After a fairly ‘meh’ episode last week, Star Trek Discovery sees it’s mid-season break in with one hell of a finale. It’s got everything - space battles to salt the senses, emotionally-charged character developments, and a cliffhanger ending to end all cliffhanger endings. If episode 8 was merely a setup for this, it was so, so worth it, and Discovery finishes the first half of its season by pretty much cementing its position as one of, if not the, best Star Trek series ever. We can only hope the second half is as good. With spoilers to follow, here’s my verdict on episode 9, Into the Forest I Go.
With the Klingons incoming to Pahvo, Discovery is ordered to retreat, but, surprise, surprise, Captain Lorca isn’t keen on that plan, so he decides to disobey a direct order and stick around. He sets his crew on finding a new way to detect the Klingons’ cloaked ships (after the failure to harness Pahvo’s organic frequency) and luckily they come up with something. The only problem is that it involves an away team infiltrating Kol’s Sarcophagus ship to install sensors which will read the ship’s cloaking frequency, while Stamets makes 133 mycelia jumps in a row to collect enough data in time to come up with a useable algorithm. And there you have the storyline for this episode in a nutshell. That enough high-risk action for you?
On the face of it, the episode might sound a bit overstuffed with multiple big events and various plot climaxes, but everything actually comes together rather beautifully with many intriguing storylines from the entire season seamlessly converging. Stamets’s growing health issues, Tyler’s uncertain identity, L’Rell’s secret plan… it all links together in this episode creating a well-earned and thrilling pay-off. Of course, some of the series’ bigger mysteries, such as Lorca’s fascination with Burnham, make an appearance but are kept back for the second half of the season, which will kick off in January 2018, but ultimately, I can’t think of a much more satisfying mid-season finale than this.
On the action front, we get some hand-to-hand combat between Burnham and Kol, which satisfies our growing desire for fights over phasers, not to mention the space battle sequences which will have you staring wide-eyed at the screen in awe. Kol’s death and the destruction of the Sarcophagus ship doesn’t feel overlooked, but, equally, it isn’t given too much weight either - we all knew he wouldn’t be the big bad of the season. And on the emotional side of things, Tyler’s panic attack and subsequent acknowledgement of what happened to him during his torture is ground-breaking stuff. Rarely is such a traumatic storyline tackled so thoughtfully and effectively in a sci-fi series, and should Tyler turn out to be Voq in disguise (if you’re wondering what I’m on about, you can read about that theory here), it will take nothing away from this powerful storyline.
And that’s all without mentioning the appearance of Star Trek’s first gay male kiss, a glimpse of ‘Lorca the explorer’ rather than ‘Lorca the soldier’, and the reappearance of Admiral Cornwell. If, like me, you felt cheated by her death in the previous episode, then you’re in luck. She isn’t dead and when Burnham and Tyler board the Sarcophagus ship they find and rescue her (which is also how they come across L’Rell by the way). It’s good to see what could previously be considered a bit of a misstep corrected so quickly and I’m happy not to lose such an interesting female character. Lorca may not feel the same way given than the last time they met Cornwell told him he needed to step down as Captain of the Discovery. We’ll have to wait until January to see how that pans out, but I’m guessing his major victory over the Klingons will prevent him from being demoted… not to mention the fact that he’s currently nowhere near a Starfleet base.
Oh, did I forget to mention that? As if there wasn’t enough going on in this episode, just before the credits roll the Discovery is cast out into the unknown, mid-jump after Stamets collapses trying to get the crew home using the DASH drive. “Captain, I’m afraid I don’t know where we are,” are the final words of the episode (courtesy of Saru), but for anyone who’s been paying attention it’s pretty clear where the Discovery has ended up. It’s in the mirror universe, an alternative dimension which has been teased all season, and if its past Star Trek appearances are anything to go by, the Klingons will be the least of Discovery’s problems in the second half of this season.
The only bad thing I can say about this episode is the same thing I’ve said about previous ones - that it’s all a bit too obvious at points. Star Trek Discovery does not do subtly. Of course Tyler and Burnham are the ones who have to go over to the Sarcophagus ship. Of course Tyler comes into contact which his abuser L’Rell who ultimately comes back with them. Of course Stamets’s final jump is one too many and he severely injures himself while getting the Discovery lost in space. Despite the fact that you’ll probably see most of these events coming thanks to the show’s hammer-it-in-until-you’re-dead approach to signposting, it won’t take away any of your enjoyment. In fact, it’ll probably just make you anticipate it all the more. I know it’s whet my appetite for the next few episodes… shame we have to wait until next year to find out what happens.