Star Trek: Discovery has had a controversial start. With its odd take on the appearance of the Klingons and moody interpretation of humanity’s future, the creative team behind Discovery has made choices that have left many Trekkies scratching their heads. Although the series looks fantastic — the effects, sets, costumes, and makeup are great — the dialogue has for the most part been lackluster with acting to match.
In this reviewer’s opinion, Discovery’s nod to Star Trek’s franchise history “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” in which Harry Mudd takes control of the U.S.S. Discovery by way of a temporal loop machine, was a confused attempt to placate Trekkies while simultaneously poking us in the collective eye.
Star Trek: Discovery – No Time To Think About Time
Despite the fact that Discovery’s premiere was pushed back repeatedly, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” felt like it needed more time in development. When telling a story that involves time travel, it’s important that everything be clear to the audience, but instead this episode and its parameters were muddy — no pun intended. These were the basic facts of the episode:
- Harry Mudd has control of a device that allows him to set up localized time loops.
- Mudd is using this device in order to highjack the Discovery in an effort to sell the experimental ship to the Klingons.
- Lt. Stamets, because of his gene modification, is somehow able to remember the events of each successive loop.
That’s more or less it. Keeping three facts in mind doesn’t require much concentration, so why wasn’t Discovery’s own creative team able to remember them? Based on the events of the episode, it seems like the writers and editors couldn’t keep track of the third fact.
If Lt. Stamets alone is able to retain memories of each loop because of his modified genes, why does Burnham spontaneously develop the ability to retain memories partway through the episode?
In a frustratingly schmaltzy scene, Stamets teaches Burnham to dance so that she can persuade Lt. Tyler into believing her about the time loops, but how does she know how to dance or understand anything about the time loops after looping back through time? Presumably, her memories, like everybody’s but Stamets’s, would be erased every time the loop recycled. This means that Stamets would need to both teach Burnham to dance and inform her about the temporal loop every time they went around.
Star Trek: Discovery – “Do Your Own Script Editing!”
Instead of addressing this inconsistency by coming up with a reason for it or modifying the script to remove it, the writers and producers apparently thought it better to just gloss over it. Unfortunately, this has been a problem with the show since the premiere. Good execution gets left behind in the constant struggle to showcase “intriguing” ideas, but any idea, intriguing or not, handled with poor execution turns into just another bad idea. That said, the most recent episode “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum,” was executed relatively well and set the stage nicely for the final episode before the mid-season break.
Star Trek: Discovery – Putting the Break On
With just seven episodes left out of fifteen, Discovery’s first season is already over halfway through its maiden voyage. One wonders what new twists the creative team has up their collective sleeve. The introduction of the Pahvans last episode is an interesting touch. Other iterations of Star Trek have featured similar non-corporeal aliens, and I’ve always enjoyed stories that feature them. But even though “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” is my favourite episode of the series so far, I could see how people familiar with the franchise might feel that it was derivative. Specifically, the Pahvans have a lot in common with the Organians, a non-corporeal alien species featured in Star Trek who enforced the Treaty of Organia between the Klingon Empire and the Federation.
I’m looking forward to seeing the mid-season finale and its inevitable cliffhanger ending. With Cornwell free of the Klingons and L’Rell sowing dissension and seeking to defect, something’s brewing, and I’ll bet Burnham will get entangled somehow.