Man, the quality of this show is so all over the map. I still don’t know what to make of it. I guess the good news is that this time the pendulum has swung back toward “pretty damn good, actually.”
There are really two plots to “Choose Your Pain,” though they are connected. The first sees Captain Lorca captured by Klingons after returning from a meeting with Starfleet. While being interrogated, he encounters Discovery’s final main cast member, Shazad Latif’s Lieutenant Tyler (which sounds like it could be an alternate version of my old Ensign Edwards moniker), as well as a character familiar to fans of the original series.
The second and far more interesting plot deals with Discovery’s attempts to rescue the captain, which run into trouble as the stress of jumping begins to take its toll on the Ripper.
It is this plot that really makes “Choose Your Pain” memorable for me. It does a great job of expanding on last episode’s questions around the Ripper. Is the spore drive hurting it? Is it sentient? If yes to either of those, how can they justify using it the way they have?
This entire arc is vintage Star Trek, and it gives me great hope that Discovery will not simply be paying lip service to Trek’s idealism. This is some good sci-fi right here.
I also very much appreciated that this was not another case of the focus being put solely on Burnham to the expense of all else. Indeed, almost every cast member has a chance to shine: Saru, Burnham, Tilly, Dr. Culber, and of course Stamets.
As of “Choose Your Pain,” I am now ready to officially declare Stamets my favourite Discovery character. This guy is just pure awesomeness. The snarky exterior concealing a noble soul is just an excellent angle for a character, and the actor plays him well.
Getting back to Stamets, it is also worth noting that Star Trek has finally gained some openly gay characters, as it has been revealed that he and Culber are an item. It’s kind of hard to view this as too praise-worthy since Trek was beaten to the punch on this front by basically every sci-fi show in the last fifteen years.
Seriously, I’m hard-pressed to remember a sci-fi show I’ve seen in recent memory that didn’t have any LGBT representation. Continuum didn’t have any main cast members (except maybe Garza, depending on how seriously you want to interpret her constant flirting with Kiera), but it had a couple of incidental mentions of queer characters, like Kiera investigating a murder in the future and instructing someone to “inform her wife.”
Still, better late than never, I suppose. And they have done a pretty good job of establishing Stamets so that he’s not just the token gay guy. So far Culber doesn’t have much of an identity outside being Paul’s boyfriend, but there’s time for him to be fleshed out.
It’s also interesting that they’re already an established couple. Don’t see much of that on Star Trek, or really in the media in general.
Another interesting first this episode was the cursing. Can’t recall ever hearing any f-bombs on Star Trek before, but in my humble opinion, it’s about fucking time.
I try to keep my language fairly clean on this blog, so as to present a professional image, but in my day to day life I’m actually quite foul-mouthed. I think it’s an honest way to express one’s self, and there can be as much art to swearing as there is to any other use of language.
My point here is that the lack of cursing on Star Trek never sat quite right with me. Trip strikes me as the sort of guy who would let the occasional expletive fly. So I’m glad to see Discovery loosening up a bit on that front. Especially in such an adorable fashion.
The downside is that Lorca’s plot is a lot less compelling than what’s happening on Discovery itself. There’s some interesting insight into Lorca’s past, which furthers my growing theory that he’s actually the main villain of this season, but the story is full of huge holes.
Why is the man at the head of the Federation’s entire war effort traveling in a dinky little shuttlecraft with just one guard? How are the Klingons able to charge into Federation space and take prisoners with apparent impunity? How is it that two half-crippled Starfleet officers against dozens of heavily armed Klingon soldiers somehow ends with the Klingons losing?
Oh, Discovery, you make my head hurt sometimes.
Thankfully, the rest of the episode is excellent enough to compensate for these issues.
Overall rating: 8/10