Star Trek: Discovery Review by John Keegan

Star Trek: Discovery 1.07: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

Star Trek: Discovery 1.07: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

Written By:
Aron Eli Coleite and Jesse Alexander
Directed By:
David M. Barrett

One of the most time-honored plot devices in the Star Trek fold is the time loop.  For that matter, it is a fan favorite when applied to just about every science fiction franchise that has seen any measure of success.  So it’s not at all surprising that Star Trek Discovery would deliver an episode based on a time loop in its first season, and given the pedigree of the series as a whole, it works fairly well and delivers an interesting set of solutions.



It’s also an episode that continues the story of Harcourt Mudd on Discovery, and if the first appearance seemed to be a bit out of sorts with expectation, that is even more true in this situation.  Mudd is murderous and remorseless, both of which seem far from the character that was introduced in the original series.  Not only that, but the main canonical connection made to point to the original series, the actual appearance of the famed Stella, doesn’t seem to match with the banshee that she was shown to be in the 1960s.


I continue to believe that this is because the current series could never portray Mudd in the manner he was crafted in the original series because that level of creepy misogyny simply isn’t palatable anymore, at least not to the same degree.  Mudd has to be a slimy con man by the measure of 2017, not 1967.  And that means Stella isn’t simply a screeching shrew of a “housewife”, she’s an equal partner in his schemes who is more irritated by his attempts to weasel out of her clutches than anything else.



It’s puzzling, because while I personally can’t stand Mudd in the original series, he is popular enough to nostalgic fans that his appearance in Discovery was apparently an exciting prospect.  Questionable charms aside, that’s not the character that ultimately appears; this version of Mudd is more violent and somehow even more self-serving.  And in an odd way, that mirrors what many people say about Discovery: lots of people were clamoring for a return of Trek to television, but this is not the Trek that was requested.  It’s a different animal.


And yet, once the changes to Mudd are stripped away, the episode largely succeeds because it does something that I and others have been asking for since the premiere.  We finally see enough of what is going on in Burnham’s brain to understand why she acts and thinks the way she does.  Some might say that it was self-evident, but I maintain that there was a lack of connection with Burnham that was problematic for a viewpoint character.  Somehow, this episode frames it in a brand of guarded introversion that makes sense of the whole “trauma and Vulcanism” that didn’t quite add up previously.



In general, the “time loop” conceit is successful because it allows the narrative to focus on the decisions and quirks of a small handful of characters in the process of finding a solution.  Of course, Burnham is central to the story, as one would expect, but Stamets and Tyler get a lot of great screen time.  Stamets, in particular, has really grown on me, and his personality shift due to his connection to the spore drive (also a convenient plot device) makes him even more well-rounded.


The main issue with this episode, frankly, is the same issue that seems to have plagued the series to date: a lot of the story still feels like it’s glossed over details in odd ways, which gives the odd impression that the writers are holding the audience at arm’s length.  It’s hard to get invested in this series for some strange reason, and while Burnham’s nature as the central character doesn’t help, the writing itself also seems to perpetuate that disconnect.  It’s an odd thing to watch a Trek series and feel like the writers want you to experience it with a somewhat detached mindset.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • This is a solid episode that is perhaps the most stand-alone installment yet
  • Mudd may seem out of character, but Riann Wilson plays him beautifully
The Bad:
  • Burnham continues to be a difficult viewpoint character

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 - 10/30/2017 9:37 AM168 views

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