Title: Star Trek: Discovery – Season 1 Episode 5: “Choose Your Pain”
Air Date: October 15th, 2017
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Drama
I have been critical of Star Trek: Discovery from its outset, as it just doesn’t feel like a good tv show, let alone one worthy of bearing the moniker of Star Trek. “Choose Your Pain” is precisely what I had hoped the show would be from the start and, hopefully, will continue to be for the future.
The majority of Star Trek: Discovery so far, in my opinion to its detriment, has focused on trying to develop the show’s leading character, Michael Burnham. Episode five features the least amount of screen time for her character all season, instead, developing the cast around her.
The plot in “Choose Your Pain” revolves around Captain Gabriel Lorca and how the crew will rescue him from The Klingons. The captain’s imprisonment leads to a lot of interesting development, delving into his past, introducing new and old characters, and the concept of choosing your pain that the episode is named after.
While the scenes on the prison ship are very interesting, and do a much better job of conveying Star Trek: Discovery’s grimdark nature than previous episodes, I found myself most invested in the scenes revolving around Discovery’s efforts to save him and the use of the Tardigrade to do so.
Last episode saw Burnham discover the moral quandary of using the Tardigrade for the purpose of benefiting the ship and the war effort. “Choose Your Pain” continues the storyline well, conveying the regret the lead character feels regarding her discovery. Not only that, but the plot manages to make crabby Lt. Stamets a much more likable and relatable character by the end.
Burnham’s attitude and relationship with Saru, who was the acting captain in Lorca’s absence, flowed much better this episode and managed to tell a compelling story working off their previous interactions in past episodes. Episode five felt like the first episode where the two, at one point or another, actually listened and tried to understand each other. It goes without saying that Doug Jones really nails every one of these scenes, as well as the ones without Burnham, as he continues to prove he is by far the best actor on the show.
Even the action scenes in “Choose Your Pain” felt more developed and satisfying. From disintegrating Klingons to the nuanced story behind the fight between L’Rell and Ash Tyler (who may actually be Voq in disguise), it all felt right. It felt how Star Trek should.
More than anything, this episode featured a ton of compelling scenes that I will remember, for no other reason other than the fact that they were damn interesting. Lorca’s torture scene, Sanu’s doubts as captain (I saw you Pike and Archer), and Sanu’s background with predators solving that it was Cpt. Lorca on the ship. This episode really felt like the first one on that really drew me in with enthralling stories.
The conclusion of the tardigrades story and all that led up to it was the first real satisfying end to a story in Star Trek: Discovery, something that is an impressive accomplishment only being five episodes in. There was also plenty of set up future conflict, continuity, and storylines. Previous episodes simply felt like an hour of exposition to get to point a to b for the next episode. Granted, the episode wasn’t without its clunky dialogue and exposition-filled scenes, most notably the explanation of the how the Tardigrade works between three people who already know, but they seemed a bit more merited this time around give the complexity of the subject matter.
“Choose Your Pain” even managed to go where Star Trek has never gone before when it comes to subject matter. Not only did the first ever f-bomb get dropped, the first ever openly gay characters were shown to be in a relationship. While most shows would exhibit this through more blatant physical means – usually involving a raunchy sex scene – Star Trek: Discovery simple shows that Stamets and Culber care about each other through conversation and body language.
Verdict: While it’s not without some quirks, “Choose Your Pain” is a huge warp forward for Star Trek: Discovery, developing both its characters and its future plot tremendously. Alongside the supporting cast, the fifth episode sees Burhnam grow as a character as well, despite it being the least amount of screen time her character has received all season. If the show manages to pump out more episodes like this, I think that it can get back on track to being one of the better television shows currently airing, and one that is deserving of the mantle of Star Trek.
Feel free to share your own opinions about the episode below. Be sure to check back next week for the six episode of the season, as the review will go up immediately after the show concludes on CBS All Access at 8: 30 PM EST.