Nor the Battle to the Strong (*****)
I went back and forth about the score for this episode, I don't hand out five star reviews lightly (as you may have noticed), and I struggle to justify them to myself when I do, often focusing on minor flaws so I have some reason to strip the episode of half a star. And this episode does have some minor flaws to it, such as the randomness of the Klingons breaking the ceasefire and then reinstating it, or how it's sometimes a little wearying with the "war is hell" message. But this episode does one thing perfectly, and that is utilising a character that usually gets the least development and giving him a story that's meaningful, and which suits where he's at and where he's going.
Star Trek focuses so much time on Starfleet officers and the heroic deeds that they get up to that it's all too easy to forget that these people are supposed to represent the best that humanity (and alienity) have to offer. But what about the civilians, what about the carpenters, and the factory workers, and the writers? They just lives their lives doing normal things. Maybe they'll happen upon someone drowning one day and become an accidental hero by rescuing them, but for most of them the closest they come to heroism is reading about it in a book, or acting it out in the safety of the holodeck. Star Trek normally ignores these people, they're the extras in the background that run for cover while the heroes are shooting things. And there's nothing wrong with that, they're not cowardly for not wanting to be in the line of fire, but we're just so used to following the heroes that it comes across that way.
Jake's not a coward, and he's not a hero, and it's interesting watching him grappling with the complexities of just being normal. And while it may be a little too neat to end the episode with the message that Jake's willingness to admit he's not brave makes him brave in a different way, it's kinda true. I've had moments of cowardice in my life that I'm not going to write down and admit even anonymously over the internet, and I'll continue to overemphasise the moments of bravery I've had 'til the end of my days. Because I'm a coward like that. But perhaps my willingness to admit that I'm a coward about my cowardice really makes me brave? And does my willingness to mention my bravery just then really make me a coward? But does that make me brave?
For creating this never-ending loop of rhetorical questions, this episode earns five stars.