Of the five episodes of Star Trek: Discovery presented thus far, the most recent, “Choose Your Pain”, felt probably the most Star Trek-y of them all, and a little of that could be because the series has introduced classic Trek character Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson) into the mix, and it had a classic Captain vs Klingons plot. And then it added one more thing that we’ve never heard in the entirety of the Star Trek series or feature films … the F-bomb. Twice! And there was a “shit” thrown in for good measure. It will be interesting to see how people react to this decidedly adult language. (And with the freedom CBS All Access allows them, I really expected the series to launch with an F-bomb a la The Good Fight.)
So all that aside, the episode picks up where we left off last time. The Tardigrade has been found to be the key to Stamets’ spore drive, but each jump causes the creature physical pain and damage. Luckily for the beast, Captain Lorca has been ordered by Starfleet to stop using the spore drive before the Klingons figure out the Discovery has it, if they haven’t already. They have and they kidnap Lorca on his way back to his ship.
Which means Saru is now in charge and he’s really over-compensating, barking orders at everyone and not really paying attention to what Stamets, Dr. Culber or Burnham has to say. Particularly Burnham. Why? Because Saru resents her. He’s jealous that she was the recipient of all of Captain Georgiou’s knowledge that would put her in the position to captain her own ship while Saru moved into the Number One position. Except Burnham had to start a war and get Georgiou killed, robbing Saru of everything he’d wished. It was nice, however, that he finally unloaded all those feelings to Burnham because perhaps now he will be able to respect her talents. It didn’t hurt that she gave him the telescope Georgiou willed to her.
But prior to that, he confined her to quarters because she related her findings about the Tardigrade to Stamets and brought along Culber for back-up, directly disobeying Saru’s orders to not speak about it until they had gotten Lorca back to the ship. Saru also dressed down Culber, but Stamets said he would follow the order to fire up the spore drive and make the jump to Klingon space. And, as Burnham feared, the Tardigrade was seriously stressed, releasing most of its water content and curling up into a ball. Without the Tardigrade, the Discovery would not be able to jump out of Klingon territory.
Meanwhile, Lorca is being held prisoner with another Starfleet officer and the one and only Harry Mudd. This version of Mudd seems a little more sinister but just as self-serving as the original, willfully allowing the unnamed Starfleet officer to take his own punishment (surprisingly, the guy was not wearing a red shirt). Lorca is a bit horrified by this turn of events, and is brought to the ship’s captain for a little torture to get information about the spore drive. We assume he said nothing because he was back in the cell and there was yet another Starfleet officer there, this one a prisoner from the Battle of the Binary Stars (was he on the Shinzhou or another ship?). When they figure out that Mudd has been working with the Klingons to get information, it seems a slam dunk that when it comes time for Lorca to “choose your pain” he’ll give it to Mudd. But the other guy, Ash Tyler, says he’ll take it but … it’s a trap! They over-power two Klingons and Lorca finds the bay where a shuttle pod awaits. (Again, this is a little detail we didn’t see. One moment the two men are turning a corner, and the next they’re in flight and being tailed by four more ships.)
There is one little bit of business here with Tyler. He’s managed to stay alive this long because he’s had a special relationship with the Klingon captain, if you know what I mean. Making their escape, he took her down, pummeling her face and when she nearly got the upper hand, Lorca fired but missed a direct hit (unlike all the other Klingons he vaporized), instead burning half of her face and probably creating another Klingon bent on revenge at some point. Oh, and there were no subtitles this week. As expected, when the Klingons interact with the English-speaking characters, they speak English too.
But how will the Discovery get away with a dormant Tardigrade? The ship managed to make the jump but when Saru contacted Stamets there was no answer. Burnham had come to the conclusion that the Tardigrade was a sentient being, and using it to make more jumps could kill it, something that would not be looked on fondly by Starfleet. Staments had been trying to find another living creature that could willingly allow itself to be used as the spore drive navigator and the only conclusion he found was … himself. It looked like curtains for Stamets, but he awoke, happy that he saved the ship and saw for himself the vast road map of the universe.
But his little act of salvation was bothersome to Culber, who was finally revealed to be Stamets’ significant other (yes, the Star Trek universe now has two more gay characters, so besides the F-bombs courtesy of Sylvia Tilly and Stamets himself, this development will really have a million mothers setting their hair on fire). Stamets assured Culber that he was fine while the two brushed their teeth, but as Stamets left the room, something odd happened — his reflection stayed for an extra beat or two before turning and walking away. Okay, what the heck just happened?! What door did Stamets open by connecting himself to the spore drive?
And what of the Tardigrade? Saru told Burnham to do what she could to save the creature and she figured that it just was not made to live in captivity. Dumping a tube of spores on it, she jettisoned the creature into space where it came back to life and zapped away. So that pretty much helps Lorca abide by the order not to use the spore drive. Without that living GPS, it can’t go anywhere and I don’t see him (or Culber) allowing Stamets to use himself again.
There were also a few interesting tidbits this week. When Saru wanted to learn about some of the Federation’s most decorated captains to try to learn how to captain a ship himself, we saw a few familiar names including Christopher Pike and Jonathan Archer, captain of the pre-Star Trek Enterprise. We also learned that Lorca had been the captain of the USS Buran, which had been attacked by the Klingons. Mudd tried to push his buttons by questioning why he, the captain, was the only survivor of that attack, why he didn’t go down with his ship, instead allowing the Klingons to kill his crew. Turns out, he blew up the ship himself to save his crew from the fate worse than death if they had been captured by the Klingons (giving a shout out to the Klingon moon Kronos, which we saw blow up in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).
Overall, a good episode and with Mudd vowing revenge for being left in the Klingon brig, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him at some point, perhaps working with the scarred Klingon captain.
What did you think of the latest episode? Did you like this take on Harry Mudd? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.