After 9 episodes of fighting Klingons and being unable to detect their cloaking technology, Star Trek: Discovery delivered a win for the home team in episode “Into the Forest I Go,” the fall finale before the show’s brief, winter hiatus. The episode showcased the rescue of a Starfleet Admiral, the sabotage of Klingon cloaking technology and the capture of Lt. Ash Tyler‘s torturer, L’Rell. Tyler’s confrontation with L’Rell led to a full-blown trigger of his PTSD, which is something very rarely explored on television. The episode also showed just how risky Spore drive jumping has been for Lt. Paul Stamets‘ health. The end of the episode left him with white eyes, nearly white hair, and with the Discovery floating in an unknown reach of space.
Boldly Exploring PTSD
Let’s talk about Ash Tyler. Since his rescue a few episodes ago, he has quickly risen in favor with Captain Lorca. He and Burnham have become friends — lovers even — and he is put in charge of the away mission to the Klingon ship of the Dead. When he and Burnham detect a life sign, they discover Vice Admiral Katrina Cornwell. She was supposed to escape with L’Rell in last week’s episode, but that didn’t happen. When L’Rell entered the room with Burnham, Ash and Cornwell, all the memories of Ash’s torture at L’Rell’s hand came rushing back to him.
Ash then became frozen, comatose, paralyzed by the memories and the fear that came with them. Burnham had to finish the mission without him. Cornwell was able to talk him through the rush of pain and brought him back to the present. Even when he was back on the Discovery and away from L’Rell, he could still feel and see his sexual relationship with L’Rell. First of all, this is pretty new for television to explore. While torture can be common on shows like Game of the Thrones and Outlander, it’s rare that the victims of said torture get to explore their own recovery process. This recovery process can be extremely painful, but so important to explore.
This type of physical and emotional trauma was most recently explored on Supergirl, where Kara Danvers had a panic attack in an elevator. It’s rare to see heroes, whether they are alien or human, go through a mental health experience like that. It’s an important way for viewers who deal with their own anxiety and PTSD to relate even more to these characters. It’s also a testament to the writers on these shows, for not shying away from the trauma and consequences of events in their storytelling.
Dangers of the Spore Drive
While Tyler was dealing with the emotional triggers of seeing L’Rell, Stamets was dealing with the physical trauma of being connected to the Spore Drive. In order for the Discovery to accurately track the Klingons while they’re cloaked, they had to jump 133 times. This amount of jumping took a damaging toll on Stamets’ body and mind. He survived the 133 jumps and agreed to one final jump. This jump, however, almost killed him. It may have also broken time.
When Stamets disconnected himself from the Spore Drive, the Discovery was floating in an unknown sector of space. Did they stumble in a mirror universe? Stamets mentioned the possibility of alternative timelines to Lorca, perhaps that’s where we’ll find ourselves when Star Trek: Discovery returns.