7 questions I have after watching Star Trek Discovery episode 5 Choose Your Pain

The latest episode of Star Trek Discovery is available now, and episode 5 - Choose Your Pain - is one that seriously pushes the franchise’s boundaries. Not seen it? Go watch the show right now, because there are some serious spoilers ahead. The episode features torture, implied sexual assault (and the result of that), drops the f-bomb, and finishes on… well, it’s a pretty huge tease for something very, very exciting. Overall it’s very un-Star Trek, in the most delightful of ways. And if you’ve seen it, you’ll know that there are loads of questions left unanswered, so let’s get straight into them.

1. What the hell is going on with mirror Stamets?

At the end of the episode Stamets is chatting to his partner while they brush their teeth together in front of a mirror. It’s a cute scene that announces the relationship between the doctor and the scientific genius in a subtle and natural way, giving amusing context to their earlier exchanges in the episode. However, the kicker comes at the end, where Stamets walks away from the mirror but his reflection remains there smiling for a few seconds. What does this mean? Well, it’s very likely a reference to the Mirror Universe, which we’ve seen in several previous series of Star Trek. In the original series (episode Mirror Mirror) the Mirror Universe appears as an alternate reality, where the Federation is an evil organisation causing terror throughout the galaxy. Remember Kirk in his badboy duds and evil Spock with a goatee? The Mirror Universe also appears in DS9 and Enterprise, so it’s very much a recurring event in the show. The showrunners have already hinted that it’d appear in Discovery and this appears to be it. Speaking to Comicbook.com, Alex Kurtzman said: “Well, it sort of leaked that we are going to be doing some episodes about the Mirror Universe. And yes, we’re going to be paying homage to the original.” So, Burnham with an evil goatee? Saru the predator? Captain Lorca as a decent human being? I can’t wait to see how this plot thread turns out.

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2. Have we seen the last of Harcourt Mudd and L’Rell (the Klingon Captain with the burnt face)?

No. No we have not. Mudd is a fan-favourite character who first appeared in the original Star Trek series, as a loveable rogue and con-man. He first surfaces in the episode Mudd’s Women where he beams aboard the ship with three beautiful women enhanced by an illegal ‘Venus’ drug. Needless to say, the light-hearted episode sees these women causing all kinds of havoc with the crew. Mudd also appears in the second season of Star Trek, with another dastardly scheme that sees the crew getting into hot water. In Discovery we already know he’ll appear in two episodes, one of which is Choose Your Pain, where his scheming takes on a darker tone in keeping with the more gritty feel of this show overall. He’ll be back, after Lorca leaves him trapped in his cell, and given his anti-Starfleet stance (he sees them as arrogant elitists), he’ll likely be intentionally causing trouble for the crew of Discovery. And as for L’Rell, the Klingon Captain who was scarred at the end of the episode? Come on! She’s alive, disfigured, and pissed off. She wants her human boy-toy back, and she’s looking for revenge against Lorca for ruining her beautiful(?) face.

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3. How are they going to navigate the DASH drive now?

Let’s face it - Stamets cannot be the long-term solution for navigating Discovery during DASH jumps. The one he guides in Choose Your Pain almost kills him, and we’ve witnessed the long-term effects on the Tardigrade. And that’s before we consider the possible implications of Stamets having ripped a hole in the fabric of spacetime to open up the Mirror Universe. So… who is going to drive now? It’s likely Stamets will work on a scientific solution that allows human beings to pilot the DASH jumps, although we’ve already seen the crew disagreeing about testing on sentient Federation species’. Essentially, right now, the DASH drive is out of action until the crew can find another pilot… a pilot who fits within the ethics and regulations of Starfleet. Good luck with that. 

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4. What’s going on with Voq?

Remember Voq? The pasty Klingon marooned on the wreckage of the USS Shenzhou with his first-mate? He didn’t appear in this episode and - while we can assume he isn’t still among the space-rubble - he’s clearly up to something. At the end of episode 4 he agreed to travel to the Klingon House of Mokai with his companion (L'Rell - yes, she's the captain of the prison ship too), where he would be shown things "he never knew possible". What does that mean? Well, one theory actually points to him disguising himself as Ash Tyler, the Starfleet prisoner who escapes with Lorca at the end of the episode. Fans speculate that the matriarchal House of Mokai helps him become (or appear) human to infiltrate the Discovery and learn its secrets. It all sounds  far fetched, but the full theory is here if you want to check it out, and it's very compelling.

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5. Why did Burnham offer Saru the telescope? What does she expect him to do with it?

‘Sorry for undermining you at every turn, mate - have a banged-up old telescope.’ Ok, this isn’t what Burnham actually says to Saru when she offers him Captain Georgiou’s precious gift, but it may as well have been. I can’t understand the love / hate relationship between Burnham and Saru because she constantly undermines and questions him during every interaction. She insists it’s nothing personal, he wrings his hands a bit and forgives her, then she just does it again. While offering Saru the telescope seems to be a decent gesture, it feels like another massive ‘f**k-you’ from Burnham. The gift is meaningless because it doesn’t come direct from Georgiou, who clearly favoured Burnham, to Saru - despite him being desperate for her attention and approval. By offering it to Saru, Burnham feels like she’s showering him with pity AND it implies that Georgiou’s most precious object means so little to Burnham, she’s willing to give it away to make Saru feel better after a minor crisis of confidence. No, perhaps Burnham doesn’t feel like she deserves it, but to offer it second-hand to Saru feels like another way of reminding him that he was always second-best in Georgiou’s eyes. And yes, it feels like Burnham is again - perhaps unwittingly - belittling Saru. The question remains: why does he put up with it?

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6. What is Lorca remembering by not having his eyes fixed?

Well, this one seems fairly obvious, given one of the conversations in this episode, but let’s explore the possibilities anyway. It’s very likely that Lorca had his eyes damaged when he sacrificed his entire crew on board the USS Buran. He refuses to get them surgically fixed as a reminder of the sacrifice of his crew, and the responsibilities of leadership. Were they damaged as he looked out on the explosion of the starship as he escaped? Very likely, given how it’s bright lights that cause him pain. The fact that we learn about this rather grisly aspect of his past during the same episode his eyes are used to torture him can’t be a coincidence. Alternatively, it could be something completely different that we’re yet to learn about, and it may give us fresh insight (aha!) into his character. Some theories even suggest that Lorca is so ruthless he’s actually a Captain who has crossed over from the Mirror Universe and is masquerading as a ‘good’ Starfleet Captain for his own nefarious ends. And maybe his eyes are a result of this dimension-hopping. Seems far-fetched, but then again this season of Discovery is full of neat surprises.

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7. How did the Klingons know exactly where Lorca’s shuttle would be?

Big one for me - how the hell did the Klingons know the exact location of Lorca’s shuttle? Because they warp in fast, capture him quick, and escape before the Discovery even knows he’s missing. What seems even more puzzling is that L’Rell seems to be working on her own, as she doesn’t take Lorca back to any of the Klingon leaders despite his enormously high value to them. It’s likely that there’s a mole on board the Discovery, or some kind of tracking tech that lead the Klingons straight to Lorca. Surely Klingon intel isn’t that good without an inside man or tech source? Does this mean it’ll happen again? The Discovery is a prime target now that the Klingons are aware of the DASH drive, which means they’ll be constantly pursued throughout the galaxy. However, for now, the Klingons don’t actually know that the device no longer has a navigator but… if the same info leak continues, they soon will. And that could mean massive trouble for the crew.

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