“Never hide who you are. That’s the only way relationships work.” -Stamets
Previously on Star Trek: Discovery: Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) had to go save her emotionally repressed Vulcan dad Sarek (James Frain), Lorca had a packed day of eating snacks creepily, sleeping with his ex Cornwell (Jayne Block) who happens to be his boss, being outed as still having PTSD, and had his ship almost taken away before he manipulated the Admiral into getting captured by the Klingons, Kol (Kenneth Mitchell) was able to have some fun doing his favorite thing in the galaxy, betrayal, Stamets (Anthony Rapp) was still riding the mushroom high and the mushroom high was groovy, Tilly (Mary Wiseman) added the ship of Burnham and Tyler (Shazad Latif) to her fleet, and Saru (Doug Jones) was… there?
Burnham has finally started to find a place for herself on the Discovery. She has a new BFF in Tilly, her sciencing is interesting and cutting edge, she and Lorca are kicking Klingon ass, her boss Stamets is way more fun now that he’s permanently high on mushrooms, and best of all, she’s crushing on a dreamy Lieutenant who understands trauma and is not at ALL shady or suspicious. As awesome as crushing feels, it’s also freaking Burnham right the fuck out because she’s not actually sure how to go about being in a healthy adult relationship with like, feelings and shit.
Luckily, or unluckily, for Burnham the Discovery is about to have… a party. *shudder* It’s cool to know that Burnham reacts to parties much like I do, with extreme anxiety. I hope there is a dog there so she can hide in the corner and pet it. Tilly, however is a party rockstar, kicking ass at beer pong, shimmying to Wyclef, scoping the hot dudes and rejecting all those that are not cool enough musicians for her vibe. As the official Captain of the S.S… Burner? Tyham? Tilly wants the deets, y’all. What is Burnham’s deal with Tyler? Where is that going?
Tyler stands up to reinforce his reputation as the sweetest, coolest dude on the ship by giving a pitch perfect speech about the sacrifices that they’ve made and will never forget. The room swoons. Tyler finishes up winning the hearts and minds of Discovery’s crew and bops his way over to Burnham and Tilly. Tilly, like the dedicated wingwoman she is, vamooses and leaves Burnham alone with her crush for some good old fashioned flirting. Burnham promptly fucks it up, but it’s okay! Because Tyler and Burnham are being called to the bridge.
Burnham attempts to backtrack her awkwardness as they walk and talk, but before she can they run right into Stamets and Culber. Burnham tries to apologize for knocking Stamets’ science paraphernalia to the ground, but Mushroom Stamets is high as shit and is marveling at the beauty of a world that would allow them to bump into each other. The unpredictability! It’s beautiful. Oh and also, Tyler man, you are so tall and it’s not at all suspicious in that you just came back from seven months of torture and are totally emotionally stable. What’s up with that?
Culber tries to apologize how mind-meltingly high his #SpaceBoo is, but Stamets is on a roll. Did y’all see his cool new cybernetic arm that his hot doctor made? Gosh, Culber is always looking out for him. Isn’t life grand? Also… what’s the deal with the S.S. Burner? (I’m rolling with it.)
Tyler and Burnham escape to the bridge where Saru lets everyone know that there be gormaganders here, some kind of nearly extinct space whale. Well, we all know Starfleet’s policy on whales… beam them onto the ship and take them to safety! Burnham explains that the gormaganders are nearly extinct because they keep ignoring their instincts to mate and so they usually end up sad and alone instead of hooking up with that hot lieutenant… wait… were we talking about the gormagander or Burnham? Burnham heads over to the shuttlebay to check on the gormagander, who is an old maid, apparently, and also not at all a metaphor for Burnham, nope, no siree.
The gormagander is having a pretty shitty day, really not feeling her best. Burnham and co. start scanning her to figure out what’s wrong, but apparently what’s wrong with her is that she’s got a dude in a pretty awesome buglike helmet tucked away inside her. He pops out like goddamn Space Jonah and starts shooting people. Burnham dives out of there and manages to alert the bridge and they lock down the mysterious bug headed dude.
Lorca is ready to yell, but SURPRISE! It’s Mudd, and he’s ready to revenge party like it’s 2136! BTW, Lorca, this is why if you’re going to be a ruthless asshole, you’ve got to COMMIT. Otherwise you’re just leaving behind future enemies. Mudd is pissed that he’s going to miss out on canoodling time with good old Stella and tells Lorca that he’s looking forward to repeatedly murdering him… which wow. Dark. He turns his time turner and the Discovery explodes. BOOM.
Anddddddd we’re back at the party to catch the tail end of Tyler’s panty-dropping speech. Just as we’ve settled in to enjoy a repeat of our time loop Stamets shows up to throw a wrench in Groundhog Day in Space. You see, Stamets is the only one who actually remembers all of timelines and recognizes that they’re in a time loop. He does some ranting and tips off Tyler and Burnham to the fact that it all starts with the gormagander before Dr. #SpaceBoo hustles him away. Tyler and Burnham make it to the bridge and as soon as the Saru says the word gormagander they are ready to admit that, hey, yeah there are probably some serious shenanigans going on.
Team Burner is unsuccessful in deterring the captain from bringing the gormagander onto the ship but this time they are a lot more cautious. Unfortunately, Mudd is still two steps ahead of them and transports himself directly to engineering this time around. He sends the ship into black alert while trying to figure out the inner workings of the spore drive.
Tyler and Burnham try and stop him and Burnham finds out that Mudd was Tyler’s cellmate in Klingon Alcatraz. Tyler tries to shoot Mudd but hits a barrier instead. Mudd is sick and tired of trying to get this damn spore drive to work, so can someone just cut to the chase and tell him already? Stamets pops up to shoot Mudd in the back because Stamets is fucking awesome in this episode. Burnham and Tyler try and direct Stamets to the imminent blowing up problem, but Stamets just sighs and says that they’ll have to deal with it on another try. Because their lives currently suck.
Back at the Disco party, LITERALLY ahahahahahahhhaaa, Tyler and Burnham start their awkward dance all over again. Stamets manages to catch up with Burnham just before she hits the shuttle bay and lays it all out. Temporal loop, thirty minute repeat, mad shenanigans. He chants her spiel about how he needs to go to sick bay in unison with her, and well, that’s compelling new evidence.
Back on the bridge, Lorca just wants to pick up this fish thing and get going, but he’s being called to sickbay for an emergency with Stamets. Mudd intercepts him in the elevator and forces him at gunpoint to bring him into the ready room of doom, because Mudd is super into serial killer memorabilia.
Stamets is catching Burnham up during a walk and talk. His mushroom DNA hasn’t only made him hilariously into Phish records, it’s also made it so he is an inter-dimensional badass. But time is against them, because at some point soon, Mudd is going to figure out that the missing piece in the spore drive is Stamets himself.
Stamets wants Burnham to figure out more about Mudd himself from Tyler, from back when they were cellmates swapping cigarettes and stories in space jail. He also wants Burnham to tell him a secret that will help him speed up the exposition time in the next loop. Burnham whispers a secret into his ear, and he looks unbearably sad for her.
Mudd really digs Lorca’s creepy serial killer room, which shouldn’t surprise anyone considering the montage of Mudd gleefully killing Lorca over and over that follows. This dude is a stone cold murderer, y’all. It’s horrible but it’s also kind of hilarious? I’m a bad person, apparently. I particularly like the sequence where Lorca runs screaming at Mudd and gets spaced, all while Mudd happily eats a sandwich of some kind. #Classic
Back at the party, Stamets shows up and throws Tilly at a musician before telling Burnham that her darkest secret is that she’s never been in love and to please please please not waste time before helping him save their ship. It works. He tells Burnham it’s her job to get the lowdown on this shady Mudd asshole from Tyler, who likes her. Like, LIKES HER, likes her. Burnham immediately blows it with Tyler, because that’s her MO.
Stamets realizes he’s not going to get anywhere with Burnham until Burnham can stop being a hot mess, and so he takes his new friend to the hallway and they dance. For science. Burnham doesn’t know how to connect with people, so Stamets shares the story of how he and his Dr. #SpaceBoo met. It’s a sweet story involving terrible humming and Stamets’ beloved resting bitch face. But the crux of it is, they were honest with each other. Because that’s what you do when you care about someone.
I’m not even going to front, I actually teared up at this scene. Having a gay man give advice on love based on his incredibly healthy relationship while telling Burnham not to hide who she is? *chokes up* It’s beautiful. And I love that we have gotten to this point for these two. Their first interaction was so antagonistic and now they are slow dancing in the hallways of Discovery, talking about love while working together to save their ship and their crew. It is everything. I declare them #SpaceBros. Stamets tells Burnham she’ll do better next time, and they hold hands while the world ends.
Tyler and Burnham finally get their dance and whew boy is there a lot of chemistry. *fans self* Tilly is off to the side fucking LIVING. Burnham throws her cards down. Mudd is here, there is a time loop, and she likes Tyler. Tyler takes this in and decides, fuck it, if I’m in a time loop I might as well get that kiss. It’s lovely. They really are making me hope that Tyler isn’t a spy at all, that he’s exactly who he seems, and that he and Burnham will sail off into a nebula together.
Tyler gives Burnham the rundown about the sorts of jobs that Mudd would brag about back when they were in space jail together and Burnham concludes that Mudd must have a time crystal. I want a time crystal. Will someone give me a time crystal please? Stamets, Tyler, and Burnham head out ready to take Mudd and his time crystal DOWN.
Back on the bridge, Saru is still trying to get Lorca to understand that the space whale is not a fish, and Lorca still doesn’t give two shits. Suddenly Saru is locked out of the bridge controls and there is very loud classical music happening. Mudd storms on the bridge, and man, is he sick of gloating. He really just wants to get the fuck out of here. He sends Lorca to the brig and threatens everyone else with “weaponized dark matter” which apparently will rip them apart. I mean, it doesn’t sound fun to me, like, at all.
Tyler, Stamets, and Burnham burst onto the bridge and try and stop Mudd. They fail. Mudd hits Tyler with the dark matter and Burnham watches as Tyler is ripped apart before her eyes. She’s ready to fucking throw down, but Saru holds her back.
Mudd threatens to disintegrate every person on the bridge until someone tells him how the spore drive works. Stamets has watched everyone he cares about die repeatedly over and over again and he’s hit his limit. He finally tells Mudd that he is the missing part of the spore drive. Mudd is delighted, and immediately warps them to the drive, leaving Burnham behind to plot revenge. C’mon, Mudd, did you learn nothing from Lorca’s mistake?
Burnham grabs her trusty sidekick Tilly and they are ready to wreck. Tilly is scanning the gorgamander and they figure out that Mudd has hidden both his ship and the time crystal in the poor space whale. Burnham has the beginnings of a plan, but she needs to get Mudd to reset the time-stream otherwise everyone he killed will remain dead, including Tyler.
Burnham confronts Mudd, who waxes philosophical about riding the solar winds while crying out “STELLLLAAAAAAAAA”. Burnham points out that, yeah, the Klingons would pay a lot for Discovery but they’d pay a lot more for The Mutineer, Slayer of T’Kuvma. Mudd starts to hear the ding of dollar signs in his head, but before he can scoop up Burnham to sell her to the Klingons, she knocks back the dark matter and disintegrates, forcing Mudd to reset the timeline again. He thinks that he’s going to waltz away with everything. Burnham has other plans.
Mudd makes it to the bridge but, what’s this? The crew is there and ready to hand over the ship. They’ve seen the light, there’s no way to beat Mudd. He’s just toooooooo smart. What can lowly Starfleet officers do against the great Mudd of the galaxy? They offer him a trade, he gets Stamets, Burnham, and the ship, and everyone else gets to walk away. Mudd is suspicious, but Lorca makes his eyes big and sad and says he can’t go through what he went through with his last ship. Mudd bites, because… um… because he actually buys this? Dumbass. He hails the Klingons and leaves the bridge with a shouted “adieu, mon capitaine”.
Mudd’s strolling down the hallway, and Stamets and Burnham start laying out the con. Stella? Stella has been looking for Mudd, along with her arms dealer daddy. Tyler finally, FINALLY, gets an actual drop on Mudd and Burnham disarms him. Stamets is like, haha you thought you’d get away with it, but here I am existing outside the normal time stream! Ya burnt! Mudd is confused, but surely, the Klingons will save him. Uh-ohhhhhhhhhhhh turns out that the crew called his girl Stella instead of the Klingons.
Stella and her dad are ready to take Mudd off Starfleet’s hands, and for some unimaginable reason the crew is cool with sending off the dude who murdered all of them without blinking to a free life, instead of, I don’t know, a jail cell? As if life with Stella is more torturous than breaking rocks on some crap moon for all his days. Okay guys.
Tyler and Burnham take another awkward elevator ride. Burnham is still trying to sort through her feelings, which are complicated. Tyler’s just bummed that they missed their first kiss. But Burnham is getting there. She’s figuring shit out. She’s ready to make changes and to find her place.
This episode was super enjoyable. There were some plot holes and things got a wee bit too convenient, but they dodged the biggest hurdle of any time loop episode, which is to not make it boring. Tone-wise it was a nice break from all of the super heavy moral conundrums we’ve found ourselves in lately. It’s cool to find out that Discovery can pull off a fun shenanigans episode.
Having Stamets be the link was brilliant and Anthony Rapp’s performance was a pure joy to watch. He hit every note perfectly, sadness, excitement, pain, love. Sonequa also completely brought it, giving Burnham a lot of pathos underneath the Vulcanness. I want more scenes with Burnham and Stamets because their relationship is quickly becoming one of my absolute favorites.
I do think they made a misstep with Mudd. They took him from trickster with a sinister edge to stone cold killer in this episode, which to me makes it hard to reconcile this Mudd with the TOS Mudd. Rainn Wilson was funny enough in this role that all of the murder didn’t really have much weight, and obviously in the end he didn’t actually end up killing anyone. But he would’ve. And he wouldn’t have cared even a little bit. The idea that Starfleet would let a sociopath like this off to roam the galaxy is troubling to say the least. Not to mention he knows about the spore drive? Why would you let this dude swan away to fall into Klingon hands? He’ll sell them all out the first chance he gets.
Ah well. We’ll just have to do better next time.
Custom Gifs by Aaron Reynolds: @sweartrek, Patreon, Tumblr
Your reviews are totally excellent!!!
Eric, see also Fritz Lieber’s story “Try and Change the Past”, or Robert Heinlein’s “All You Zombies–“. Temporal loops, and people trying to escape them, isn’t exactly a TNG invention.
Something I didn’t get until I re-watched it: the reason Burnham remembered the situation in the last two loops was because she had been holding hands with Stamets in the one before those.
One aspect I really loved was the use of popular music during the party. All you ever heard on the previous ST series was either serious music (too damn many string quartets) or a little soft jazz (ugh, puke!). Here we got lively! Actual music you could listen and DANCE to !! Good to see Star Fleet didn’t drain all the humanity outta these guys. Besides, didn’t we send Chuck Berry into space?
There are no words for how much I love your reviews. Also #Spaceboos forever
One of the criticisms the first season of DS9 got a lot was that most of the episodes were rehashed TNG stories. But the last time I did a rewatch, the pattern that emerged into my view was that the science fiction premises may have fit into TNG well, but that they were recontextualized in DS9, in a way that spoke to the situation and characters of the show. For example, a typically bizarre set of anomalies might have been triggered by a Bajoran booby trap.
What is evident with this latest episode is that this is the literal rehashing of a premise from TNG, namely the episode “Cause and Effect,” using a device that would later be employed much more famously by the film “Groundhog Day.” Those two stories, and this one, involve a time loop and people determined to get out of that loop.
But what makes it uniquely a DSC episode is that it involves this more sinister version of Harcourt Fenton Mudd. The delicious (I may be on track to overusing that word in these reviews) resolution to this episode recalls the way Kirk & Co. dealt with Mudd in TOS, with a surprise cameo. It also develops the characters of Stamets, Burnham, and Tyler in very sweet and endearing ways. Stamets and Tilly are socially awkward, but they have genuine compassion for the even more socially awkward Burnham.
I try to write about these episodes without any spoilers, but I will give something away right now. This is the first filmed Star Trek story not to include a death since some time during the run of ENT. I’ve long advocated for the writers to challenge themselves by writing a story in which no one dies, because I think it would force them to think of a creative solution to the problems the crew face. You could certainly cite this episode as evidence proving my point.
I think context is for Kings, regarding Mudd’s Murders. He was essentially playing the game “incorrectly” to learn how to win. And like a lot of gamers, he had fun with consequence-free murder. The treason charge is the real biggie. But even so, it’s not a long walk between sex and robot trafficker to straight up murderer. He’s a narcissistic life-ruiner, even in TOS/TAS.