‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 1 Episodes 7 & 8- ‘Round and ‘Round Again

On the latest episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery,” we had yet another battle with the Klingons and prepped for a potential new one, saw the return of Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson), got stuck in a time loop, visited a planet of sound (cue the Pixies), and Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) faced her biggest challenge yet… attempting to have fun at a- gasp- party!

First up was “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” in which Harry Mudd, using a device that is able to cause a “time loop”- think “Groundhog Day,” only covering a shorter amount of time and done intentionally by one specific person, with the intention of getting to the bottom of what’s so special about the Discovery starship, in hopes of selling it to the Klingons for an inflated price.

To amuse himself while trying to figure out the ship’s secrets, Mudd gleefully kills off various people on the ship in a wide variety of ways- in particular Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs)- sometimes using the wide variety of weaponry he finds in Lorca’s “mancave,” some of which will no doubt be familiar to hardcore fans.

One problem with his dastardly plot- his time loop has no effect on Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), due to his taking over for the “Ripper” creature, by fusing its DNA with his own, in order to take over for it in running the spore drive, which was killing the poor thing. As eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed, this act caused some oddball after-effects, including a mirror image that seems to move at a different rate than Stamets himself.

Here, the repercussions became much more overt, as Stamets began behaving in a loopy, over-the-top manner, bordering on gleeful, which, needless to say, was decidedly out-of-character for the normally staid scientist. This did not go unnoticed by others on the ship, particularly his significant other Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) and the more consistently perky Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman).

In terms of the time loop, Stamets seems to be the only one unaffected by the incident, and has the misfortune of having to endure one after another, all of which end in Mudd blowing up literally everything to start the loop over again so that he can take yet another crack at figuring out what’s so special about the ship.

Needless to say, he opts to take action, approaching what he hopes will be the most sensible of the ship’s crew, Burnham, her being part Vulcan and all. It proves to be a wise move, but not without its own problems, as it takes a while to get things to happen the way they need to in the limited time frame in order to thwart Mudd’s dastardly plot.

Along the way, Burnham, who was attending a party on the ship, has to learn to dance, engage in her first ever kiss with Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), who she has become enamored with recently, while admitting that she’s never been romantically involved with anyone over the years. Even worse, with each subsequent reset, she- as well as Tyler- remembers nothing.

Eventually, the three finally get somewhere and concoct a plan: Burnham offers herself up for a trade to the Klingons instead of the ship, noting to Mudd that she would be more valuable to them than the ship itself, what with her having killed one of their leaders. Mudd agrees to it, but then Burnham kills herself on purpose, knowing that it will force Mudd to reset the loop once again, therefore bringing back to life everyone Mudd has already killed up to that point, including the Captain and Tyler.

Of course, once he does, Stamets begins the “real” plan, which is to use the ship’s non-essential programs against Mudd, duping him into ending the time loop and supposedly calling out to arrange a meet with the Klingons. Instead, Stamets has actually used the time to research Mudd and find out about his “beloved” Stella (Katherine Barrell), whose father, Baron (Peter MacNeill), Mudd duped out of a dowry, in exchange for a promise to marry his daughter- something Mudd had no intention of doing.

Instead of Mudd calling the Klingons, Stamets blocks the call and calls the Baron to come to the Discovery to fetch Mudd, which he gladly does, as the two of them thought that Mudd had been evading them on purpose- which, of course, he had been. Stamets tells them of Mudd’s capture and his subsequent misadventures and tell them if they are willing to take possession of Mudd, all debts will be forgiven, which they agree to.

So, off Mudd goes to marry Stella, and hopefully never darken the Discovery’s door ever again. Hey, beats being tortured by the Klingons. (Or not, if you go by the poll given on “After Trek,” lol.) I’m guessing we haven’t seen the last of Mudd, though. I’m sure he’ll manage to weasel his way out of things yet again, and likely return to torment the Discovery once more. One can hope, as the character is a lot of fun.

It was admittedly amusing to see a party on a starship, complete with disco music- and a little Al Green, for good measure. Nothing wrong with that. Was this the first party thrown on a starship? I’m sure some fan out there knows the answer. I’d also be curious to know if that was the first time pop music was played on a “Star Trek” show. I know that “Star Trek: Beyond” used the Beastie Boys in a key scene, which was a lot of fun- or jarring, depending on your point of view, I suppose.

I also liked how the episode humanized Burnham a little. Okay, a lot, really. It was interesting seeing the character deal with a scenario she’d never dealt with before- several, really. She’d never attended a party, never danced with anyone, never had a romantic relationship with anyone, and never kissed anyone. That’s a lot of ground to cover in one episode, but, thanks to the whole time loop conceit, the episode was able to tackle it all and more, and in a convincing way.

Though, admittedly, the fact that Stamets was the only one besides Mudd to remember everything that went down from loop to loop- meaning that, in the end, neither Burnham or Tyler really knew what transpired, except from what Stamets told them- the fact that they both know it did happen clearly changes things, and we see the direct results of that knowledge moving forward into the next episode, in which the two actually kiss on purpose this time, knowing full well that it will change things between them.

That episode, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”- which is Latin for “If you want peace, prepare for war”- is the penultimate episode leading into the fall finale of the show, which will go on hiatus for the rest of the year, returning in January. It sets up yet another potential battle between the Discovery and the Klingons, who also battle each other in the beginning of “Magic.”

As we discover, the jewel in the crown of the Klingons’ winning strategy is their ability to cloak their starships, which is to say, render them invisible. As this means that they can instantly appear and start attacking any enemy, this obviously gives them an incredible advantage over the Starfleet. On the plus side, not every Klingon has this ability just yet, as it is in the process of being spread amongst their people at the moment.

However, once they do, it’s practically game over for everyone concerned, so it’s more important than ever for the Discovery to find something to tilt things to their advantage- beyond the spore drive itself, that is, which is the Starfleet’s own feather in their cap. What they need is a knowledge of how the Klingon’s invisibility thing works, since they already know that it is a teachable, obtainable thing, as evidenced by the fact that not all Klingons can do it yet.

To that end, a team is sent to planet Pahvo, which is supposedly uninhabited by life forms, but features a natural, sound-based beacon transmitting device which the Discovery hopes to somehow use to figure out how to harness it and use it as a sonar device to detect the cloaked Klingons. Or something. Whatever the case, things go south when- surprise! – the planet proves to be not as uninhabited as everyone thought.

Almost immediately upon landing, Saru (Doug Jones) is besieged by an inner assault of sound- a sort of buzzing that almost literally drives him crazy. Eventually, he bargains with the gas-like beings, telling them he’ll do anything to make that noise stop. This leads to his double-crossing Burnham and Tyler, taking their communications devices and smashing them, telling them that the beings here have discovered the true way to peace, and that they should all stay there forever and abandon their mission to sing Kumbaya with the aliens there, or whatever.

Naturally, the two of them balk at this, so Tyler dupes Saru into teaching him about the aliens while in actuality distracting Saru long enough for Burnham to escape and go to the place they landed and signal the Discovery to pick them up, using the aforementioned natural beacon to enhance the signal, since their communications devices are destroyed.

Saru figures out what’s going on and rushes to stop Burnham and a fight ensues. It isn’t looking good for Burnham at first, but she makes a plea to the aliens there, pointing out that all they’re trying to do is establish peace with the Klingons, and they need the aliens’ help- or more accurately, their sound-based way of doing things to help the Discovery build their own sonar tech and defeat the Klingons.

This works in the short-term to end the fight between Saru and Burnham- with an assist from an arriving Tyler- and to allow Burnham to signal the Discovery for immediate transport of the three, much to Saru’s dismay, who still wishes to stay put. Unfortunately, the aliens in question also misinterpret Burnham’s message and think that they can simply broker peace between the Starfleet and the Klingons by bringing the two together to talk it out or something. Damn space hippies! They should have stuck with their sing-a-longs, lol.

Upon their arrival, Saru is given the once-over by the medical crew and goes back to normal eventually, apologizing profusely for what he did, and pointing out that, while he may have been infected by these space hippies at the time, his actions weren’t entirely out-of-character. Because his kind live in a constant state of fear, having the aliens remove that fear and put his mind at ease was a new experience for him, and one that he didn’t want to lose, even if it meant hurting others to maintain it.

As such, this brought up his underlying anger towards Burnham and her prior actions and everything she did, as well as the fact that she seems to have evaded paying the price for them, and brought it to the surface, resulting in his own lashing out at her. In other words, by removing his fear, the space hippies ironically caused him to want to kick some ass. Go figure.

Now, by misinterpreting Burnham’s message of herself wanting peace, the aliens may have plunked the Discovery down like lambs to the slaughter, about to be taken out by the Klingons, who aren’t exactly known for their truce-making skills. We actually saw evidence of it- not that we needed any- when they captured Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook), who was ostensibly there to broker peace with the Klingons and instead found herself kidnapped by them.

Speaking of which, we had some intrigue on the Klingon ship, as L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) attempts to curry favor with Kol (Kenneth Mitchell) by claiming she can torture some information out of Cornwell that could prove helpful in their war with the Starfleet. Kol agrees, but once L’Rell gets into the cell, she convinces Cornwell to scream to throw off those listening and instead offers her a deal: if she will get safe passage for her onto the Discovery, she will defect to their side and help them defeat Kol.

In exchange, L’Rell will help Cornwell escape. Cornwell agrees, and the two almost make it, but are caught by some guards and L’Rell is forced to seemingly kill Cornwell to save face. She tells Kol that Cornwell stole one of her blades and used it to force her to help her escape, but that she got some important information before she killed her. Kol, who was inclined to kill her for her incompetence, has a change of heart and instead accepts her as a follower, in exchange for her pledged loyalty and continued work as a torturer.

I suspect that L’Rell might be pulling a fast one, and that she only injured Cornwell, not killed her. This is why she asked to be the one to “dispose” of the body, instead taking Cornwell to the shuttle she had planned to use for them to make their escape. Note also that she saw the bodies of some of her friends there, so she had no reason to join up with Kol, as he had likely been the one to kill them.

L’Rell was simply doing what she had to do to survive in the moment, but I think she fully intends to follow through on her plans with Cornwell in the next episode, as soon as the opportunity presents itself. I also don’t think Cornwell is dead. But I do think that she and Lorca are going to have words once Cornwell makes her way back onto the Discovery, given his part in getting her captured- and the fact that she never got to report him as being “unfit for duty.”

All in all, a good set-up for the fall finale, which should be pretty action-packed on all sides, Discovery and Klingon. It will be interesting to see how they end things for the half-season. Will it be after the current situation is resolved, or will it be in the middle of the action, and instead end on a cliffhanger? We shall see.

If I had to predict what will happen, I would say that the space hippies, upon realizing their mistake, will help the Discovery to defeat Kol, or at least send him packing, and then agree to help them make their sonar device or whatever, to combat the Klingon’s cloaking abilities. I also think that L’Rell will succeed in escaping and her and Cornwell will make it on the Discovery, and shortly thereafter, Cornwell will follow through on her intent to get Lorca suspended from his duties as Captain.

It’s also possible that L’Rell will help the Discovery to defeat Kol in battle instead of the space hippies, or both will help in their own way, at the very least. Either way, it should make for an interesting finale, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all goes down.

I really liked these two episodes in general. The “Magic” one showed a great sense of humor, as well as helping to lighten up the proceedings by showing us a decidedly different, more playful side of Stamets and Green’s deft use of deadpan humor. Some have complained that Green’s performance has been a bit on the stiff side- you’d think they’d never seen a Vulcan before. (Yes, I know she’s technically a human raised as a Vulcan, but still- it makes sense she’d be that way, given that fact.)

I loved the whole notion of a Starfleet party- Starfleet on fleek! – and it was actually fun to hear pop music and see dancing and drinking on a “Star Trek” show. I know such things are not usually to be found on a show like this, but that’s exactly what made it fun and unexpected. The show could actually use more of this sort of thing, albeit they might not want to go overboard with it. But in small doses, every once in a while- I’m here for it.

I know some “Trek” purists probably blew a gasket about it, but hey, their shirts do say Disco! Who says Starfleet can’t blow off a little steam now and again, especially after a big battle? I also love the Mudd character and Wilson’s take on it and hope to see him again on down the line. I loved how he essentially called the show out on certain shortcomings, too, such as when he referred to that one crew member as “random communications officer guy.” Hey, I don’t know the guy’s name, either. Further, I’m a sucker for a good time loop plot-line, so I was completely on board for that, too.

Also, the most recent episode was the first one for me that actually felt sort of like old-school “Star Trek.” Not that the other episodes were bad or anything, or felt that much out of character with the previous series, but that one really felt like the real deal to me, plot-line and all. I can absolutely see that planet of sound thing being an episode of the original series. Overall, I’d have to say these two episodes were easily my favorites to date. Here’s hoping they end things on a strong note.

What did you think of the latest episode of “Star Trek: Discovery”? Which was your favorite? Do you like Wilson in the Mudd role? What did you think of Saru’s “evil” turn? Or Burnham’s romance with Tyler? Are you looking forward to the finale? Any predictions on what will happen? Sound off on this and more down below, and see you after the big fall finale!