Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Star Trek, Season 1, Episode 7: Magic to Make the Sanest Man go Mad

Michael is now settling into her life on the Discovery, winning the war, making friends and having lots of complex feelings about Ash because she is still socially pretty inept. We also see a party - and I think this is definitely something we don’t see enough in Star Trek - parties!

Especially Tilly with so much drunken fun not-so-subtly pushing an inept Michael at Tyler which she duly messes up before they’re rescued by a call to the bridge

On the way they run into Stamets and WHY IS NO-ONE CONCERNED BY THIS MAN?! Stamets is showing a drastically different personality - in fact I’d say he’s outright losing coherence and no-one seems to think this is a problem?

On the bridge the Discovery has come across a Jormagandr - a space whale. Since they’re endangered due to being too busy doing their job they forget to fuck (hey there Michael did you catch that not-even-slightly subtle allegory?) it is the law that they must be moved to a space zoo for preservation

Upon beaming it on board a man steps out of it and kills a load of people. It’s Harry Mudd. Yes that annoying Mudd who they should have killed two episodes ago. He has a woo-woo device that resets time allowing him to learn new ways to take over the Discovery with every attempt (not helped by the Discovery apparently having terrible security and allowing a complete stranger with no official credentials to take over the computer and be recognised as captain). He’s planning on selling the ship and the secret of the Magic Mushroom Drive to the Klingons for lots of money and revenge. And to reset time dozens of times so he can kill Lorca over and over again.

The one person other than Mudd who can remember the time loops is Stamets thanks to his Tardigrade DNA - and this is an interesting twist on an old trope. Usually when we’re stuck in a groundhog loop we follow the person who can see through it. But here we’re following Michael who isn’t - and seeing Stamets mention dozens of flashbacks we’ve never seen and try to convince her of the truth.

He does this over several loops trying to stop Mudd, trying to convince her, trying to get more information about Mudd from Ash, Mudd’s cell mate by encouraging Michael and Ash’s relationship including bizarre scene of Stamets and Michael dancing together. Stamets gives a series of romance lessons to Michael and in among all the loops she and Ash kiss.

Which yay, but y’know murderous terrorist and all that.

Eventually they learn that Mudd is using a time crystal which is basically woo-woo but this is irrelevant because they don’t actually use that in any way. Instead after many deaths and resets (including a final one where Michael forces Mudd to reset the loop by revealing who she is, how much the Klingons want her - and then committing suicide so he also brings Ash back) they apparently surrender to Mudd

And I really want to know how they convinced Lorca to do this in the, say, 10 minutes they had.

They agree to hand over the ship, Stamets and Michael in exchange for the crew’s life - and happy with the deal, Mudd allows his 30 minute window to pass so he can’t reset time any more and Michael reveals her master plan - the Klingons aren’t coming, it’s Stella and her arms-dealing daddy

For all Mudd talks about his beloved Stella it seems he was more interested in running from her after conning a huge dowry out of…

...dowry? Seriously? In the 22nd century humanity is still treating women like property with dowries? Really? What nonsense is this?

So it was all a con job. But Stella, who needs to learn to love herself, decides she wants him anyway and daddy will just pay off his debts and keep him under control… as opposed to him being arrested and tried for trying to sabotage the entire war effort? Instead he’s sentenced to marriage?

And then arms dealer daddy asks what he can do for star fleet so he’s not in their debt and rather than say “we’ll have a fuckton of free weapons thank you very much” they ask him to keep Mudd under control?

Whut? Like a prison cell wouldn’t keep him under control? This ending makes no sense.

Ok, mixed feelings on this one. Firstly, I do like that we have a “one off” episode. Star Trek was never a series that relied on constant meta plot and, in some ways, I really think that a lot of shows are too fixated on this. To explore a world and concepts you need some none meta-linked episodes. So this was of the good and I hope it is part of a pattern

At the same time, a groundhog episode? I mean, isn’t this dull cliche the kind of thing most shows pull out at about the 5th season when they’re dangerously out of ideas? It’s right up there with the clip-show episode and the musical episode and the bodyswap episode.

And I find it kind of weird that “we have 30 minutes to stop the ship being destroyed!!!!” turns into “Michael, we need to address your love life”. I’m not against Michael and Ash’s romance, not at all, but is this really the appropriate time for this? Really?

I’m also curious about the nature of Star Fleet and it’s relation to humanity especially when at war. Both Mudd and Stella’s father seem to consider Starfleet extremely separate from themselves and not a major part of their lives, despite a major war against the Klingons which must be a threat to them. It feels slightly bemusing - is no-one going to push for Mudd to face prosecution? Is there a reason why Stella’s dad seems so indifferent to the war?

And will someone please address the fact that Stamets is clearly suffering from a major neurological condition. Or establish an alternate time line where Starfleet abandon's warp technology and every ship is powered by a Magic Mushroom Drive driven by someone who is stoned all the time and everyone just kind of gets on with things with this highly valued and important member of the crew who is completely blitzed every waking moment.