SPOILERS FOR STAR TREK: DISCOVERY'S
"INTO THE FOREST I GO"
With this week's follow-up to last week's less-than-stellar outing of Star Trek: Discovery, we move from the show's weakest episode to its strongest yet, ending the first half of the season on a high note.
"Into the Forest I Go" picks up where "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" left off, with the Discovery in orbit around the peaceful planet Pahva awaiting the arrival of the Klingon Ship of the Dead. Captain Lorca seems genuinely concerned about the Pahvans, and takes pains to stay and protect them even as Starfleet orders him to retreat. What follows is a remarkably, even cinematic, sequence of derring-do that depicts the Discovery's crew coming up with a means of breaking through the Klingon invisibility screen: to wit, Michael Burnham and Ash Tyler sneak onto the Klingon vessel to plant a couple of sensors that will provide enough data for a computer algorithm to penetrate the cloak. This sequence is easily the highlight of the season, with exciting pacing, sharp editing, great moments of suspense and peril, and a victory that feels well-earned. This episode shows how important it is to get the small details right to add verisimilitude and strike the right emotional chords: the jump cuts illustrating the many spore drive jumps needed to accomplish the sequence's key tactic, for example, and the great sound design that illustrates the use of the universal translator.
Beyond this deft action sequence, we get to see Lorca's character fleshed out a little more. There's a great moment where he puts in his eyedrops to protect his damaged eyes so that he can look right into the explosion that marks the death-knell of the Klingon sarcophagus ship, a nice callback to the origin of Lorca's disability and a window into his warrior's soul. He's also clearly relieved by the rescue and ultimate recovery of Admiral Cornwell, even though her wellbeing presents a risk to his career.
Speaking of Cornwell, she gets a great moment onboard the Klingon sarcophagus ship, putting her medical training to use to help Ash Tyler, who's on the ship assisting Michael Burnam during the aforementioned action sequence, get through an episode of post-traumatic stress disorder. I'm not a medical professional, but this scene had the ring of truth to it. A follow-up conversation between Tyler and Burnham about the episode is sensitively handled, too.
However, this episode pretty much confirms the very badly-hidden rumour that Ash Tyler is actually the Klingon Voq, who, you may recall, hasn't been seen since Tyler's appearance. It appears that Tyler is actually Voq, surgically altered to appear human, and that his memories of being abused by L'Rell are actually memories of the painful surgery (and brainwashing, presumably) he endured to become "Tyler." Or perhaps this is all a red herring, and Tyler is indeed a human being. We won't know until after the hiatus.
And then there's poor brave Stamets, who navigates the spore drive through the dozens of jumps necessary to calibrate the sensors Tyler and Burnham have planted. He comes through the sequence okay, if a little dazed, but in the episode's coda, he agrees to make one last jump back into safe Federation territory...and that's when you know things are going to go wrong. While the scene went by pretty quickly it appears as though Captain Lorca sabotaged the spore jump sequence from his command chair; in any event, the ship jumps to an unknown location and Stamets goes white-eyed, flopping to the deck and babbling about "...so many permutations." Best guess is that the Discovery has jumped, either accidentally or through Lorca's betrayal, to a parallel universe. Given Jonathan Frakes revealed earlier this year that he's directed a Mirror Universe episode, three guesses where the Discovery crew has wound up...and the first two don't count.
I really cannot praise the direction and editing of "Into the Forest I Go" too highly; the creatives involved delivered a very satisfying hour of television, and I look forward to seeing what the second half of the season brings.