This was an excellent episode of Star Trek: Discovery, and it had something the fourth episode was lacking. It’s hard to describe, but that one felt a little cold and impersonal somehow. “Choose Your Pain” returns us to the wonder that was the third episode of the series, and might have been the best so far in terms of balancing storyline, character development, science, and the heart that is necessary to feel like Star Trek. I absolutely adored this episode; it had great personal moments but also some spectacular action sequences. Saru got a taste of command, and the viewer shared in his uncertainty, while Lorca was kidnapped and met a couple of unexpected people aboard a Klingon prison ship. It was, all in all, a great installment of the show.
Good and Bad
I have to start with my very favorite part of a very good episode — Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) and Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp). Now, we’ve been told for a while that these two were a couple, and it’s hard to avoid their chemistry onscreen. But this is the first time the viewer has been treated to glimpses of their relationship, as the episode closed, and it’s something I cannot stop thinking about. I’m so glad that, first of all, they made the relationship explicit onscreen. And there was something so lovely about seeing the two brushing their teeth together in their matching red pajamas ... honestly, I can’t put it into words. I just loved it. This is a scene that will stay with me for a long time to come.
Speaking of Lt. Stamets, though, he was incredible in this episode. Yes, Rapp is a wonderful actor, but I loved this particular performance. It feels like we’re getting a sense of the full person that Stamets is, rather than just the Starfleet officer dedicated to his engine. He’s not as ruthless as he may have seemed. (Although how many other people thought it would be Michael in that chamber, rather than Stamets?)
I honestly thought the struggle with Ripper was going to last the entire season, so I’m relieved to see that we don’t have to see the creature suffer over a number of episodes. The storyline led to a wonderful exchange between Michael and Saru, in which he admits his feelings about her. She reciprocates by giving him Captain Georgiou’s telescope. For some reason, I’m very invested in the two of them being friends, and I loved seeing them interact in a positive way. I’m hoping this will lead to some modicum of trust, but I do understand the negative feelings Saru has toward Burnham.
The Klingon point of view wasn’t featured in this episode, and I realized that I didn’t miss it that much. I do want to know what’s going on over there, but I also recognize that the people I’m rooting for on this show are aboard the Discovery.
Things to ponder
We found out a little more about Jason Isaac’s Captain Lorca in this episode, specifically what happened to his last command. It appears as though when he realized his ship and crew were about to be taken by Klingons, he sacrificed the ship rather than let his people become prisoners. It’s a difficult thing, but one that’s understandable — but it leaves the question, how did he get out? How was he able to survive, if he thought the only option was suicide? It adds yet another layer to an already complex character.
We also learned a little bit more about Lorca’s vision problems in this episode. It’s something that can be apparently treated, but Lorca doesn’t trust doctors. I’m sure there’s backstory there, and I can’t wait to hear about it.
Additionally, got to meet a new regular character in actor Shazad Latif in “Choose Your Pain,” named Lieutenant Ash Tyler. His backstory was kept pretty heavily under wraps for the purposes of Discovery (even on the NYCC panel), so I’m wondering if there’s more going on there than we are currently aware of. Could he be some sort of spy? Either way, I’m excited to see where his character goes and glad we’ve got a South Asian character as a regular cast member.
Harvey Mudd made his debut in this episode, and I have to say that Rainn Wilson did a great job in the role. The whole storyline aboard the Klingon ship was provocative and well done. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing Mudd again. (And if you have no idea why he’s a big deal, check out The Original Series episode “Mudd’s Women.”)
And what is up with Lt. Stamets after he substituted himself for the tardigrade in the spore drive (that sentence was a mouthful)? Clearly there are going to be some aftereffects that are going to throw a wrench into things. I just hope he is okay, because Rapp is one of my favorite parts of the show.
There are a lot of questions after this episode, but all in all it was an excellent installment of what has quickly become one of my favorite shows currently airing. I can’t wait to see what happens next week.