Review: Star Trek Discovery – Episode 7

Aaarrrrgghhhh what a frustrating show this thing is! It can get so much right and then fall flat on its face. Spoilers abound below the fold.

No way of discussing this without giving away the plot. It is a time-loop episode, and the ground-hog day conceit is largely done well. Anthony Rapp’s Stamets has loosened up due to his inter-dimensional navigating and fun-lovin’ tardigrade DNA. As a consequence, the episode doesn’t focus much on how the crew spot that there is a time-loop going on because Stamets now notices stuff like that given his new literally trippy perspective. The focus is on Michael though, and hence she requires some convincing by the somewhat erratic Stamets. This is all nicely done.

Sure there is the odd thing about a light glitch that Michael notices which is framed as being central to resolving the mystery but actually isn’t. There is also a daft bit about Stamets teaching Michael how to dance that serves no purpose because the writers seem to have forgotten that only Stamets remembers what happens each loop of the cycle. However, overall the thrust of the show is a kind of chain of trust that allows the crew to plan and act through the time loop. Stamets finds a way of convincing Michael and one convinced Michael accepts the improbable conclusion for sound reasons. Michael then has to convince Tyler (with whom there is a growing romantic connection) and via Tyler, Lorca and the rest of the crew. Really, at one level silly but Star Trek silly and requiring only a modicum of suspension of disbelief.

So where does it go awry? First of all, we learn early on that the time-loop is being caused by Harry Mudd – the con man we last saw on a Klingon prison ship. Mudd is bent both on revenge against Captain Lorca for leaving him behind with the Klingons but is also attempting to steal the Discovery and sell it to the Klingons. This is a major shift in character for Mudd. Yes, the Mudd we met earlier in the series was a darker character than the one Captain Kirk encountered but that was in the context of a Klingon prison ship where torture was routine. The Mudd of this episode is not only a traitor to humanity but happily slaughters multiple crew members AND repeatedly destroys the Discovery. He is literally a mass murderer.

OK, a bit of a continuity change I suppose. Less severe than whatever has happened to the Klingons’ heads etc. A psychopathic mass-murdering Harry Mudd? On reflection that is not inconsistent with his actions in the original series – it is just that that they were portrayed as more genial despite including crimes like human trafficking.

No, where the episode just left me starring at it going “huh?” was the end.

Stamets, Michael, Tyler and Lorca finally get the upper hand with Mudd and escape the time loop and capture Mudd. Now, fair enough, in this final time-loop I don’t think Mudd murders any crew members and only Stamets would literally remember all the previous murders he committed. However, the whole premise relies on Lorca et al believing Stamets, so it is fair to say that they all know that Mudd murdered (sometimes quite cruelly) multiple members of starfleet as well as repeatedly destroying the Discovery with all hands. At the VERY LEAST each of the bridge crew know for a fact that Mudd just attempted to sell the Discovery to the Klingons and hence lead the Federation to defeat.

These are not minor crimes by any standard.

So what punishment does Mudd get? He is returned to his wife and father-in-law.

??????????????????

I get that this is supposed to be a sort of ironic Star-Trekky ending but it make ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE and, to top that, has the appaling notion that the worst punishment Mudd could have is ending up with his wife (because he actually fins her annoying?)

Yes, in one sense, Star Trek captains have dealt with other dangerous beings in similarly lenient ways but usually because they have few options. Picard couldn’t haul Q off to some Federation gaol or a Starfleet slave mine (*) because he was a god-like being. Mudd is just some guy who had some very fancy tech. Never mind revenge against his actions, the man is obviously psychologically primed for mass-murder. You don’t just send him home because that will piss him off.

I just can’t even.

Seriously, I hate to histrionically say one bit ruined a whole episode but damn…that just ruined the whole episode. Which is extra frustrating because aside from the dancing (sadly not a fandango) this would have been a good and very Trekky episode.

Rankings:

  1. Episode 3: Context is for Kings
  2. Episode 4: Seriously stupidly long episode name
  3. Episode 2: Battle at the Binary Stars
  4. Episode 6: Lethe
  5. Episode 5: Choose Your Pain
  6. Episode 1: The Vulcan Hello
  7. Episode 7: Seriously WTF Discovery Scriptwriters [revised title]

Bits and pieces

  • Discovery not only makes its crew wear shirts with ‘disco’ on them, they are party animals.
  • It is clear now why Stamets was supposed to be uptight and annoying earlier in the series. Anthony Rapp’s character is now both clever and goofy.
  • Maybe this isn’t the evil mirror universe but the grunge-disco mirror universe.
  • No Klingon side plot this week.
  • You remember how I was concerned that everybody just forgot about that shuttle pilot? Well this week everybody just forgot that they also lost a Starfleet Admiral running the whole war.
  • Lorca got to be a regular Star Trek captain this week. He didn’t do anything freaky but people did get killed (including himself) with some of his secret stash or murder toys.
  • No Alice references this week.
  • Tilly got to have a fun time at a party in the time loop for most of the episode. So that’s nice.

*[A great line in Thor:Ragnarok – The Grandmaster objects to his minion calling the fighters slaves, so she re-phrases it as “the prisoners who work.” ]

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27 comments

  1. Cora

    The Federation in Star Trek Discovery does have a tendency to lose people, including important people.

    And Michael’s punishment seems even more excessive considering we’ve seen people who have committed much more serious crimes (Mudd, but also Lorca himself) get off scot-free.

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    • Peer

      Although its an interesting legal question: if you commit crimes in a different time loop, can you still be held responsible in this one? (Apart from the problems of proof)
      I guess there are some minor offences -like torturing an endagered space animal (was that the same space whale as in TNG?) – but the major crimes werent technically committed in this reality.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mark Hepworth

    I liked the idea of a Groundhog Day episode run from the perspective of those who *don’t* realise it, but I don’t think they properly committed to that idea and it got a bit fuzzy.
    I understand there’s now a mid-season hiatus? If so then in amazed there wasn’t a strong cliffhanger. Given that they’ve done very little with the mirror scene, it could have gone at the end of this episode instead.

    On a different note, I’m midway through Stranger Things 2 and I’m pretty sure that the Spore Drive connects to the Upside Down.

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  3. stevejwright

    By the conclusion of the final loop, Stamets had managed to convince not just Michael, but Tyler, Lorca, Saru, the rest of the bridge crew…. He must have done a lot of fast talking in that half hour.

    I’m trying to head-canon a way out of this… it’s possible, I guess, that Mudd released control of Discovery’s computers while still inside the time loop, so that all actual evidence of his wrongdoing was cancelled out, leaving only Stamets’s word as to his intentions. You can’t convict a man on his intentions alone. (What was that? Verifier scans? Psychotricorders? Hush now.)

    Of course, Mudd is still an unauthorized intruder on Starfleet’s most secret warship… aaargh, this is a strain. Maybe there was no way to alert Starfleet security without tipping their hand (Starfleet warp signature registering on the bridge or something – Mudd would probably notice if his “Klingon” contact showed up on the viewscreen labelled USS J Edgar Hoover), but they could reach Stella and her father… who just conveniently happened to be in that part of the galaxy, less than half an hour away… and Stamets could convince them, too….

    Oh, I give up. It’s a fair cop. Fun episode, nice concept, rotten no-good lousy resolution.

    (I was wondering if, with Michael’s Vulcan training and Stamets’s warped-perspective mentality, they might have tried a mind-meld which would have let Michael access Stamets’s memories. But they didn’t…. I’m less worried about them leaving the Admiral, we know that Captain Loonytunes is in no hurry to rescue her. And all this talk of “show who you are” and Tyler saying he’s “not going anywhere”… it all inclines me more and more to the idea that he’s a Klingon.)

    (Incidentally, when Mudd was barging around shooting people, disintegrating them with dark matter, and finally blowing up the ship… where were Saru’s threat ganglia? I can only assume that the constant presence of Captain Lorca has worn them out completely.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • camestrosfelapton

      Yeah Saru’s ganglia not going off worried me also but we don’t know if they are a psychic thing or a sort of sensory gestalt sort of thing. If the second then it is less of a hole.

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      • stevejwright

        I think they’re not meant to be a psychic thing – I get the impression that they pick up on subliminal sensory cues that Saru’s conscious mind doesn’t register. Sort of like Spiderman’s spider-sense, I guess.

        But they’re not terribly consistent. They react to the presence of Michael “I made a really bad call one time and have been beating myself up about it ever since” Burnham, but stay quiescent around Gabriel “I killed everyone aboard my last command, sleep with a loaded gun by my bedside, spend my spare time in a room full of weapons and skeletons, and am willing to take any risks with my own and everyone else’s lives in order to do what I perceive as my duty” Lorca? I think Saru should get those ganglia looked at.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cora

        Saru and his threat ganglia were another idea that probably looked cool on paper, but that just doesn’t work in practice. I’m actually surprised Saru is such a popular character, since I don’t like him at all.

        Regarding the threat ganglia, for all we know Saru is not telling the truth about how they work and they mainly react to Michael, because Saru can’t stand her.

        Oh yes, and Tyler is definitely a Klingon spy. Considering the sparks flying between him and Michael, he must be, because nothing nice can happen to Michael Burnham ever.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Standback

        @Cora:

        > I’m actually surprised Saru is such a popular character, since I don’t like him at all.

        I feel like he could grow to be a really interesting character; the “correct”, responsible officer with a weird cultural background, an unusual worldview, and issues to explore.

        So far he’s been given zero screentime and nothing to do, so ::shrug::

        > Oh yes, and Tyler is definitely a Klingon spy.

        I agree, and it makes me gnash my teeth so hard.

        Six months. Six months. And apparently his training covered excellent dancing, toasting, flirting, and a vocabulary that includes the word “scuttlebutt.” Suuuuuure.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cora

        Tyler is also the most likeable person on board, so of course he is a spy. And coincidentally, he’s also the most well adjusted (by human standards) Klingon we ever met. Even Whorf and Belanna Torres weren’t that well adjusted and they were raised by humans. Just one more thing about this show that makes zero sense.

        The most frustrating thing is that occasionally you get a glimpse of the good Star Trek show this could have been among the mess that it is.

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    • camestrosfelapton

      I think it was smart of Stamets to convince Michael first. I thought that chain made sense. Convince Michael and Tyler and then convincing Lorca would be easy (particularly as he probably tends toward paranoia). Convince Lorca, then you have the whole bridge crew.

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  5. Kat Goodwin

    The convincing them was actually fairly logical because the Federation understands that time loops can occur or be made to occur. They study temporal theory as part of their Academy training, and Michael would have studied it with the Vulcans. Initially, they are slow to buy it happening only because they think Stamets is having a hallucination because Stamets has been acting weird while being the ship’s jump drive, so they were discounting him despite his being a major temporal scientist on their craft. But Stamets then gathered enough info and secret passwords for Tyler, Michael, Lorca and Tilly in the loops to be able to show that he’s serious. (He talks about this process in some of the dialogue. Essentially, Stamets is playing Bill Murray.) Once he was able to effectively and quickly demonstrate that he was not out of it and the loop had occurred, they had no trouble believing it, especially since Mudd was known to get ahold of alien tech. So they then strategized with Stamets through the last few loops on how to counter it once he got the hang of convincing them that his mind was sound.

    It was way too early to start a bunch of romance issues on the show and it was badly handled. But at least there was a space whale.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Standback

    I thought it was a really fun episode, right until things started building to a head.
    I always love time travel episodes, and time loops. I really enjoyed letting the bad guy be the one looping! And, I liked that our POV character *isn’t* the one aware of the time loop. That gave it a really unusual dynamic.

    And, I enjoyed Mudd; his viciousness and absurdity. Fun times. Fun scenes 🙂

    But wow, I feel like the writers just had no idea how to actually finish a story. I’m even more worried by how they apparently think one finishes a story. My two reactions are basically these:

    —-

    STAMETS: I have gone through this loop one hundred times, in order to discover Mudd’s secret weakness!
    BURNHAM: God bless you, Stamets! Thanks to you, we have now discovered the weakness!
    STAMETS: AAAAAAAAAAAA I can’t TAKE it anymore! Fine, Mudd, here is everything you need to destroy us!

    —-

    But do you know what the real key to escaping the time loop is?
    STAMETS: Not bringing aboard the space whale our enemy needs for his scheme to work?
    ASH: Updating our security patches so that hackers can’t take control of our computer?
    SCRIPTWRITERS: No, you imbeciles! Burhnam and Tyler need to kiss!
    BURNHAM: Why?
    SCRIPTWRITERS:
    BURNHAM:
    SCRIPTWRITERS: So that he will trust her with crucial information, that only he knows!
    BURNHAM: Cool. Will this information actually help us in any way?
    SCRIPTWRITERS:

    Liked by 2 people

    • Cora

      Well, it’s nice Burnham got her first kiss (she grew up among Vulcans, so she didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities), but it was still a really stupid way to force it. And yes, those writers don’t know how to finish a story.

      Coincidentally, one of the showrunners also was/is showrunner on Hawaii Five-O. My Mom likes the show, so I catch the occasional episode and it has many of the same issues as Star Trek Discovery.

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  7. Steve Healy

    Sending Mudd off with Fiancé really did ruin the episode for me. Star Trekky ending aside there is no logical reason for it.
    They left him on with the whale ,risking the whole ship, so they could trap him. But rather than send him to, I don’t know, PRISON they send him off to get married. So stupid.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Viktor

    This was my favorite episode by far. It’s fun. If I were to rewatch an episode, I’d watch this one. Yes, Heinlein’s “All You Zombies” pretty much closed the door on this sort of thing. As did the movie of it, Predestination < seek that one out. This ep and the spore drive are the only things interesting in the entire series.

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