Star Trek Discovery: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

"As days go, this is a weird one."

You can't go wrong with a time loop episode. And they didn't.

I found this episode delightful. It was witty, exciting and fun, and it went in a completely different groundhoggy direction than "Cause and Effect," the exceptional time loop outing on Next Gen.

In the original series, Harry Mudd was pretty much a cartoon villain, a figure of fun. Here, he was still occasionally amusing but astoundingly greedy and vicious, taking outright pleasure in exploring the 823 worst ways to die in space and revenge-killing Lorca repeatedly. I'll admit that it did get funny, especially when Mudd beamed Lorca out into space.

But what really worked the best in this episode was the character stuff, and that's as it should be. Many of us can relate to Michael's struggle to come out of her comfort zone and enjoy a party with her workmates, to admit that she's attracted to Ash Tyler and to do something about it. Her reveal to Stamets of her deepest secret, that she's never been in love, made a lot of sense, and there was an obvious parallel with the gormagander, a space whale species so occupied with other pursuits that they don't get around to reproduction. It's not surprising that Michael, raised by aliens, finds it easier to relate to non-humans like the unfortunate Tardigrade. This time she volunteered to deal with the gormagander and called her "sweet girl."

But in the end, Michael made the ultimate sacrifice for Ash. She offered to trade herself to the Klingons and then deliberately killed herself in a terribly painful way so that Mudd would do one more reset, and Ash could live again.

While it's taking me awhile to warm to Michael – this episode helped a lot – I'm already fond of Tilly and Stamets. Tilly, while quirky, is clever and professional and I'm enjoying her developing friendship with Michael because they're such different people. And Stamets was the highlight of the episode for me. The dancing in the corridor thing where Stamets told Michael how he met his partner the doctor was adorable, although I kept wondering what good it would do when Michael wasn't going to remember it in the next iteration. I keep hoping that whatever happened to Stamets when he replaced the Tardigrade isn't artificial, that becoming multidimensional simply gave us a new and improved Stamets who is better in touch with his inner self.



Although Captain Lorca wasn't the focus of the episode, I am so enjoying the way Jason Isaacs dryly delivers his lines in a way that shows his total disinterest in distractions like random space whales. How sick is his "man cave" of war, though? It keeps bothering me more as the season progresses. I get that Mudd was enjoying killing people in temporary ways, but what was Lorca doing with that little purple ball that killed people in the most painful way possible?

(Poor Ash! Even though I knew it wasn't permanent, I got a real twinge watching him painfully disintegrate like that.)

What else? Let me see. I liked that the solution to the problem was the clever use by the bridge crew of non-critical systems that Mudd had ignored, like the captain's chair. I very much enjoyed every single iteration of the party, and Ash's speech while he was wearing a necklace of white plastic flowers. And I loved the use of music, the hip hop during the party and Mudd blasting the bridge with "Ride of the Valkyries."

But I think my favorite scene was Stamets and Michael saying her lines in unison, like Dean and Sam in the diner in "Mystery Spot," and Phil in the diner in Groundhog Day. It was a perfect Groundhog Day homage. I love stuff like this.

Bits:

-- Time has passed, the tide has turned and we're winning the war with the Klingons, mostly because of the Discovery.

-- Michael gave the stardate as 2136.8. The very first episode of the original series gave a stardate of 1513.1, and the second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," 1312.4, so this makes no sense. Anyone know what's going on here? I'm good with Trek stuff, but I'll admit I don't have an eidetic memory.

-- No insignia or rank for "Specialist Burnham." Why?

-- The space whale sounded like the humpbacks in The Voyage Home. I'm sure that was deliberate.

-- Dr. Culber created cyber stents for Stamets so that the spore thing won't hurt Stamets so much. I liked that.

-- There was a crew member at the party in something like a futuristic wheelchair. Very cool. I ranted about stuff like this recently in a Next Gen review.

-- I wasn't surprised that Mudd was lying about Stella. He was running from her and her powerful father, an arms dealer, which was consistent with original series Mudd.

-- "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad?" What's with the uncomfortably long episode titles, guys? I would have gone with "Stayin' Alive." Or maybe "Dance With Me, for Science."

Quotes:

Stamets: "You're a very tall man. May I say you are astonishingly grounded for having endured seven months of torture?"
For what it's worth, Shazad Latif is listed on IMDb as 6'1, and Sonequa Martin-Green as 5'4.

Ash: "I get it. Vulcans don't party."
They don't bluff, either.

(Ash checks his weapon)
Crewman: "You thinking this whale is armed?"

Mudd: "Bugs. No loyalty."

Michael: "You are mad."
Mudd: "No, I'm Mudd."

Mudd: "There really are so many ways to blow up this ship. It's almost a design flaw."

Stamets: (to Michael) "Dance with me. For science."

Mudd: "I never thought I would say this, but I'm actually tired of gloating."

Mudd: "Adieu, mon capitan."
A little nod to Q?

Ash: "I'm just sad we missed our first kiss."
Aww.

The best episode so far. Would that make it four out of four space whales?

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

4 comments:

Heather1 said...

I, too, thought of "Mystery Sport". Not just with the saying lines in unison scene... but in all the ways Mudd killed Lorca (made me think of all the ways Dean was killed). Aaaah... the Winchesters.

Anonymous said...

Please help a dummy. Stamets had a wrist thing, so that kept him out of the Time Loop. Got it.

So how do all the other crew members get to so thoroughly understand the time loop? Sure, I can see how Stamets convinces, say, Burnham to take him seriously, after some effort. But that doesn't carry over. Next loop, he would have to spend just as long doing so. He would never make any progress ... he would never in 30 minutes be able to convince an entire ship, never mind coach them, prepare for the next encounter, and so forth.

No?

Billie Doux said...

Stamets couldn't get Ash to listen to him during the first loop or two, so he approached Michael because he knew Ash had a thing for Michael and would listen to her. As the loops progressed, Stamets was trying to learn more about Michael so that she would get through to Ash sooner. I think at some point, Stamets also wanted Michael to feel more comfortable with her developing relationship with Ash, which is where we got the dancing in the corridor scene.

Patryk said...

Indeed You can't go wrong with a groundhog day episode. I really enjoyed it and it was also interesting to not have the actual character who's on repeat as the POV for the audience.

I also hope that Stamets will remain in this state, a much better character then the obnoxious scientist of the first episodes he starred in.