Star Trek: Discovery S01E14 Recap: 'The War Without, The War Within'

The USS Discovery had become a ship full of demons and people with them. And that's actually something I truly appreciate about the show. It's arguably the least "trek" thing about Star Trek: Discovery, but also the most welcome change in formula. In this show, actions have consequences, unlike shows in Trek's past, where the end of every episode reset the plot and most of any character progression. But Discovery is a show that's determined to hold its characters to the promises they make. After all, it's a show about a Starfleet officer that does something very "not Starfleet" and has to find a path towards redemption, and that same standard has to be upheld with every character and decisions that they make. There's a lot of that going around in "The War Without, The War Within", an episode that's admittedly full of a lot of setup moves as we prepare for next week's season finale, but that allows for some downtime to explore where some of the characters find themselves and how they're dealing with the fallout of everything that's happened.

A notable standout is a scene between Burnham and Tyler. For much of the episode, Burnham refuses to see Tyler, even though she's been assured that the violent tendencies of Voq have been removed from his brain. No one is quite clear whether he's human, Klingon, or something in between, but most on the ship have accepted that he deserves a chance to be the former. Tyler has an uneasy confrontation with Stamets, the man whose soulmate he took away from when he was still sorta Voq. He gets sympathy from the rest of the crew as well, but the person he wants most to come see him is Burnham. He loves her, and doesn't think he can redeem himself without her. Burnham finally goes to see him at the behest of Cadet tilly, but only to deliver bad news; while she believes that Tyler can find his way back, it's a path he'll have to navigate alone, as she did after her decision at the Battle at the Binary Stars, and as she's still doing, having not lived down or gotten over what she did there. Shazad Latif and Sonequa Martin-Green sell the shit out of this scene and really help tie everything about their arc together.

And that same feeling can be felt all throughout Discovery. It's present at the beginning of the episode when Saru and Burnham reunite, still feeling the strain about the relationship, but still caring about one another. Admiral Cornwell certainly feels it, not only because of the insanity of revelations she's subjected to about both Lorcas, but also because of the overwhelming nature of being at the forefront of a losing war effort. A scene halfway through the episode perfectly encapsulates it, when she has to be reminded that she's captaining a starship after finding out that Klingons have taken over what was believed to be a Federation stronghold.

And then there's Empress Georgiou, a woman not in her own universe. At first she appears to be indignant towards Burnham for bringing her over against her will, and quickly sees through the transparency of Burnham's attempt to make up for getting the other Georgiou killed. She even pokes fun at her for it. But eventually, she sees an opportunity to parlay it into something else, as the episode ends with the Discovery under her command, posing as Prime Georgiou, her plan to achieve freedom in exchange for a plan to stop the Klingons, which Cornwell and Sarek agree to.

I'm not sure where this might be going or if it's sustainable, but when you think about it, it kind of makes sense. As dangerous as Terran Georgiou is, letting her run around the Prime universe is more "Federation" a move than trying to open a portal back to the Mirror Universe (never mind the moral implications of sending a murderous emperor back over there). It's also a pretty damn good twist at this stage of the game, especially coming at the end of a more character-based episode.

"The War Without, The War Within" does a pretty good clean-up job everything the time in the Mirror Universe left in its wake. There's more mopping likely left to be done, mostly around whatever the hell is going to come out of this war with the Klingons, but momentarily, Discovery puts canon concerns on the backburner in order to focus on its characters, and that's something I can appreciate after the whirlwind that's been the last handful of episodes. "The War Without, The War Within" gets 8 terraformed moons out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • So the plan to defeat the Klingons involves a direct assault on Qo'Nos, and Discovery has to first chart its planetary defenses by jumping to one of its underground tunnels. How do they jump? By creating more spores on a terraformed moon, which is actually a pretty solid plan. We'll see what kind of wrench Mirror Georgiou might throw into all of this, though.
  • Speaking of Stamets' teraforming plan, I wonder if that means the show will eventually find a way to tie in to the Star Trek II/III Genesis plots.
  • Another good continuity cleanup is how they mention that Discovery's trip to the Mirror universe will be buried knowledge, which explains why the Enterprise or DS9 crews don't know about it. Now to see how they handle the spore drive.
  • I also liked how Georgiou and L'Rell continues the narrative that the Federation is perceived poorly from the outside. One of them mentions "universal homogenization", for example. I love this theme on Discovery.
  • Georgiou can't help pointing out to Saru what Kelpians are in the Mirror Universe: "Yesterday we dined on the entrails of his brethren, and now you seek his favour?"
  • Cornwell destroying Lorca's fortune cookies is like the pettiest form of vengeance I've ever seen.
  • I loved that we finally got to see Discovery's board room. That's an aspect of the older shows I didn't realize I was missing.
  • Georgiou: "My daughter was a singular example of brilliance until one foolish choice doomed her world. Sound familiar?"
  • Burnham telling Tyler he needs to go at his redemption on his own: "That kind of work, reclaiming life, it's punishing, it's relentless, and it's solitary."