Star Trek Discovery; Choose Your Pain

Welcome to my recap of episode five of Star Trek Discovery, Choose Your Pain (sounds like an 80’s action flick starring Sly Stallone).

I’ll be looking at each episode, pretty soon after it has aired. This is the first TV Trek since 2005, so polish your enterprise shaped bottle opener and get ready to Boldly go once more.

Episode Five – Choose Your Pain

This blog contains spoilers so if you haven’t watched episode five yet – What are you? A green-blooded hobgoblin? This review will definitely contain spoilers for episode five, so this is your last chance! Ready, the review is below the photo, so let’s go.

Damn it man! I’m a writer not a Xenobiologist

First things first this is my obligatory reference to the fact that some people in Star Trek are gay. Can we get on with the story now?

What I will mention is that Lieutenant Sean Hawk from from the TNG film First Contact was originally devised to be gay, but the studio executives got nervous about this (I guess studio execs have other things to be nervous about at the moment!?) A writer for Trek once confirmed this story to me and there are some good Trek novels about Hawk. So the concept of two men who loved each other was seemingly a final frontier they weren’t prepared to cross.

The good news is that we are finally over this hurdle and we get to see more of Doctor Culber in this episode. His scenes with Stamets are beautifully acted as it is revealed Stamets is in a relationship with the doctor. I like the Doctor a lot, his moments with Burnham are nice and he is a man of integrity who stands for the greatest ideals of Trek.

Lorca is ordered to give the spore-drive details to Starfleet so they can start mass producing it to win the war against the Klingons. They need more water-bears though and the Doctor is running tests on Ripper who is on the verge of death having had his energy depleted because of using the spore-drive regularly. The rights of Ripper is a moral dilemma we keep coming back to.

Meanwhile Lorca is benched by command as they don’t want him over using the new technology and he’s not happy. Admiral Cornwell states “don’t give people another reason to judge you.” Hinting at something controversial in Lorca’s past that is surprisingly revealed later in the episode. Also is Cornwell Lorca’s ex?

“He cannae take much more of this captain”.

Lorca is kidnapped by the Klingons setting up a classic Trek trope of when the captain is away the rest of the crew step into the limelight. Saru is stand in captain and Burnham is worried that Ripper “cannae take much more of this”.

Lorca meets Harry Mudd (played with camp delight by Rainn Wilson) in Klingon jail. The female Klingon has taken a fancy to new regular cast member Shazad Latif’s (Spooks) Lt. Tyler (whose been a prisoner of war for 7 months) and Lorca is tortured by having his eyes pried open whilst light is shone into them. We get a further insight into Lorca’s tactical cunning and he’s one tough SOB.

The idea of Starfleet not necessarily being  a force for good but treading on the little man continues with Mudd claiming that the battle of the binary stars ruined his business – setting up his reason for hating Starfleet?

Saru loses his rag with Burnham as they cause Ripper pain in making the the jump that could save Lorca.

We see that Lorca is hard but looks after his crew, I found his interplay with Tyler showed he has a softer side, even if that’s expressed via gruff comments like “get up soldier.” He is tough because that’s what saves people.

We get the first ever f-bomb in Trek history and I’m not sure how I feel about it.. Spock would no doubt be concerned about the use of such colourful metaphors.

This is the sort of Trek episode I adore, we have several story points going on whilst we still get a look in at the overall arc. There are some lovely character moments and the scene where Burnham and Tilly release Ripper back into the wild is truely moving.

I am beginning to love this show and I hope it keeps up this momentum. For me Mudd’s character didn’t need to be there, although I suspect this was all just a set up for Mudd to return later on in the series.

Phasers set to “that was fricking awesome.”

Farewell Ripper my friend. This alien is now my joint favourite character called Ripper (don’t worry Rupert Giles we’re still bros). This alien is everything that is wonderful about Trek, strange new life indeed.

In a nice character momentum Burnham gifts Georgiou’s telescope to Saru, who really is reminding me of Kryten from Red Dwarf more and more with each week

Beyond the Guardian of Forever

Saru asks the computer to bring up a list of Starfleet’s most decorated captains and it was thrilling to see Pike and Archer (please can we have a Scott Bakula cameo) up on the screen, a reminder that we are definitely in the original timeline? We also get a reference to the Daystrom institute.

We get the shocking revelation that Lorca’s last command was the USS Buran, and only one crew member escaped, Lorca. He chose to blow up his own crew to stop them being executed on Qo’nos, or so he claims. He and Burnham have even more in common it would seem, both being notorious within Starfleet.

According to my research, the Buran was a name of a real Russian spacecraft and I wonder whether this means my Section 31 theory is not yet dead and buried? Surely naming  Lorca’s previous command after a Russian craft is foreshadowing Lorca’s role as a double agent of some kind.

Lorca proves he’s decent in a fist fight and Tyler helps him escape (after a pretty bleak sub plot of where it appears he has been sexually assaulted by the Klingon Captain). They fly an enemy ship and it’s pretty impressive visually. It turns out that Lorca refuses to get his light sensitivity repaired as a reminder of what he has done and I feel a real sense of the demons he’s fighting. Jason Isaac’s is superb throughout.

Despite the Tardigrade being thought to be sentient Saru orders them to potentially kill Ripper by making the jump. Is this the sort of decision Spock or Riker would have made? Surely they would have sacrificed their Captain to protect the ideology of all sentient life being sacred?

In a scene reminiscent of Wrath of Khan, Stamet’s sacrifices himself to prevent Ripper being hurt any further, by plugging himself into the spore-drive. But what effect does this have on him? Has he gone where no man has gone before?

The episode ends with the intriguing possibility that we might soon enter the mirror universe. Jonathan Frakes AKA William Riker thinks so as he recently revealed in an interview that Discovery will be looking into a mirror darkly.

What continuity hits and misses did you spot?

Where’s Kodos?

No sign of him this week but I was interested to note that Prototaxites stellaviatori (the Latin for the fungus referenced in relation to the spore drive) means star traveller. Could this be a reference to the traveller seen in TNG, he was working on a new type of warp drive and befriended Wesley. What do you think? Maybe I’m reaching?

Join me over at the Trek Talk forum if you want to discuss it further. This was my favourite episode so far and if they can maintain this standard we’ve got a show that can stand alongside anything that’s come before.

Until next week live long and prosper

John is a writer and clinically diagnosed Trekker. You can get the latest news about his published work at his website The World Outside the Window.