Refocusing its attention on the crew of the Discovery, this weeks episode opened with Michael Burnham suffering through a nightmare where she was acting as the living interface for the ships spore drive during a jump. Subsequently concerned for Ripper’s health and well being she, Dr. Culber the ships Medical Officer, and Stamets (after some convincing) approach First Officer Saru who is now acting Captain,to request time to develop an alternative method of navigation than the Tardigrade, which he refuses.
This due to Captain Lorca being captured by a Klingon prison ship on his way back to Discovery after a Starfleet meeting, during which we learn of the Federations intent to hunt and use the Tardigrade to grant spore drive capabilities to as many ships in the fleet as possible.
After Saru orders a jump into Klingon space to track down the captured Lorca causes Ripper to enter a form of cryptobiosis the Discovery is left unable to use the spore drive. Culber refuses Saru’s command to revive the creature causing Stamets and co to finally develop their navigational workaround.
Meanwhile Lorca meets some interesting characters on board the prison vessel, two Starfleet Officers and Harry Mudd a deceitful civilian with a grudge against the exploratory organization. After a pretty unpleasant stay where one of the Officers is killed, Mudd is revealed to be spying for the Klingons, and Lorca gets tortured, he and the surviving Lieutenant Ash Tyler escape and are rescued by the Discovery. Requiring one final jump to be clear of enemy territory Saru orders Stamets to activate the drive, unbeknownst to anyone else Stamets places himself into the navigational system risking his own life rather than sacrificing that of the Tardigrade.
Reflecting on his performance as acting Captain, Saru makes amends with Burnham who gifts him their deceased Captain’s telescope. She then proceeds to release Ripper into space, confident setting it free was the right thing to do. One final scene confirms the romantic relationship of Culber and Stamets, with the later experiencing a strange type of displacement or time delay.
This evenings episode “Choose Your Pain” was incredibly well structured, featured several setup and payoff moments that felt pretty rewarding, and culminated in a bizarre final note to follow up on next week.
Unlike the previous episode where all of the cutaways to the Klingons were unrelated to the story of the characters aboard Discovery, this week everything came together pretty nicely even without Lorca’s story line directly intersecting with the rest of the crew until the very end. This was partially because of his initial scenes addressing the continuing topic of the spore drives mass production, the reminder and then exploitation of his known sensitivity to light, and the albeit small but none the less interesting information about his history. It was also all in English.
In addition to Lorcas torture payoff we also experienced Saru identify his lack of compassion after listing traits of great captains, Burnham’s nightmare become reality however Stamets was in her place, Stamets phrase his response to Saru’s order avoid mention of the Tardigrade, and the explanation for Culber and Stamets seeming like a married couple.
Interestingly the show seems to have diverged its focus from the Klingon Federation war to the research and development of the spore drive that puzzled fans after its introduction. With the setting being pre-prime directive could the matters surrounding the functionality of the drive have played a role in the directives establishment and the devices disappearance after the war?
Stream the next episode on CBS All Access Sunday October 22nd in the US, and on Netflix Monday October 23rd in Australia.