The penultimate episode of Star Trek: Discovery’s first season, The War Without, The War Within, showed the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery returning to their own universe after a four-episode interlude in the Mirror Universe, but a lot has changed since they left. In addition to the passage of nine months and massive gains for the Klingon Empire in the Klingon–Federation War, the Discovery’s commanding officer, Captain Gabriel Lorca, was revealed to be a Mirror Universe interloper in “Vaulting Ambition.”
Tying up loose ends with an ironic impalement, Emperor Georgiou killed Mirror-Lorca during his attempted rebellion in “What’s Past Is Prologue.” Gabriel Lorca of Star Trek’s “prime universe” is assumed to have died some time ago, shortly after the quantum inversion that brought Mirror-Lorca to the prime universe sent Lorca-Prime to the Mirror Universe.
This not only means that the Kelpien Commander Saru (Doug Jones) assumes the role of acting captain, it also means that the U.S.S. Discovery has never actually had a legitimate captain.
The War Without, The War Within – “Dad! Uncool!!”
Unfortunately, Captain Saru’s time in the big chair is short lived. The bridge crew is taken unawares by the surprise transport of a motley crew of Federation species. Their arrival heralds a second beam-in, that of Ambassador Sarek and Admiral Cornwell. Cornwell uses an authorization code to take control of the ship, and Sarek forcibly mind melds with the no-longer-acting Captain Saru.
Sarek learns of the crew’s amazing journey between realities, and Cornwell wastes no time in catching the bridge crew up on the events of the past nine months. The Klingons, it turns out, aren’t acting as a unified military force. Instead, the various houses stage random brutal attacks on Federation assets. But the true extent of the damage isn’t fully understood until Discovery visits the burning husk that once was Starbase 1. Previously home to tens of thousands of Federation citizens, it now houses around 250 Klingons from the House of D’Ghor.
The War Without, The War Within – “Take that, Dr. Marcus!”
There was a lot going on in this episode. The return to the prime universe, the destruction of Starbase 1, Lt. Tyler’s readjustment to ship life after having Voq’s personality de-conditioned out of his mind, and Stamets’s terraforming a moon in order to create a source of mycelial spores. This was a nice nod to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in which Dr. Carol Marcus uses her invention the Genesis Project to terraform an inhospitable planet into a habitable one. Unfortunately, it goes horribly wrong … “KHAAAAAAN!!!”
The War Without, The War Within – “Saru, don’t accept any dinner invitations from Emperor Georgiou.”
One of the biggest shockers from the last episode was Burnham’s decision to save Emperor Georgiou and bring her back to the prime universe. Georgiou isn’t adjusting well to being locked up all the time, and to gain her freedom she offers Admiral Cornwell and Sarek a deal.
The Federation can’t make any headway in their war against the Klingons. Georgiou offers to put her knowledge of warfare to work, having obliterated the Klingon home world in her own universe.
Surprisingly, this negotiation goes a lot better than Tyler’s discussion with Burnham about the future of their relationship. Burnham discusses the benefits of being alone with Tyler, and in a rare moment of self-effacement during her blood-soaked life she reflects that she’s not yet where she needs to be to feel good about herself.
The War Without, The War Within – “Dr. What’s-his-face was a good man!”
There were a few charged discussions in this episode. Another tough one for Tyler was his talk with Stamets, although I was a bit surprised it wasn’t a lot worse. Sure, it got a bit heated, but I thought that Stamets showed a surprising amount of restraint. I know that Discovery the show, just like the ship, moves at faster-than-light speed most of the time, but the lack of emotional grief over Dr. Culber’s death is a bit off-putting. He wasn’t my favourite character, but I seem to care more about his loss than the majority of the crew.
The War Without, The War Within – “Cmdr. Saru, I’d love to have you for some calamari some time.”
Admiral Cornwell continues her streak of questionable command decisions when she introduces Discovery’s new commanding officer. Although Cornwell tells the crew that the woman commanding their vessel is Captain Georgiou whose survival was kept secret by the Federation, she is actually the deposed Emperor Georgiou, Kelpien connoisseur late of the Mirror Universe.
So, the fears I had last week are proven valid. The U.S.S. Discovery has indeed traded one impostor from the Mirror Universe acting as captain for another. Staging a surprise assault, Emperor Georgiou will lead the attack on Qo’noS that will take the Discovery within the caves of the Klingon home world, and based on the Emperor’s history as a strategist I’m sure this attack will be measured and proportional …
The War Without, The War Within – Final Thoughts
This episode provided a nice break after Discovery’s action-packed saga in the Mirror Universe. Beyond getting a chance to catch our breaths, viewers were also treated to another well-timed reference to Star Trek: Enterprise. Going all the way back to Enterprise’s series premiere “Broken Bow,” Cornwell, when talking about the impending mission to the Klingon home world, refers to Captain Archer’s mission aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise NX-01 to return the injured Klingon courier Klaang to his people. These Easter eggs are always fun to pick out, but my favourite one so far is definitely the list of most decorated Starfleet captains featuring Georgiou’s name alongside those of Captains April, Archer, Decker, and Pike. Now that’s an information-packed bonus.
It’s anybody’s guess what the mission to Qo’noS will entail, especially given the confusing promotional trailer that aired after The War Without, The War Within. The half-naked gyrations of a number of albinos and the destruction of what looks like a planet are featured.
The War Without, The War Within – Admiral Crumb-well
We also see Burnham standing up to Cornwell, arguing that, though the odds are against them, the crew of the Discovery must stick to their Starfleet principles. It’ll be great if this philosophical discussion gets a chance to play out: these kinds of heady conversations are, so far, sorely lacking in this iteration of Star Trek. Also, based on Cornwell’s apparent bloodthirstiness and her willingness to install Mirror Universe counterparts of Starfleet officers in positions of military authority, maybe she’s actually Mirror-Cornwell. Revealing another commanding officer as an impostor from the Mirror Universe would seem a bit like scraping the bottom of the barrel, but at least it would explain Cornwell’s relatively crumby command performance so far.