the story: Mudd attempts to use a time loop against the crew.
what it’s all about: This is hardly the first time Star Trek has featured time travel, much less a time loop. The most famous example is Next Generation’s “Cause and Effect,” where the ship is destroyed repeatedly and Kesley Grammer cameos at the end. The most recent is “Future Tense,” an Enterprise episode that plays with the concept as part of the plot rather than its focus. “Magic” is much like that. Although the time loop is a defining element of the episode, it should best be understood as a follow-up to the show’s earlier Harry Mudd appearance (“Choose Your Pain,” two episodes ago).
The episode helps provide further context for this show’s storytelling framework. Like the previous episode featuring an in-depth look at Sarek, “Magic” takes advantage of being a prequel story in much the same way as the last season of Enterprise, which was happy to explain in a fairly forthright manner how things came to be. If other elements of the season have also done their own thing, that again finds Discovery following in the footsteps of its immediate TV predecessor.
Mudd is a fine way to explore the episode, but so is the increasingly eccentric Stamets, the continuing hints that this series is addressing the concept of whales aboard Starfleet ships as previously only existed in noncanonical technical manuals, and yeah, the budding relationship between Burnham and Tyler. There’s also some great Lorca material, but mostly in how Mudd kills him repeatedly, which is darkly hilarious in its way.
But yeah, Mudd. In his original incarnation, Mudd was a conman gifted with an inexplicable expertise in creating lifelike androids, who existed only to further his schemes. It was easy to underestimate him because there was little effort to legitimize him. But this Mudd has a lot more going for him, including a wide range of technological know-how. In his previous series appearances, Mudd distinguished himself by rejecting Starfleet as the only way a human could get by in the future. If he was far from a moral equal to your typical Starfleet officer (...no comments about Lorca, or Butnham), “Magic” makes it clear that he doesn’t need Starfleet to have educated himself on the possibilities the future offers. In fact, like...Burnham and Lorca, he hardly seems worried about the implications of his actions, just so long as he benefits. But what separates Mudd from a Burnham or a Lorca is that he only has selfish goals in mind.
By the end, we learn the truth about his relationship with Stella, seen in the flesh for the first time, as she really is, not as Mudd describes or fears her to be, but as the logical conclusion to the way he approaches life. She’s the bride who accepts him at face value, but at the same time calls his bluff. How much more of a nightmare can a guy like Mudd expect?
- franchise -A time loop episode.
series- Doesn’t advance the plot.
- character - But it does work well further exploring these characters.
- essential - A must-watch for Mudd fans old and new.
Rainn Wilson (Mudd)