It's not what I could've predicted but Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 7 is probably the most Star Trek: The Next Generation-like episode in the series so far, and that's not a bad thing...just unexpected.
First, we have the personal log voice-over opener, something that, over the seven seasons of ST: NG, was regularly used to focus the plot on the personal growth of specific characters.
Star Trek: Discovery hasn't been much of an ensemble production, so it's not surprising that it's Michael Burnham we are focused on.
What is a little different is that she addresses her social phobia and really starts exploring her feelings in regards to her crewmates?
Her friendship with Tilly, her attraction to Tyler, and her observations about Stamets are central to the plot.
Tilly, as always, overshares when Burnham deflects questions about her previous romantic relationships back onto her.
I used to exclusively go for soldiers but I'm kind of going through a musician phase right now.Tilly
The attraction to Tyler feels like it has developed rather quickly on both sides, especially considering the man's SEVEN MONTHS of abuse and molestation on the Klingon prison ship. And that's not even considering Burnham's lifelong training in Vulcan-ness.
Still, it's very ST: NG for romantic inklings to worm into the core crew. With the limited time they have to introduce these elements, I'm glad they aren't just throwing a Keiko O'Brien-ish character into the mix.
Tyler, at least, seems to understand Burnham's hang-ups and doesn't seem too put off by them.
Burnham: There aren't always simple answers to those kinds of questions.
Tyler: And sometimes there are.
With the personal log book-ending the episode, this was a polished piece of work in terms of the salute to the style so prevalent in the ST: NG series.
Looking solely at Burnham's growth, it was clever in allowing her to seemingly learn from each repetition... despite the fact she would have to memory of it.
That brings me to some technical issues with the mechanics of Mudd's technology.
There really are so many ways to blow up this ship. It's almost a design flaw.Mudd
Mudd remembers everything because he wears the time crystal doo-dad bracelet cuff which is reminiscent of both Captain Jack Harkness AND Doctor Strange for the use of time manipulation. Okay, check.
Stamets remembers everything because he has tardigrade DNA mixed with his own and is thus part multidimensional space insect. Uh-huh. Yup, got it.
And you almost pulled it off. Except for me, because I exist outside the normal time stream.Stamets
That Burnham can process and accept the entire premise that Stamets presents to her in shorter and shorter explanations and is eventually able to convey all the information and set in motion the plan to foil Mudd in the twenty-eight or so minutes in the final repetition of the loop?
I think I heard my suspension of disbelief snap somewhere in the third montage segment. It was like Fifty First Dates and Memento tried to fly a space opera.
And because I had stepped a little out of the zone at the point, I had a HUGE problem with them just sending Mudd off on his merry way with Stella, her daddy dearest, and ALL THE INFORMATION ABOUT THE SPORE DRIVE.
Not sure if Dr. Culber could ret-con that data out of Mudd's head, but they let him leave with one of the biggest arms dealers on the market (in one of the stupidest looking ships, I may add, but apparently money doesn't buy taste even in the future.) Does that not seem extremely problematic?
Mind you, if Lorca had ordered them to shoot two torpedoes into a ship carrying a well-known arms trader and the man who had blown up the Discovery over fifty times...it would've been a tad simplistic. Defensible but not good story-telling.
And we're here for the story-telling, right? The episode's title "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad" like Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 6's is another classical reference, this time to Homer's Iliad. This magic is Love and we get an eyeful of a variety of love stories in the script.
Obviously, Burnham and Tyler are going somewhere. Again, it feels accelerated but maybe we can reason that it's a war-time romance and they are both damaged individuals looking for healing. There is a gentleness in their interactions that works even if I can't buy the chemistry.
Burnham: What I'm feeling is complicated... and strange.
Tyler: It's okay. I'm not going anywhere.
Burnham: What is it?
Tyler: I'm just sad we missed our first kiss.
Mudd and Stella's relationship is such dysfunctional comic relief while also being a fun throwback to Mudd's ST: TOS episodes. Also, there's a neat echo here of Stamets' advice to Burnham when Stella points out to Mudd that she's always known who he is and doesn't care.
Never hide who you are. That's the only way relationships workStamets
Hearing about Stamets and Culber's first meeting was so much awesome but leads me to wonder if Stamets recognizes how much his personality has changed since the introduction of the tardigrade DNA.
He's not the same man as the one who told a total stranger at a cafe on Alpha Centauri to shut up and shove off. And Dr. Culber seems a little flummoxed by the situation himself.
It's always a strain on a relationship when one of the partners' personality changes completely and this might play out further as Stamets continues to act as Discovery's spore drive navigation controller.
On more minor notes, it may have been a ploy but Lorca indicates he's got a warm, fuzzy underbelly when it comes to his crew and Saru reaffirms his commitment to defending his captain when he insists they follow the Endangered Species protocol.
What they did well in this episode, they did extremely well. Burnham's description of the gormagander's preoccupation with alpha particles to the exclusion of mating instinct is a perfect parallel to herself.
And her final log entry could be seen as a reference to the show itself as it continues to grow and develop its voice. In an episode focused on love, it gives us fans a lot to fall in love with, flaws and all.
Every time we get to see Lorca's captain's cave, there are always a multitude of easter eggs buried in the clutter. Be sure to watch Star Trek: Discovery online a couple of times and see if you can spot them!
So are you a Mudd-maniac? Did you enjoy his return?
How tricky are time travel stories? So many ST: NG episodes to reference! Can you remember them all?
How does one build a new, never mind FIRST, romantic relationship in this situation?
How do you think Admiral Cornwell is holding up? Hmm?
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.