Star Trek: Discovery Choose Your Pain Review
Star Trek: Discovery: Season 1, Episode 5: Choose Your Pain offers the first great moral quandary of the series and a new take on a character from The Original Series.
As far as characters from TOS who had a chance of reappearing in the series go, chances are Harry Mudd – or Harcourt Fenton Mudd, as he refers to himself this time around – was hardly the first to come to mind. Even less likely was the possibility that the role originated by the deliciously sissified Roger C. Carmel would be taken over by Rainn Wilson, that decidedly unsissified alum of The Office. Yet not only has Mudd returned for last week’s episode, but much like Starfleet and the Federation this time around, we get to see an edgier side to the space-hopping con man.
This is as much a revelation for Mudd as it is for Wilson, whose breakout character Dwight erred more on the side of absurdity than untrustworthiness. But Wilson proves to be more than up to the task, convincingly delivering a populist bromide against Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and the organization he represents for driving him into illicit business and plunging humanity into war with the Klingons. This isn’t to say that Mudd has completely had his claws sharpened – indeed, he’s all too relieved when it appears that Lorca is going to sacrifice their cellmate to their Klingon captors and spare his life – but he is certainly a more formidable presence now, and one that I’m looking forward to see more of.
On the more philosophical side of things, the show builds on the ethical issues surrounding the Discovery’s use of the tardigrade for navigational purposes and presents with a classic Trek quandary: can Starfleet break its duty to not harm sentient life if it conflicts with its duty to survive? It’s a question that’s only resolved when Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) substitutes himself for the creature when the ship goes into warp, sparing the life of the tardigrade as well as proving his theory that other life forms can travel the way it does.
On the subject of Stamets, the program does an extraordinary job of treating his relationship with Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) not as the premise of a “very special episode” but as an ordinary romantic partnership. It may be per the course in the enlightened future of Trek, but in 2017, it’s still refreshing to see LGBT characters treated as human beings instead of political novelties. Hopefully, it is also an indication of the quality of future installments of Star Trek: Discovery.
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