Star Trek Discovery: “Choose Your Pain”

Burnham and associates face a classic Trek dilemma, and a captive captain encounters a classic Trek character.

“Here’s Mudd in your eye!”

Titles: “Choose Your Pain”

Directed by Lee Rose
Written by Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, and Kemp Powers

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Doug Jones as Saru
Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca
Shazad Latif as Ash Tyler
Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets
Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber
Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly
Emily Coutts as Keyla Detmer
Clare McConnell as Dennas
Kenneth Mitchell as Kol
Sara Mitich as Airiam
Marco Perretta as Star Fleet Medical Doctor
Damon Runyan as Ujilli
Christopher Russell as Milton Richter
Ray Cammaert as Gratuitous Vulcan
Rainn Wilson as Harcourt Fenton Mudd


While the crew contemplate the dangerous effects of their method of travel on a possibly-sentient tardigrade, Captain Lorca gets captured by brutal Klingons. Whose life do they save?

Aboard the Klingon prison ship, Lorca makes a startling revelation to his new cellmates: new regular Ash Tyler and TOS scoundrel Harry Mudd.

High Points:

Stamets makes a typical old-school Trek sacrifice that works out for the best– except it appears it will have a lingering effect, to be revisited in a future episode.

The relationship between Burnham and Saru continues to develop….

Low Points:

…Tilly, however, remains f—-kin’ annoying.

As seems to be standard in pop-SF, advanced, stargoing vessels—in this case, an advanced stargoing prison ship—lack effective security cameras. They barely have effective security.

I don’t object to swearing per se; I watch a lot of shows that use offensive language. That said, the sudden and fairly gratuitous appearance of an expletive on Discovery feels forced and cheap, like they wanted to be the first Trek show to use fµ¢k.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 Although the story isn’t especially original, this episode does go in a few directions Trek has not gone before.

Effects: 5/6

Acting: 5/6

Production: 6/6

Story: 5/6 At the center of this week’s ep is a classic dilemma plot, where the characters have to choose between two conflicting options. Despite all the changes, Discovery feels more like Trek than we’ve seen in awhile. We even get a relatively happy ending—though we’re left with the knowledge of Lorca’s actions with his original crew, and the fact that he was willing to abandon a Federation citizen—unnecessarily—aboard a Klingon prison ship.

Emotional Response: 5/6 Despite a relatively happy ending, this episode reminds us that Discovery wants to be a more brutal version of Trek. The ambient sound aboard the Klingon ship makes for disturbing viewing, but the redesigned Klingons have become fearful enemies again, rather than cuddly cosplay.

Overall: 4/6 What’s up with that final moment with the man in the mirror?

In total, “Choose Your Pain” receives 34/42

7 replies on “Star Trek Discovery: “Choose Your Pain””

  1. Why are they swearing in 20/21st century English words in my Star Trek!?!?

    I don’t object to swearing in my entertainment either, I’m a fan of Game of Thrones, Jay and Silent Bob, and plenty more, but it felt very out of place here. If they’d all just watched some ancient classic entertainment such as Aliens or Sense8 and that’s where the language came from, then I might have bought it.

    …otherwise, I liked the episode. They do feel like they are doing Trek well, and I am glad it’s back. (I’ve decided to pretend it really is set fifty years post-Voyager, and the Klingons are some random other race. Clingahns.)

    • Given the extremely long history of that particular expletive as an intensifier, and the fact that they actually are speaking English, it really isn’t surprising for it to show up Star Trek’s notional time period. That’s not to say it didn’t feel out of place, though.

    • I don’t have a problem with it either, and I agree with Lost – the usage seemed particularly gratuitous, not to mention out of character, and as a result almost certainly didn’t have the intended impact. It wasn’t shocking; kind of hard to achieve that anymore since it’s used so much, let alone in a scene like that. It wasn’t funny either, which combined with the right context is probably the most effective use of it now, given the previous point. Instead it just jarred me out of the show and into a “WTF?” moment, so the rest of the scene had none of the impact that it was probably meant to.

      Still, technically the F-bomb is a lot older than the 20thC – its roots are 15th/16th C Germanic and it was well established over a century ago as a sexual expletive, although it’s probably only since the demise of the “seven words you can’t say” that it gained the current mainstream usage status. We commonly use obscenities today that are much older than that, so it’s quite likely that we’d still be using it a few centuries from now. Problem with that notion is that the impact of using it would probably have worn off too, making the reactions of the characters more befitting our time rather than theirs.

      • There’s also fictional context. We rarely hear contemporary swearing on Trek, so it sounds odd in context and, as you’ve noted, distracts from the impact rather than adding any.

  2. It felt to me like the swearing scene was put in to cater to the folks who are giving Orville such good reviews. I really wonder how long that scene has been in the script.

  3. The F-bomb didn’t bother me much, though it is a little out of place. My biggest problems with the episode, which overall was actually pretty good, were:

    1. The whole spore drive concept is ridiculous
    2. While the Harry Mudd character serves a useful function here, he’s not Harry Mudd – the personality is all wrong
    3. They’re still happy to show killing and torture, but god forbid two men should kiss (and they had a perfect moment for it)! At least they’re finally willing to actually show a gay couple.

    I find Orville to be much more “Star Trek” than Discovery is, though the latter is decent space opera (if you ignore anytime they try to get technical, like the “spore drive”).

    • Star Trek has often used some pretty dubious scientific concepts, and this one has served a couple of useful purposes. Besides, maybe we’ll get to hear: “Ahead, spore factor two!”

      Mudd was younger Mudd in the same way these are pre-Kirk Trek uniforms and those aliens are Klingons. But I’ve already covered that in previous weeks. Honestly, I don’t know why they just didn’t call this a reboot.

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