So, apparently beer pong survives into the 23rd century. That and apparently classical music includes Wyclef Jean's 1997 "We Trying to Stay Alive" which I found less believable. The premise for "Magic to make the Sanest man go mad" (which is among the worst Star Trek titles since "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry" and "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky") is Harry Mudd has successfully seized control over the Discovery and trapped it in a thirty minute time loop.
The obvious inspirations for this episode include Bill Murray's black comedy Groundhog Day and Star Trek's "Cause and Effect." The latter worked wonderfully because there was a sense of mystery and the fact we didn't know how any of the characters would get out of this. Here, we have the character of Stamets remember each of the iterations, which means it's really just a matter of him being competent enough to defeat a somewhat blundering con man. The fact it takes a ridiculous amount of effort for Stamets and the rest of the crew to defeat Mudd doesn't speak well to their talents. Honestly, I think Mudd showed himself planning better than Khan Singh did in "Space Seed" and that's a bit hard to swallow.
|Michael is not a party girl.|
I think part of the issue I had with this episode is the tone was all wrong. Mudd is a vicious killer in this episode, constantly resetting time to murder Captain Lorca over and over again. I don't have a problem with this behavior as the idea Mudd is dangerous despite his roguish personality isn't a problem for me. It's just the ending, where Mudd is forced to be returned to his pretty yet (apparently--she seems entirely likable in her brief appearance) obnoxious wife is a poor substitute for jail-time after an act of terrorism. Also, it does clash with Mudd's latter continuity appearances as you'd think he'd be listed in the Starfleet Most Wanted Database.
There's also the fact much of the episode is devoted to Michael Burnham's love life. Michael is revealed to have never been in love, which is treated as some great shame but I'm not sure she's even thirty yet. Also, of course she hasn't. Michael was raised on Vulcan and then put into Starfleet as an adult. Vulcans only mate once every seven years, practice arranged marriages, and she was someone who didn't have the typical college experience. The treatment that it's some great personal shame for her didn't fit with what we know of her.
|Stamets is the worst guy to depend on in a crisis.|
Despite this, I'm not too harsh on it because Discovery kind of illustrates how the nature of the Star Trek nerd has changed over the course of fifty years. Nerds are now incredibly rich and popular people thanks to buying their own version of Narnia in Silicon Valley. The sciences aren't quite the refuge of the socially unsuitable they used to be and thank the Quantum Overgod for that. Even so, I think those who fans who thought of the future as a place of cellos and three-dimensional chess are going to be annoyed by this scene. Still, as much as I remember fraternity parties being pretty awful if you were blind drunk, I think I prefer them to the idea we'll spend our time in holodecks full of Irish stereotypes like on Voyager.
|Stella could do so much better.|
In conclusion, this is probably my least favorite of the Discovery episodes so far. There's some great moments and some less than great moments. This would be fine if not for the fact Star Trek: Discovery feels like the kind of show which could have twice as many episodes with half the budget. There's a lot of movie-esque level special effects like dealing with a "space whale" that really didn't need to be included and the show could easily be rewritten to be 26 episodes instead of 13 with more talking versus explosions.