Star Trek: Discovery S01E07 Recap: 'Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad'

My new least favourite thing about 2017 (aside from, like, trump's tweets) is how the internet has attached a stigma to Star Trek: Discovery. As you can probably tell by these reviews, I've been thoroughly enjoying the new series. It's fresh, it's different and exciting, yet it's put in the necessary work to respect the fifty years of TV shows, movies, books and canon in general that came before it. No matter how Discovery has come out in any number of parallel dimensions, that's no easy task. Yet every week, I find myself second-guessing how I feel about the show. Should I hate it, or be bogged down by what Star Trek is supposed to be or how much canon they should be adhering to? At least, that's what a vocal part of Trek's internet presence has been telling me. Or should I simply be enjoying the fact that, for the first time in twelve years, we have regularly scheduled Star Trek to look forward to every week on television.

While all that second-guessing what still ever-present during this week's episode, "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad" also did the most work out of any episode of Discovery yet to alleviate my worries, and convince me that I should simply be sitting back and enjoying the ride.

Without a doubt, "Magic" is the show's most fun and possibly even laid-back episode to date. All at once, it manages to capture everything I've enjoyed about the updated look and feel of Discovery, while embracing things about Trek's past that fans may have been missing from the show, including the format and even the campiness of The Original Series. The episode sees the return of Rainn Wilson's Harry Mudd, as the interstellar con man infiltrates the ship using a stolen "time crystal" to put himself and Discovery on a never-ending thirty minute time loop, during which he can learn all of the ship's secrets, before selling it to the Klingons lying in wake.

Yes, it's a time loop episode, one we've seen Star Trek tackle in the past, most famously in "Cause and Effect", one of my favourite episodes of The Next Generation, which happens to be one of my favourite episodes of the show. While "Cause and Effect" takes on the subject with a certain bewilderment that comes with the originality of the concept, Discovery recognizes that this is marsh that's already been treaded, and treats it with a more appropriate sort of panache. In "Cause and Effect", it takes the members of Captain Picard's crew many treks through the look to realize what's happening to them. Discovery knows its viewers are savvy enough to recognize what's happening the first time the ship explodes in the episode's opening minutes, so it wastes no time leaning into the conceit. The episode has no cold open, ensuring the least amount of time between the revelation of the time loop and the subsequent twist that Lt Stamets seems to exist outside of the normal timestream thanks to his interactions with the spore drive.

From that point, despite the potentially dire consequences of allowing Mudd to succeed in his plan, "Magic" turns into more of a romp than anything. Wilson's presence as Mudd, Rapp's new attitude as the spore-affected Stamets, and Burnham's attempts to be more of a normal human all lend to a comedic tone that the episode puts on display. There are some truly hilarious moments from these character, as well as plenty of time spent on character development for Lt Tyler and Burnham, not to mention great action and intrigue as the episode goes through dozens of Mudd's half hours on the ship. There's even a montage of him killing Lorca that comes off as morbidly funny.

Of course, I have that lizard brain forcing me to stickle and point out the inherent ridiculousness of how the episode handwaves an explanation for Mudd's stolen Betazoid time crystal that he must have figured out with the help of a fourth dimensional creature, or whatever, but if there was any point in time for a Trekkie stickler to loosen up, it's now.

Because Discovery now has everything a Star Trek fan should want. It's fun, it has intrigue and a good story, good references to the canon, updates to the technology of Trek that, quite frankly, people should stop pouring over with a microscope since physics, among other things, has completely changed the sixties, good characters that are being amply developed and focused on, and so much more. It just so happens that, like any other show, it takes time for these things to pan out, especially in a show with more of a serialized arc than any other Trek show before it. So no, I'm not going to get too hung up on the fourth dimensional time crystal or the ball of dark matter or any of that stuff, because it shouldn't matter in creating what's turned out to be great Star Trek, that's only bound to get even better.

With "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad", it's clear to me that the people behind Star Trek: Discovery have figured out what they're doing. And for that, it gets 9.5 gormaganders out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • To be honest, the one good thing of that aforementioned lizard brain is that has me wondering about what people are going to be angry about this week. The top contender for this episode is probably the party that the episode spends a significant amount of time on. I can almost guarantee that there'll be some thinkpiece or Reddit post complaining about it doesn't make sense that Starfleet officers are partying and hooking up like they are in this episode. But I think it makes sense. After all, why wouldn't people, even Starfleet crew members, want to party and hook up and drink? The future shouldn't be devoid of fun if we've supposedly solves the rest of our problems, and the portrayal of Starfleet in previous shows is quite frankly pretty stuck up and outdated.
  • I kind of love the range that Anthony Rapp has been given to portray Stamets post-spore drive, and this is the perfect episode for that kind of thing, especially in his interactions with Mudd and Burnham.
  • I also love how it's quickly become an inside joke that Lt Tyler is this weird outsider. It's amazing how prescient the show was about predicting fan theories about who he is, how he could potentially be a Klingon traitor.
  • Stamets: "Why would you apologize for a random act of physical interaction? You know, these are the moments that make life so gloriously unpredictable."
  • Burnham/Mudd: "You are mad." "No, I'm Mudd."
  • Stamets: "As days go, this is a weird one."
  • Mudd: "There really are so many ways to blow up the ship, it's almost a design flaw."
  • Stamets: "I just spotted the hottest guy over there, and apparently he's in a band."
  • Mudd: "I never thought I would say this, but I'm tired of gloating."