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‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Review: ‘The War Without, the War Within’ Sets the Stage for A Potentially Insane Season Finale

In the penultimate installment of Season 1, Episode 14, the episode title is more apt than usual.

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CBS

[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “Star Trek: Discovery” Season 1 Episode 14, “The War Without, the War Within.”]

Mission Brief

A nearly-10-minute cold open establishes a lot of story all at once: the presence of “Emperor” Georgiou on the Discovery, the restoration (to some degree, at least) of Ash Tyler’s personality to the body known as Voq, and of course Discovery’s return to its original universe, which in the nine months since its departure has seen the Federation completely torn apart by rival Klingon houses.

It’s Sarek and Admiral Cornwell who reveal the full extent of the damage that Starfleet has experienced, and they’re also the ones who take charge of the Discovery and the bold plan that Burnham comes up with after a suggestion from Emperor Georgiou, which involves Discovery jumping literally inside the Klingon homeworld of Kronos and destroying its military facilities. It also involves Burnham, Cornwell, Saru, and Sarek lying to nearly every crew member on Discovery by “revealing” Mirror!Georgiou as her Prime Universe self and giving the ruthless Emperor of many names command of the ship, so she can guide them through this insane, desperate, yet perhaps essential plan.

To quote another classic sci-fi franchise:

Star Wars I Have a Really Bad Feeling

Bye Bye, Lorca

While Starfleet has no shortage of news for the Discovery crew upon their return, the crew also has to explain what happened to their former captain, and Cornwell deduces that it’s also quite likely the Prime Universe version of Lorca died while trapped in the Mirror Universe.

For the record, Jason Isaacs’ name is still in the show’s opening credits. But as he told IndieWire last week, “Right now I’m going to say [Lorca’s] pretty dead. Dead as a doornail. That’s not a bruise. I’m incinerated, particle by particle. It will take a lot of jigsaw puzzle fans to put me back together again.”

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Love in Space

Tyler’s reintegration into the crew began this week, as even the show itself acknowledged that this won’t be an easy journey (and while Saru will not “take his freedom,” he won’t ever be a Starfleet officer again).

However, it feels necessary to call out the fact that when it comes to Tyler’s two biggest scenes in this episode, both of them went down relatively predictable paths. His confrontation with Stamets, in particular, felt familiar to an almost distracting degree — sci-fi and fantasy fans have seen countless versions of this sort of “you did bad things while possessed and I technically get that you weren’t in control but I still don’t forgive you” moment, and while to be fair everything that was said in that scene felt honest to the characters and what they were experiencing, it also didn’t stretch beyond previous tropes.

In some ways, Tyler and Burnham’s ultimate confrontation was affected by the same issue, but a lesser show might have succumbed to the temptation to ignore some very real facts, and maybe even give the characters a greater degree of reconciliation. Instead, it didn’t offer up any easy answers.

Instead, while Tyler’s initial feint that Burnham was looking for any reason to exit their relationship because “things got complicated” (COMPLICATED? YA THINK???), the scene proceeded to get real about what exactly happened: “I felt your hands around my neck and I looked into your eyes and I saw how much you wanted to kill me.” Her choosing to let Tyler go in the aftermath of that attack is a very understandable reaction to surviving a vicious assault from someone you love. What could elevate (or sink) this storyline in the future is what happens next — we may want to root for Tyler and Burnham as a couple, because of the previous groundwork laid, but if an easy route is taken to make it happen, it’ll ring false.

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Ranking the Most Likely Season Finale Deaths

This is a bit grim, but the upcoming mission to Kronos is likely going to rack up a body count, and as “Discovery’s” shown no hesitation in the past when it comes to killing off its characters, we figured it was worth making a few educated guesses.

4. Detmer: We have yet to really get to know a lot of the bridge crew, but as one of the few survivors of the Shenzhou, Lt. Kayla Detmer is perhaps one of the show’s most recognizable minor characters, and if she happened to die in the process of this insane plan, it would make an impact.

3. Saru: It would hurt an awful lot, which is probably the best reason to predict it happening. Note: Please don’t let Saru die! Even if Doug Jones might be more in demand than usual.

2. Tyler: Definitely feels like a good candidate for self-sacrifice in order to save the mission, especially after being confronted by Stamets this week and rejected by Burnham. Tyler seemingly has nothing to live for, and a tragic death would help give his story an ending with some redemption.

1. Mirror!Georgiou: Killing the Emperor — or perhaps the Emperor even sacrificing herself after a change of heart — feels relatively inevitable. Though who knows! Anything could happen.

A Random Note About Andorians

Something co-showrunner Aaron Harberts recently told IndieWire was that when “Discovery” returns for a second season, “You’ll see new characters introduced that we’re very excited about for Season 2, who represent a more diverse vision of the world.” A humble request: What if one of those new characters was an Andorian? We’ve gotten a few glimpses of the blue-skinned and antennaed aliens, and each time it’s been a lot of fun. While we wouldn’t envy that actor’s time in the makeup chair each day, Andorians! Why not?

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Quote of the Episode

“What we do now, the way that we treat him, is what he will become.”
— Tilly, regarding Tyler

Tilly says an awful lot more to Burnham, in their conversation over Tyler’s future as well as their Mirror Universe selves. But that’s basically the gist of it, and speaks to the ongoing thematic discussion that’s been pushed to the forefront over the course of this season, as the characters begin to truly push the question of nature versus nurture, and how our circumstances form us. It’s not an easy question to answer, but right now “Discovery” seems to be leaning towards the “nurture” side of the equation — right in line with “Trek’s” always optimistic outlook.

Final Thoughts

An episode like this is always going to feel like table-setting, but it still packed its punches, from the destruction of Starbase 1 (and Cornwell’s emotional devastation over its loss), to Stamets’ beautiful spore harvesting light show, to Tyler and Burnham’s final confrontation. The cliffhanger conclusion, which witnesses the remaining fragments of Starfleet putting the entire fate of the Federation in the hands of a woman who is literally a cold-blooded despot from a universe where betrayal is the rule of the land, may or may not so great next week. But we can’t wait to see what happens.

Grade: B+

New episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery” stream Sundays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS All Access.

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