Star Trek Discovery: 1:05 Choose Your Pain
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This week was a week of firsts as Star Trek dropped its first F-bomb, two in fact, in quick succession. They were a little out of nowhere, so much so that no one even seems to be talking about the single solitary “shit” that was also dropped, albeit in much more appropriate and organic fashion, in keeping with the tone of the episode. Some have suggested Star Trek may have lost itself - I disagree. This was always going to be a darker series in tone due to its war time setting let alone trying to keep up with the hit shows of today. I think with time, this fuss will be forgotten about. Also, regardless of what happens in the future, Tilly will go down in Star Trek history for something.
Michael, still torn up by her belief that Ripper may be sentient - or even if it isn't, that it feels pain - found herself butting heads with her ideological rival First Officer Saru once again when Captain Lorca was captured by the Klingons. Flying back via shuttle from a secret briefing with top Starfleet brass, a meeting that presumably had to take place in person rather than over long range communications for security reasons, Lorca and his pilot escort were ambushed and taken aboard a Klingon prison ship, Captained by none other than L'Rell, Voq's would be betrayer/saviour depending on what mood she was in.
His escort killed, Lorca found himself thrown into a cell with another Starfleet Officer, Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) and classic Star Trek Original Series rogue – as villain seems too strong a word - Harcourt “Harry” Mudd (Rain Wilson). We soon learnt what the episode's title was referencing to; As a way of preventing the prisoners from forming bonds, their Klingon captors pose them with a simple dilemma. Take a beating themselves or pass it along to one of their cellmates, something Mudd was more than willing to do if it meant survival.
Lorca immediately questioned the validity of Tyler's story that he had been captured at the Battle of the Binary Stars, 7 months prior, before Tyler somewhat ashamedly confessed that his longevity may have had something to do with the fact that L'Rell had taken a liking to him. Star Trek dealing with the subject of male sexual assault? Along with torture and other forms of degradation, this episode went to some dark places.
Back on board the Discovery, Michael was able to convince first Dr Culber and then Stamets that the tardigrade was indeed alive in a sentient sense and that the spore drive jumps were inevitably going to kill it. Unfotunately however, acting captain Saru was determined to get Lorca back no matter what it took, ordering his crew to do whatever was necessary to prepare poor Ripper for their next “black alert”. Jumping deep into Klingon space, the tardigrade went into a form of shock induced crypto-stasis to try and save it's own life. Saru, ignoring protests from his medical and science officers, straight up ordered Culber and Stamets to get it back up and running for their inevitable jump out of Klingon space once they have rescued Lorca, even if it meant killing it.
Far from making Saru look totally cold, this episode delved a little deeper into Saru's fears and anxieties over his position onboard the Discovery. In asking the computer to track his performance and compare it to that of legendary captains from Starfleet history - including a few names which acted as a nod to the fans - we got to see his actions were born out of a fear of failure more than anything else and it was upon revisiting this that Saru grew once again as a character but also as a Starfleet Officer.
Lorca, tortured by L'Rell for information on Discovery's new experimental drive by way of exploiting his extreme photosensitivity, was tossed back into the holding cell, before revealing he was wise to the Klingon's game. He revealed he knew Mudd was acting as an informant for the Klingons, as during his interrogation L'Rell parroted some choice words he had fed only to Mudd. Seeming to turn on Mudd, Tyler and Lorca instead worked together to overpower the guards and make their escape. According to Tyler, escaping was always a two man job, he just needed to wait for the right man. Leaving Mudd in his cell was a little cold to be sure, but he wasn't Starfleet and was an admitted collaborator so I understand, if not condone the choice. As we came to learn about Lorca this week, it's not exactly out of character for him either as he's not like any Starfleet Captain we've ever seen before. It was revealed that his last command before the Discovery was destroyed by his own hand, with only Lorca surviving, to make sure his crew didn't become prisoners of the Klingons.
During their escape, Tyler viciously attacked L'Rell, seeming to want to exact some sort of revenge on her for her treatment of him over the last 7 months, before the Klingon got the upper hand and nearly finished Tyler off. Lorca however managed to take her out with a glancing shot across her face which I'm sure will leave her with some narly sci-fi scars.
Shortly thereafter, the Discovery detected a small Klingon vessel racing ahead of group of some 5 or 6 more, Saru correctly deducing that it wasn't the enemy manoeuvring towards them but the Captain making his escape with the Klingons in pursuit. Beaming Lorca and Tyler on board, Saru gave Stamets the order to make the spore drive jump back to Federation space, which they did in skin-of-their-teeth fashion. It was only after they were safe and dry that they realised exactly how Stamets got the spore drive to work without compromising his morals.
Though he may have come across as a bit brusque in his pursuit of getting his spore drive to work, Stamets wasn't a monster and didn't want to kill another life form in pursuit of faster space travel. He, along with Tilly and Michael, had concocted a way of grafting the genetic properties that allowed the tardigrade to navigate the sub-space mycelium network onto another life form, something with Saru strictly prohibited, eugenics being illegal and all. Ignoring for a second the fact that Saru had a problem with genetic experimentation on moral grounds but was willing to kill to get his captain back, Stamets injected himself with the solution and plugged himself into the spore drive to make good their escape. Though the process took it's toll on him, there seemed to be no lasting ill effects and with the promise of a new way forward that didn't need Ripper to be used as the biological component of the spore drive, Michael, who frustratingly had been confined to her quarters for most of the episode's third act, with Tilly released Ripper into space with some spores to feed on, which it promptly did before fully reviving and hyper-space jumping the hell out of there.
Stamets and Culber, heralded as Star Trek's first openly gay couple, were soon back in the simple domesticity of their everyday lives, literally a his and his tooth brush scene, suggesting that Stamets was going to be fine. That was until his reflection took a few more seconds to walk away from the mirror than conventional physics says it should, suggesting when Stamets connected with the mycelium network and touched upon all of space (and time?) something else happened to him, something bordering on the supernatural.
Saru apologised to Michael for his actions, stating what has been somewhat obvious since the show began, that he is threatened by Michael's presence on board and fears for his own position. Admitting that he envied Michael's relationship of Captain Georgiou, a relationship he was never able to emulate due to her untimely death, Michael chose to gift Georgiou's telescope to Saru, as way of trying to bridge the gap between them. Shortly after, Saru deleted the programme he fashioned earlier to track his performance, stating that he knew what he did wrong. Good on you Saru.
With Tyler now on board The Discovery, a sort of frying pan/fire scenario some might say, there are already some online postulating where the Discovery's story may go. I personally would say do as little reading as possible and let the story unfold as intended, but that's just me. I for one am reluctant to say there have been any weak episodes of this series so far, though some have definitely been stronger than others, but I feel that this episode will be looked back upon as one where some keys changes were made that will make this series a stand out. Time (and mycelium spores) will tell.