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'Star Trek Discovery' Lightens Up as Rainn Wilson Guest Stars on Episode 5

by John Rosca / Oct 17, 2017 06:26 AM EDT
Star Trek Discovery

"Star Trek Discovery" episode 5 begins to widen the scope of the series beyond its heavy focus on Michael Burnham's personal journey. Burnham takes a backseat while Captain Gabriel Lorca, First Officer Saru and Science Officer Paul Stamets get more development this time.

Episode 5 is titled "Choose Your Pain," which refers to the Klingon practice of asking the prisoner to choose either themselves or a cellmate to take a beating. This sick ritual is reflected by the dilemma on the Discovery, where the spore-drive tardigrade is in great pain that worsens with every space jump, requiring the science team to find someone else to take on that burden.

Burnham's determination to save the tardigrade's life brings her into conflict with Saru, who becomes Acting Captain after Lorca gets abducted by Klingons. Finding her insubordinate, Saru confines Burnham to her quarters, but not before she informs him that they have built a DNA injector that can transfer the tardigrade's spore-drive abilities to a sentient creature... possibly a human.

Science Blogs says that this is the first episode that feels like "Star Trek," pointing to its central ethical debate that motivates characters to weigh their options over difficult decisions. It also shows Burnham moving in the right direction by following a higher authority and adhering to orders, despite disagreeing with them.

"Star Trek Discovery" is still full of darker moral shadings than "Star Trek" is known for, particularly in the scenes featuring Lorca, who has a more nefarious vibe than fellow maverick Captain James Kirk had. As the A.V. Club notes, it seems to be the spiritual successor of the "Battlestar Galactica" reboot as it is of "Star Trek."

"Choose Your Pain" even brings back a character from the original series. Rainn Wilson takes on the role of Harry Mudd that was originated by Roger C. Carmel in the episodes "Mudd's Women" and "I, Mudd." Trekmovie.com notes that Wilson has described his take on the character as more deadly than the original Mudd.

Indeed, Mudd's actions in this episode mark him as more of a dangerous wild card than a comic relief character. Still, the spark that Wilson brings to the role lends his scenes a sense of fun. As long as it can keep that in future episodes, "Star Trek Discovery" may be able to move away from "Battlestar Galactica" toward "Star Trek" sci-fi optimism.

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