Star Trek: Discovery’s dramatic mid-season finale, “Into the Forest I Go,” is incredible. Writers Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt have crafted an episode worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of Star Trek’s all-time greatest episodes. The title comes from the first part of a John Muir quote: “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” This quote represents so much of what the Discovery crew has been through. They began their journey preferring exploration and scientific work to war and battle. They have now come into their own as the flagship crew of Starfleet’s armada, playing a pivotal role in helping to end the war with the Klingons. Their journey into the deep forest of war has truly changed them and helped them find their soul amidst the chaos of the unknown.
Michael Burnham’s arc of character development has also become much more fully realized as the first chapter of Star Trek: Discovery closes. She finds herself in the position where she has a chance to end the Klingon war that she started with her act of mutiny. This time, however, she has learned from her past mistakes and does not proceed without the approval of her captain. Her actions prove successful, and her fellow crew finally begins to recognize her for it, leading her further down the path to redemption than she ever thought possible.
Michael also has begun falling in love for the very first time. As she and Lieutenant Ash Tyler grow closer, they discover that he is dealing with a serious amount of PTSD. In a moment of touching vulnerability, Ash admits to Michael that he was sexually abused, a fact that is still causing him significant trauma. This sobering scene reminds us that the effects of sexual abuse are not easily repaired. It’s unfortunate that the show’s only psychologist, Admiral Cornwell, is no longer on board the Discovery to help Lt. Tyler recover. The fact that his abuser is also currently sitting in a prison cell on board the same ship as Lt. Tyler will likely make his recovery much more difficult in future episodes.
Sexual abuse is not a particularly desirable topic to discuss, but over the last few years the conversation around it has become increasingly prevalent. There has been a great deal of momentum lately empowering victims to come forward and accuse their attackers, whether they are male, female, gay, or straight. Star Trek: Discovery should be praised for reminding us that sexual abuse is not limited to one gender but can happen to anyone. It also excels by portraying Lt. Tyler in a non-judgmental light once he reveals his secret. He is not shamed for the circumstances that led to his abuse; he is simply accepted, loved, and supported regardless of the factors that might have been involved. That sort of Christ-like approach can help to end the stigma around rape and other forms of sexual abuse. It’s up to each one of us to take the same approach.
What a phenomenal first half of a season. After nine episodes, the serialized format feels perfectly paced, the characters are becoming more familiar, and the story is even more enticing than at the start of the season. Just when it seemed the first story arc was coming to a fairly satisfying conclusion, the cliffhanger at the end of this last episode throws everything into disarray. Now all bets are off and the scene is set for the last half of Season 1. Here’s to another awesome chapter of Star Trek: Discovery. See you in 2018!