star trek discovery Magic to Make the Sanest Person Go Mad review 4

Normally, I don’t look at other outlets’ reviews before I write my own. But in the middle of searching for the name of the Wyclef Jean song used in this week’s episode, “Magic to Make the Sanest Person Go Mad,” I came across the headline for IndieWire’s review, which simply stated, “‘Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad’ Delivers the First Truly Great Episode of the Series.” I couldn’t agree more.

As Saturday Night Live’s Stefan would say, tonight’s episode had everything — neon green glo cups, Harry Mudd, chintzy ‘60s Star Trek-esque costuming from Mudd’s mafia princess fiancée Stella and her mafioso father, trippy pseudo-science adventures, complicated feelings — and it all happened in a hole in the wall in space called the U.S.S. Discovery.

Let’s get to everything this episode had to offer, and why whoever wrote this episode needs to be the be the one that the rest of the series looks to for guidance.

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Can I have the writers’ Spotify playlist?

First, my personal fandom dreams have come true — it’s now confirmed that 1) Starfleet do have on-board parties, 2) they do listen to “classic” music from the 20th  century, and 3) aliens who have studied at Starfleet do pick up on ridiculous American party activities such as beer pong.

When have we heard an awesome set like Wyclef Jean’s “We Trying to Stay Alive” and Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” in Star Trek? I want to know if these songs were on the writers’ playlist as they were writing this episode.

When I heard Michael say the word “party,” I was already on board with whatever this episode had to give me, and it did not disappoint. We saw Space Plastic cups! It’s such a ridiculous detail, but it ties back to the Space Cymbals that were on that drumset during Riker and Troi’s wedding reception in Star Trek: Nemesis! It’s just so goofy in the right ways.

On the more serious side, we saw same sex couples dancing without anyone batting an eye or saying anything. We saw a disabled member of the Discovery, reminding the audience that everyone gets treated fairly and no one’s abilities are judged regardless of their level of ability (think back to Geordi LaForge, who was never cut any slack — and didn’t want to have any slack cut — for his blindness). This one, simple party, where everyone’s goofing off, showed just what makes Star Trek great. It finally showed camaraderie among a crew. Those feelings of adventure, affection, and — ahem — discovery provided the shot in the arm that this increasingly anemic and self-serious show needed. Finally, Star Trek Discovery is getting some of its color back.

Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

The return of Mudd

Does it take the likes of Harry Mudd to provide some much-needed energy to Star Trek: Discovery? I know he can’t be here every week, but I’d love for the show to retain his sense of verve throughout the rest of the series. With this episode, we got into another thing that makes Star Trek great — it’s ability to weave stories out of the weirdest science possibilities imaginable. In this case, we were presented with a time loop used as a weapon by Mudd to figure out what makes the Discovery’s spore drive tick in order to sell it to the Klingons. Thankfully, Stamets is the only person who can understand what’s happening, leading him to convince Michael and Tyler of the issue at hand.

Mudd makes for a delightful villain, and his brand of villainy — wit and smarts — puts the Discovery crew in some tight situations, situations that actually had me holding my breath in a few spots, such as when Mudd kills Tyler and when Michael kills herself to restart the time loop to save him.

Mudd’s involvement in this episode shook everyone out of their usual dynamics. We got to see some beautiful moments with Stamets and Michael, especially when he tries to teach her how to dance — and how to understand true love. We saw much, much less of Tilly. Lorca was actually a Starfleet captain for once. We thankfully saw more of Tyler. Is he being written like a standard Prince Charming who can see past all of Michael’s flaws (and crimes)? Yes. But is that quite all right? Absolutely. After everything our girl has been through, she could use some love.

Speaking of love…

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Michael’s relatable unfamiliarity with love

Sometimes an episode of television comes right on time for me. Maybe this has happened to you as well — when an episode speaks to you so directly that you wonder if the writers accessed a part of your brain. That certainly happened to me with “Magic to Make the Sanest Person Go Mad,” and having a show be on my exact wavelength was scary.

I’ve already written about how much Michael reminds me of me as far as her emotions go. Of course, I’m more humanly expressive than she is, but internally, I’m the same kind of ball of confusion when it comes to emotions and relationships, especially that conundrum that is “love.” How do people get it? How do you attract relationships into your life? What do you do once you’ve got some potential with someone you actually like? The scariest question, of course, is what if they don’t like what they see once they get to know you?

The fact that honesty was shown as the key element in making any relationship work is something everyone needs to write down in their captain’s logs. Love is really about is accepting someone at their worst as well as their best. It’s accepting someone’s personality flaws, character quirks, and just plain old annoyances. Stamets and Culber fell in love over Culber annoying the shiznit out of Stamets with his humming. Tyler appears to be falling in love with Michael because of her mysterious personality, strength of character, and relatable social awkwardness. Sometimes it’s what we view as our failings that make us the most attractive.

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The Wacky Theory in the Room

With that said, let’s address the rumor that Tyler is actually Voq in disguise. It makes sense — we don’t know what happened to Voq since he went on his little sojourn. But as Slate points out, it also brings up a lot of questions, questions that would take too long to answer. As Marissa Martinelli writes for Slate, “Did the Klingons deliberately let Captain Lorca escape the Klingon prison so that Tyler could infiltrate the U.S.S. Discovery? How could the Klingons invent a Starfleet officer without anyone realizing it was a ruse? Or was Ash Tyler a real person that Voq is taking the place of? In that case, what happened to the original Tyler?” I’m not saying the show can’t wrap up all of these loose ends, but at the same time, there are a lot of loose ends to this theory, and I’m not ready to throw my eggs in that basket. Especially since I want Michael to have a relationship by the end of this season.

However, maybe the Voq-as-Tyler thing is true. And if that’s the case, maybe Voq’s not trying to sabotage Starfleet anymore. What if that’s the twist? His time with the Klingon matriarchs might have changed him — maybe he realized through (or despite) their teachings that warmongering wasn’t what he wanted for himself. Or, even wilder, maybe Voq was the twist! What if Tyler was somehow undercover this whole time as a long con, and just like there’s a rumored method for Klingons to hide their forehead ridges, maybe there’s a way for a human to convincingly cloak themselves as a Klingon. I mean, Voq is a “son of none” after all; he can conveniently claim no one as family? Are there holes in this theory too? Sure. But it’s just as convoluted as the Tyler-as-Voq theory.

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More episodes like this, please

What made this episode the best one yet was how much fun it was, and not just because there was a party. There was a sense of heart within the show. There were fantastical plot elements that felt in line with the best Star Trek episodes. There was a feeling of playfulness, love, friendship, and kindness (even amid all of Mudd’s killing, since it ultimately never amounted to anything). Above all, there was no war. Yeah, there was a mention of Klingons. But the war finally took a back seat and allowed the zany side of Discovery show through. Let’s hope we see Discovery let its hair down more throughout this season.

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