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.
- Episode 3: Context is for Kings
- Episode 4: Seriously stupidly long episode name
- Episode 2: Battle at the Binary Stars
- Episode 6: Lethe
- Episode 5: Choose Your Pain
- Episode 1: The Vulcan Hello
- 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.” ]