Star Trek: Discovery Review by John Keegan

Star Trek: Discovery 1.05: Choose Your Pain

Star Trek: Discovery 1.05: Choose Your Pain

Written By:
Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, and Kemp Powers
Directed By:
Lee Rose

When Star Trek Discovery was announced to have Harry Mudd as a guest character, I inwardly groaned.  While Mudd certainly has his fans, I wouldn’t count myself among them.  Especially in this day and age, his usual modus operandi is a bit sexist, and the eye candy can only delay my endless eye-rolling so long.  Thankfully, that wasn’t the version of Mudd we saw in this episode; this version alludes to those other activities while focusing entirely on his self-interest.



That turns out to be an interesting counterpoint of sorts to the action back on Discovery.  When Captain Lorca is captured by Klingons, the crew races to find a way to retrieve him.  Using the spore drive is the best option, of course, but the current use of the tardigrade as the living core of the machine (cue flashbacks to elements of Babylon 5) means it suffers horribly and is, in fact, dying as a result.  Burnham continues to argue and act on behalf of the creature’s welfare, while Saru takes a very self-interested approach that amounts to “the ends justify the means”, a position of which Lorca would no doubt be proud.


This conflict occasionally seems forced, as one immediately thinks of ways that a less contentious crew (say, that of any version of the Enterprise) could come to a compromise solution.  It occurred to me more than once that Saru’s concerns about his leadership style, or at least improving it, never quite came to fruition.  I would have been interested in the computer’s assessment of his choices.  But to be honest, the same is true of Burnham in this situation.  Despite her knowledge of Saru’s psychology and experience with him personally, she doesn’t seem to have the grasp of how to interact with him that her favored status in her previous posting would suggest.



Lorca’s capture features one prominent item: the loss of the medicine he uses for his eye condition.  One would then expect this to be something of an important plot point.  At the very least, shouldn’t Lorca’s discomfort and pain from the lack of medication factor into the equation somehow.  And yet, while nearly everything else about Lorca’s experience with the Klingons is engaging and even fascinating, I couldn’t overlook the fact that the apparent foreshadowing came to practically nothing.


We learn a bit more about Lorca’s past and why he’s so hellbent on defeating the Klingons, and while it’s a standard vengeance story in the end, it actually makes sense and echoes some of what the various writers of the Trek films for the original series wanted to do with Kirk.  Not to mention that there are tons of examples in the original series of captains and other authority figures dealing with experiences in their pasts that lead to horrific decisions.  For that matter, it’s a key plot point in Star Trek Beyond, with largely the same context; Mudd, in fact, points out that the Federation’s expansionist policies meant that a power like the Klingons would “push back” eventually.



What makes this episode shine is the focus on supporting characters.  This was a great means to explore the ethics and personality of Stamets, for example, and the added grace note of revealing his relationship with Dr. Culber in such a matter-of-fact fashion was Trek at its best.  Arguably, the best way to demonstrate that same-sex relationships are perfectly normal is to treat them without fanfare, as one would treat a typical heteronormative relationship.


The main issue with Star Trek: Discovery is not its darkness or set of internal conflicts.  It’s more that it feels like the writers aren’t owning it, but rather, aping what has been deemed successful use of “grimdark” elements in the past.  Others have invoked comparisons to Battlestar Galactica, and that’s easy to understand.  The series has plenty of ways it could organically inject the darker side of its universe, but right now, it feels like the writers are still trying to find the right balance to strike in doing so.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • The writers manage to take one of my least favorite TOS guest characters and made him palatable
  • The methods used by the Klingons makes sense given their culture
The Bad:
  • Too often, the darker elements feel forced vs. organic in nature

John Keegan aka "criticalmyth", is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @criticalmyth

Star Trek: Discovery by - 10/16/2017 9:26 AM104 views

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