Review: Star Trek: Discovery | Episode 7: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad [2017]

a review by the Crow.

Captain’s log, Stardate 95432.08: These are the voyages of the blog-ship The Corvid Review. One of its continuing missions: to explore strange new episodes of Star Trek, to seek out new characters and plots, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Captain’s log, supplemental: Trust me and keep scrolling. In addition: there is a section at the end addressing recent events that I think I should address. Click here to skip to that section section.

And this week, we have a “whale of a time” with the strange case of:

DSC-07 Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

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No, the Sanest Man goes “Mudd”

WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS

In this episode, Michael Burnham faces her greatest challenge yet aboard the Discovery. In classic main character fashion, she ‘has’ to go to a party. So, there she finds herself. After some “small-talk” with her new best friend Cadet Tilly, she goes on to share some minor awkward dialogue with Lt Tyler. Soon, she is called to the bridge along with the new Chief of Security. The two run into Lt Stamets and Dr Culber on the way, and share some even more awkward dialogue (including a hug for Michael) — which just deepens the trauma poor Michael must be going through by now.

On the bridge, the crew find the ship faced with a ‘Gormagander’ — a “space whale” which seems to be in poor health (and doubles as a mild reflection of Michael’s lack of emotional ability in the face of “work”). They beam the poor girl on board, and that’s just when all the events so far are revealed to be the work of a certain artist.

One con-artist, to be precise: Harcourt Fenton Mudd (!).

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Mudd has no problem revealing his plan: he intends to find out what’s so special about Discovery, and sell it to the Klingons — avenging both his abandonment by Captain Lorca on the Klingon ‘prison ship’ in Choose Your Pain, and the his loss of his “dear, sweet Stella, the only woman [he] has ever loved”.

Cornered by the actions of the bridge crew, Mudd acknowledges he can’t take over the ship “this time” and tells Captain Lorca that he intends to kill him as many times as he can. Following his little speech, Mudd promises he will see Lorca again soon before blowing up the ship.


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No, the Sanest Man goes “Mudd”

WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS

In this episode, Michael Burnham faces her greatest challenge yet aboard the Discovery: a party. After some “small-talk” with her slightly-drunk best friend Tilly, and even sharing some minor awkward dialogue with Ash Tyler, an announcement rings out, summoning the new Science Specialist and the Chief of Security to the bridge. As they make their way to the bridge, discussing Michael’s past in relation to parties and socialising, they are chased down by a frenzied Stamets. He asks them if they have an idea of what’s going on, before leaving them with one tip: “it all starts with a Gormagander!”

“What’s a Gormagander?” asks Tyler.
“It’s a space-whale.” replies Burnham.

And yes. That’s really explains it.

On the bridge, the two find the ship faced with a Gormagander which seems to be in poor health (and doubles as a mild reflection of Michael’s lack of emotional ability in the face of “work”). They beam the poor girl on board, and that’s just when all the events so far are revealed to be the work of a certain artist.

One con-artist, to be precise: Harcourt Fenton Mudd (!).

dsc-mudd-head

When cornered in engineering, working on the spore drive’s controls, Mudd has no problem revealing his plan: he intends to find out how the spore-drive works. He understands the idea that the drive is powered by the spores, but can’t for the life of him figure out “how” the ship works. When accused of being “mad”, he retorts with a rather chilling “No, I’m Mudd!” (which surprisingly works).

Stamets arrives — seemingly out of nowhere — and stuns Mudd. He explains that they’ve all been through this before, multiple times, before calmly walking away rather than undoing the “critical drive overload” Mudd has set up. Consequently, the ship blows up, just as Mudd had intended.


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No, the Sanest Man goes “Mudd”

WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS

In this episode, Michael and Ash share some awkward dialogue at a party. They’re cut short by a summons for both of them to make their way to the bridge. There’s a Gormagander that they have to save, and Lorca orders the crew to their jobs.

Stamets, who failed to reach the pair at the party explains to Michael that they’re in danger. They’re stuck in a temporal loop. He parrots her earlier (off-screen) words to her to gain her confidence and explains that he — somehow — has been retaining memories of every iteration, possibly due to his exposure to the “multidimensional” Tardigrade DNA. He pleads with her to help him stop Mudd.

Mudd has initiated a 30-minute period of time that repeats until he allows time to return to normal, working under the assumption that only he will retain the memories of each iteration. He uses as many of his infinite attempts at walking the corridors of the Discovery to pry apart the ship’s secrets, and is slowly getting closer to his goal.

Overall, this episode is the Star ‘Trekkiest’ of Star Trek: Discovery so far. I was wrong last week when I identified Lethe as the aforementioned “Groundhog Day“-esque episode. This episode is. And no: the title thankfully doesn’t get a name-drop, even though it’s not as clunky as certain other episodes, although it does have a line of dialogue that comes close (be free, Stewart!).

Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

Along the way, we get a Lorca “death montage” in one of the iterations. As much fun as the scene is, what it really establishes is how much Rainn Wilson is nailing his performance as Mudd. This is a much more sinister version of the classic character. Yesterday, I told our Lieutenant that I was seeing more of a “Jack Sparrow in space” with how Mudd was being dealt with in Discovery, and it’s safe to say that I didn’t do a bad job of describing Wilson’s take on the character.

As much as I like Mudd, I hope he is kept away for a few episodes, since we’ve already seen him twice in three. Too much Mudd would lessen the character. That said, he has been a most delightful character up until now. If this episode is his grand “send off”, setting him up for the Star Trek episodes he originally appeared in, I’m a bit unhappy that it came so soon. But again, this is Harcourt Fenton Mudd we are dealing with.

A big portion of this episode is dedicated to exploring Tyler and Burnham’s relationship. It’s a relationship driven by Stamets, with a little assistance by Tilly. While it feels a little rushed and would come off as a bit ham-fisted, it’s easily explained by Stamets’ need for prompt action. He even spends the better part of one loop dedicated to establishing the relationship for the sole need that he needs Tyler to divulge information about Mudd, although he does play genuine match-maker for the most part (and his backstory with Culber is quite adorable, too).

I stress once more that Discovery‘s lacking the luxury of not being able to stretch its story out more is harming it, somewhat. A more natural progression has been stifled in terms of most of the characters’ interpersonal relationships right from the beginning.

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Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad is a very “standard” episode as far as Star Trek goes; and if anything, the ending harkens back to the very roots of the franchise itself — right down to the costume design.

A redshirt is included, in the form of a character known only as “random communications officer man”, Saru is called both “lanky” and a “beanpole”, and we learn that there are apparently “823 ways to die in space”.

My true score for the episode is much lower than the one I will state. This episode is a solid 5, not because it’s not spectacular or anything, but because it’s simply… okay. However, not only have I become more lax with my ratings, but the distinct nod to the original Star Trek series makes me bump up the rating for this episode a little bit more. I respect that the team behind Discovery is attempting to retain the late-60s vibe in spirit.

And one of the things is particularly liked about this episode? We get a Captain’s log. It was one of the select things I liked about Star Trek Beyond from the moment it appeared.

It’s a solid episode, and while not necessary viewing, it certainly is recommended. It’s a fun, light-hearted, darkly disturbing episode that hits all the notes it aims to. The ending might leave outsiders scratching their heads, but to those initiated in the lore of the Star Trek franchise, there is no denying the appropriateness of the scene.

After all, the only thing Harcourt Fenton Mudd wants is to put a smile upon his dear, sweet Stella’s face.

As always, a full spoiler section follows.


fuhneob

FINAL RATINGS

THE CROW: 6.5/10

THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 8.5/10

Spoilers lie ahead. Please stop scrolling.

This is your final warning.

Failure to comply will result in your being spoiled.

Complaining afterwards is futile.


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Conning Con-men

WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

This won’t be a very long section.
Click here to skip to the next section.

I’m quite curious how the “time crystal” macguffin works out. The Gormagander is still aboard the Discovery, as is the ship and the crystal it holds. It’ll be interesting to see if they don’t use its infinity stone-like properties and just put it aside from now on. They didn’t with the Tardigrade, but unlike Riphraim, there is no final shot of it that we see to set up its re-use in the future (or was that “rapid decompression” line at the end about releasing the creature back into space? It still leaves the matter of the crystal, though).

Shroom-head Stamets continues to grow on me, and he’s beginning to really rival Saru (who has been left out of the spotlight for some time) as my favourite character on the show. Unfortunately, as I’m beginning to become convinced, his story will not end happily (unless he becomes some form of Q-like being).

And speaking of Q. Rainn Wilson really did harken back to de Lancie’s performances in Star Treks past (well, technically future). A good bit of fun, all around. His “design flaw” line is just plain hilarious.

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I really don’t see this series ending without the mycelium network being irreparably damaged by the actions taken during this series. A fun thought is that the Discovery ends up in a future time-line, to meet a new crew and “hand off” the series, but it’s too early to say anything along those lines just yet.

Finally, while I’m not entirely fond of the Voq = Ash theory, I can see him being a sleeper agent, and the show (and certain accounts on Twitter) are pretty much confirming the fan theory surrounding the characters.I guess it’s something we’ll just have to let play out and see where the story takes the idea.

I’m quite fond of Latif’s effortless command of his character. The performances in Discovery are really beginning to grow on me.

And on a final note: let’s all shed a tear for poor Harcourt.


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On Anthony Rapp, Kevin Spacey, and Recent Events

Welcome back to the non-spoiler section.

So, I only found out about this when I started writing this review. Anthony Rapp, who plays Stamets, says he was sexually propositioned in 1986 by Kevin Spacey when he was fourteen, and Mr Spacey twenty-six.

Now, Kevin Spacey has … apologised for his behaviour. His statement follows:

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Now, this really rubs me the wrong way. This isn’t the sort of thing I would talk about on such short notice, but this is something I must address.

Following a cursory search, the following becomes apparent: in 1999, Mr Spacey replied to questions about his sexuality by saying “It was a fiction” and that the question was “An irritating one, but just a fiction none the less.” (The Sunday Times Magazine). A few months before saying so, he was quoted in Playboy as saying the following (among other things):

  • PLAYBOY: In its now infamous cover story, Kevin Spacey Has a Secret, Esquire reported the rumor that you are gay. Let’s clear this up once and for all.
    • SPACEY: It’s not true. It’s a lie.

  • PB: You obviously took the innuendo seriously to the point that your publicist denied that you’re gay and your agency, William Morris, asked its clients to avoid the magazine.
    • KS: It’s important to make this distinction: It wasn’t that I cared if they inferred I was gay, because I believe people in this country are more advanced than certain members of the media who try to use their medium as a weapon. But I felt betrayed…

2017 AMD British Academy Britannia Awards Presented by American Airlines And Jaguar Land Rover - Show

I would recommend reading the articles in both their entirety so that one can get a full foothold about what Mr Spacey was quoted as saying.

Deadline reports that Netflix has pulled the next season of House of Cards following the events of the last few days, as well as that the upcoming movie Gore might be axed as well. Of course, this is a lot to happen over a short period of time, but let’s take a look at what makes this whole thing troubling.

It’s in the words Mr Spacey chose. Now, while I admittedly haven’t seen many of the movies Mr Spacey has starred in (Se7en comes to mind, which I don’t like all that much), I find the way in which he skips over Mr Rapp’s allegations and skips to his own “coming out” quite awful.

The first paragraph, just on its own, I might be able to abide by. There’s not really much one can do when faced with such an allegation, and any response would come off as a limp excuse. Add to that the fact that Mr Rapp was 14 years old at the time (the really disgusting part), and we have a case of attempted statutory rape.

However, he chooses to continue. Not only is there a bit of a bait-and-switch going on, here, but rather, an ill-thought out choice that serves only to damn Mr. Spacey. A question, first: has he “chosen” to live as a gay man for some time, now? Or is this a response to the allegation? It’s easy for most to assume the latter, but we don’t have much to go on. And does it matter? If this is indeed the first time he’s acknowledging the fact in public, it makes little difference to point it out unless you want to lead the conversation down a different avenue.

Furthermore: how does ANY of this (apart from the bit about his being “drunk”) do anything about the situation?

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I’m a bit angry, as I’m sure many are. Since all I have seen is cursory at best, I cannot comment further on the situation. Some months ago, I read a detailed article regarding a famous footballer (soccer, for those of you who call the sport such) which essentially confirms him as a rapist. I decided then, that despite his services to my own team and the sport in general, I would not hold him to any real regard following the fact.

What I see here, right now, is that Mr Spacey’s panic and subsequent actions do nothing but to mire his name. Power to Mr Rapp for coming forward, and I hope he is well, despite the nature of Mr Spacey’s actions. No one should ever be the subject of the actions as he has described, and all the best to him for continuing to be strong and carry on in the career he has.

There is — and has always been — a disturbing collective thought in the minds of many that homosexuals are predators of children. I know people who have been affected by the fear of said ‘stigma’ in the mere presence of children because of how the larger group thinks. Mr Spacey has unfortunately kicked that hornet’s nest over as well with his poor choice of words.

And as far as “choosing” to “live” as a “gay man” goes, I don’t really know how to qualify this one way or another, but it furthers a divide that some people have in the backs of their minds, and I do think that Mr Spacey, of all the ways he could’ve expressed his thoughts, dug himself an even deeper hole, there.

It’s early days, but I will be keeping an eye on the fallout from Mr Spacey’s announcement. For now, this is all I’ll say on the subject.

Live Long and Prosper. We’ll be back soon with an announcement.


fuhneob

FINAL RATINGS

THE CROW: 6.5/10

THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 8.5/10


See Also


— Crow out

39 thoughts on “Review: Star Trek: Discovery | Episode 7: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad [2017]”

  1. […] The episode slows down considerably following the high tension of the first moments, and starts exploring the interplay between Burnham and Spock (one possibility the episode hints at is one I really wish Discovery does not explore, although Sarek seems cooler to the idea). We are given a “roll call” of the bridge crew — one not unlike the one we had to cobble together in one of our earlier reviews — and it’s a welcome moment. It has been a long time waiting for the characters to ‘formally introduce’ themselves as far as the audience is concerned (keep in mind Harry Mudd’s jibe that one time). […]

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