“When I took command of this vessel, you were a crew of polite scientists,” Capt. Lorca tells the crew of Discovery during a tense moment early in “Into the Forest I Go,” the midseason finale of Star Trek: Discovery. “Now, I look at you, and you are fierce warriors all. No other Federation vessel would have a chance of pulling this off — just us. Because mark my words: You will look back proudly and tell the world you were there the day the U.S.S. Discovery saved Pahvo and ended the Klingon war.”
In addition to serving as a rousing call to arms for his subordinates, Lorca’s speech summarizes the key plot points and themes of Discovery‘s early episodes. Characters such as Saru, Stamets, and Burnham have championed science and periodically clashed with their captain and his warrior’s mindset. “Into the Forest I Go” finds them complying valiantly with Lorca’s inclinations, even as they’re led into a dangerous frontier. The tension between science and violence — and a deftly paced episode — made for compelling viewing.
“Into the Forest I Go” begins with Lorca once again disobeying his Starfleet superiors. The Klingon Ship of the Dead beamed into Pahvo’s orbit at the end of last week’s “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum,” so Adm. Terral delivers a message to the crew assembled on Discovery’s bridge: Return to a Federation starbase, even if Kol and his Klingon forces destroy the tactically important technology on Pahvo. “You want me to run from a fight and leave a peaceful species to face annihilation?” Lorca protests. The Vulcan admiral remains steadfast — “I’m sorry, but the logic is clear” — and Lorca surprisingly seems to comply.
But really, he’s deceived Starfleet’s top brass. Lorca says that at warp speed they won’t be expected back at the starbase for three hours — ample time, he suggests, for Discovery’s crew to devise a solution to cracking the Ship of the Dead’s cloaking technology and defeating the Klingon foes.
After an hour, a brain trust comprised of Saru and Burnham’s scientific minds and Tyler’s tactical prowess presents a plan to Lorca. Essentially, Saru and Burnham have determined that the Klingon ship’s cloaking technology creates small electromagnetic aberrations; if analyzed, they can create an algorithm to detect these blips and determine a cloaked vessel’s whereabouts.
The plan presents some quandaries, though. First, Discovery will need sensors placed on board the Ship of the Dead. The fix for that is straightforward, even if mightily risky: Tyler suggests using Discovery as “bait” to prompt the Klingon ship to decloak, at which point he and Burnham can covertly beam aboard the ship and plant sensors.
The second hitch is tougher. Burnham says that acquiring sufficient data to develop an algorithm will take days — which Discovery doesn’t have. Lorca notes that while they don’t have days, they do have a spore drive. This is where things get messy. Once he decided to disobey Terral’s orders, Lorca directed Stamets to visit Culber in sick bay and get a full medical evaluation. This way, there’d be a “data trail” Lorca could cite when explaining why Discovery warped back to the starbase, rather than using the spore drive. But in his dutiful examination, Culber discovers the extensive neurological trauma Stamets has undergone. “I’m not ready to play roulette with his brain,” Culber tells Lorca. The captain ignores Culber’s pleas and whisks Stamets away.
Lorca explains to his chief engineer that he’ll need him to make 133 “micro-jumps” in quick succession with the spore drive so that Discovery can collect what would normally be days worth of data about the Klingon ship’s electromagnetic field. Stamets is naturally alarmed by the prospect — 133 jumps far exceeds the extent to which he’s previously used the spore drive — but Lorca knows how to motivate him.
As he did in “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry” earlier this season, Lorca appeals to Stamets’ scientific curiosity, showing him a three-dimensional map that hints the ship’s usage of the spore drive’s mycelial network could eventually prove the existence of parallel universes. “You’re not just a scientist,” Lorca says, “you’re an explorer. You could have stayed in a lab on Earth, but you chose to go where no one has gone before.” Promising to pivot to science after the war’s conclusion, Lorca convinces Stamets to participate. Soon after that — as Culber prepares a worried Stamets to launch Discovery on 133 spore drive jumps — Lorca gives his speech over the ship’s intercom.
Discovery reappears in Pahvo’s orbit and launches their mission. Burnham and Tyler beam aboard the vessel, using pattern simulators to mask their human life signs as those of Klingons. (Note to Discovery writers: This technological silver bullet seems a little too convenient.) Once aboard the Ship of the Dead they plant the first of two sensors — and then unexpectedly notice a human life sign. (Again: Though Burnham and Tyler are using pattern simulators to mark themselves as Klingon, they never question whether the human life sign they’re detecting could be a Klingon using a pattern simulator to similar ends.) The duo heads to the ship’s burial chamber, where they discover Cornwell — not dead after her brutal beating in last week’s episode, but just critically wounded and paralyzed from the waist down.
But the imprisoned L’Rell is also in the chamber, and when Tyler sees her, intense PTSD immobilizes him. Even when Burnham stuns L’Rell with a phaser, Tyler’s crisis doesn’t abate: L’Rell had tortured him after he was captured at the Battle at the Binary Stars. Burnham leaves Cornwell and Tyler in the chamber as she ventures alone to the ship’s bridge to plant the second and final sensor.
As Burnham arrives on the Klingon ship’s bridge, Discovery initiates its sequence of 133 spore drive jumps. Culber, observing the immense physical toll on Stamets’ body, urges Lorca to abort the process about halfway through. “You keep him alive until he finishes the jumps,” an unmoved Lorca replies. “Trillions of lives are at stake here. That’s an order, doctor.” (Recap continues on page 2)