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Episode 1.8: “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” Discussion Thread

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9 minutes ago, Hammer said:

. He's so much more relatable and real. I was sold on him when he waited until the last moment before spore-jumping after saving the colony, just to get max damage with his depth charges. Finally, a bad-ass captain!

See, he wouldn't hunker down silently, secretly knowing and hoping Garak would do what needed to be done, which is what Sisko did.

He'd take Garak aside and at some point I know Lorca would say, "I know this is gonna be messy and some people may not make it out, and that's fine. You're here because I need plausible deniability."

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It was not bad but IT was DSC's first conventional Trek episode, which makes it the weakest of the series so far. Had the feel of VOY which means it was a) something we'd seen before b) too simplistic a story trying to be complex. First, the idea of a solider visiting paradise and not wanting to go back to war is pretty well trodden territory going back to just about any war movie/story ever from WWII films to Virgil. That's fine but it doesn't tell us much about Saru which was the billed point of the ep. IT had very DS9-style aspirations to be unconventional by turning the alien influence trope on its head. But for this to work it needed to be much clearer to the viewer what was actually happening. Even by the end it still seems like the aliens had SOME influence over him. A writer who wanted to play on our expectations of what would happen in a typical Trek story would have made us think he was possessed but then revealed half way through that he was not so we could interpret his behavior correctly in the moment instead of waiting for big final reveal. As written and filmed, it's hard to take much away from this ep. We don't learn enough about Saru beyond the cliche of 'war is hell', and I'm still confused about what his experience on Pahvo even was.

Wathcing this ep, I felt for the first time that the writers have less of a grasp of their story and characters than I had originally thought. I am beginning to doubt two things about DSC based on this ep. One is that they have not thought through Saru's backstory.This "Saru episode" makes me doubt that the writers have truly figured out how his planet's ecology and sociology functions. How does a food chain with only two links actually work, and what is it like for the lesser link? Beyond hyper sensitivity, we still don't have answers. This reminds me of what Ronald D Moore said about the telepath counselor Troi: good concept on paper, but the writers never figured out how the psychology of such a character would actually work, nor how to tell good stories with it. With Saru they need to delve more deeply into his background, but also keep developing his personality independent of the predator/prey schtick. They need to do both, but the character could be successful if they just continued his Burnham rivalry + his career ambitions. 

As a character, Saru is like Spock in the sense he starts with one defining trait: his people are prey and bred to survive (even there, it's STILL not clear: are they bred as livestock like cows, who spend all their lives NOT feeling like prey and don't even know it when the pneumatic bit smashes into their brains, OR are they hunted like gazelles in the savannah, except they are sentient?) anyway, like Spock, Saru starts with that one trait that can be conveyed and explained with dialogue and a few character quirks. Except with Spock, emotion suppression was very relatable to audiences. Sherlock Holmes was inspired by a 19th Century movement built around it. In ancient times, the Stoics followed a Vulcan like philosophy. The idea of control of our emotion is a universal experience. The idea of being a prey is far from a universal experience. So kudos to DSC for trying to make us share that perspective, but so far they have failed to do so. In TOS we got to know Spock very well, we visited his planet, met his parents. Something similar will have to happen on DSC for Saru to work. 

The other confusing thing about this ep was the Klingon plot. You can have espionage and intrigue but those things only work if the audience can follow the thread. It's only fun if we have SOME sense of what is going on. To say you will get it once you see the whole season is missing the point. We need to be able to follow it as it is happening AND be surprised/validated/pleased at the conclusion. To be confused/unclear in the middle of the story is not same as mystery or intrigue, and it will make the conclusion feel contrived no matter what. It cant feel like they are making it up as they go. 

One last gripe: It's clear that we are never going to see the Pavohians again. They were just there as a contrivance to bridge a Saru episode with the fall finale. In "Into the Forest" the planet served as (beautiful) backdrop but the aliens played no role in the story.It just goes to show that while many aspects of DSC deserve to be puzzled over, theorized about and debated, other aspects that we may think are important are merely place holders, the bubblegum holding two unwieldy plot points together.

Anyway that's what "Si Vis Pacem" makes me feel. It's not an ep that needs to have its gaps explained by fans. It's an ep that needed to be given another script polish before filming. Hopefully this blip will not become the norm. Again, it wasn't bad just wasted potential

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