It’s no secret that I have had my fair share of issues with the first season of ‘Star Trek: Discovery.’ We don’t need to rehash all the issues right now but feel free to peruse my reviews of the first season episodes to see my sizable laundry-list of perceived shortcomings of the show. It was with some trepidation, then, that I sat down to watch the filler-style “Short Treks” episodes these last few months.
Providing one 15-ish minute “mini-episode” a month until the full episodes return with the Season Two premiere in January, CBS is hoping that these tiny tales will give fans enough to hold their interest until early next year. I personally have felt that episodes 1 and 3, revolving around Ensign Tilly and Commander Saru, respectively, fell a bit flat, while episode 2, the future-facing ‘Calypso,’ was quite enjoyable; will this month’s final mini-episode bring something significantly different for the Trek faithful?
WARNING: Spoilers for this episode of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ lie ahead, obviously. If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish for any of its content to be spoiled for you, the time to turn back is NOW!
RECAP: When your entire episode is only 14-ish minutes long, there’s no time for heavy exposition! The story picks up right away with a bounty hunter “selling” everyone’s favorite rascal from Star Trek: The Original Series, Harry Mudd, to Tevrin Krit, a Tellartie trader whom Mudd has, shall we say, interacted with his sister and stolen a family heirloom along the way. Krit plans to turn Mudd over to the nearest Federation ship and collect the reward being offered.
Mudd, of course, is prepared to do what Mudd does best: try his darndest to weasel out of the situation he’s found himself in. He offers first a pronunciation of innocence, then bravado, then bargaining, then groveling; it’s somewhat akin to the smugger’s version of the “Stages of Grief,” really. Through it all, the audience is treated to quick flashbacks of when Mudd had found himself in this exact same predicament previously, usually with some word-for-word moments being repeated to quite comedic effect.
Through it all, though, Krit proves immobile in his resolve, and after finally docking with the USS de Milo, the Tellarite is ready to claim his reward – until we discover that Mudd has one more expert move up his sleeve that will allow the rapscallion to slip through the Federation’s fingers once more…
- Wilson, who has gleefully thrown himself into his “modernized” portrayal of Mudd, is on full display here in ‘The Escape Artist,’ being on-screen pretty much every second of this episode. Wilson also directed this Short Trek, and it’s very clear that he has a great grasp of not only the character of Mudd himself, but what is effectively needed to ride the comedic “fine line” of hamming it up versus overacting a scene – if you had any question that he has this special talent, go watch any (and every) episode of ‘The Office.’
- This mini-episode represents a “passing of the torch” of sorts to Wilson from the actor who originated the role of Harcourt Fenton Mudd back in the 1960s, Roger Carmel. Carmel portrayed Mudd in two episodes of The Original Series and returned to voice the character in one episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series; with this third appearance (two episodes in the first season of Discovery to go along with this Short Trek), Wilson has now “tied” Carmel for being Mudd on-screen the most.
- The big “twist” at the end of the episode of Mudd and his army of robots is a duplicitously fantastic movie, and the plot device itself harkens back to The Original Series, where we know that he was a “ruler” of sorts on his planet populated by robots. Perhaps ‘The Escape Artist’ functions as a prequel, of sorts, for the “classic” Mudd.
- “If I had any money, I’d be sipping jibbers on a beach somewhere!” This phrase has instantly entered my “Top 10” of all-time favorite Trek quotes.
CLOSING THOUGHTS: The two Short Treks that have intrigued me the most – this episode and the far-flung-future Calypso‘ – are the two that haven’t been focused on the USS Discovery, her crew, or the overly-dramatic plot lines they’ve been given. This is no accident. With the introduction of the much-beloved Captain Christopher Pike and the pre-Kirk crew of the USS Enterprise in the impending second season, my expectations are high,but based on my lower levels of enjoyment of the first season, my hopes are understandably tempered. I’ll give the show every chance to prove me wrong, however, and we don’t have long to wait, as the second season of ‘Discovery’ is coming our way in just a few short weeks!
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Rainn Wilson as Harry Mudd
Harry Judge as Tevrin Krit
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ features new episodes Sunday nights at 8:30 pm online via CBS All Access; the second season premiers on January 17, 2019.