Originally Published on There Are Four Mics – A Star Trek Podcast
(We’re moving our Star Trek Discovery related content over here where it belongs)
Damn, this series moves fast. We’re only five episodes in with “Choose Your Pain.” And yet? We definitely have enough story lines to fill an entire 26-episode season any previous Star Trek series. With the entirety of the first season behind us, it seems a good time for a new Choose Your Pain review.
This is the episode where the Discovery has been really rocking it on the Klingon front following the events of “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For the Lamb’s Cry” on Corvan II. Starfleet brass getting anxious over their only spore drive vessel going so boldly into Klingon territory seems legit. And asking Lorca to cool it a bit doesn’t strike me as an unreasonable request. But I’m not Lorca, and I don’t have a taste for Klingon blood.
Inside this brig, the first character we meet is Rainn Wilson’s Harcourt Fenton Mudd. He’s undoubtedly an intriguing and bombastic figure in this episode. But it isn’t until “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” a few episodes later that he really demonstrates why he deserves this role. In this episode, Mudd serves primarily as an expositionary figure to give us a little backstory on Lorca, and to introduce this fellow prisoner Ash Tyler.
The revelation about Captain Lorca blowing up the Busan, but being the only survivor is definitely establishes a bit of intrigue. It’s definitely not a good look for the captain to be the sole survivor of a destroyed vessel. This little tidbit goes a long way in subtly raising questions about this fella’s character. His explanation that he didn’t want his crew to suffer as Klingon prisoners is conceivable, but it’s still a neat little bread crumb leading to Lorca’s true identity.
And the show is finally introduced to Shazad Latif’s Ash Tyler! He was initially announced for a Klingon role back when Discovery was being teased, and then they announced the found a different role that suited him more. This was one of the big hints that something might be up with Voq, plus the fact that the actor crediting with playing Voq on IMDB has no other work.
But as Ash Tyler? This. Guy. Is. Charming. I am in love with him. The first time around, I don’t believe I made a connection to him and Voq at this point. Though I was suspicious about his story, as the show goes out of its way in this episode and in future episodes to emphasize how unlikely it is that a person can survive seven months in a Klingon prison. But this guy is just so charming and has such a kind face that I am willing to suspend my suspicions.
“Choose Your Pain” is a great episode title. But perhaps more importantly? I’ve integrated it into my every day dialogue when I am faced with two unfortunate decisions. Go to a buddy’s house and they offer you a Bud Light or a Coors Light? CHOOSE YOUR PAIN.
Lorca gets subjected to “light” torture at the hands of L’Rell, and here Discovery makes a fatal error. The camera focuses and zooms in on the three lights in the room. Since you’re already focusing on the camera on the lights, you should clearly have five lights set up in there. The number one rule of screenwriting: If you have an opportunity to reference the episode “Chain of Command?” You reference Chain of Command. THERE. ARE. FOUR. LIGHTS.
Little surprised at the eagerness at which Lorca abandoned Mudd to his fate in the Klingon prison. I feel like Q did when he boxed Sisko on Deep Space Nine and shouted in surprise “Picard never hit me!” This isn’t shaping up to be the Starfleet that I know. Which, having seen how everything plays out at the season’s conclusion, is entirely fitting behavior for Lorca.
See how much is packed into these episodes?! It’s bonkers. And we haven’t even touched on Stamets or Saru yet! Saru is lacking confidence as the acting-captain, and he Googles “how to be a good captain.” That’s adorable. It’s even better when the names of Archer, April, Pike and Decker pop up. Really digging this little nod. It brings a small amount of joy to obsessives, and doesn’t bog the story down with superfluous nonsense.
One of the deleted scenes of the Star Trek Discovery Season One Blu-ray has Saru returning to the bridge thanking everyone for doing a good job, and the entire bridge crew in turn applauds his great work. It’s a surprisingly heartwarming moment seeing him get his accolades. It also makes the moment he returns to the ready room and refuses to listen to the computer’s assessment of his performance pack a little bit more wallop.
And Stamets! Geeze, that guy. He’s a hero. Endangering himself to save the tardigrade? That’s the Starfleet I know. The Blu-ray also features a Stamets centered deleted scene. It has him locking the staff outside, so they couldn’t stop him from becoming the new tardigrade. It made a much nicer flow because in the aired version it seemed as if Tilly was in the room the entire time. Her surprise at seeing him laying on the ground made her seem sort of inept.
Finally, it was a pretty beautiful moment both visually and emotionally when Burnham and Tilly liberate Ripper. And having that order be Saru’s final orders as captain redeems his callousness for me. It serves to really highlight the tension that seems to be running through this series and within the characters themselves between being scientists and being soldiers. It’s a compelling dynamic as they’ve played with it so far, and I am here for the ride.
Pick up all of Star Trek Discovery season one on Blu-ray from Amazon here.
Or if you’re in the mood for a Star Trek Discovery podcast? Joe and Jason talk about “Choose Your Pain” over on Disco Night. It’s our sister podcast, so check it out and subscribe!