Star Trek Discovery goes all Source Code this week with the crew stuck in a 30 minute time loop, ended and reset by an explosion. It’s all the work of Mudd, freed from the Klingon jail and using some mysterious time travel tech to take revenge on, and control of, the Discovery. Obviously, when you mess with space time there are a lot of questions to answer, so let’s do that.
1. Are they all drinking Synthehol, and does every starship have party supplies?
For the uninitiated, synthehol is a futuristic artificial alcohol that can still give you a buzz but without the problems. So no hangovers, and the ability to shake of the drunk in an instant. You can’t really ever be off duty on a starship, so all those party goers need to be ready to go in an instant - just like Ash and Burnham are when hailed. This is the most cut loose we’ve ever seen a crew in Trek. At best in the past we’ve seen a little insightful conversation in a bar but this is a full on par-tay. Are those decorations Federation issue, or did someone bring them onboard?
2. How does Stamets' cybernetic spore drive augment work and how does he see reality if time loops don’t affect him?
Cybernetic augments are rapidly becoming Star Trek Discovery’s magic fix all after using one to boost Burnham’s mind link to Sarek in last week’s episode. This time we find out that Stamets now has some groovy arm patches to link to the spore drive, rather than being impaled on spikes. It’s not made clear in this episode how they work yet, but a trailer for the next shows him happily hooked up to the spore drive, apparently without ill effects, via the patches. It is, however, very clear that his personality change after his brush with the infinite has been noted. Plus, the entire plot hinges on the fact that he can see beyond the time loop that has everyone else blindly trapped. Stamets postulates that it’s a side effect of the tardigrade’s multidimensional DNA that’s now a part of him. Does that mean he can potentially perceive all of time, as well as space?
3. Is Mudd really a cold blooded murderer?
While Mudd’s people trafficking, conman ways have always had a dark side, he’s generally been a more or less harmless trickster. Here we see him murder 4 people when he first appears, Ash Tyler and some of the engineering crew later, and admit he’s killed the captain 53 times. Is he really that cold blooded? Or just behaving that way because the time loop means no one actually dies thanks to the constant reset?
4. How long was the Discovery in the time loop?
The whole time loop lasted roughly 28 hours. We know each the loop lasted 30 minutes (although Mudd and the crew clearly die before the reset multiple times). Mudd also states that he’s killed Lorca 53 times, then there’s three more loops after that, making 56 loops, times 30 minutes, which equals 1680 minutes, or 28 hours. Of course there could have been loops from before he reached the point of killing Lorca, but that's a good number to start from.
5. How did Mudd time travel, and what the hell is a time crystal or four dimensional being?
Star Trek has always played it loose with time travel, but Mudd's wristband, time crystals and four dimensional beings are new things we’ve never heard mentioned before. Previously time travel’s just been a thing the future sorted out without explaining too much, or part of a handy passing time space distortion. Even for Trek this is a MacGuffin hopping level of 'no questions, just go with it’. Especially when Burnham casually exposits the tech exists but has never been perfected, so four dimensional beings must have done it. We’ve never encountered four dimensional beings in Trek before, although a Next Generation episode called The Loss did introduce two dimensional creatures. Might this be setting up an encounter later down the line with a multidimensional entity like Q?
6. How is Mudd able to take control of the ship’s computer so easily?
In a word, practice. With some 50 odd attempts under his belt Mudd presumably just got caught each time at a later and later stage - using what he learns each time to get a step ahead. There’s a mention after the loop ends that he can no longer learn from his mistakes, suggesting that, while he’s obviously very clever, he could have just Groundhog Day’d his way through the ship’s systems until he had full control without anyone ever knowing.
7. Just how evil is Lorca exactly?
We know Lorca has his little chamber of horrors full of hideous death dealing equipment but just how deep does this obsession go? As well as the mystery gun Mudd uses to disintegrate Lorca, there’s quite a lot of ‘weaponised dark matter’ lying around considering the Federation are meant to be the good guys. I get the feeling Lorca’s chamber might come into play more than once moving forwards if it’s capable of coughing up such amazing toys with little warning. And what does it say of a man who collects such things?
8. Will we see Mudd again?
Mudd’s first appearance in the original series came with a robot version of his then wife, Stella. She appeared as a much older character though and, in the original canon, it’s stated she left after he became a con artist. Obviously Discovery has already rewritten a lot of old lore so will we see him slipping away from married life for a few more escapades this season?