This week, Michael Burnham attends a party where she hopes to create new friendships between herself and the Discovery crew. Meanwhile, Harry Mudd (from “Choose your Pain”) boards the Discovery by hiding inside a Gormagander, an endangered species that Lorca is required to beam aboard. Mudd emerges and somehow takes control of the ship’s computer. Mudd declares to Captain Lorca that he will have his revenge for being left to die inside the Klingon ship. He intends to sell the Discovery to the Klingons, which in turn would stop any chance the Federation has of winning the war, and allow him to get back together with the love of his life, Stella. The only thing stopping him is that he doesn’t know how to operate the ship’s Spore drive. Somehow, Mudd obtained a Time Crystal, which lets him repeat the same thirty minutes over and over until he succeeds.
Underlying this week’s time loop fiasco is a character piece featuring Michael Burnham. Michael’s Vulcan education taught her that she must put aside her human emotions if she is to live her life in accordance with logic. Michael’s adherence to logic, as opposed to her human emotions, makes it difficult for her to mingle with her crew mates. To her surprise, she has adjusted surprisingly well to her new role on board the Discovery and made some new friends. However, not all is as she would hope. Michael has never been in love, and she attends a party in hopes of starting a new relationship. Michael has taken a liking to Ash Tyler, who she finds so interesting because he is so kind despite being imprisoned by the Klingons for seven months.
The time loop idea allows “Magic” to explore the concept of relationships in an interesting way. In the first time loop, Michael doesn’t know how to ask Tyler to dance, and they are both called to the bridge before any real progress can be made. It takes many time loops before Michael finally has the courage to ask Tyler to dance. Even then, she only did so because she was asked by Stamets to learn as much about Mudd from Ash Tyler as possible. While they danced, Tyler hauntingly tells Michael that, “If time really is repeating, then this won’t matter,” before he kisses her.
Stamets, who is the only person on board the Discovery who exists outside the normal time stream thanks to the Tardigrade DNA, is the only person who is aware that the same events are being repeated over and over. In “Magic”, Stamets exhibits two completely different parts of his personality. The first part is the scientific, problem-solving part of his personality that allowed him to find out how to integrate his DNA with that of the Tardigrade. The other is his caring, loving side that he exhibits when he shows Michael how to dance, and he explains how he fell in love with Hugh. The way he talks, and later dances with Michael, suggests that he has deep affection for Michael, but he also cares deeply about the rest of the Discovery crew. It’s no wonder why he caved in to Mudd’s demand to operate the Spore drive when he threatened to kill the entire crew in a fit of agony.
Harry Mudd is the moral opposite of Stamets. He isn’t afraid to kill as many people as it takes for him to get what he wants. But he doesn’t just kill people to get what he wants. He also kills the Captain over and over because he enjoys it! Certainly Mudd is less dynamic than Stamets or Burnham, but he’s still an enjoyable character to watch when he’s on the screen. He has a strange sense of humor, such as when he walks into the bridge with triumphant music blazing.
Speaking of which, the sense of humor in this episode is incredible. The loud trumpet music is definitely well-placed, and it sets the tone that something crazy is about to happen. In one scene, Mudd kills the captain five times in the span of thirty seconds in creative ways. There are also a few terrific one-liners scattered throughout the episode, like Lorca’s astonished tone of voice when he exclaims “Captain Mudd?”
Since this is a time loop episode, the pacing is quite frantic, and I even lost count of just how many time loops there were. There were certain details that were omitted during some parts of the episode, like when Stamets should have convinced Michael that the Discovery is in a time loop. If he had to explain every single time, the dialogue would have ran way too long and it wouldn’t be very interesting either. You have to accept that details like these be omitted should the episode continue at a reasonable pace. There are also a few scenes, such as the dance scenes, when the pacing suddenly slows down. Such pauses are necessary so as to not completely overwhelm the viewer with constant action.
The only thing that’s holding “Magic” from being a great episode is the ending. The first problem that the ending should have been addressed is exactly how the Discovery was able to send its coordinates to Stella and her father. The second problem with the ending is that Stella should not appear at the very end of the episode and provide a solution for all of our heroes’ problems. Because there was so much time travel during the last few scenes, it only feels right that the episode should have ended on some kind of time-travel craziness. Instead, Stella simply appears, they have a short discussion, and Stella takes him away. It’s an ending that feels forced.
Final verdict: Very good
-The way “Magic” uses time travel to explore the topic of relationships.
-Exploration of both sides of Paul Stamets’ personality, and how Michael interacts with Ash Tyler in each of the time loops.
-Extremely fast pacing, but “Magic” delivers a few slower scenes, too.
-Mudd provides a great sense of humor.
-The ending, when Stella arrives and takes Harry Mudd away, is forced.
-Plot holes; Like how we don’t know how Harry took control of the ship’s computer, or why the crew doesn’t just stop Mudd from getting on to the ship once Stamets knows he’s hiding in the Gormagander.