Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellu is a bit of a placeholder episode for Star Trek Discovery thanks to a self contained story with no larger ramifications other than to set up the mid-season finale. That said, it poses plenty of interesting questions with new aliens, some interesting character developments, and finally an answer on what makes Saru’s spider sense tingle. For an in-depth verdict on episode 8 check out our review, but if you're looking for a deeper dive into the episode's plot points, keep on reading. Spoilers to follow.
1. What does the episode title Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum mean?
It’s a famous Latin phrase that means “If you want peace, prepare for war”, which seems to tie into this episode’s themes - the planet’s implicit harmony, along with Saru’s discovery of peace for the first time, and how it nearly derails the war effort. It could also sum up the entire season to date, with Discovery's role as some sort of warrior science ship.
2. If Discovery's DASH drive is working why doesn't anyone else have it?
We see the Discovery DASHing into save the USS Gagarin as the only ship in range. But, seeing as Stamet’s DNA merge with the Tardigrade seems to have created a (for now) stable spore drive navigation solution, why aren’t other ships getting the tech? Okay, the Federation did previously refer to his merging as ‘unlicensed eugenics’ but it doesn’t seen to have stopped the Discovery using him. It obviously might take some time to implement, but seeing as the whole point of Discovery, and the now destroyed Glenn, was to perfect the tech, why isn’t there talk of it being implemented immediately?
3. How badly is the Federation losing the war if three ships are wiped out in one go?
The Gagarin is clearly outmatched by the cloaked Klingon ships and we find out USS Hoover and the USS Muroc have also been destroyed. The cloaking tech being dished out by Kol for fealty is clearly swinging the war in favour of the Klingons - hence the current mission on Pahvo for a solution. But is the Discovery really the only ship capable of putting up a fight?
4. How exactly does a singing planet help the Federation find Klingon ships?
The idea that every organism on Pahvo vibrates at a unique frequency? Okay. The idea that this can be used to create a form of sonar that no other sound can achieve... is a reach. There’s no real explanation as to why that form of sound is any more special. Also, if the Federation’s plan is to ‘modify the electromagnetic frequency’, why can’t they just measure what they can already hear and use it that way? It shouldn't really change in any appreciable way at the source. And, while we’re at it, ‘sound’ is a movement of air, or any transmitting medium. Electromagnetic radiation is stuff like radio waves, microwaves, light and so as, and is a different thing entirely. Do they want the sound they can hear? Or the signal being broadcast into space?
5. Are the Pahvonians related to the spores in anyway?
It seems unlikely the Star Trek Discovery budget can’t stretch to two ethereal floaty alien life forms, so why do the Pahvonian entities look so similar? Later in the episode we see Ash apparently teleported by them suggesting they, like the Spores, can manipulation spacetime. The hut and crystal transmitter also suggest they can manipulate matter. Saru also talks about how the race is aware of the universe but somehow unable to communicate with it suggesting they have knowledge beyond their planet.
6. If Saru’s threat detection is basically just really astute senses, how does he manage day-to-day?
For ages Saru’s ‘threat detection’ has manifested as borderline psychic abilities. In this episode we discover his race can detect predators up to 10 kilometres away, and that his visual, auditory and tactical senses are super sensitive. So much so that the background noise of the forest is ‘torture’. In which case how does he get by on the Discovery? If trees in the wind are too much, surely the canteen or bridge would be deafening?
7. Who built the hut and why?!
The inhabitants of Pahvo appear to be clouds of light. How did they build a hut? Did they grow it? And why? The presence of a structure suggests they understand that a more corporeal being likes a rooms, but as they don’t communicate with Saru until they’re in the building how did they know? Have other races visited the planet before?
8. What on Earth did the Pahvonians do to Saru?
Saru makes it clear in this episode that his entire life is one long panic attack, but it seems unlikely that just being chilled out for an afternoon would be enough to make him mutiny - he’s been quite firm on Burnham’s previous actions being just about the worst thing a Starfleet officer can do. Was the peace he felt on Pahvo really enough to make him forget everything, or were the Pahvonians doing something else inside his head?
9. Is Stamet seeing the infinite multiverse and can he control it?
The mirror dimension tease from episode 5, Choose Your Pain, suggests that Stamet’s connection to the spore drive taps into alternate universes. Now, he admits that “one minute I know where I am, who you are, what I’m doing, and then all of a sudden what I know changes. It gets jumbled.” What’s interesting is that when he comes out of the spore drive he call Tilly ‘captain’. Is it a coincidence that he appears to see a possible universe/reality where she’s a captain? The thing she wants more than anything? Or can he tune into and see certain things?
10. What the hell is L'Rell up to?
Obviously she’s all about getting back at Kol, but she’s all over the place this episode. Was the escape plan with Admiral Corwell part of a plan to get her to talk? Or a genuine attempt to defect? She also seems surprised about all the dead Klingons, suggesting Kol knew she was a traitor and was clearing her house before he calls her a traitor and takes her away. And why does she have no comeback when he does? Her lack of a plan or contingency suggests she’s either completely lost focus or this is all part of her plan.
11. Did Saru see the real Tyler?
Okay, conspiracy theory time - specifically that Tyler is a Klingon spy passing for human. When spaced out Saru tries some sort of mind crystal thing with Tyler, his threat ganglia flair up and he declares “your intentions are false”. Given that Saru has already made it clear he’s build to detect danger, does that mean he senses Tyler is a threat in some way? Keeping Saru talking while Burnham gets to the transmitter isn’t exactly a dangerous thing to do.