Star Trek: Discovery Recap : Bringing the “Pain”...and Profanity
Episode 5 opens with a creepy dream sequence, where Michael Burnham is seeing herself in the place of the tardigrade creature in its spore drive containment cell, and screaming out in pain. After she wakes, she surmises that based on how listless the beast has become lately, the jumps through hyperspace must be taxing it greatly, if not outright killing the creature. She echoes her concerns to Doctor Culber, as well as to her annoying roommate, Cadet Tilly.
Meanwhile, at a super fancy starbase that looks like one of the Kryptonian crystals from Superman: The Movie, Captain Lorca is being briefed by a bunch of Starfleet Admirals. They inform him that they are hunting the galaxy looking for other tardigrades for new spore drive engines for the rest of the fleet, but until that time, they don't want their only ship that has such tech to be taxing itself too much. Lorca doesn't agree, and seemingly wants to fight every Klingon ship he can with this new advantage. Later, one of the Admirals grills Lorca for using mutineer Michael Burnham on his crew, and we find out Lorca was able to enlist her thanks to a Starfleet clause about using any available assets during wartime.
On his shuttle ride back to the Discovery, the Klingons attack and kidnap Lorca. The Discovery, now with Saru in command, is tasked to finding their Captain. Michael Burnham tells Saru that she thinks that the amount of jumps the Discovery keeps making is harming the tardigrade, but Saru has no time for this, as he has orders to find Lorca before he can tell the Klingons about the spore drive. Saru makes an executive decision to keep using the tardigrade despite humanitarian concerns.
In one Easter egg filled scene, Saru asks the computer about the common traits of Starfleet's most decorated Captains, and the names that come up are Captains Archer (from Star Trek: Enterprise), Robert April (the original NCC-1701 Enterprise Captain from The Animated Series), Christopher Pike (the current Captain of the Enterprise), Decker (for the TOS epispde "The Doomsday Machine"), and the late Phillipa Georgiou. Would they have allowed a possibly sentient creature as slave labor to run their ships? (Probably not).
Lorca wakes up in a prison on board a Klingon vessel, and we are introduced to Rainn Wilson as TOS baddie Harry Mudd (although sporting a different accent that Mudd would later have in the original seasons, because reasons). Also in their cell in Lt. Ash Tyler, played by Penny Dreadful's Shazad Latif, who has been on board the ship seven months since being captured at the start of the war. How did he survive? It seem Lt. L'Rell has taken a liking to him sexually (ew).
On board the Discovery lab, Burnham, Stamets and Tilly are sciencing together, which pretty much means they are spouting a bunch of technobabble about the spores and the tardigrade, and the three of them decide to try to replicate and replace the tardigrade using software that mimics the creature's responses. At this point, Tilly has an emotional outburst and says "you guys, this is SO fucking cool!", dropping the first f-bomb in the franchises' fifty year history. Despite looking pissed off, Stamets can't help but agree...it is fucking cool. Not sure the f-bomb was needed, but it's one way of letting the audience know this isn't their daddy's Star Trek.
Captain Lorca, meanwhile, is strapped into a Clockwork Orange style torture rack, where L'Rell is questioning him about his "magic" ship that seems to appear anywhere like a ghost. Needless to say, Captain Lorca is not forthcoming with information, torture or not.
Meanwhile, Stamets and Burnham have taken down the spore drive, which pisses off Saru who wants his spore drive back like, right now. Back aboard the Klingon vessel, Harry Mudd gets exposed as the source of the spying on all the Starfleet captives in the cell, which is how he has escaped Klingon torture all this time, and Mudd also drops a huge exposition bomb about Lorca. Turns out the Captain lost his previous ship a month into the war, and in fact was the only survivor of a Klingon attack on his vessel. Instead of letting his crew get captured, he destroyed his own ship with all hands aboard as he escaped. Lorca is now officially every "bad guy" Captain or Admiral to ever appear on both the original series or The Next Generation.
On the Discovery, per Saru's orders, the tardigrade is asked to make another jump, but this one depletes it of all its energy, and it curls up into a ball and expels all its fluid, in kind of a gross fashion. It's not quite dead, but close enough. Saru just doubles down on all his bad decisions, and forces Stamets to rehydrate the creature in an effort to make another jump.
With the help of Lt. Tyler, Captain Lorca kicks some Klingon ass and together they escape their prison ship, but they decide to leave Mudd behind for selling them out (although he actually yells out "You haven't seen the last of Harcourt Fenton Mudd!" in a super-cheesy moment). Lorca and Tyler are escaping the ship in a Klingon raider, pursued by five others. Saru realizes that the lead vessel is Captain Lorca escaping, and beams him and Tyler aboard. After they use the spore chamber to get out of dodge, it's revealed that Stamets has injected himself with the tardigrade DNA compound and used himself to guide the Discovery out of Klingon space. He starts laughing hysterically when he realizes his attempt to take the creatures place not only worked, but didn't kill him.
Saru goes to Burnham's quarters and attempts to apologize for his behavior towards her since coming aboard, since she was clearly right about how what they were doing to the tardigrade was wrong, and she gives him the telescope that Captain Georgiou left her. As his last act as acting Captain, Saru commands her to restore the tardigrade to health, and then to set it free.
Our final scene finds Lt. Stamets and Doctor Culber in their quarters, where it's revealed that they are in fact a couple in the cutest way possible, with the two of them brushing their teeth in their maroon Starfleet issue pajamas. Culber is worried that his experience taking the place of the tardigrade has changed him somehow, but Stamets assures him he's just fine. But then he gives a weird smile when he's alone in front of the mirror, and decades of horror movies have trained us all to know that means he's anything but normal.
This was another solid episode, even if it continues to feel like we're in some alternate Trek universe, and not the one we are used to. And the characters are starting to loosen up and even laugh, which is good for a show with the name Star Trek in the title. Not sure an f-bomb was needed, but such is the age we live in now. At least it was a pro-science f-bomb.