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

Welcome to my recap of episode seven of Star Trek Discovery, Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad.

I’ll be looking at each episode, pretty soon after it has aired. This is the first TV Trek since 2005, so get out your Q pez dispenser and get ready to Boldly go once more.

Episode Seven – Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

This blog contains spoilers so if you haven’t watched episode seven yet – What are you? A green-blooded hobgoblin? This review will definitely  contain spoilers for episode seven, 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 Dance Instructor

The episode kicks off with no pre-credit scene, we just get a previously on Star Trek re-cap. Burnham has made friends and found a routine on the ship. We see that the tide of the war has changed in Starfleet’s favour.

Stamets is now responsible for piloting discovery full time and it’s given him access to his fun side. Burnham describes Tyler as intriguing. This is all shown to us via a Burnham voice-over and we get a sense that some time has lapsed since the last episode.

In a funny directorial cut Burnham introduces us to party time Discovery style. They have hip-hop apparently (but at least no Beastie Boys).

We also see Stamet’s Cybernetic augment that allows him to traverse the rainbow road more comfortably. Stamets is now “different” according to Doctor Culbert and it means he has boundary issues. I don’t think this is mirror universe Stamets but an enlightened soul, whose mind has been opened to psychedelic possibilities, one of those possibilities perhaps being access to the mirror universe. Either way surely no good can come from his spore-drive dalliances.

“You are mad. No I’m Mudd.”

When our intrepid crew discover a Space “don’t like to hump” Back Whale I thought we were in for a monster of the week style episode where Burnham gets cute with another weird critter. Her interest in space animals is, to borrow a word from her adopted brother Spock, fascinating. She always wants to protect and explore, having an innocent awe in the unknown which leads her to being socially awkward around people.

It transpires that the space whale is a Trojan Horse in more ways than one, as it hides a pissed off Mudd (wearing an Andorian space suit?) inside its belly and it conceals the fact that this is not going to be a straight forward episode at all. It is going to be slightly derivative but a huge amount of fun and very timey-wimey.

Mudd is hell bent on revenge and he has a device that allows him to destroy the Discovery and travel back in time to do it all over again. Cue Star Trek does Groundhog Day. But of course Trek has covered this territory before with one crew member remembering that they are in some kind of loop. In TNG episode Cause and Effect Data sends a message to himself and eventually the crew work together to avert disaster. In this rebooted version of the story Stamets is the crew member who knows we have done this before courtesy of his access to the magic mushroom highway.

Each loop is slightly different as Mudd explores the Discovery’s capabilities and Stamet’s is in the background trying to work it all out. What is an interesting choice is that the story is still told from Burnham’s perspective but we do get some alone time with Lorca and Mudd. I would have liked to have seen the whole thing told from Stamets point of view but then maybe this would have been too similar to other Trek episodes.

The multi-dimensional capacity of the tardigrade allows Stamets to exist outside the loop. Stamets tells Burnham that Mudd has a device that allows him to repeat the same 30 minutes over and over again, which is pretty neat. Burnham tells Stamets a secret no one else knows so that next time they can get straight down to trying to stop Mudd. Burnham’s heart breaking secret is that she has never been loved. Burnham gives us some nice Spock-ish moments failing to understand human emotions.

Mudd kills Lorca at least 54 times but whose counting. What struck me was how Mudd killed people with such menacing relish and in increasingly elaborate ways. He is certainly no figure of fun, but a truly terrifying psychopath who will stop at nothing to find out how the spore drive works. Rainn Wilson is having fun with this role.

Stamets gives Burnham relationship advice and riffing on Groundhog Day teaches her to dance. We learn that Stamets met Culbert on Alpha Centauri and we get scenes with real emotional resonance.

Eventually Burnham and Tyler do some dirty dancing and work out how Mudd might be doing what he is doing. It involves non-equilibrium matter statement AKA time crystals (a real thing, which is cool) whose technology must have been perfected by a 4-dimensional race according to Burnham.

Is the traveller (TNG) a 4-dimensional being? He can certainly travel through time and isn’t the 4th dimension time?

Anyway, Mudd aquired the tech somehow and used it to rob a Betazoid Bank.

“Random  communications officer man.”

It turns out that Lorca is carrying some weapons of mass desruction in the form of Dark Matter bombs. Finally Stamets relents having had enough of dying and tells Mudd he is the key to operating the Discovery’s spore drive.

A strange space creature again holds the key as the space whale helps give Tilly and Burnham the final piece of the puzzle about the time crystals.

Burnham brilliantly offers herself in place of Discovery as she will fetch a higher price than the Discovery if she is sold to the Klingons instead. She swallows a dark matter marble, forcing Mudd to re-set one more time allowing the gang to turn the tables on Mudd in true Hustle style.

Lorca appeals to Mudd as a business man and offers to give the ship, Stamets and Burnham to him in exchange for his crew’s life. But that’s a big trick and they prove you can con a conman by returning him into the arms of Stella – the woman he is running away from and her father who he ripped off for Stella’s dowry.

By the end of the episode Burnham has definitely grown emotionally and the bond between her and Tyler gets ever stronger.

This was a great episode and the strongest yet, which is a healthy trend. Discovery seems to have really discovered itself and has settled into a nice groove, developing the characters slowly and with assurance, and after only seven episodes everything seems familiar but also very much a modern show. It gives us the best of both worlds.

Phasers set to “that was fricking awesome.”

Time-loops, Groundhog Day riffing, Mudd and space-whales there wasn’t much not to love about this episode. Maybe the whale was a little too CGI for my liking and there was too much violence but these are minor grumbles.

Beyond the Guardian of Forever

My Kodos theory was almost correct as confirmed by the recent novel announcement that Dayton Ward’s Drastic Measures will see Georgiu and Lorca head to Taurus IV and Kodos the executioner. The events of the novel take place ten years before the battle of the binary stars. I guess we could probably still see him as we know he turns up in TOS. (Check out my interview with Dayton Ward for Star Trek magazine)

We get a cute reference to the self destruct function. I’m not convinced by the modern vibe to the Disco on the Discovery but then I suppose TOS reflected the culture of its era so I ought to stop being an old grump about it.

Discovery continues to be allegorical as so far we have seen religious fanatics, suicide bombers, soldiers with PTSD and this week a nod to the consequences of war showing a poignant scene of an officer in a wheel chair, put there because of a war injury.

This show is treading an interesting line by showing the horror and fuility of war whilst also showing the sacrifices that even good men and woman make at such difficult times. Lorca is essentially good but forced to make terrible decisions to save his people.

Although Lorca doesn’t have a lot to do in this episode, he shows he is a smart Captain who listens and collaborates when the need arises. He listens to Burnham and plays his part in turning the tables on Mudd. I also enjoyed his interplay with Saru, with Lorca calling the space whale a fish and Saru correcting him time and time again. Jason Isaacs absolutely slays with the faintest of looks, smell the fart acting of the highest order.

Traveller Where Art Thou?

The episode ends with Mudd packed off with Stella, who sported clothing from the 1960’s, a nice nod to TOS. Also was it just me but doesn’t this guy remind you of someone?

Doesn’t science officer guy (played by Jason Deline) look like Norman the Android from TOS episode I, Mudd? Norman poses as a Starfleet officer to sabotage the Enterprise. Has Mudd placed him on the Discovery as a parting gift to Lorca and co…

Join me over at the Trek Talk forum if you want to discuss it further. This was another very strong episode.

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.