The trick with wading into lore as deep and detailed as Star Trek's with a new series is in not letting the established world drag down the story.
On Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 5, both the periphery and the core of Lorca's abduction and rescue are seeded with nods to classic Star Trek while the debate over Ripper's fate felt akin to the ethos of Next Gen.
While this made for a sense of familiarity, it was a distinct shift away from the established tone of this series so far.
For hard-core Trekkers, the appearance of Harry Mudd was a huge selling point. Harcourt Fenton Mudd, as played by Roger C. Carmel, appeared in two episodes of the original series and one episode of the animated series.
Rainn Wilson does a solid job channeling the bombasity, deviousness, and cowardice of the con man in the Klingon prison ship. He does, however, spend a lot of energy on his backstory about Stella which is only interesting to those who already knew he will marry her, desert her, and then build an android in her image.
Although he swears he will return, I'm not sure how much Mudd adds to the Discovery world. The character worked in the episodic original series but he sticks out a bit in the long arc that they are developing here.
Ash Tyler, on the other hand, is a perfect addition to the Discovery crew. A survivor of the Battle of the Binary Stars, he'll have a dramatic reaction to Burnham, I'm sure, just as Admiral Cornwell described.
He's also a damaged soul, surviving not only the battle but seven months on board the Klingon vessel, being forced into sexual relations with Captain Dennas. When he beats on her during the escape attempt, it's a desperate painful sort of attack that underscores the trauma he's endured.
And, because Dennas was only maimed by Lorca's disrupter shot, she will obviously be returning as well. Maybe with Mudd in tow still?
On the Discovery, Saru spends a good chunk of time using the computer to look for captains which he can emulated as acting captain in Lorca's absence. In doing so, he asks for a list of the most decorated captains in Starfleet and the list is an Easter egg of epic proportions for Trekkers.
Listed as they appeared on the computer screen: Robert April, Jonathan Archer, Matthew Decker, Philippa Georgiou, Christopher Pike.
Both Pike and April were U.S.S. Enterprise captains who preceded Kirk. Archer, of course, was played by Scott Bakula in Enterprise and Decker appears in a classic Trek episode after he's accidentally caused his entire crew to be killed.
(By the way, Decker's inclusion on that list was a clever little parallel to Lorca's confession that he blew up the crew of his previous command rather than let them be taken by the Klingons to be tortured and executed.)
It was entertaining to watch Saru's expressions as the computer listed the traits the most decorated captains shared: bravery, self-sacrifice, intelligence, tactical brilliance, compassion. From the first, which he lacks on a genetic level, he slowly puffed up as he felt they became more applicable to him.
To digress a bit here, the computer in Star Trek: Discovery seems to have a lot more to say than in any other Trek series that I've watched. On board the Shenzhou in the Star Trek: Discovery Premiere, Burnham had to debate it in order to get out of the decimated brig.
Here, it offers an unsolicited option that Saru declines (after a quick moment of consideration.)
Saru: There is an element aboard this ship that causes me to second guess myself. That cannot continue. I must remain clear-headed in pursuit of today's mission.
Computer: Alternative solution. Eliminate destructive element.
Saru: Not an option
But it was his scenes with Burnham that really lit up the screen for me. His response to her plea to not view her as an enemy was devastating in its delivery, hitting her not only with his logical reasoning but in her emotional soft-spot, referencing Captain Georgiou.
How dare you treat me like one of your xenoanthropology subjects? You're not an enemy, Burnham, you are a proven predator. And I know this not only because my instincts tell me that you are but because your actions show me that you are.Saru
That incredible fury is beautifully balanced by their scene in her quarters after Lorca has returned to Discovery. Finally, we get the revelation Saru has suppressed, preferring to let his threat ganglia do the talking. I guess fear was a more acceptable emotion than anger to hold against Burnham in his mind.
Speaking of anger, Lorca's got a real knack for pushing those buttons. It is a bit of an overused ploy in space adventures (and James Bond films) that there will be a torture scene involving smart-ass banter. Even so, he does get under Dennas' skin PDQ with his comment about Tyler.
You're seeking solace in the arms of a human male. We don't even have the right number of organs for you.Lorca
Anyone else curious as to why the Klingon "Choose Your Pain" dude apparently use the exact same choreography every time they beat a prisoner up? And am I the only one that figures they're eating the ones they kill? Supplementing their protein, as it were.
I, for one, was glad to see Ripper get a happy ending even if we did have to have the "big talk" about the ethical directives at play. Dr. Culber was elegantly worked into the discourse, leading to that ultimate reveal of his relationship with Stamets, which wasn't much of a surprise but appreciated nonetheless.
One tends to worry when they're doomed to love a brilliant but reckless maniacCulber
That Stamets took the hypospray took me a bit by surprise. (My money had been on Burnham which was probably the red herring they wanted me to hook because of her dream at the beginning.) It was nice to see that he isn't so pure science as to disregard the suffering of the tardigrade.
And when he revives and just starts laughing uncontrollably that it worked? My first reaction was, "Well, there's a guy who REALLY loves his mushrooms."
With a show this mired in war, war crimes, and ideologies, it takes effort to inject humor into the situations. Furthermore, it takes serious skill to do it without undermining the tone of the show. Tilly is basically the human humor injector on deck but she's becoming a less awkward one.
Tilly: You're stressed
Burnham: I barely have a job here. I've never been less busy.
Tilly: Then that gives you the time and space to actually process what you're going through emotionally.
Burnham: I don't like it.
Tilly: Really? I love feeling feelings.
With some time, I think she'll even be endearing.
Now that we're more than halfway through this first block of episodes, it's the perfect time to watch Star Trek: Discovery online and start casting ahead on where they're going to leave us at the hiatus.
I imagine we'll see at least one unexpected casualty and a major battle involving both Burnham and Voq and probably the spore drive.
I also feel like Saru is going to get a chance to sit in Lorca's seat again. (I mean, he might as well since Lorca never sits down aboard the Discovery.)
Lorca: Starfleet didn't start this war.
Mudd: Of course you did. The moment you decided to boldly go where no one had gone before. What did you think would happen when you bumped into someone who didn't want you in their front yard?
And now that we know that humans can navigate the spore drive (as long as they're cool with a little unconsciousness) does that mean that Starfleet will get to move forward and equip all ships with it? It's gotta be a short lived installation since Kirk never got one of those.
The most pressing question at the moment is where Stamets' little Stranger Things moment in the mirror is going. Theories? Predictions?
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.