Star Trek: Discovery Recap: You Broke a Perfectly Good Saru

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Photo: Michael Gibson/CBS
Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek: Discovery

Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum Season 1 Episode 8
Editor's Rating 4 stars

You have two options, I think, when you’re making a TV show and want to show a character running at superhuman speeds. Neither option is great, mind you, and I’m not suggesting that Discovery made the wrong one tonight. I think you’re in a tough position once you’ve decided, “Yeah, we’re gonna need at least four shots of this dude running extremely quickly, right after someone casually mentions how much faster this dude can run than a regular person.” You can go the Teen Wolf shaky-cam route, where you have a sort of telescoped shot from the point of view of the super-fast dude running, and then you maybe see a blur shoot through some trees. Or you can do what Discovery did with Saru, which is to run the footage at something like 1.25-times normal speed and tell Doug Jones, “Just pump your arms and legs as much as you can.” (Saru, we learn tonight, can run extremely fast, due once again to the fact that he — you guessed it! they will not let you forget it! — comes from a planet where his entire species just has the one personality trait of being constantly freaked out, because of evolutionary psychology.)

Also, over the weekend I saw Event Horizon for the very first time (I know!) and it has given me an entirely new way to feel creeped out by Captain Lorca. How did you escape from the Event Horizon, Jason Isaacs?? Are you hiding a gravity drive on the Discovery? IS THAT WHY REALLY YOU HAVE PROBLEMS WITH YOUR EYES?

It’s a fairly Lorca-lite episode this week, which suits me just fine. Lieutenant Stamets is no longer empathetic and expansive and fostering nascent romances among the crew, and Tilly notices that he’s gone back to his snappish self. Tilly being Tilly, she pries until she gets the truth out of him: He’s starting to lose his sense of time as a result of the genetic manipulation, but he doesn’t see any reason to tell his husband, the medical doctor, because it would only hurt him. The two of them agree to monitor his condition together, off the books. There’s some lovely crucifixion-style posing when Stamets powers up the spore chamber, which definitely does not presage robustly healthy results for Stamets and Tilly’s “We’ll just keep checking in to make sure you’re not dying or totally losing your grip on reality” plan. Tilly also says that “reassuring people is kind of [her] thing,” which, NARRATOR VOICE: “It wasn’t.”

And man, if you enjoyed Lieutenant Stamets’s turn last week as “formerly antagonistic guy who gets super into psychedelics and starts talking about connections,” then this week’s episode is just tailor-made for you. After landing on a naturally musical planet (shut up) with a mysterious crystal spire the Discovery hopes to harness and use as sonar to track the cloaked Klingon ships (“We have to go to Pandora Pahvo because only their magic crystal tower can penetrate our enemies’ Invisibility Cloaks, but we’re holding tricorders, so it’s science.” God, I love Star Trek), Saru goes from panicked-and-suspicious to suspiciously, panic-inducingly chilled out after interacting with the planet’s inhabitants, a bunch of little clouds of blue mist who communicate primarily through warbling and are super into harmony and connection and I really think if you just tried peyote once in the right mind-set you would really get a lot out of it. You can just feel the dude wanting to say “Namaste” at the end of every sentence and doing little prayer hands whenever he walks into a room. I’m pretty sure at one point the closed captioning for Saru just read “[clasps hands]”.

Since they didn’t realize Pahvo was inhabited, the away team — Saru, Michael, and Hello-I-Am-Definitely-a-Human-Male-Named-Ash-and-Not-Voq-the-Klingon — suddenly find themselves having to observe First Contact protocol and getting permission to turn the crystal tower into a space antennae from a bunch of incorporeal hippies who dwell, despite not really having physical form, in a bunch of yurts-cum–geodesic domes. First Contact protocol, in this instance, consists of Saru jamming his hand into one of the incorporeal hippies and experiencing a total personality change immediately thereafter.

Meanwhile, Michael and Ash get a great little moment during a lull in the action to talk about what they’re going to do after the war.

Ash: I have prepared a monologue about trout fishing by Lake Shasta, that I definitely did not download from a website called How to Sound Like a Human Male Named Ash, Not Voq the Keeper of the Eternal Flame of Kahless Who Cares Only for Glory and Honor.

Michael: Well, I’ll be going back to prison forever, so … have fun fishing, I guess.

Ash: Oh wow, I didn’t think about that. Let’s just not have the war, then, so you never have to go back to prison.

Michael: I … what?

Ash: [Unnecessarily quotes Search for Spock’s “Sometimes the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many,” which does really not apply in this particular situation.]

Then they kiss, which is fine. Later, Saru pets them both as they look extremely bewildered, which I found absolutely fantastic.

Back in Klingon territory, our old friend L’Rell runs into the recently captured Admiral Cornwell and is all, “Hey, asking for a friend, but do you guys execute prisoners of war, or what?” She then immediately offers to defect, in a moment that made me realize the only thing I want in life is to watch an all-Klingon version of The Hunt for Red October. Someone please get on this immediately. I am entirely convinced that her plan is to bust out of there, find Voq, destroy the Federation from the inside, then come back for Kol (who never accepts her hard work and boot-licking at face value, and is a bad manager) and bust his skull open. I support L’Rell’s plan wholeheartedly, even if she does have a bad habit of broadcasting it loudly as she walks through the halls of Kol’s ship. So far, the plan is not going great, inasmuch as L’Rell is exposed as a liar and dragged off by guards shortly thereafter, but I maintain that she’s got a few tricks up her sleeve. Getting dragged growling offscreen isn’t dead! (Other people I still believe aren’t really dead: Captain Georgiou, Michael’s parents, Leonard Nimoy.)

Everything Saru does on Pahvo makes me extremely happy, whether it’s showing up super-excited about the organic food he’s prepared for Ash and Michael (“No protein rations for us tonight!”) or talking about how the reason he didn’t recognize this planet’s greatness at first was because he just wasn’t vibing on a high enough frequency yet. But all good things must come to an end: Michael finally has to turn a phaser on him when he tries to destroy the crystal tower rather than let her use it to contact the Discovery and arrange for their pickup, and he’s off to Med Bay to recuperate and reevaluate his entire life. When he apologizes for his behavior dirtside, Michael brushes him off, saying he wasn’t himself, suggesting that the Pahvans had been trying to manipulate him into doing their bidding, but Saru corrects her: He was in total control of his faculties the entire time. He’d just never had a moment in his life where he didn’t feel afraid, and he didn’t want to lose that.

Bad news for Saru: Rather than allowing Starfleet to use their crystal tower to track the cloaked Klingon Birds-of-Prey, the sweet idiots have started broadcasting an invitation to both the Federation and the Klingons alike, convinced that if the two of them could just try to talk things out, they wouldn’t have to have a war or kill anybody. So next week’s episode should be exciting, inasmuch as I would give my entire body to watch a blue glob of glitter try to convince Kol of the value of getting super into crystals and sharing his feelings. I can’t wait.

Star Trek: Discovery Recap: You Broke a Perfectly Good Saru