First, let’s all take a moment to celebrate that Discovery has already been greenlit for a second season.
Now, let’s get to the meat of the post:
In “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry,” we’re exploring a little bit of what the war really looks like. Saving Corvan II’s dilithium mines may be Lorca’s end goal, but his willingness to manipulate his crew using the recordings gives us, as viewers, the opportunity to see the cost of the war, which to this point has been mostly referred to in abstract numbers. Also, we’re starting to see Lorca’s own ruthlessness and how that impacts his subordinates. Landry’s death is senseless, especially as we know that Burnham is correct, but Landry’s need to impress Lorca prompts her to disregard Burnham’s counsel, resulting in her death. We do get to see “Ripper” used to get the Mushroom drive working because space tardigrades are apparently magical. Overall, though, this episode is a little uneven.
In “Choose Your Pain”, we get a real look at some of the source of Saru’s hatred for Burnham, and it’s less an issue of hatred and more frustration that he did not get the same opportunities she did because she did seek out her own command earlier. Saru’s discomfort with his performance in this episode is touching and gives his character a dimension we have yet to see. We now know why he and Burnham clashed, and it’s a truly relatable reason. We’ve all had someone whose opportunities we resent, and Saru does not handle it gracefully. Personally, I believe that Burnham is a little too forgiving, and she gives up that telescope quickly. I thought for sure that after Tilly’s heartwarming speech, we’d see Burnham making some peace with Georgiou and her own role in Georgiou’s death, but the telescope instead becomes a way that she connects with Saru. I am also not persuaded that Saru makes the correct call in this episode with respect to Ripper. While the script is certain to tell me why Saru is making the choice he does and allows for Stamets to redeem himself, Saru’s own discomfort with command comes through strongly, and he is ultimately saved from making his own bad call by Stamets.
We also get a glimpse into how the Klingons are treating prisoners as Lorca gets captured in this episode, and we’re introduced to Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) as well as Rainn Wilson’s take on Harry Mudd. I’ll talk more about Mudd in a bit, but let’s talk about Tyler. There is a fan theory currently circulating that bears some consideration. The AV Club manages to lay out a decent case that Iqbal doesn’t exist, and TrekMovie takes us through some historical parallels. I’m not certain what I think just yet, but I can tell you, I’ll be a bit perturbed if it turns out to be true, but Shazad Latif is credited with 15 episodes on IMDB.
Moving on to “Lethe”, we get to see just how broken Gabriel Lorca is not only by what happened on the USS Buran but also by the events of the previous episode, and I want to take a moment and discuss a bit about how Star Trek is not good with mental illness. In the Original Series, there is the episode “Whom God Destroys”, which takes place in an insane asylum and casts the mentally ill inmates as villains, and we also have “The Conscience of the King” in which Kevin Riley’s PTSD as a result of being on Tarsus IV during the genocide is never addressed. In terms of Star Trek: The Next Generation, despite the presence of a literal counselor on the bridge, there are only a few episodes that deal with the issue. “Frame of Mind” deconstructs Riker’s mind, but Riker’s issues are not real. Rather they’re a plot device. In “Hero Worship”, Timothy copes with his grief by pretending to be Data, but it’s nicely resolved in forty-five minutes. I’m not really including the Reginald Barclay episodes because those episodes are playing Barclay’s issues for laughs, but to the show’s credit, Barclay is shown coping through recurring therapy, though he is the only major character to do so. The best and worst treatments of mental illness show up in Deep Space Nine. In “Afterimage”, Garak develops debilitating claustrophobia in what is the strangest treatment of mental illness in the canon. Ezri Dax sort of treats him, but again, the issue is resolved in a single episode. Nog, in “It’s Only a Paper Moon”, uses the holodeck to cope with his PTSD and vague body horror after losing his leg. That episode is probably the best treatment of PTSD in the entire canon, in part because the implication is that actual time is passing while Nog is with Vic. In Voyager, Neelix receives a diagnosis of nihiliphobia, but really, nothing is ever done with it. Seven of Nine wrestles with her own version of PTSD in “Human Error” and a verson of multiple personality disorder in “Infinite Regress”, but you can guess how both of those worked out.
There are likely more examples as I’m not even touching Enterprise, but they’re all more or less the same. The commonality in each of these episodes is that the disorder is either a plot driver, which is resolved in a single episode or is a character driver with the same caveat. With Lorca, I don’t know that we’re going to get that same neat package, mostly because we see Lorca more than willing to sacrifice Admiral Cornwell’s life in order to avoid acknowledging his problems. However, I think it’s going to be an important element of Lorca’s character going forward. The show told us there was something off about Lorca, and now we know.
That brings us to the odd interlude, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad.” I promised earlier that I would talk a little bit about Harry Mudd, having skipped over Rainn Wilson’s delightfully terrifying portrayal of him in “Choose Your Pain”, and this is the episode in which he shines. Harry Mudd is a character that appeared twice in the Original Series; he appeared in “Mudd’s Women”, in which he’s selling brides to miners, and he lures the Enterprise to an uncharted planet populated with androids in “I, Mudd”. He also has a brief and unremarkable appearance in the Animated Series—“Mudd’s Passion”, an episode about which the less is said the better. In these appearances, he’s a con man, and he’s more than willing to take advantage of other people in order to further his own ends, but Wilson’s Mudd? Wilson’s Mudd is terrifying. He’s resourceful, intelligent, and utterly, utterly morally bankrupt. His ostensible reason for living is his great love of a woman named Stella, and for the interested, she comes from “I, Mudd” and is the shrewish wife android with whom he is condemned to live on planet Mudd after the Enterprise departs. However, Discovery twists the story, making it clear that Mudd’s love for Stella is a lie, and that while she is willing to marry him, despite knowing the man he is, he’s been using her as a mark. The ending of the episode is a nice call-back to his TOS origins in that the Discovery crew sends him off in the care of his soon-to-be father-in-law arms-dealer Barron Grimes and the loving arms of Stella, but it seems to be a bit of a let-down after watching him slaughter the crew for an entire episode.
However, the rest of the character notes in the episode are lovely. Apparently Tardigrade DNA is a great personality enhancer because Stamets is clearly no longer a titanic jerk, and it has the additional benefit of pulling him out of time, which explains the earlier mirror creepiness from “Choose Your Pain”. Apparently, Burnham has never been in love, so Stamets shares his love story with Culber. Plus, it looks like Burnham and Tyler are on track to become an Item. I also really loved the party scene despite not understanding why there’s a party because that scene does everything I wanted small-screen Star Trek to do with people. Not all of the couples paired off to dance are heterosexual, and Tyler’s celebratory speech acknowledges that there are members of Discovery’s crew with disabilities who use adaptive aids. Beyond that, this is arguably the first party on Star Trek that I’ve ever really wanted to attend.
And with that, I’m caught up from October, just in time for tonight’s episode of the Orville.