Star Trek Discovery: 1.07 Magic To Make The Sanest Man Go Mad
Faced with the prospect of a party with her fellow crew mates, Michael Burnham was saved by a yellow alert when The Discovery came across an endangered star-faring creature adrift in the cold of space. Beaming the poor creature on board however turned out to be a mistake as it was the first step in the plan of none other then the dastardly Harry Mudd. Having been left for dead in a Klingon prison cell by Lorca, Mudd had made a deal with his captors. Capture of The Discovery and its experimental new propulsion system in exchange for his life and I'm sure a tidy sum of money. But how did Mudd plan to take over a Federation Starship single-handedly? Easy, when you have an unlimited amount of tries.
Every sci-fi show ever has to do a time loop episode at some point, I feel it's some kind of unwritten law at this point. Whilst I've personally always wanted to see such a story told solely from the point of view of those outside the loop, this week's episode was a nice compromise. You see, as Mudd learnt The Discovery's weaknesses, Groundhog Day style, reliving the same 30 minutes over and over again, the crew had their Ace In The Hole in the form of Stamets. His perception of time and space fundamentally altered by his connection to the mycelium spore drive, Stamets retained his memories from each loop, which usually ended with Mudd cutting his losses and destroying the ship as a way to reset the loop.
Thankfully Stamets was able to convince Michael and Tyler, who remained the focus of the episode despite them not being aware of the loop, of what was about to befall The Discovery. The rest of the episode played out in a sort of cat and mouse fashion to see who could outsmart the other. Most of the time Mudd would have the upper hand but a few times they were able to stop him, only for the ship to self-destruct and time to reset again anyway. To best him they would need to have Mudd himself run the time loop out.
The writer's made the smart decision to skip over most of the time loops, meaning that you had to pay attention to the details, character's advance knowledge of future events and people's actions being the clues to just how many times they'd been through this already. At one point we were treated to a darkly comical montage of just how much death and destruction Mudd had unleashed on The Discovery, making good on his promise of revenge on Captain Lorca, given us a definitive count, up to that point at least.
In the case of Mudd, the amount of loops became apparent in his near supernatural ability to take control of the ship's systems as he had had all the time in the world to master them. With Stamets and Co it was in the way they didn't feel the need to show the audience him having to convince Tyler and Michael over and over. In fact over the course of the episode, despite the resets, the three Starfleet officers become closer, Michael and Tyler in particular. It's because of their bond and shared pool of knowledge on Mudd and his plan that they were able to finally con the Con Man and beat him at his own game.
I was so happy to see Rain Wilson's Harry Mudd again, feeling his last appearance couldn't have been his only one as it would have been a complete waste. And though his story may have come to some sort of completion here, with nod to his fate in the original Star Trek, I would feel safe on wagering we'll see him again before Star Trek: Discovery catches up with the start of Star Trek: The Original Series.
But the main takeaway for me for this episode, despite others saying it felt more “like Star Trek”, was that it felt like a good episode of Doctor Who. Time travel aside, it was the human story told over the top of the time loops that made this a great episode for me, the best of the season so far. Despite only having knowledge of their previous actions, interactions and sacrifices from Stamets, Michael and Tyler were brought closer by the events of this story. I mean, who wouldn't like to know all the different ways you got closer to someone, before you even had that first awkward dalliance with romance? I just hope Michael's ready for the kind of feelings this kind of relationship can bring out in someone, as in one of the time loops she revealed a secret she had never told anyone before. The reason she was likely dreading that party and her run in with Tyler. She'd never been in love.