Star Trek Discovery - Episode 9 - Into The Forest I Go
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”
The above quote is attributed to naturalist and Sierra Club founder John Muir. It speaks to the adventurous nature of the human spirit where you can go into the great unknown, unburden your self and find your true direction in life or even the great beyond. In doing so, you achieve peace and bring harmony and a sense of oneness with the universe.
Do we know anyone on Discovery that would pursue such a quest and become "unburdened"?
There are plenty of candidates.
Star Trek Discovery went on it's winter break and will return in January of 2018. In my last post I looked for things to "Boom" in this Fall finale and for the most part I think we got the most bang for our buck.
"Into the Forest" answered a few questions and in typical TV form, asked a few more. We got some startling revelations, a new mystery and a dash of titillation.
Let's take a look at this past episode and find who took the deepest walk into the forest.
To Be Unburdened
Our first wandering soul is Michael Burnham.
She's taken on the weight of starting the whole Klingon/Federation war. That's enough to crush anybody but since the Federation and the Klingon Empire have a past I think it's a bit much to put everything on her shoulders.
Her more immediate burden is the betrayal towards her friend and mentor Captain Georgiou resulting in
Her particular journey has taken her aboard the Discovery and given her the opportunity to face off against the Klingon who feasted on her fallen friend. She heroically defeated this demon and at great personal risk completed her mission enabling Discovery to destroy Kol and his "Ship of the Dead".
That should lighten the load a little.
But in doing so, she's taken on burden of a broken man. Burnham doesn't know the depth of Tyler's pain but she knows it run deep. It may not be wise to take on the suffering of another so close to finding closure to her own misery. But if she truly loves him, then the journey together should be worthwhile.
She'll just have to overcome the shock of Tyler's secret.
And what a secret that is.
I don't know why I didn't make this a topic of discussion previously. When Tyler told Lorca he managed to survive months of Klingon torture because his tormentor had taken a liking towards him I thought to myself, "Ooh, how much of a liking?" (Wink wink.)
Now we know.
Tyler suffered terribly under Klingon torture. But when he allowed himself to become a sexual partner to L'Rell in order to save his own skin, then he became complicit in a relationship where he could be rightly accused of consorting with the enemy. "Consorting" would be putting it mildly.
No doubt he feels weighted by his guilt and shame. The longer he harbors this pain the worse it will become.
L'Rell's mere presence is a trigger for him. It took every ounce of Admiral Cornwell's theraputic skill to snap him out of his catatonic shell.
Now that she is aboard Discovery that trigger point is omnipresent and L'Rell could easily "out" Tyler at any time revealing their "complicity".
There is a popular theory circulating the internet as to the true nature of Ash Tyler. I won't go into it here. You can find it easily enough out there if you wish. Until this is proven to be true, I'll continue to believe Tyler is who he says he is.
The aptly named "Ash" Tyler will either rise like the Phoenix from this Hell or become the pile of cinders his name implies.
For Lorca, "Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown."
Upon successful completion of their mission, Lorca learns he is to receive one of Starfleet's highest honors. That he disobeyed orders, endangered his crew and risked the life of one his most valuable crew members (Stamets) is just another day at the office.
So what could be troubling him?
Admiral "Kat" Cornwell is indeed alive. That's a relief. Killing off her character wouldn't have made a lot of sense especially from a narrative point of view. I had argued for a "botched" rescue mission from Lorca to silence her but I must say this is sweeter.
Cornwell is pretty much worse for wear after her ordeal aboard the Ship of the Dead. But, according to reports, she is well on her way to a full recovery. (With her legs damaged, I thought we might be getting a Captain Pike scenario but it doesn't look that way now.)
Cornwell holds some of Lorca's deepest secrets. But, it was Lorca pulling a gun on her that was the last straw towards him being unfit for command. (The "Lethe" episode.) She can still wield those secrets against Lorca but her case becomes substantially more difficult now that Lorca is a hero.
Hell hath no fury like an Admiral spurned though. Despite his heroic deeds Lorca could have still been in a lot of hot water. How could he possibly escape that fate?
This leads us to our last wanderer of the woods.
Of all our woodland wanderers, Stamets may be the one who most can't see the forest for the trees.
When Mudd tried to steal Discovery's secrets during, "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad" we found Stamets at peace with his temporal affliction. "I exist outside the normal time stream" he offered pleasantly. Since then, we've been waiting for his partner Dr. Culber to discover the depth of Stamet's "affliction" (from a personal and professional point of view) and for we, the viewing audience, to see how a person out of the normal time stream acts. (Aside from leaving delayed mirror images.)
Unfortunately, this remains unresolved as Dr. Culber's examination of Stamets revealed damage to his medial temporal lobe only. While surely not good news, it really doesn't cut to the core of what it's like to live "out of time". Additionally, Culber is spared from official Starfleet review because, as we saw at the end of the episode, Discovery is somewhere indiscernible. (This also spares Lorca any wrath from Admiral Cornwell. Convenient, yes?)
What about this?
This is a pretty big cosmic shoe that dropped near the beginning of the episode. Not only did it cause Stamets to geek out ("I didn't know you cared") but I was pretty much bouncing on my couch too.
Alternative parallel universes would go a long way towards proving everyone's favorite Lorca theory. (Which I also hope isn't true. But this gives it a lot of creedence.) It turns out Lorca has been mapping all of the Spore Drive jumps and it has produced a treasure trove of information.
It also might explain where they ended up as the episode closed. (Spoiler alert!)
Here's another interesting little tidbit.
First of all, Stamets seems to be speaking metaphorically when he refers to a "clearing". As in, a clearing in the woods. This clearing may also refer to "Scattered pockets of negative mass. (That) could indicate alternative parallel universes connected to the mycelial network." Sooo, it seems to me the "Forest" is the universe and the clearings are those scattered pockets. But who are "They"?
The Mirror universe people? Suddenly, the Lorca theorists are jumping for joy.
If you tie in the early clues about Lorca's mapping, then add in Stamet's ramblings about clearings and then end your episode with Discovery being completely lost, one could assume that Stamet's "one last jump" malfunction just launched them through an inter-dimensional wormhole that leads to an alternative universe. You could also argue, due to Stamet's "insight" into "Clearings" and whomever "They" are, Stamets may have subconsciously launched them there!
(Now, there is a subtle clue in the trailer for episode 10 about "intent" that may or may not figure into all of this. I'll include the trailer at the end of this blog post and you can decide whether it ties into alternative universe travel and a certain someone's reasons for going there.)
As the Spore Drive malfunctioned, Stamets screamed in agony. He was pulled out of the chamber and his eyes clouded over or became milky in their appearance.This is a pretty standard TV trope but we'll play along anyway. This means he's been somehow possessed or changed in some inexplicable manner.
I'm going for changed. Since he now exists outside the normal time stream, I'm thinking he sees things a normal person wouldn't be able to see.
Perhaps he has become part of the "They" he referred to earlier. Those beings that move through the "Clearing".
Lastly, we were left with this closing shot as the episode concluded.
Lorca asked if this was Klingon wreckage, assuming this was left over from the destroyed Ship of the Dead. I'm not a expert in Klingon debris but I'm guessing not. (Plus, if Lorca is just as stunned and confused as to where they are as the rest of us, then this may work against the grand Lorca theory out there.)
The better question may be not be just where are they but when are they? Back at the Battle of the Binary Stars where the Federation got thoroughly trounced in an alternate reality? Battling the Borg in the future? A visit from species 8472?
Okay, out of the Forest and into some odds and ends.
Odds and Ends
The "Eyes" really had it in this episode.
Here's Tyler's right eye as he sank into his catatonic fit after seeing L'Rell.
Here's Stamets' left eye as he gazes out of the shuttle bay hanger near the end of the episode.
I believe this to be a deliberate choice by the creative team behind STD. Not that there's a relationship between the two men other than they both been traumatized. Just an interesting choice of perspective and a way of communicating the "eyes are a window to the soul".
Elsewhere into the "eye" theme. Lorca has to apply his drops because he knows he's in for a huge light show once the Klingon ship is destroyed. He is light sensitive if you recall. So, this either means he's cocky as all hell or he's seen it before. Commence the new Lorca theories!
Speaking of that hanger scene, it was a great shot. A little money left over in VFX budget?
Here's a look at Kol's "toothpick". Ouch, he was cruel. Burnham saves it and attaches it to her tunic. Closure? Only to a degree but every little bit helps.
Speaking of VFX shots. Burnham's jump escape while being transported was pretty bad ass too.
Oh, then there was this. Discovery warping away from the Pahvo planet. I don't think we've ever seen this perspective before. Freaking awesome.
Here's the teaser for episode 10 that I referred to earlier. Right around the 18 second mark Culber addresses Lorca about "intent". Uh-oh.