[9.4/10] There it is, the moment that Discovery truly became a Star Trek show. I’m mostly being facetious with that comment, but “Magic to Make The Sanest Man Go Mad” is at least the point where Discovery feels the most like a Star Trek show. It encompasses so many hallmarks of the series: the wacky sci-fi obstacle, the colorful interloper, the creative problem-solving, and the attendant character development from whatever the weekly incident is. It’s as creative an hour of Trek storytelling as we’ve had in a long, long time, and that’s something to celebrate.
And then let’s repeat that celebration some 58 times or so. The premise of the episode is surprisingly straightforward given how topsy turvy things quickly get. Harry Mudd is trying to commandeer the Discovery and sell it to the Klingons using a time travel device that allows him to go all Groundhog Day on the ship. Stamets, thanks to his injection with tardigrade DNA and adventures with the spore drive, is the only one who remembers anything from jump-to-jump, and he has to convince Burnham to help him thwart Mudd.
From there, the episode goes wild but never loses the plot. As much as the episode is a story about the latest bit timey-wimey insanity to effect a Federation vessel (we see you, TNG and “Cause and Effect”), it’s also a story about Burnham learning to break out of her own routines and repetitive reflexes. The way the episode ties the repeating nature of the time loop with Burnham’s own personal growth is signposted pretty hard at the beginning and end of the episode, but for the most part, the two are blended together nigh-perfectly, without skimping on one element or the other.
To the point, I’m not sure we’ve had any scene quite like Stamets teaching Burnham how to dance in Discovery before. It’s the sort of human story in a fantastical setting that Star Trek does well, and in an episode that reminded me a lot of a gussied up take on The Next Generation (which isn’t a knock), that scene in particular, and the episode as a whole, reminded me of a big reason why TNG was such a cultural touchstone for so many of us: the characters and their meaningful interactions with one another, both on and off the clock.
It’s nice to see Burnham and Tilly paling around at a party together (where, apparently, people are still listening to remixed versions of “Stayin’ Alive” in the 23rd century). It’s nice to see the romantic sparks between Burnham and Ash play out naturally (albeit kind of insanely given the circumstances). And it’s nice to see Burnham and Stamets have those few minutes they won’t get back to stop and teach and muse a bit about what it is to be with someone. It’s those sorts of human moments that ground the show, and make it as much about the people floating around in that tin can as it is about the crazy premise of the week.
But what a premise! As I referenced above, it’s not the first time Star Trek has pulled this trick, but it’s done with alacrity here. The episode does a nice job at establishing the basic setup and stakes of the situation before diving back in and resetting things each time, and finding new directions to take the story. The iterative progress that Stamets and Burnham make is nigh-perfect, and while the show cheats a little bit (Burnham seems to remember things, or at least the show glosses over some necessary but repetitive infodumps), everything absolutely works in the moment.
That includes the sense of fun and whimsy at play here, and that starts with Rainn Wilson as Mudd. Holy cow is he a boon to this one, bringing that same scruffy, outsized energy as his predecessor and making himself a colorful character to liven up the staid confines of Starfleet. It’s a time-honored tradition in Star Trek (as his calling Lorca “mon capitan” alludes), and having Mudd ham it up ‘round the ship and unleash his scheme with alternating glee and exhaustion with the whole thing is an utter treat.
At the same time, the episode has fun with its rewind-based premise. The montage of different ways that Mudd kills Lorca is darkly comic. The different twists on small talk at the party are plenty amusing. And even Stamets hippie-dippie euphoria and then resigned perturbation at trying to fix all of this turns out pretty darn fun.
The ultimate solution is clever as well. It involves some of that classic Trek lateral thinking, with Burnham realize she’d be the only thing more valuable for Mudd to turn over to the Klingons than the ship, and some crew-wide bluffing to make the whole thing work. There’s an Oceans 11 quality to the whole thing. Sure, the episode doesn’t really sell that the crew of the Discovery may be giving up and giving in to Mudd, but it holds the question of what precisely they’re up to close to the vest, and the reveal is both a nice resolution and an amusing beat for Mudd that ties into the theme of the episode.
That theme is, again, heavily-underlined, with a strong focus on telling people how you really feel. As aesop’s go, it’s not bad, if oversimplified, but it leads to some strong character interactions between Burnham and Stamets and ultimately between Burnham and Ash.
There were a myriad of things that made Star Trek such an indelible part of pop culture over the years. Some of it was the wild scenarios our heroes would get into on a weekly basis. Some of it was the distinctive personalities they’d run into just as often. And much of it was the audience investing in the characters, caring about their personal trials and tribulations as much as the latest technobabble device or universe-wide threat. “Magic” manages to take all those elements and roll them together into one, entertaining hour that sets the high water mark for Discovery so far.
I hear what a lot of fans are saying, but this isn't supposed to be modern day star trek, this is a time when the federation was just formed and people are still trying to unify their morals with the ideals of the species as a whole. This is a time of desperation, and desperation has always led to starfleet officers to having battles of morality. I think it's a great launching point to the modern idealistic universe that the federation turns into, and find it super interesting that it came through not so moralistic means. At the end of this arc with the klingons we know that they sign the Khitomer accords, and the federation and Empire usher in a new era of peace. I find it awesome how they're going about it, each plot is dynamic and I cannot call what will happen from episode to episode, and the fact that the federations launching point is based in moral ambiguity leaves very deep interpretations that you can consider, such as Cpt. Picard's moral virtousness being grounded on the actions of less moral men, because the federation made it to the point where it was established and unified. I dunno, i'm enjoying the series and am looking forward to each new episode!
Now, this is classic Star Trek! Despite a few problems, this is a delight to watch from start to finish and is Discovery's first foray into the tried-and-tested 'bottle show'. These episodes often end up being my favourites, we are given a situation and really get to dive into it. They often reveal a lot about our characters and usually have fun doing it. Great examples of this include 'Civil Defense' (DS9), 'Disaster' (TNG), 'Explorers' (DS9) and of course the other classic Trek time-loop show, 'Cause and Effect' (TNG).
If I had any doubts about Rainn Wilson's portrayal of Harry Mudd, this episode easily washed them away. He's a lot of fun and full of energy, as well as managing to come off as a fairly complex person. It was interesting the way he was quite cruel to the crew of the Discovery, and then shrivels up at the sight of Stella and her father. I think there was a missed opportunity to make her a bit more like the shrew seen in The Original Series, but it's important to remember that what we saw there was Mudd's own vision of her rather than the actual person. The various deaths were quite mean spirited, despite being somewhat offset due to the fact that they weren't permanent A couple were also pretty funny, although I never quite got the impression that those little purple balls caused an "agonising" death.
Mostly, I think I enjoyed that this episode showed us the characters in more relaxed and natural states. Captain Lorca's apathy at finding a space whale is quite funny and even endearing, as he tells his crew to just get on with it (loved that he's finally sitting in the chair, too). Tilly continues to just delight me, and drunk Tilly is even better. It seems to me that she's hiding a lot of confidence under a socially awkward front. Stamets possibly emerged as the best part for me, this new happy version of him is charming and fun to spend time with (again, PLEASE let us get back to that mirror image thing from a couple of episodes ago).
The Burnham/Tyler pairing is maybe not my favourite thing. I don't feel a huge amount of chemistry between them, but then again Michael's standoffish nature means that she doesn't really have chemistry with anybody. I think it's more down to me not really clicking with the character of Tyler, as I talked about in my review for the previous episode. He feels like he's fit in too easily and his personality is a bare minimum.
Where the episode could have done a slightly better job is with the various time loop escapades. The movement through them became a bit too quick, and we are supposed to understand that Stamets explains things to Burnham who explains things to Tyler who explains things to Lorca, etc. every time, and everyone just accepts what they're being told and gets to action? That took me out of things a bit, and I would have been perfectly happy to have longer scenes that established things better. It's also hard to ignore the fact that the episode should have been all from Stamet's point-of-view, as he's the one dealing with it all.
Overall though, damn this was fantastic. The use of the introductory log and mostly self-contained nature of the episode made this feel so much like it was a part of the franchise I love. Mostly, though, it let us get a grip on these new characters and let them just get on with things as opposed to being dragged along by plot mechanics.
It‘s good sci-fi. It‘s not Star Trek. Almost funny how Seth McFarlane‘s Orville is at its core closer to the values and themes of the original Star Trek than Discovery.
Aaaaww, a "Groundhog Day" episode! I'm always so fond of those in each and every show they all appear. But, somehow, I didn't like this one, I actually fell asleep while watching it. Mudd was too damn annoying as a character to make all the "rewinds" appealing, as they're supposed to be with this kind of episode, on other shows. It's like the writers were trying to make a Q out of Mudd, but without any of the charm or charisma. It all fell flat, in the end.Judging by the comments around here, I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but this was the least enjoyable episode of Discovery for me, so far. Not only that, it was one of the least interesting "Groundhog Day" episodes I remember watching on any show.
God I hate time travel episodes
Finally an episode that feels like Star Trek.
This episode was quite close to being awesome. Quite an achievement, considering how new the series is.Sadly the storytelling still is flawed in crucial moments. This time it's when Stamets falters under pressure, exactly in that moment when they finally figured out how to get the upper hand. He has seen several hundred of deaths, why should he reveal the secret to avoid one more? It makes absolutely no sense!
Such issues aside, Sonequa is awesome and fits perfectly for that character. I had high hopes, as she was one of my favs in TWD. It seems she will exceed my expectations.
Time travel is always an A+ in my book and this is classic trek.
Best episode of the series so far I thought.
This episode finally felt like a real episode of Star Trek. There wasn't a lot of internal conflict. This episode showed us the crew of Discovery working together against a common foe. Up until now, most of the episodes have focused on a lot of in-fighting.
Star Trek is supposed to be about a hopeful future for humanity: a time when we work with each other, despite our differences.
It's a shame that they had to rip off a class Next Generation episode before it finally felt like Star Trek.
This was my least favourite episode thus far. I really love the new direction this show is taking, but the time loop episode is just a trope that has been played out. There were qualities to the episode that got it a 6/10 from me, but the time loop story itself hasn't been improved since Kelsey Grammer cameod in TNG's Cause and Effect, which, when it was new, became one of my favourite TNG episodes. But it didn't hold up to repeat viewings, and seeing it copied in other shows made me quickly tire of the trope. So it's just a boring, potentially skippable episode, if not for the developments of three of the main characters (Burnham, Stamets, and Tyler).
Be careful out there, wouldn't want to see ou go hollow...
Soon they have made the episode of Groundhog Day, although it has been good
I hate time travel/loops/anomalies nonsense!
Well, well, well. I am a bit torn about this episode. I certainly would have liked it more without that party thing going on, it felt a little out of place with that rap music. And I don´t like that romantic thing between Tyler and Burnham. It´s forced and constructed and not what that show is in need of. Now, the general plot of the timeloop, althought for my taste a little too close to TNGs Cause and Effect, was good. But the way they figured out that they were stuck in the loop in TNG was better. If I remember correctly (has been a while since I last saw it) it was through little clues that keep popping up. I like the portrayal of Mudd in this installment althought I think he came back to early - maybe this episode should have come later.