Second Union

Second Union

STAR TREK REWIND: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”

“I need to know that you believe me, because if I have to explain this again, I’m gonna throw myself out an airlock!”

Who would’ve thought we’d have a genuinely fun episode of Star Trek: Discovery? Pushing aside Burnham’s self-important “personal logs,” she dreads going to her first party since repatriation back into Starfleet. We’re grooving on some hip-hop and doing shooters. The behavior of the party-goers seems out-of-place on a starship, but I’ll go with it because I have no choice but to go with it. Stamets, as a result of his connection to the spore drive, has developed some bizarre habits. He also seems to be the only member of the crew to know that the ship appears to be caught in a time-loop with events repeating over and over again (like Next Generation’s “Cause and Effect” episode).

The ship locks onto an endangered space whale called a gormagander, or something. Inside the creature is Harcourt Fenton Mudd who jumps out and starts attacking the crew. This seems a little out of Mudd’s “comfort zone.” It turns out he’s a little sore at being left behind when Lorca and Tyler escaped the Klingon prison. Mudd destroys the ship, but then we go right back to the party and the hip-hop and the grooving and the drinking. Burnham works up the courage to cavort with Tyler when Stamets arrives to interrupt them, telling them, “We’ve been here before!” So Stamets gets it, but nobody else does. He alerts them to the space whale, which then appears (or re-appears) right on schedule.

Tyler has a bad feeling about this and almost immediately reaches for his phaser. Next, we have a black alert. Rather than emerge from the beast, he appears in engineering futzing with the equipment. With each appearance, he reveals a little more information, and he also knows about the time-loop. Stamets phasers him before he can rig the controls, but the warp drive overloads after Stamets tells Burnham and Tyler they’ll be doing this again shortly. We go back to the party and the hip-hop moving and a-grooving. Gormagander. Stamets jumps them, tells them they keep living the same thirty minutes over and over again. This time, Lorca is intercepted by Mudd. He demands control of the spore drive.

I don’t understand this characterization change in Mudd, though Rainn Wilson is fun to watch. Mudd was more of a harmless con-artist and not a card-carrying sociopath. Stamets needs Burnham to tell him a secret (she’s never been in love, which is just such a girl-thing to say) so he can gain her trust in the next time-loop. Mudd threatens Lorca with a phaser and then we see a montage of all the times (53 by Mudd’s count) he has killed Lorca in previous time-loops. This episode truly goes for the gold! Mudd makes it 54, and we’re back at the Disco party!

Burnham believes Stamets (based on her secret), but we have to interrupt the break-neck pace of the episode to focus instead on Burnham’s love-life, or lack thereof. She and Stamets dance in the corridor as he tells her the story of how he fell in love with his boyfriend, Hugh. This is sweet and charming and all, but let’s get back to the story, shall we? Thank you! Back to the party, the hippin’ and the hoppin’ and Burnham getting her shot at a dance with Tyler set to some sultry Al Green. I notice we’ve dispensed with the classical music vibrations of Next Generation. Burnham gives Tyler the lowdown on Harry Mudd and the time-loops.

Mudd infiltrates the ship and this is when we get our first reference to “time crystals” (think of it as a “Tinker Bell” technology, like Daniels from Enterprise). Mudd takes over the ship yet again. This may be the textbook definition of insanity. He keeps doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. I refuse to bow to ret-conning this character so I’ll come out and say there is no way you can let Mudd go (even within the altered context of Discovery) after what he has attempted to do multiple times in this episode, but that’s exactly what happens. To be more accurate, he is forced into a marriage with the “love of his life,” Stella. This is what Star Trek: Discovery should be. We have a (more or less) stand-alone episode and the characters are not insufferable. Nice try, Discovery!

Twice a week, Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Janeway, Kirk to Picard, and Georgiou to Sisko — boldly read what no one has read before!

For more insane Star Trek babble, check out my podcast (with co-host David B. Anderson), Ship to Ship: A Star Trek Podcast.

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