Star Trek: Discovery S01E09 Recap: 'Into The Forest I Go' [Midseason Finale]

For the better part of nine episodes, the internet (and at times, it seems, even the show itself) has been obsessed with figuring out exactly what is supposed to make Star Trek: Discovery the perfect kind of "Star Trek" show. We've all been opining over what that idea means to us, and how Discovery is supposed to recreate it in a time where the very idea of creating dramatic television has fundamentally changed. It's an impossible prospect, and Discovery has occasionally fallen victim to it. Last week, for example, felt like an attempt to generate the kind of feeling an old episode of The Original Series might, by giving us an away mission on a shiny new world with a kind of alien we've never seen before. It may occasionally feel like a transparent attempt to appease fans afraid of seeing their series evolve and differ from what they're used to.

But behind the fan service, Discovery is really just a science fiction show trying to and mostly succeeding at finding itself. Over the course of these nine episodes, we've been getting to know characters, setting up plot devices and stories and giving this season reasons to exist. In "Into The Forest I Go", those of us who have enjoyed the show since its humble beginnings can finally feel vindicated, because it all seemed to come together in a coherent and exciting way that can hopefully unite both Discovery's apologist as well as Star Trek purists. It's an episode that's exciting, action-packed, that presents problems and proceeds to solve them and that creates a whole new set of challenges for its crew, almost to the extent that may lead viewers to believe Discovery may be going through a bit of a premise overhaul leading into the second half of its season next year.

The episode picks up right where we left off last week, with the Discovery orbiting Pavho, awaiting the Klingon Ship of the Dead, surmising that the Klingons' will use Starfleet's use of the planet's unique properties as an excuse to conquer it, putting the unique Pavhans at risk of being annihilated as a tangential ally to the Federation. Lorca wants to stay and fight, but Starfleet recognizes the danger that the Klingon flagship poses and orders them to retreat.

Lorca feigns compliance, but really he's just gotten really good at disobeying orders, and tasks his crew with finding a way to detect Klingon ships through their cloaking devices in a very short period of time. Their solution is some Star Trek-ass, convoluted technobabble nonsense that requires a small away team to install a couple of beacons on the ship, and then for Discovery to do a couple hundred micro-jumps with the spore drive in order to gather enough information to pierce through the cloaking device.

The plan mostly succeeds and Discovery winds up destroying the Klingon ship (and their evil leader Kol along with it), but not without a few hitches, First, Lt. Tyler suffers a PTSD setback when he sees his former captor L'Rell on the ship. Also Admiral Cornwell is found alive, albeit hurt, and Burnham reveals herself to Kol and fights him as a distraction in order to give Lorca the time he needs for Discovery to gather enough data. And, most importantly, Lt. Stamets has to go through all those jumps, which he survives. But in the big twist of the episode and the season so far, the final jump - the one taken after the confrontation with the Klingons - goes wrong and leads Discovery to an area of space that they can't identity. What's more, L'Rell, now in Discovery's brig, says some weird shit to Tyler.

The twists play into the two worst kept secrets about Discovery. First, that the spore drive nonsense would eventually lead to some dimension hopping. It's been revealed that the show would eventually travel to the Mirror universe seen in Star Trek's past, and the end of this episode seems to lean pretty heavily into that, making some wonder if Discovery's foray outside of their known dimension might last a little longer than an episode or two. What if this is the first Star Trek that's about jumping dimensions? As a sci fi premise, it would not only be rather unique to Trek (as much as previous series have explored parallel dimensions) but would also be more in line with what's interesting about physics today.

The other worst kept secret is the rumour that Lt. Tyler is actually Voq, which began with the inconsistent casting of both characters, and toyed with over the last few weeks on the show. In the midseason finale, the way Tyler and L'Rell react to each other strongly suggest that this rumour may be true, although it seems as if Voq is so deep undercover as Tyler that he doesn't recognize who he is. Now, L'Rell and potentially another Klingon are stuck in what may be another dimension aboard a Starfleet vessel.

But there have also been some speculation surrounding Discovery's shadowy, ruthless captain. Jason Isaacs has expertly protrayed Captain Lorca, but the dichotomy between that character and what we know to be a standard Starfleet captain,not to mention some of his idiosyncrasies such as the collection of weapons or his eye condition, or his questionable past on a ship where he was the only survivor, have led some to believe he may not belong in this universe, that he may be using the spore drive as a means to try and get him.

One could say that "Into the Forest I Go" raises more questions about these rumours than answers, and some may be upset that we'll have to wait nearly two months to get the answers, but you can't say that this isn't a successful episode of the show. It's an episode that's clearly figured out what kind of show Discovery wants to be, that's action packed and confident and that has struck that fleeting balance of what Star Trek once was and what it may need to be going forward, all while potentially blowing up the entire premise of the show. "Into The Forest I Go" gets 9.5 abstruse blips of our celestial existence out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • This episode kind of makes the uneven stuff from last week's episode work. The Klingon plot from last week seemed unclear, but that was all setup to get everyone to where they were this week. Same for those couple of scenes with Stamets. It's probably not the best way to run your show, but we'll forgive it as first season jitters.
  • A couple of Star Trek firsts here: firstly and most importantly, Klingon boobs. Also, the first gay kiss that I can remember on the show.
  • I love how insistent this show is on the Klingons speaking this weird slow version of their language unless absolutely explained in canon. Here they do so by having Burnham explain to them what a universal translator is.
  • Also great is Kol's response to this: "All I see is another attempt by humanity is to rob us of our identity."
  • Kol still has Georghiou's badge: "It makes a useful object to pick my teeth."