, as we’ve discussed in previous weeks, body counts are not the only casualties.
And there has already been a huge loss of life and crews upon crews having to work through trauma, not being able to stop and grieve. What you’re advocating for will only make that situation worse. The whole point of Burnham risking her life to meet with the rebellion in the Mirror Universe was to find an alternative.
Scott to Muma: Casualties in war are inevitable. Depending on the circumstances, civilian casualties may be unavoidable, but deeming civilian casualties acceptable is a greased slide to atrocity and loss of any kind of moral high ground.
Muma to Scott: I think I’m not phrasing my argument well lol. What I mean is that I UNDERSTAND where this desperation to end the war at all costs is coming from. From a Federation standpoint, I really get it… I’m not advocating this course of action or saying it’s right. All I’m saying is I understand why they feel this is the only way…
Scott to Muma: OK, that’s clearer, but I still would be on Burnham’s side in this. If they deliberately set out to destroy Qo’noS and all life on it, the Federation is lost. They’ll have thrown out the only thing that gives them value.
While normally this discussion would lend itself to a great ruminations section about war and morality, this week’s ruminations will, once again, be about trauma, with and added discussion of how people react to, and treat, victims and survivors.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 14: “The War Without, The War Within” Ruminations
Watching people react to not only Tyler, but also seeing people get angry at Saru and Tilly for showing Tyler some compassion and understanding, has been difficult. Normally, my Star Trek community tends to inspire my weekly ruminations. This week, my ruminations have been inspired by watching society and other media outlets react to Star Trek: Discovery episodes 14, paired with episode 13.
It’s difficult for me to remain rational as I observe people who don’t have an understanding about how PTSD operates give their reactions. The Mary Sue went as far as saying that the Tyler twist completely undermines the PTSD storyline, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Especially after what we hear from Tyler in episode 14. The author concludes with the following:
Despite the character’s potential, something hugely meaningful about the nature of PTSD and recovery was erased when the experiences that happened to “Tyler” were invalidated. This should not be underplayed.
I’ve seen that sentiment echoed across various parts of the internet from people who do not live with PTSD. These reactions were amplified after episode 14 of Star Trek: Discovery. It makes me want to hurt them in the same way that I’ve been hurt; in such a profound way that I had to come to terms with the day my trauma therapist said, “Your PTSD and trauma is so profound, there is no recovery, but you will get better at coping and it will become easier to do the required work when you are triggered.” This reaction is one of survival.
That isn’t to say some people don’t recover. But. because PTSD has had horrible representation in the media, the thing people fail to realize is, PTSD takes on many faces. Each face requires a huge amount of compassion and support from people around them.
To a point, I do understand that the above quoted writer feels this all erases Tyler’s experiences. To a point. As someone who lives everyday with the effect of PTSD, I think it doesn’t. The Tyler personality was just as real and fully formed as Voq. While Voq consented to sex, Tyler was raped. Beyond the rape, other things, extremely horrible things, happened to him that were traumatic. For him, he was tortured. As a bonus, he remembers everything that the Voq personality did and has to live with those memories forever.
How does one recover from that, especially when you are unsure of who you are and need to also figure that out?
My PTSD comes from multiple, prolonged traumas. Severe childhood abuse and neglect that continued into midlife. Abuse relationships. Multiple assaults because I’m queer. It’s taken way too many years to somewhat learn that things that happened to me were no my faults; that things I did because of what happened to me to stay alive are not my fault.
If someone had shown me compassion and given me support as I was trying to learn who I really was, instead of who I had to be, so I could live; instead of shunning and blaming me, things probably would have been different. Maybe, eventually, I would have recovered instead of every day being filled with coping minute-by-minute. Many days feel more like I’m surviving and not actually living.
I see a lot of parallels between Tyler and the programming of my abusive childhood, abuse that continued well into adulthood. Part of the reason children who were abused go on to be abusers, or enter into abusive relationships, is because society shuns them, blames them, and fills their lives with stigma. The fact I was able to end the cycle was in part because of a couple of people throughout my life who reached out to me in the same way that Saru and Tilly reached out to Tyler.
Burnham never has to forgive Tyler. I don’t believe you have to forgive the people who have hurt you to move on. They have to be remorseful and show a willingness to do work on their end. Thankfully, my trauma therapist agrees.
And even though I had to completely cut the sources of abuse from my life because it was never-ending, I wish someone would show my abusers some compassion, so they can deal with their own traumas and get the care they need.
There is a war that wages within me every single day of the year and while I have innate resilience, that isn’t the only thing that got me to where I am today and keeps me going. I needed, and continue to need, compassion, understanding, and validation. I wish my life, and the lives of all trauma survivors who are just trying to figure out everything had at least a Saru and Tilly in their lives.
And it’s not only Tyler who has a PTSD storyline. Every single person on that crew has been traumatized. Tyler is being given a moment to work through it which will benefit him. The others have not. People are crying foul because Stamets hasn’t reacted in a way they feel is appropriate after the loss he has suffered.
Like PTSD, grief works in many ways. It can take forever for the brain to finally accept that a loss happened. As a bonus: In times of war, you don’t have the time to stop and grieve, which plays a part in to the PTSD and suicide crisis we are currently facing with our veterans. You have no choice but to push through if you are to survive. I also see parallels with my own trauma here because nearly 40 years of my life was exactly that: just pushing through to live without a single moment to stop and process what the hell was going on. Of course, this led to multiple mental health crises.
Not everyone with PTSD experiences visual flashbacks. For a lot of people, PTSD is not a thing from which they will ever recover. Some people fight when triggered. Some people freeze. Some people take flight. Some go through all three responses within seconds.
While the writers of Star Trek: Discovery have thrown my queer ass under the bus with what they did with Culber, this is the first time I’ve seen PTSD portrayed in ways that feels authentic to my experiences, and in multiple characters. This includes people being angry because the victim, the person who now needs to learn to survive and figure out who they are, has been shown a little bit of compassion.
As survivors, we are expected to say everything is fine and we are okay. Our experiences are stigmitized so much, we are not allowed to be open about them. But as Tilly said, “How can that possibly be true?”
I’ve seen arguments that at any moment, Tyler could become violent again. Therefore, he should be in the brig or confined to his quarters. The truth is, so could I. If you are arguing that Tyler shouldn’t be allowed anywhere, what are you saying about me or others like me? Do we have to continue to hide these aspects of who we are and the experiences that have shaped us? When will be finally allowed to be open about them and have society work with us, instead of against us, to end cycles of abuse and trauma?
Just something to think about.
Until next Wednesday when this season wraps up, 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
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 8: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about the real-world implications of war and PTSD and how this reality is reflected in Star Trek: Discovery.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 9: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about trauma and the difference in how the cishet couple is treated compared to the queer couple.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 10: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about how heartbreaking it is to see the “Bury Your Gays” trope in Star Trek.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 11: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We talk about the clues dropped that Lorca is Mirror Lorca, and the desperate need for hope.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 12: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate once again about “Bury Your Gays” and “Stuffed into the Fridge.”
Star Trek Discovery Episode 13: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about how our pasts inform our present.