Episode 7 is the first Star Trek: Discovery episode I’ve not loved.
It’s not bad… parts of it are even great, but it’s not excellent – and for me, the quality of everything to do with Star Trek: Discovery so far has been exceptional.
This episode was a step in the wrong direction.
“Magic to Make The Sanest Man Go Mad” was saved by it’s amazing director, a brilliant editor, an excellent cinematographer and some outstanding acting. The writing was good, but the plot was… wanting, and it’s conclusion was banal and disappointing.
This episode’s ending is so full of cracks, if it were a glass it wouldn’t hold much water.
Episode Number: 107
Episode Title: “Magic to Make The Sanest Man Go Mad”
Written By: Aron Eli Coleite and Jess Alexander
Directed By: David M. Barrett
Tilly to Michael: “Well, I used to exclusively go for soldiers, but I’m kind of going through a musician phase right now.”
Doctor Culber to Ash and Michael: “I deeply apologise for my partner, lately he’s been um… different.”
Harry Mudd to Lorca: “There really are so many ways to blow up this ship, it’s almost a design flaw.”
Stamets to Michael: “Love isn’t logical.”
Stamets to Michael: “Never hide who you are, that’s the only way relationships work.”
Mudd to the ship’s computer: “Computer, reduce volume, so we can have a normal adult conversation.”
Ship’s computer: “Yes, Captain Mudd.”
Mudd to a communications officer, while threatening to kill random crew members: “…including you, random communications officer man.”
Mudd to Michael: “I’m neither one for following orders nor giving them.”
Interesting Bits and Pieces
– The helmet Mudd is wearing when he emerges from the Gormagander is Andorian (source: After Trek).
– There’s a little something called a Time Crystal in this episode, that enables someone to travel short ‘jumps’ back in time and stay there for limited periods.
– Stamets now exists outside of normal time, thanks to the Tardigrade DNA he injected into himself a few episodes ago.
– Harry Mudd robbed a Betazoid bank thanks to a ‘nonequilibrial matter state’ – a Time Crystal.
– You can weaponise dark matter, and it will rip the molecules of a victim apart at the subatomic level. Charming!
The Recap and Review
The episode opens with “previously on Star Trek: Discovery…” and then goes straight into the opening credits. The last time that happened on Star Trek was back in the TNG days with that series’ pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint.”
The first scene is perfect. It’s a slice of life look at an average day for Michael Burnham via a personal log as she reflects on her experiences and her colleagues.
It’s a brilliant opening that segues nicely into what Michael describes as “one of my greatest challenges so far…” a party.
The party makes sense. Some fans have complained about it, thinking it’s not very Starfleet, but when you’re in the middle of a war there has to be a way for people to blow off steam in a safe and controlled environment. Our current military does it. Militaries throughout history have done it. I don’t have an issue with them letting their hair down, and I think Lorca would be okay with his people celebrating their successes. So long as he doesn’t have to participate. In his mind, such a thing would refocus his crew on their mission.
My only complaint with the party is the music. I get why current popular music is used in science fiction episodes, it grounds things for the audience, but it’s odd. Something new and completely unfamiliar woven in with songs we (in the 21st Century) know would make more sense, but that doesn’t happen. It would seem music doesn’t progress much beyond the early 21st Century and the same hits will be played ad nauseam into the future!
The party is also a nice device that gives Tilly, Michael and Ash time to bond.
Tilly was a bit different this episode. Gone was the socially awkward girl, and in her place was a beer pong playing, slightly amorous woman doing everything in her power to set Michael and Ash up, but we all act a little differently when we’re drunk.
Unfortunately, we’re not given much time to enjoy all of this before Michael and Ash are called to the bridge.
On their way to answer the summons they (well, Michael) collide with Lieutenant Stamets and Doctor Culber, and Stamets gets all huggy with Michael – much to Michael and Hugh Culbers’ surprise.
There’s some nice banter here that very clearly shows Stamets is almost a completely different person now. Then we cut to the bridge.
The Discovery has come across a Gormagander, an almost extinct space faring species.
According to Federation law, they have to beam it aboard and take it to a sanctuary. Much to Lorca’s annoyance, they do. The Gormagander is big, beautiful, and has a case of indigestion, thanks to a mouthful of Mudd.
After detecting some abnormal readings from inside the creature, the rabbit from Donny Darko exists and starts randomly killing people. Michael calls the bridge, Lorca orders a lockdown, and the rabbit takes its helmet off to reveal Harcourt Fenton Mudd.
He’s there for revenge and he wants to punish Lorca. He’s also there to make some money, by working out how the ship does what it does and then stealing it to sell to the Klingons.
In this scene, he drops a hint about them being in a time loop…
Lorca says to him, “I don’t see this ending with you taking my ship.”
Mudd responds with… “Not this time, but I have all the data I need for the next, so… I will see you later, or, rather… earlier.”
He activates a device and explosions start happening, followed by a hull breach, followed by the destruction of the Discovery – which shocked the crap out of me!
Then we’re back at the party, and it’s clear the Discovery is definitely in a time loop. That’s not what spoiled the episode for me, in case you were wondering. One of my favourite Star Trek episodes of all time is “Cause and Effect.” As I mentioned earlier, it’s the ending that annoys and lets the whole series down.
We retread familiar ground up until the point Stamets calls out to Ash and Michael in the corridor (on their way to that bridge summons). Stamets knows something is off, and he tries to get Ash and Michael to believe him but they think he’s lost it. He tells them it all starts with a Gormagander.
When Ash and Michael make it to the bridge, there’s a Gormagander on the screen and they both do a double take. Something is off. They recommend caution and go down to the shuttlebay together.
Suddenly, the ship goes to black alert.
Back on the bridge, Lorca tries to find out what’s going on in Engineering but the computer won’t let him.
Michael and Ash enter Engineering to discover Mudd, who is trying to work out the spore-drive. He’s erected a forcefield and they can’t get to him.
The computer issues a warning about the drive going critical… and Stamets pops up and shoots Mudd. He was hiding in the area Mudd cordoned off.
There’s nothing anyone can do, the engines hit critical and they all blow up… and we’re back at the party.
Then on the bridge with the Gormagander on screen.
Then, as Michael goes to beam the Gormagander aboard, this time without Ash, Stamets pops up, explains that the ship is in danger and in a time loop that resets every 30 minutes, which always ends with the ship exploding and everyone dying, which is okay… so long as the time loop resets.
Michael has the same reaction any of us would, and tries to convince Stamets to go to Sickbay.
Stamets responds by reciting everything she is saying at the same time, proving he’s heard it all before.
She seems to believe him, and they go to Engineering.
Meanwhile, Lorca is called to Sickbay but his turbolift is stopped by Mudd. The message was false and sent out by Harry who now has control of the ships computer. Our vengeful little sociopathic mercenary wants to get into Lorca’s secret room.
We jump back to Stamets and Michael, as Stamets explains more about what’s going on. We learn that Ripper (and all of his species of Tardigrade) are multi-dimensional creatures and as a result of having Tardigrade DNA in him, Stamets is immune to the effects of the time loop. So, Stamets remembers everything.
Stamets realises this loop is set to end soon and asks Michael to share a deep, personal secret with him so that he can convince her faster next jump – and do it with enough time to stop Mudd.
We change scenes again, and go back to Mudd and Lorca. They’re in Lorca’s private sanctuary.
Here, we get a fantastic scene that is beautifully crafted – it’s just Mudd killing Lorca over and over and over and over and over and over again. We eventually learn Mudd’s killed the Captain 53 times already.
Then it becomes 54 as Lorca is vaporised by a very nasty little gun.
And time resets.
We’re back at the party, and Stamets approaches Michael there. He convinces Michael, using her secret – which is she’s never been in love – and asks her to help him recruit the security chief to help them because in past loops Ash refuses to believe him. Stamets hopes that Ash knows something about Mudd from his time sharing a cell with him on the Klingon prison ship.
She asks “… but what if he won’t talk to me either?” Stamets replies with “oh, he will. He likes you.”
She tries, but blows her chance.
Stamets consoles her with a waltz in the corridors and a bit of friendly relationship advice. He also shares how he and Hugh met. It’s kinda beautiful and it’s played perfectly by Anthony Rapp. Both men were in a cafe on Alpha Centuri when Stamets heard a “hideous huming.” It was Hugh. He told Hugh to “stiffle it or sit somewhere else,” and instead of going away Hugh sat with him and, as Stamets says, “…he’s been there ever since.”
It’s a wonderful, character-driven scene that ends tragically, but also beautifully. Stamets and Michael hold hands together and turn to face an oncoming explosion as time resets. Again.
Party time! Michael is getting up close and personal with Ash.
Sonequa Martin-Green and Shazad Latif have great onscreen chemistry, by the way.
Michael cuts right to the point, and tells Ash Mudd is on Discovery. She fills him in on Stamets and everything else she has learned, and he decides to believe her but asks why it’s not Stamets trying to convince him.
It goes a little something like this:
“Wait, is this Vulcan humour?”
“I wish it were.”
“And why didn’t Stamets come to me himself?”
“He tried, in previous loops, but he felt like you’d have an easier time trusting me.”
“And why is that?”
“Because I like you. And he thinks you like me too.”
“Tonight’s gotten weird… but also very interesting.”
And they kiss.
We eventually learn that Mudd used a device that Michael recognises as a Time Crystal, which is something she learned about at the Vulcan Science Academy.
She tells Ash they’re unstable, and that a four-dimensional species must have succeeded in fixing that design flaw and Mudd stumbled across one of the altered ones.
This kind of makes sense. Nature is amazing and mysterious. Maybe something like that could evolve somewhere. It’s better than the actors reciting paragraphs of technobabble about yet another anomaly!
From here, we reset time again after Lorca gets sent to the brig and Ash gets vaporised by weaponised dark matter. To stop more people dying, because Stamets has had enough of all the death he’s witnessed, the spore-driven scientist confesses he’s the missing piece of the puzzle and that Mudd needs him to make it work, and then Michael kills herself to force Mudd to reset the time loop one more time so Ash can live. Why would he reset the time loop? Because Michael tells Mudd who she is, and Mudd realises how much the Klingons would give him for her.
We go through the paces again, with Ash, Michael and Stamets finally convincing the captain. They rewire the captains chair and trap Mudd.
Mudd ends up with Stella and her father, despite his crimes, and Michael and Ash end up… feeling a little awkward and feeling a little warm and fuzzy because Stamets told them what happened.
As I mention at the top of the article, this isn’t a terrible episode, but it’s an episode that ends poorly.
Let’s start with the subtle, probably unintended sexist subtext that it’s better to go to prison than spend time with your wife/fiancé.
Mudd kills people. Lots of them. Over and over.
Being stuck with his intended is worse than imprisonment? WTF?!
That’s a really repugnant message. One the writers should be embarrassed by.
Not only that, Mudd is in the clutches of an arms dealer and he knows the secrets of the Discovery. Letting him go is STUPID.
This ending is absurd.
Where it does work is in the possible tragedy of Michael and Ash. If he is Voq, Michael’s first love is going to end horribly. That’s going to break my heart because I’ve really connected with Michael and I like Ash Tyler, but it’s going to be dramatic.
This episode is only worth watching for Rainn Wilson and our regular cast, who act the shit out of it. Jason Isaacs is wonderful as cranky Lorca and Mudd’s straight man, and Sonequa Martin-Green and Shazad Latif really sell their scenes together, adding layers of meaning to each little advancement in their relationship. Anthony Rapp finally gets something to do and brings real emotion and depth to every moment he has on screen – from his exhaustion and trauma at watching people die each time jump, to helping Michael understand love. This crew is coming together, and I am so deeply invested in their relationships now. THAT, for me, was what was great about this episode.
Hopefully next weeks’ episode will keep evolving these relationships, and hopefully it’s story will be more deserving of being called Star Trek.
The three Starfleet Deltas are more for the acting, directing and editing than the story.
Star Trek: Discovery airs in the United States on CBS All Access with new episodes available Sundays at 8:30pm ET. In Canada, the show airs on the Space Channel at 8:00pm ET. Outside the USA and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery airs on Netflix with new episodes dropping in the UK at 8:00am BST, and in Australia at 6:00pm AEDT, also on Mondays.
There’s only two more episodes to go before the mid-season break. Keep tuning in.
Next week’s episode looks a lot better, and is apparently (according to Anthony Rapp) a very moving and emotional outing for the crew. It’s called “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”, and when translated from Latin to English, is “If you want peace, prepare for war.”
Keep watching this incredible new show (that was bound to have at least one stumble – hopefully this is the only one), and we’ll see you in a few days time for another review.
Live Long and Prosper.