With Choose Your Pain, viewers are now 1/3 through Star Trek: Discovery’s debut season. Beyond the very odd-looking Klingons and the proliferation of artificial life-forms and holographic projections, viewers are getting a sense of how else Discovery is different from its franchise predecessors. Whether Trekkies will respond well to these differences remains to be seen.
Choose Your Pain – “To F*cking Boldly F*cking Go … ”
Yes, you heard right. If you watched Choose Your Pain, you heard two Starfleet officers drop the f-bomb. Although the Trek franchise has experimented with casual swearing before, specifically in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, this was the first time in franchise history that the notorious f-word was uttered on air, or in-stream as the case may be.
Though some might feel that Cadet Tilly’s outburst and Lt. Stamets’s response was not in keeping with the spirit of human betterment, that the taboo was uttered enthusiastically rather than angrily made the difference for this Trekkie. But as I said to a fellow Trek expert, I felt that both Tilly’s and Stamets’s command of how to curse properly was unbelievably developed.
The Voyage Home shows an understandably perplexed Spock trying to engage in casual human cursing, but even the rough-and-tumble Iowan Jim Kirk utters such inappropriate epithets as “double dumb-ass on you” to a passerby. If Discovery is set just ten years prior to Star Trek, then the generational devolution of knowing how to curse would be at approximately the same stage. So, if Kirk can’t swear well then Tilly shouldn’t get it either. Of course, Tilly could just be really good at it — we all have our strengths.
Choose Your Pain – A Very Hairy Harry Mudd
The highlight of Choose Your Pain for me was watching Rainn Wilson play the dastardly Harry Mudd. Although I pitied the poor actor doing his best to wade through the exposition-laden speeches the writers gave him, Wilson’s sense of heightened anger provided a great follow-up to the often over-the-top performances originally given in the role by Roger C. Carmel.
Mudd’s introduction comes when Captain Lorca is captured by Klingons and forced to share a cell with him. Sharing the cell with Mudd and Lorca is another late addition to Discovery’s cast of characters. Lt. Tyler, played by Shazad Latif is also introduced in this episode.
But beyond introductions to new characters, the most startling revelation in Choose Your Pain was that Captain Lorca, after escaping himself, blew up his last command at the Battle of the Binary Stars. Needless to say probably, but I think Kirk, Picard, Sisko, and Janeway all have him beat for the best captain in Starfleet.
Choose Your Pain – “You Mean the Bloody Nipple Clamps Are Hurting It?”
On to the philosophical meat of the episode. In perhaps the biggest “duh” moment on the show yet, Burnham and Dr. Culber prove that they’re injuring the tardigrade every time they force it to jump. Based on the fact that the drive system involves a double nipple-clamp on the beast and that the thing screams in agony every time they use the drive system, I would think that the evidence of its discomfort would be pretty clear. Either way, Saru promises to stop using the tardigrade once they have rescued Captain Lorca. Unfortunately, the thing goes into a deep hibernation after a single jump and alternate methods of running the drive are needed.
Choose Your Pain – Lt. Stametsigrade
Injecting himself with the DNA of the tardigrade, Lt. Stamets makes it possible for himself to stand in for the weary beast. They jump away just in the nick of time and there don’t appear to be any negative effects on the pale lieutenant.
But later on back in his quarters, after an intimate tooth-brushing scene shared with his partner Dr. Culber, the viewer sees that something is definitely up with Lt. Stamets. Even though he has left the sink and gone to bed, his reflection, with a seeming will of its own, remains in the mirror for a few moments before turning and walking away.
Choose Your Pain – Final Thoughts
Dialogue problems are my main concern with Discovery so far. Although I don’t particularly like any of the characters on the show right now, I’m still hoping that they represent the developmentally stunted characters we’ll see develop over time as the show progresses. Or, as I’m hoping for with Lorca, we’ll see these develop into an established Star Trek franchise baddies, like the insane captain who tells everyone to act like Nazis.
I know I’ve said it already but I can’t get behind the Klingons’ new look. I suppose I’m probably fanning the flame when I say this, but an answer as to what the heck’s going on had better be forthcoming. Unlike the hologram commniqués, which I’m willing to begrudgingly forgive, I just can’t accept a third look for the Klingons, especially since this incarnation looks so much like the Reptilian branch of the Xindi race from Star Trek: Enterprise.
Finally, it’s good to see two openly gay characters on a Star Trek show. That said, the execution of reaching this milestone of inclusion was a bit clunky and out of place. Rather than following Star Trek: The Next Generation’s tried and true will they/won’t they approach to romantic subplots — think Riker and Troi or Picard and Crusher — Discovery thrusts viewers into an intimate tooth-brushing scene between Stamets and Culber in which both characters lovingly rib each other before bed. Rather than showing a loving relationship that viewers can watch develop, Stamets and Culber’s relationship seems forced, largely because viewers barely know the characters involved.