TV Reviews

Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 5: Choose Your Pain Review

If you would like to read my review of last week’s episode, click here.

Synopsis: While on a mission, Lorca unexpectedly finds himself in the company of prisoner of war Starfleet Lieutenant Ash Tyler and notorious intergalactic criminal Harry Mudd. (IMDB)

Writers: Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts & Kemp Powers

Director: Lee Rose

Rating: TV-MA

Running Time: 43 mins

“Choose Your Pain” starts off with Burnham watching the tardigrade being used as the navigator and in obvious pain before waking up from her nightmare. Not even past the opening credits and we’re being hit with the moral dilemmas on the show. Burnham confronts Dr. Culber about her concerns and convinces him to run some tests.

Meanwhile Lorca is brought in by the Admiral to Starfleet Command where they tell him that the Discovery needs to engage less so that their only spore drive is protected. He is not amused. After the meeting, Lorca is confronted by the Admiral who discusses his unwarranted conscription of Burnham, but Lorca simply replies with “my ship, my way.” I love this character so far. He has so many sides to him and constantly makes us question what his true agenda is. As Lorca is being taken back to Discovery, his transport is intercepted by the cloaked Klingon ship.

The Admiral informs Discovery and Acting Captain Saru of the situation. He decides they have to jump in and out of Klingon war space to find Lorca, but Burnham thinks that the tardigrade won’t survive. Saru goes to the Captain’s Quarters and advises the ship’s computer log the events in order to review his performance once Lorca has returned.

Now back to Lorca, he’s a prisoner on the Klingon ship where he has a cellmate. It’s classic Star Trek character Harry Mudd, played by none other than The Office‘s Rainn Wilson! After a brief chat, the Klingons enter the cell and play a game aptly named choose your pain that they use to stop their prisoners from bonding. Lorca also meets Lt. Ash Tyler, a survivor of the Battle at the Binary Stars, who has been held prisoners for seven months. Apparently he has survived for so long by performing favours for the Klingon Captain. Oh my. Mudd also explains how much the common person despises the Federation for always acting like God for everyone else.

On the Discovery, Dr. Culber and Burnham confront Stamets about finding an alternative to the tardigrade given its current condition, but Stamets politely reminds Burnham that she is just as much to blame for the current situation. “I’m swallowing the urge to set the record straight.” That line of dialogue was literally eye-roll inducing. Anyway Stamets, Burnham and Tilly figure out that the drive needs to be powered by an animate host that would understand its role. More complications.

Lorca is being tortured by the Klingon Captain, but after insulting her for sleeping with a human prisoner she burns light into his eyes. Because his only weakness is bright rooms. When he returns to his cell, he attacks Mudd for feeding intel to the Klingons. And at this point we FINALLY get some insight into Captain Gabriel Lorca. Turns out he was the only survivor on his last ship after he abandoned his crew, except that isn’t the whole story. He actually blew up his last ship and the entire crew when their capture was imminent and he believed he saved them from a fate worse than death. Damn, why so serious Lorca.

Saru decides it’s time to use that great spore drive to warp and find the captain except Stamets has turned it off. In engineering Saru confronts them and berates Burnham for their decisions. She tries to explain that they can replace the tardigrade with a species whose DNA is similar, if not they could potentially fuse the tardigrade’s DNA with that of a human’s and use them, but it’s illegal.

Either way Saru issues a Black Alert and the Discovery warps, but in the process the tardigrade collapses and enters a state of comatose. All balled up like an armadillo too. The Acting Captain can’t waste any more time so he pushes Dr. Culber and Stamets about forcing the tardigrade to wake up, eventually convincing Stamets to comply.

Back on the Klingon vessel, Lorca is asked to choose his punishment. Despite everything that has happened, Tyler volunteers himself, but after he is attacked they fight back. Lorca and Tyler leave Mudd to rot, but Tyler’s been injured. He’s confronted by the Klingon Captain who attacks him. Lucky for him, Lorca manages to fire a shot off and hit the Klingon, burning her face in the process. They escape aboard a Klingon Raider.

On the bridge, Saru is informed that five Klingon Raiders are headed towards the Discovery. But, before they attack Saru notices something peculiar about one of the ship’s movement patterns and instantly knows it’s the Captain. Because time is of the essence. They beam Lorca and Tyler on to the ship and quickly warp out of there. Saru heads down to engineering to thank them to find that Stamets is unconscious in the spore chamber! He injected himself with the DNA and was the navigator! DUDE. WHAT ARE YOU DOING. Lucky for us he survives so no character deaths so far! Yay!

Saru visits Burnham in her quarters and explains that he isn’t afraid of her, but he’s upset because she sort of fast tracked his ascension to officer and acting captain, which he felt entirely unprepared for. She accepts the somewhat apology and gifts him Georgiou’s prized telescope. Burnham leaves her quarters and with the help of Tilly releases the tardigrade with some spores into the vacuum of space where it wakes up and teleports off. Yay happy ending!

But, that isn’t the end as we are shown Stamets and Dr. Culber having a moment while brushing their teeth. We learn about the long-awaited relationship between them (FINALLY!) and they talk about Dr. Culber’s concern with Stamets’ health after the experiment. They walk off, but we discover that Stamets reflection didn’t budge. Creepy.

Questions

  • Is Tyler the last main crew member that will be added, at least for the first season?
  • How will Tyler react when he finds out the mutineer who caused his seven month imprisonment is aboard the Discovery?
  • Is Lorca going to reveal his past to anyone else?
  • Why is Dr. Culber, who isn’t the Chief of Medical on the ship, the go to for major concerns? Was he sent to deal with his boyfriend’s engineering problem because it didn’t concern human lives?
  • Will Harry Mudd return at any point?
  • What does Stamets’ lingering reflection mean for himself and the spore drive?

First off, Rainn Wilson did a fantastic job as Harry Mudd and hopefully he returns to deliver his revenge on Lorca, but for now what this show needs is a very Star Trek-esque episode, or a slowed-down, character-centric episode where the crew doesn’t leave the ship. All series have done it because those episodes are vital in developing more rounded, flawed characters. Doing that would allow more screen time for characters like Tilly, Dr. Culber and newcomer Tyler. Hopefully they try to do something like that instead of scraping by on the idea of more action means more viewers. Oh and the f-bombs, completely unnecessary. Star Trek of the past did not have the lingo and slang of the time it was being produced in, Discovery does not need to be an exception to that.

Overall, this was a decent episode. Some characters like Burnham, Saru, Lorca and Stamets are getting tons of character development, which is great, but others are being left in the dust and underutilized. The story in this week’s episode was a little dry in comparison to what we’ve seen so far this season as the spore drive narrative has jumped around faster than the Discovery can while using it. Hopefully we get a few slower-paced, self-contained episodes to help flesh out the true potential of this crew.

Score: 7.5/10

What did you think of “Choose Your Pain”? Let me know in the comments below!

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