Star Trek Discoverys Time Loop Knows Youve Been Here Before

first_img It’s nice to see that even with its darker wartime setting, Star Trek: Discovery can still have some fun. What better way to prove that than with a classic Trek premise that led to one of The Next Generation’s best episodes? This is exactly the kind of Star Trek story I’ve always loved. Something weird is happening to the crew and the few who notice it need to figure out what. In this case, it’s a time loop. Specifically, a time loop created by Harry Mudd, who wants to steal the Discovery and sell it to the Klingons. We all knew Lorca shouldn’t have abandoned him on that Klingon ship.How he escaped and where he got this time loop device are never discussed. It’s not that important. It’s Harry Mudd, he’s nothing if not resourceful. Discovery has a cool twist on the time loop story, though. When we begin the episode, we’re not seeing the first loop. It’s happened somewhere around 50 times already. And it’s not Burnham who notices something is wrong. It’s Stamets. He’s already got the basic premise figured out the first or second time we see him. It’s a fun way to acknowledge that we’ve seen this story before. We don’t need to be reintroduced to the concept of a time loop as we’ve all seen “Cause and Effect” and  Groundhog’s Day. Instead, we can get right to trying to solve it.The reason for the time loop is that Mudd needs to figure out how to fly the Discovery before he sells it to the Klingons. On each loop, he learns a little bit more, but he’s still missing one important piece: Stamets. Without Stamets literally plugged into the spore drive, you can’t reliably fly the ship anywhere. Having Stamets be the only crew member to see the loop was a smart way to build on the effects of the tardigrade DNA in his system. He now exists slightly outside of time. I guess that’s what that delayed mirror image was at the end of the last tardigrade episode? Since Stamets knows the ship is safe as long as Mudd doesn’t know how to fly it, he can take his time in trying to figure things out. This leads to some fun and adorable scenes where he teaches Burnham how to dance with and hit on Tyler. They have to get him on board somehow.Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber; Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Paul Stamets; Shazad Latif as Lieutenant Ash Tyler; Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham (Photo via CBS)That’s what made this time loop story especially interesting. Knowing that we’ve all seen this premise before, it focused on character instead. Burnham’s Vulcan upbringing means she’s not great at parties or dealing with feelings for a fellow crewmember. Over the course of the episode, Tilly and Stamets encourage her to explore her human emotions, and that makes for some compelling character drama. We also got to see more of Tyler’s soft side. His and Burnham’s kinda-romance is written well enough that you start to root for them. I really hope the theory about him secretly being Voq isn’t true now. Not only because it’s disappointing when we can see something coming that far away. Even with that theory hanging over everything, I’m starting to like Tyler. I don’t want him to be a Klingon spy. Though making us like a character we’re pretty sure is the bad guy would be an impressive feat for the writers of this show.Rainn Wilson continues to be a perfect choice to play the younger Harry Mudd. He brings just the right mix of goofiness and malice to the role. We take him seriously as a threat, but we’re also able to laugh at his over-the-top performance and ridiculously elaborate plans. When he taunts Lorca for having gotten the better of him countless times, Wilson is clearly having so much fun it’s impossible not to smile. It’s also so much fun to watch Mudd kill Lorca with increasingly outlandish sci-fi methods. Beaming someone out into space might be my new favorite Star Trek death. Better still, you can tell the writers understand Mudd. They’ve thought his character through to the point where Burnham’s trick to buy the team that crucial final loop feels natural and brilliant. She plays on his greed, offering herself up for Mudd to sell her to the Klingons before swallowing concentrated Dark Matter. (Side note: We now have a new candidate for most painful-looking Star Trek death.)Rainn Wilson as Harry Mudd; Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca ; Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham; Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Paul Stamets; Shazad Latif as Lieutenant Ash Tyler (Photo via CBS)It’s the resolution that comes after that where the episode falls short. One side effect of giving Stamets all the agency in this episode is that there are things he does that we don’t get to see. When we reach the scene where the crew cleverly turns it all around on Mudd, it feels cheap and convenient. It’s like in the episode’s fast-forwarding through the beginnings of each loop, it skipped over something important. We never got to see them dig through the archive or find out which systems are “non-essential.” Their solution doesn’t logically follow from the last thing we see Burnham discover. She finds out that Mudd smuggled the time crystal’s power source aboard inside the space whale, but that doesn’t have anything to do with how they defeat him. What should have been a delicious turning of the tables is instead almost a deus ex machina. We should have been able to figure out a way to defeat Mudd right alongside the Discovery crew. Instead, we were as in the dark as he was. As an audience member, that doesn’t feel good.Even though it bungled the landing, this was still a fantastic and fun episode of Star Trek: Discovery. The time travel episodes of Star Trek are far and away my favorite, and for the most part, this was a real good one. I did appreciate the retcon of Mudd’s wife at the end of the episode. In the original series’ “I, Mudd,” she was a stock nagging wife trope straight out of a 1960s sitcom. It hasn’t aged well, and this change makes it clear that Mudd’s the problem. She seems perfectly nice, if a little spoiled by her rich father. It’s just that Mudd is a terrible human being. I also didn’t mind that the episode containing so much murder ended in light comedy. Mudd was always more of a comic relief villain, and I appreciate that Discovery is keeping him that way. Even during wartime, the show is capable of pulling off a lighter tone. It also leaves the series open to bring Mudd back at some point in the future. They totally will. He’s too great a character to let him stay tied down forever.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. 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