Star Trek Discovery: “Choose Your Pain” Review – An Ode to the F-Bomb

To Boldly Fucking Go

It is official: Trek has entered the age of the modern tv show. F-Bombs and all.

This is not to be meant disparagingly. Quite the opposite. It just occurred to me why Discovery continues to feel slightly off to me: the character feel tangible. They feel human. Alive. It’s something the best of Trek has in common: the TOS characters and DS9 crew (and latter day Enterprise, but we apparently aren’t allowed to mention them…). There is an easiness through which the actors can slip into their characters, how much they are at ease with living in the future. The original crew did it really well, as did DS9. They were relatable. They got angry, they loved, they mourned, they laughed. And now they curse. I’m not saying the F-Bombs were absolutely necessary to the dialogue, but as anyone who knows me, I can swear like a fucking sailor. People love to swear and the fact that Trek has never gotten away with it so far made the universe so sanitized. Though at least that’s better than coming up with ersatz-curses like ‘drell’, ‘frak’ and ‘kree’.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah. Discovery. I still like the show. Lorca continues to impress me as a character, as does Saru, who form an effective triumvirate with Burnham. Stamets is also growing on me, clearly written as a jerk with a heart of gold and, dare I say it, Sheldon Cooper done right. Also Robert April is now canon. Yippie! …That’s pretty much it for this week.. Is there more to say?

Okay, yeah: The episodes have now established a routine: issue of the week and driving the main story arc forward. Much like pretty much every serialized show out there, there is the issue that we won’t see what is going to happen until all the episodes have aired. Some might argue that this is why Netflix should have insisted on airing everything at the same time. And while that would have been nice to shut up a lot of the detractors, since I’m now pretty sure where the series will be heading, it would have also ruined the viewing experience.

Ever since Netflix brought out its first originals, binging has become the norm for television viewing. I’ve argued in a past article that it has ruined many a good show for me. For the next few months I will be able to watch an episode Monday morning and then go on Facebook and talk to friends and acquaintances about how the show will turn out. This is television for me. It’s a communal serialized adventure we can all engage with, speculate with. Binging kinda ruined that for all of us. I am glad that we can rediscover this now, no pun intended.  

And now for word or two from Jessica “The Angriest Fangirl” and Chris “The American”.

Jessica’s thoughts:

Well we finally had onscreen confirmation of our first gay couple – and got slammed with the But Not Too Gays, darn. Would have really loved it if they had given each other just a quick peck on the cheek or something.

I actually cried in happiness when they set free the tardigrade. And earlier out of sadness when it lost all it’s water and curled up in a ball. Okay, Acting Ensign Water Bear, join tiny non-anthropomorphic robots, non sentient holograms, amorphous blobs of goo and murderous lava monsters in the ever growing list of esoteric things Star Trek has made me weep over.

Rainn Wilson does a great job as a young Harry Mudd but I am not sure how I feel about his inclusion – not only is it contributing to the whole One Degree of Separation Trek is already quite terrible about, but Mudd in TOS didn’t strike me as someone who had lived through something as horrific as a Klingon POW camp.

Lorca’s description of what happened to his prior crew sent shivers up my spine. Jason Isaacs is absolutely fascinating as Lorca, and I’m more and more impressed and a little bit scared of him the more we learn about him. I suspect he is really, really not a good guy, but rather than just being the asshole admiral from TOS of old he has layers, maybe even some hope or redemption.  

Chris’ thoughts:

Discovery has once again shown itself to be a show worth returning to every week. It’s intriguing combination of serialization and episodic storytelling give it an overarching feel but with enough meat in the middle to have a nice individualistic episode. The cast is really coming into their own now, getting a good grip on who their characters are and where they’re going motivation wise, we see growing developments between Saru and Burnham, going from an almost openly adversarial relationship to one of mutual trust, but not yet friendship. Showing that some of the old wounds are healing but they aren’t exactly holding hands and skipping along the decks.

Jason Issacs and Doug Jones, are both equally the stand out characters in the show for me. Captain Lorca is genuinely sinister but we keep seeing elements that he’s not exactly cruel and that there’s more to him than we have been led to believe. His newly revealed backstory, explaining that he had to kill his crew in order to ensure they would be spared a torturous execution showcases his kind of mentality as a leader that was hinted at in the previous episode. He seems to live by Spock’s motto: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” I’m just left wondering how far Lorca is willing to take those needs.

Saru on the other hand is almost the opposite. He is forced in this episode to take command for the first time on his own and his lack of confidence in his own abilities is apparent. Poor guy would have flourished in the squeaky clean and squishy pajama wearing era of early TNG but it’s clear that in this darker and more intense time period of war that he isn’t exactly sure if he has what it takes to command a Starship. He even goes so far as to comprise a list of known honorable Captains (whoo Robert April is canon!) to compare himself to. However we see throughout the episode that he is a good commander when he is challenged, something that I think never happened a lot on the Shenzou. Using his species origin as prey on his planet he’s able to decipher that Lorca being chased was not an attack ship and deduced that given the trajectory of the pursuers that it was indeed his missing Captain. I hope we get to see more of Saru coming into his own on the ship, He’s a great character wonderfully acted by the talented Doug Jones and i want to see where his journey takes him.

Rainn Wilson of course shines through as the guest character in this episode playing the infamous and devious Harcourt Fenton Mudd. We get a lot of good scenes with him and I almost like him better than the original 60’s actor, Roger Carmel. Mudd is smart and insidious he even says it himself, he will take the food from the mouth of starving men if it ensures he will survive. We even get some backstory on him and his wife Stella (very funny if you remember his original fate regarding Her in The Original Star Trek). His speech on Starfleet how they’re dangerous and sport a superiority complex is spot on, and not the first time this has been addressed in the franchise. Almost every major threat to the Federation has been because of Starfleet’s insistence to keep “Boldly going where no man has gone before”. It’s been confirmed that Wilson will return as Mudd and I’m excited for it now, especially since he very much will have it out for our sinister Captain.

Finally I won’t go too far into it here, but the new character of Ash Taylor is already shrouded in mystery, He was in all the promotions but only now has shown up. I won’t discuss it until we get more episodes to see where this goes but all i’m saying is that, while L’Rell was up and in the action, I noticed a very absent Voq.

“Remain Klingon”.

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Author: Alex

Full time student, part time "writer" of things.

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