This week’s Star Trek: Discovery episode, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” took advantage of a pretty standard sci-fi trope — a time loop — but used it in a creative and effective method to tell a new kind of story.
The thing I really appreciated about this episode was perspective. Time loop episodes are so often formulaic, so I appreciated the multiple and varied perspectives here. Rather than focusing on the repetition and monotony of the situation, the episode made an effort to get creative with the storytelling device, focusing on how things change from loop to loop and making clear that this has been going on a lot longer than it seems.
That does lead to a bit of a problem with realism, though. Time crystals are real (I would have loved more discussion of science in the show), but 30 minutes is just not a long time for Stamets to explain to Burnham what’s going on, her to recruit Ash, and them to convince the captain and then make the modifications necessary to pull off this stunt. Even with Stamets holding Burnham’s secret as the key to her trust, I’m not sure I buy that they could pull it off in just one loop. Conceivably Stamets had been developing the plan over multiple time loops, along with Burnham’s help, but that little issue just didn’t ring true to me.
The good and the bad
I was cheering at every second that Michael and Lt. Tyler spent together (it killed me a little because I watch these episodes early, and I didn’t have anyone to talk about these scenes with). The two have such incredible chemistry, and it’s great to see Michael coming out of her shell and being open to new experiences. I really like Lt. Tyler’s character generally, which worries me, because I don’t trust him and think he might have a secret agenda. (More on that in my previous recap; I won’t bore you again with my strange theories.) Regardless of what his situation is, I really like the two together and look forward to exploring that relationship more, especially with the (somewhat unsurprising) revelation that Michael hasn’t been in love before.
Stamets was also incredible in this episode. Anthony Rapp does a wonderful job balancing the new, quirky parts of Stamets’ personality while also still making him believable. It could easily be over the top, but it’s not, and it’s so well done. I absolutely loved that he took an entire loop to dance with Michael and teach her a little bit about what it means to love a person, even if he knew she wouldn’t remember in the future (and even as you can tell how much this constant repetition is taking its toll on him). It was so touching, and honestly, as gorgeous and exciting as the series is, it’s these beautiful, small character moments that have really made me love Star Trek: Discovery.
The party was certainly an interesting scene, and not something we’re used to seeing aboard the hallowed halls of a starship. When you’re on a ship with a relatively young crew, though, especially one in a war with soldiers who need to blow off steam, is it surprising that people would want to let loose? I don’t think so. I appreciated that Tilly got the chance to let her hair down (figuratively, but also literally — Mary Wiseman’s hair is stunning), and her interactions with Michael at the party were priceless.
Things to ponder
This was the closest thing we’ve had to a standalone episode in the series so far, so there aren’t a lot of new questions emerging from it. I have to admit, though, that I haven’t really missed seeing the Klingon perspective in these past few episodes. We’ve had the chance to really focus in on the Discovery crew and get to know them. Despite the framework of the Klingon war, it’s really become a character-driven show — at least, that’s the core of what has me eagerly anticipating these episodes week to week.
We’re just a few episodes away from the midseason finale (airing on November 12), and I’m really curious as to how they’ll leave the show for the break — new episodes will begin airing again in January. I have a feeling it will be a cliffhanger. But in good news, the show has been picked up for a second season, so there’s a whole lot more of Star Trek: Discovery in our future.