Star Trek: Discovery: “Choose Your Pain” is an Absolute Masterwork

Captain Lorca is kidnapped by the Klingons because Starfleet sends high-ranking officers in a dinky little shuttle across space during wartime like big stupid idiots which necessitates Discovery to use her fidget spinner spore drive to jump into Klingon Space to save him. However, Burnham’s pet tardigrade and spore drive navigator isn’t taking to its nipple clamps very well leading Burnham on a collision course with Saru, Discovery’s new acting captain. Meanwhile, Lorca makes the acquaintance of a fellow prisoner of the Klingons, Harcourt Fenton Mudd (Harry for short).

I know I get a little tumultuous when it comes to Star Trek‘s toxic fan base and I’ve been trying not to let my anger show toward them, but seriously… with this episode, you can kindly shut the heck up about the show not being optimistic or celebrating the human condition. You can shut the heck up about characterization, you can shut the heck up about the writing, you can shut the heck up about canon. You can roll up all of your little opinions about The Orville being better into a little ball and cram it.

Star Trek: Discovery has more than earned its place in the Star Trek universe and, whether this is Prime Timeline, Kelvin Timeline, or some third timeline is as irrelevant as fighting the Borg. This is a quality product, it is a damn fine show, and if you are so obsessed with minutiae that you can’t enjoy this series because they’re not using cardboard sets or 3.5 inch floppies, then you need serious help or you just need to flip off right out of the fanbase. I’m sick of you.

So, yes… this episode was spectacular. Certainly the best episode of Discovery so far and probably a contender for one of the best episodes of Star Trek as a whole.

(Oh, I can hear the toxic fan base crying out in agony and it’s like music to me).

So, what was great about it?

Harry Mudd for starters. Rather than feeling like a nostalgic bone thrown to the fans, I was rather taken in to how effortlessly Mudd fit into the story and how close he was, character-wise, to his 1966 counterpart. Rainn Wilson was great as the old con-man, building on what Roger C. Carmel did in the old series, he’s crafted a new Mudd both faithful to the classic and bubbling with new possibilities.

On Discovery, the crew is faced with an ethical quandary to which there is no right answer. Continue to use the possibly-sentient tardigrade as an unwilling navigator, thus harming or killing it, or risk the captain to come up with an alternative that might not work? There were amazing character moments from Burnham, Saru, Stamets, and Tilly (who, after reservations, I am becoming more fond of), there were harsh words, dilemmas, and the first f-word ever uttered in Star Trek history which were both unexpected and hilarious. Everyone got at least one great scene, there were countless character payoffs, countless character moments, and everything in this episode just worked. I have no other way of putting it, other than it just worked.

One thing I haven’t seem mentioned anywhere else – though, it’s only been a couple of hours and maybe I just haven’t noticed it yet – is the fact that this also appears to be the first time that Star Trek has ever directly dealt with the topic of rape and, not only that, but the sexual assault of a man by a woman and it appears that this sexual assault has left some pretty deep scars in Tyler’s psyche. I really hope that this isn’t just dropped in later episodes.

So, yes, the action at the end was great but the subsequent decision of what to do with the Tardigrade is really what propelled this episode into classic territory. It’s that wonderful optimism and exploration of the human spirit that I like… the ability to look at a bad situation and think, how can we fix this? Not being content with letting the characters get lost in gray ambiguity, but having them take a stand and do what’s right. This may be “grittier” and more “realistic” Star Trek, but it is still Star Trek… it feels like Star Trek. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

“Choose Your Pain” is a masterwork. The best episode of Discovery and one of the best episodes of Star Trek ever.

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