Warning: This review includes spoilers for Episode 14 of "Star Trek: Discovery."
In "Star Trek: Discovery" Episode 14, "The War Without, the War Within," the USS Discovery is back in the normal universe, so things should be back to normal, right? The opening scenes this week showed the removal of the ISS decals that disguised the Discovery in the mirror universe. But, unfortunately, Discovery has jumped nine months into the future and still has Klingons to deal with — both on and off the ship.
This week's biggest surprise was Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), whom we last saw a couple of weeks ago suffering catastrophic medical effects as the Voq/Tyler Klingon/human hybrid. He underwent a medical procedure, and it wasn't clear if he had died. But now, it looks like the Klingon prisoner L'Rell successfully brought Tyler's mind back into control with the procedure. Naturally, though, the crew is a little wary.
Saru, the acting captain of Discovery, tells Tyler that his privileges aboard the ship will have limitations, including having to wear a tracker. Tyler has no real status in Starfleet, but at the same time he is not a prisoner. That allows him to wander — sadly and without much aim — around the ship. [6 'Star Trek' Captains, Ranked from Worst to Best]
Admittedly, things are tough for him. Others stare at Tyler in the cafeteria, until Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) sits down beside him and initiates a conversation. Tyler tries to apologize to Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) for killing Stamets' partner, Culber (Wilson Cruz), but Stamets is understandably upset and angry. Then Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) breaks up with Tyler — not that this was much of a surprise. (Voq/Tyler tried to kill her, too!)
Tyler did promise Saru he will cooperate, but I can't help but wonder if the isolation, combined with the trauma of losing Burnham, will make Tyler do something rash in next week's season finale. We can't forget that Tyler's prisoner (and Voq's lover), L'Rell, is still on the ship, too. Will Tyler and L'Rell collaborate again? Or will Tyler, in a desperate move to regain the crew's trust, try to kill L'Rell rather than trust Starfleet justice?
Speaking of rash, Starfleet's tactics when dealing with the Klingons are starting to reek of desperation. Early in the episode, we run into Admiral Katrina Cornwell (Jayne Brook) and the Vulcan Sarek (James Frain), who inform us that the situation is dire. The Klingons are warring among themselves in 24 different factions and attacking Starfleet bases randomly and without mercy. Thousands of people are dead, and the Klingons are quickly taking over Starfleet space.
Cornwell tries to bring Discovery to Starbase 1, but this attempt goes sour when the crew arrives to find that the Klingon House of D'Ghor killed the 80,000 residents on that space station, too.
The crew decides instead to go to the Klingon home world of Qo'noS and confront the Klingons on their own turf. We don't actually see that happen in this episode, but the prep starts. Qo'noS is poorly mapped by Starfleet, so the Discovery crew plans to hide out in subterranean caves there and use those handy spores — we sure love using them in this show, don't we? — to perform the mapping.
Because Discovery used most of its spores to get out of the alternate universe, Stamets plants a mushroom crop on an uninhabited moon to generate more — a plan that works. (Space geeks will love watching the procedure, which involves sending a bunch of little spacecraft to land on the moon and deploy darts into the surface. Imagine if we could explore moons and planets like that today.)
By the way, the Terran Emperor Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) is heavily involved with the anti-Klingon plot, even though she keeps complaining that she wants to go back to her universe and that Starfleet is holding her prisoner. She says she has another tactic that she promises will bring the Klingons to their knees, which she'll reveal in exchange for her freedom.
We'll have to wait for next week's season finale to see what Georgiou's proposal is, but things are already in motion. At episode's end, Cornwell creates a cover story for Georgiou and puts her in charge of the USS Discovery to wage war with the Klingons. You can see the season finale of "Star Trek: Discovery" on CBS All Access at around 8:30 p.m. EST Sunday (Feb. 11).
Random observations on Episode 14
- Forget the term "agri-transport boosters." It should have been "mycelial missiles." End of story.
- Terraforming appears to be a common practice in Starfleet, according to fan site Memory Alpha. The most famous example from the franchise is the Genesis Device discussed in the movies "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982) and "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" (1984).
- "Star Trek" franchise fans probably caught a quick name-drop in this week's episode. Cornwell mentions Capt. Jonathan Archer, the starring captain of "Star Trek: Enterprise" (2001-05). Cornwell says Archer's crew was the last Starfleet group to visit Qo'noS; she's referring to events in the "Enterprise" series premiere, "Broken Bow." Archer was on a mission of peace when he stopped by the Klingon planet 100 years previously — how things have changed.
- I was disappointed that both Tilly and Saru encouraged Burnham to talk with Tyler, after the Voq/Tyler hybrid killed Culber and tried to kill Burnham herself. Why wasn't Stamets — Culber's partner — urged to reconcile with Tyler as well? And yes, Tyler seems regretful, and the Voq part of him appears to be gone, but who knows if he's lying or if Voq is still inside there?
- At the same time, though, I liked the Vulcan Sarek's advice to Burnham: "Do not regret loving someone." Burnham couldn't have guessed what was going on. Also, Sarek is married to a human and raised Burnham, also a human, so Sarek appears to get it. Funny enough, moments before Sarek's goodbye, he said the more Vulcan-like "Logic dictates that each farewell may be our last."
- The cover story for Emperor Georgiou was just classic. Cornwell wanted the crew to think the emperor was actually her real-universe counterpart, the deceased Capt. Philippa Georgiou of the USS Shenzhou. So, naturally, Cornwell tells the crew that Georgiou was captured by Klingons and rescued.
- Georgiou, a xenophobic Terran emperor who wants only to go back to her own universe, is now in charge of a Starfleet spaceship, working for an organization that is supposed to promote peace and the Prime Directive (noninterference with developing societies). I know Starfleet is desperate to beat the Klingons, but I can't help thinking that this idea is a very, very bad one.
Get the Space.com Newsletter
Breaking space news, the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!
Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace