Star Trek: Discovery S1E14: “The War Without, the War Within”
Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Michelle Yeoh
The path through Discovery’s maiden voyage has been a shaky one…
The USS Discovery has successfully returned to its own universe, only for the crew to find the Klingons have almost completely overrun the Federation. While plans are drawn up for the final offensive, within Discovery the consequences of recent events take their toll.
With its sojourn into the Mirror Universe complete – at least for now – Star Trek: Discovery returns to its original storyline, bringing the entire season full circle to the war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. It is a war that Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) helped to start, and it is becoming evidently – and satisfyingly – clear that it is going to be down to Burnham to help finish it. That is all presumably going to go down in next week’s season finale. That leaves this penultimate episode to essentially do some tidying up.
It’s an episode packed with character moments, and on the whole they are great ones. The big emotional beats come with Lieutenant Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), recently revealed as a surgically constructed Klingon sleeper agent but now with his own personality permanently restored. He must face Stamets (Anthony Rapp) after murdering his partner. He must face Burnham after almost murdering her. The best scene of the episode comes when he arrives in the mess hall, expecting to eat alone – only to be greeted by Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman), who refuses to abandon him despite what has occurred. It’s a beautifully moment for Tilly, and emblematic of how much more smoothly the series is handling its characters in the season’s second half. In her early episodes she was a victim of same kind of awkward writing that made viewers of the 1980s hate Star Trek: The Next Generation punching bag Wesley Crusher; she feels far more rounded and focused here. It’s a shift that is visible in most of the regular and returning cast.
The other major element of this episode is Terran Emperor Phillipa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), rescued from her own universe by Burnham and now an unwilling guest of the Federation. While it is always a pleasure to see Yeoh on screen, the inclusion of Georgiou in the context she is presented here stretches credulity. By the end of the episode it stretches further still, and would seem to require intelligent and highly competent people to act like complete idiots for the sake of a dramatic cliffhanger. It will require a wait until the season finale to see how this evil Georgiou’s story plays out, but it is not looking promising.
“The War Within, the War Without” does feel like a let-down after the high drama of the previous few episodes, but that is ultimately more a factor of those episode’s climactic nature than any specific shortfall on this episode’s part. It is an act of re-centering the story and setting up the climax. In that regard it does a tremendous job. The path through Discovery’s maiden voyage has been a shaky one, but it is important to celebrate and applaud how effectively it is reaching its end.