Star Trek: Discovery 1.07 – “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”

Originally posted at

Things I love: time loops and wibbly wobbly timey wimey shenanigans.

Things Stephanie absolutely hates: the same.

I could hear her chagrin from all the way across town, and it was great. Much like this episode.

The time warp, again

I’ve seen so many reviews saying that this is the first episode where Discovery felt like Star Trek, and I totally get that. Trek, especially in its later incarnations, just loves a good bit of wibbly wobbly.

“Magic…” is reminiscent of TNG’s “Cause and Effect”, an iconic time loop episode which also sees a social gathering interrupted by a crisis that culminates in the ship exploding … over and over again. But brace yourself for heresy: I enjoyed watching “Magic…” more. The conceit of “Cause and Effect” was that we kept seeing the same scenes play out, with tiny differences, which is initially fun but gets old fast. This time the differences are more significant — probably because we’re not always seeing consecutive loops — and each one reveals more about the characters.

But don’t just take my word for it!




(No, no, I’m sorry, TNG, I love you, “Cause and Effect” was groundbreaking at the time, and it was perfectly fine.)

It’s taken a few weeks, but we’re at the point where we know the characters well enough to do stuff like this, and I’m glad the series is taking the time to have roughly standalone character episodes. You don’t always get them in short season streaming series.

The Disco disco … literally

I’ve never identified with Michael more than as she braced herself to enter that party.

I totally enjoyed all the party scenes, while also recognising that they are absurdly anachronistic. I have to assume that someone decided to raise morale by holding a 20th century themed party, hence the dubstep and disco and beer pong.

(North America, I don’t know how to break this to you, but beer pong is … not a thing beyond your continent.)

(Okay, dubstep is a 21st century thing, but it’s like how songs from 2001 sometimes sneak into my ’90s playlists.)

Party!Tilly is as delightful as all her other incarnations. I’ve seen surprise that she’s so adept at parties, but it makes sense — she’s awkward, but not especially introverted, so once she loosens up, she’s having fun. This is also the first time we’ve seen her really interacting with her peers, which means she’s more relaxed than, say, at Burnham’s Boot Camp.

(Tilly’s definitely not the only cadet on the ship, we heard another being paged to engineering in “Lethe”. Or maybe it was “Choose Your Pain”. I rewatched both over the weekend.)

Dances with Klingons

Dude, getting up at a party to make a speech about the honoured dead? Totally a Klingon move. Worf probably does that once a week.

On the other hand, he has some pretty sweet moves, both in conversation and on the dance floor, and I will be legitimately sad when he’s unmasked. So will he, because I really don’t think he knows he’s a Klingon, and honestly, Voq seems to be happier as a human.

(Or it’ll turn out that Tilly was the Klingon spy all along, and oh boy, will I have egg on my face. Be nice for the hardcore Ash Is Human fans on Tumblr, though. I don’t know if “Don’t Interact If You Think Ash Tyler Is A Klingon” is a serious boundary or a meme, or both, but I respect those kids.)

Michael Burnham: queen of unromance

It’s gotta be rough, growing up as a human on Vulcan — now imagine being a teenager, with hormones and urges and … you know, all that messy stuff. And not only are none of your peers in the same state, but the whole culture is a bit repressed.

Michael has come a long way since she first beamed onto the Shenzhou, but as she says, her standing as first officer kept her from socialising, let alone fraternising. So she’s managed to get to the age of thirty-ish without ever falling in love. At least, not consciously, I mention for the Burnham/Georgiou shippers whose hearts broke at that line.

But now her whole personal context has changed — she’s gone from a promising officer on the verge of receiving her own command, to a convict, to a rankless consultant with nebulous duties — to her present state, still rankless, but with a title and work. Purpose.

And internally, she’s learned that she wasn’t rejected from the Vulcan Expeditionary Force, and she didn’t let Sarek down — it was, in fact, the other way around. Everything she knows about herself has been called into question, and that is a very good time for a handsome, kind Klingon guy to come into her life.

Meanwhile, it’s intervention time…

As much as I’m entertained by Stamets’s transformation into a Free Hugs Guy, I find it strange that no one seems overly concerned by his spore-induced high. Like, sure, the spore drive needs a navigator, and that’s Stamets, but should he be acting as chief engineer in his state?

(Should he be acting as chief engineer at all? He’s a mycologist! I assume there’s a crew of real engineers managing all the systems that aren’t fungus-powered.)

He seems increasingly lucid with every go through the time loop, even when he’s Dancing For Science, so maybe this episode was about restoring some equilibrium. But it’s strange that no one addresses it. Even Hugh, Stamets’s partner, doesn’t seem terribly worried about his behaviour.

Something something Mudd

You know, I totally bought Disco!Mudd as a previously unseen facet of TOS!Mudd, but I’m having a harder time this week. Yes, he’s still a con artist, a disrespectful spanner in the Starfleet works, but I have trouble buying TOS!Mudd as a cold blooded killer given to ranting about his revenge.

On the other hand, Jason Isaacs can have a strange effect on people, and the man Kirk will meet is ten years older and not just out of a Klingon prison.

Also, Disco!Mudd brought us a whole montage of Lorca being murdered, which is great. I love Lorca, but I especially love watching him suffer. The look of outrage and surprise on his face every time he died: *kisses fingertips*

(I’m not sure, but I think Lorca just went to the top of the Starfleet Officer Killed The Most rankings, and is also close to the top for Number of Onscreen Deaths. But I’ll leave the numbers to the hardcore nerds.)

I’m also mixed on Disco’s Stella. TOS!Stella was the archetypical shrewish wife, and Mudd’s motivation for staying far, far away from home. Disco replaces that sexist stereotype with a different one: the mob princess who just happens to be much, much younger than her husband.

I’m torn, because the mob princess bit amuses me, and it highlights how the Federation of the 2250s is not yet a utopian monoculture. A human arms dealer! What would Gene Roddenberry say?

On the other hand, it also means that Stella’s power derives entirely from her father. I mean, there’s mention of a dowry, for heaven’s sake. And the age gap — I enjoy an age gap in my pairings, but not when it’s the default because something something Hollywood.

With a bit of thought, we could have had much the same situation, but with less recourse to … you know, the patriarchy. Stella could have been older. She could be an arms dealer in her own right, and Harry bought her a moon to win her heart. Her mother could be the scary criminal.

But what I did love was her outfit, which you can see at the end of Anika’s review. The silhouette is very contemporary — it reminded me of Karen Gillan’s outfit at the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 premiere, but you’ve probably seen similar shapes everywhere from red carpets to shopping centres. But the colours? Pure TOS. It’s the strongest visual link to 60s Trek that Disco has offered yet, and it comes, oddly, in an episode where I was otherwise going to complain about everyone’s civvies looking too 2017.

The jerk rankings

  1. Mudd. Obviously. We’ll start with cruelty to space whales and go on from there.
  2. Lorca. Now, there’s over 6,000 words of Lorca/Janeway on AO3, and I’ve read them all. (I did not respect myself in the morning.) And I can totally see it, it’s totally hot, but … this is Lorca when people are sciencing at him.  It’s never going to work.
  3. That is all.

Other observations

  • Present at the party were various familiar faces, but most prominent was Keyla Detmer, the former Shenzhou helm officer with the cranial implant. She was totally hooking up with someone, to which I say: GET IT, KEYLA.
  • Keyla gave Michael the cut direct when they encountered one another in “Context is for Kings”, but here she almost smiles when she sees Michael at her station on the bridge. I would very much like to know what her deal is and how she is becoming reconciled to Michael’s rehabilitation.
  • Not attending the party: Joann Owosekun. She’s on duty like a chump.
  • Michael is prepared to die for Saru; Saru prevents Michael from attacking Mudd (which would probably end in her death). They’re almost friends again!
  • Lorca spends relatively little time in the captain’s chair, and has a standing desk in his ready room, so I have to say what we’ve all been thinking: is it possible that his pants are too tight to let him sit?
  • Fun fact: this was a bottle episode, filmed entirely on the standing sets. I didn’t even notice at first.
  • In conclusion: time loops are great.
  • The only acceptable time loop is if they bring back Captain Auntie Michelle via time travel.
  • Steph also says: We would be remiss if we did not flag Anthony Rapp’s allegations against Kevin Spacey but very specifically the way Kevin Spacey totally threw every gay man under the bus in his attempt to be a selfish shithead. This review by Mallory Ortberg is both a great episode review and also a great crystalisation of this situation. Also Zachary Quinto, another adorable Star Trek queer, gave an amazing statement you should read.

4 thoughts on “Star Trek: Discovery 1.07 – “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad””

  1. Now, there’s over 6,000 words of Lorca/Janeway on AO3, and I’ve read them all.

    Liz, you probably know I don’t bother reading fic unless I get really fannish about something or the pairing really piques my interest, BUT. LORCA/JANEWAY. I’m going to have to go find this.

    Also, time loops are the best. I’m sorry, Steph. I’m so sorry.

    Also also, isn’t there somewhere you should be cross-posting this? Ahem.

  2. BUT. LORCA/JANEWAY. I’m going to have to go find this.


    And now I’m nagging all my friends to write Lorca/Sisko, because why should Janeway have all the fun?

  3. Above all else I’ve got thank you for linking to the gifs of Lorca. I think that may be my favourite moment of him thus far this season. Not scheming, not brooding, not lingering in dark shadows or maybe sleeping with admirals for love or power but as an exasperated father/ captain telling people to just handle it.

  4. I think DiscoMudd would be outstanding if they had made him an original character, like pretty much 100% of the continuity characters in the show.

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