“The War Without, The War Within” is the 14th episode of the TV show “Star Trek: Discovery” and follows “What’s Past Is Prologue“.
Note. This article contains spoilers about “The War Without, The War Within”.
After the contact with the Federation, the USS Discovery is reached by Admiral Katrina Cornwell (Jayne Brook) and Sarek (James Frain). The situation of the war is even worse than that evident for the crew at first sight and requires extreme measures, even desperate, to change it.
As the title suggests, “The War Without, The War Within” develops both the plot about the war with the Klingons and the problems the characters have to face. The discovery concerning Captain Gabriel Lorca struck everyone. Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) brought with her the now former Emperor (Michelle Yeoh), Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) is searching for his identity and everyone else has to handle losses and changes.
The interconnections between the problems about the war and those about interpersonal relationships form the foundations of the episode. As a consequence, it’s introspective even if a crucial part of the plot concerns the new plans for the counterattack against the Klingons.
Admiral Katrina Cornwell also finds unlikely allies and she too must manage strange relationships such as the one already started with L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) and the new one with a Philippa Georgiou different from the one she knew. In this episode she shows she’s really ready for anything to change the war’s status.
Since the beginning of the show, Michael Burnham has been at the center of the story and again in this episode she faces a series of personal problems. Her behaviors had justifications that I have often found understandable only if they are not analyzed. The main problem is that we speak of a human educated to Vulcan philosophy who still seems unable to find a balance and therefore in too many occasions doesn’t seem very under control.
For Michael Burnham, the war within is on several fronts since she has to manage her relationship with Ash Tyler, the one with the Philippa Georgiou of the mirror universe and the one with Sarek is never easy even if in this case he seems to be at least a kind of beacon. The echoes of the mirror universe can be seen in the meeting between Sarek and Georgiou, where we see the similarities between the two versions of Michael.
Concerning those echoes, the real disappointment I had from this episode is the revelation that the Discovery of the mirror was destroyed and its storyline dismissed with a few lines. Honestly I expected much more from an imperial starship commanded by a Captain notorious for her ferocity.
The twist that closes “The War Without, The War Within” shows that the Federation is desperate given the risks of entrusting a crucial mission to a person who has very different values. I found the episode satisfactory regarding the management of the characters while the development of the plot connected to the new mission of the USS Discovery will continue in the season finale.