Well hello there, Harcourt Fenton Mudd, we’ve been waiting for you. Episode 105 of Star Trek: Discovery, “Choose Your Pain,” heralded the arrival of Rainn Wilson’s take on Harry Mudd and he proved to be just as craven and untrustworthy as we might have imagined. And I loved it. Wilson is going to be an inspired choice to play the iconic Mudd and he got off to a smart start in Ep. 5.
While the episodes title may have been talking about Captain Lorca’s ordeal aboard the Klingon prison ship, there were several other storylines flowing through the episode that dealt with the issue of pain — both physical and emotional. From Saru’s struggle to come to grips with Michael Burnham’s presence to Lt. Stamets making a huge decision to sacrifice his physical safety to spare the Tardigrade more anguish, there were pain issues running throughout the episode. Hell, even the upbeat Tilly has pain through loneliness.
And that all plays into the darker vibe that Star Trek: Discovery has cast as its ‘feel’ through the first five episodes of the series. I’ve read a lot of debate about the new show’s darker tone and have to admit that while I’ve always enjoyed the humor and lightness of the past Star Trek offerings, I’m finding the new show’s direction to be both interesting and enjoyable. You can either get hung up on canon and perceived lack of adherence to it, or you can enjoy a new and different feel given to a familiar ride. I’ll take the latter and enjoy the excitement of something new. Star Trek: Discovery may reside in a familiar world, but it’s most definitely new. And that’s a good thing.
“Choose Your Pain” centers around Captain Lorca being kidnapped in a daring raid on his shuttle craft by a Klingon I’m starting to really enjoy, L’Rell (that burn will heal…eventually). It was daring because I’m assuming they penetrated Federation space to nab the captain of the one ship that’s giving them the most trouble in this war. From there, multiple storylines come into play as the race is on for the Discovery to rescue its captain even as Lorca plots his eventual escape. And in the middle of all that, there’s Harry Mudd.
I thought the original Harry Mudd, played with wonderfully cavalier flair by Roger C. Carmel, was one of TOS most original and enjoyable antagonists. While he was lying, cheating, stealing and conniving his heart and soul out, you couldn’t help but kind of like the scoundrel. Carmel played him with a little bit of stylish panache’ and that created a sympathetic character. Even from the brief exposure to Rainn Wilson’s take on Mudd, we could see he’s going to be a little bit different animal. As he noted to Lorca, he’s a survivor and the ends certainly justify the means in his mind. And we also can see that he’s a bit more ruthless and sinister than the original Mudd, which would certainly fit with the darker direction Star Trek: Discovery is flying.
That’s why, when Lorca and the other captive make their escape and leave Mudd behind in the Klingon prison cell, you can’t help but believe him as he screams threats towards Lorca as they make their way out. This is a survivor who doesn’t forget a slight, even as he’s betraying those around him. I’m already anticipating the next interlude between Lorca and Mudd, an encounter sure to be filled with passive-aggressive moments with ominous undertones. Lorca and Mudd butting heads promises to be very interesting.
Five episodes into this thing and I find myself starting to like Commander Saru more and more. In Ep. 5, we got a little deeper dive into what he’s thinking and how his continued exposure to Michael exposes parts of him that he’d rather not examine. He fears her, yet admires her. And, as we found out, he carries a jealousy of her gaining valuable experience from Captain Philippa Georgiou that he now will never have the chance to gain. And he blames Michael for that.
He’s an interesting study and one that I began the series somewhat disenchanted with. Who needs another alien officer who offers unfiltered takes on the people, places and things we would encounter during Star Trek: Discovery’s maiden season. But the character has evolved already. And while Saru continues to offer unfiltered thoughts, I’ve found those thoughts to have a deeper context than I originally thought he’d offer. There’s a bond growing between he and Michael, one that took a big step forward when she passed along Capt. Georgiou’s telescope to him.
I’m not sure I can agree with people who somehow see Star Trek: Discovery as outside the Star Trek realm. The truth is that every Star Trek iteration has had its own peculiar quirks and vibes and as time goes on, we accept those and move on. Star Trek: Discovery is certainly not cut from the same cloth as the five other previous television versions, but 12 years after the last series went off the air, why would you think it should be? It’s darker, yes, and the humor factor is far more subtle than in the other five versions, but for my money, Star Trek: Discovery is cutting its own unique path through the sci-fi genre and doing it fairly well. And I think it is adhering nicely to many of the tenets that Gene Roddenberry found so important when creating TOS.
How the use of the Tardigrade began and then ended was a great example of those tenets. The spore drive propulsion system was hurting (or killing) the creature and while Michael was the first to worry about that issue in episode 4, she wasn’t alone by the early part of episode 5. Victory and success at the expense of harm and death to another sentient life form was a key question in this episode, a key question even today. Burnham, Stamets, Tilly and Dr. Hugh Calber all came to the same conclusion, then dug in to find a workaround for the issue. For them, saving Captain Lorca and saving the Tardigrade simply became the same problem, one that would be solved through a wonderfully selfless act by Stamets (“Yes, I know I’m brilliant”).
When I look at Star Trek: Discovery, I see many Trekkian aspects within the confines of the show. I don’t agree with those who posit the theory that it’s simply not Star Trek enough. The show may be 12 years before the Kirk, McCoy, Spoke era, but it’s light years ahead of the last Star Trek show in terms of finances, CGI, sets and the like. People are having a hard time with that and I tend to disagree. I like the sleek new look, I like that it’s darker and grittier, and hell yes, I even like that the Klingons look different (Let’s face it, no race in the Star Trek universe has had as many looks at the Klingons. It’s like their on their own interplanetary New York fashion week runway show).
It’s going to be a show of first, including the dropping of the franchise’s first F-bomb. I found it quite interesting that sweet and hyper Tilly should be the one to push Star Trek: Discovery to boldly go where no Star Trek has gone before in terms of language. I’m gonna be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about an F-bomb dropping on a Star Trek show, but I can’t say it surprised me all that much. Yes, Tilly breaking the boundaries of language on the show was a surprise, but given the pay-to-play nature of the show and it’s darker, more serious bent, I’ve been waiting for something like this to occur. It caught me off-guard, as I’m sure it did so many others, so I’m still processing it a little bit. We also find out that Stamets and Dr. Hugh Calber are an item, which was a fun little twist given their icy discourse earlier in the show. Honestly, didn’t see that coming. Another good thing.
There’s a lot to still discovery about the characters and mission of Star Trek: Discovery, so don’t get bogged down in comparisons. Simply sit back and take this new series in with an open mind and a curious nature. Let it be what it is and we’ll reconvene at the end to see where we all stand on it.
Like us on Facebook or Subscribe
Share this article using our Social Share buttons above