This might have been the weekend of Stranger Things 2, but late Sunday night Trekkies got their own shot in the arm. Star Trek: Discovery’s “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” is being hailed by many a fan as a return to the franchise’s greatest strengths.
[Warning: This post contains spoilers for “Magic to Make the Sanest Man go Mad,” the seventh episode of Star Trek: Discovery.]
Indeed, the episode was practically a checklist of beloved Star Trek mainstays: A time loop that ends with the ship exploding! Giant space creatures that need saving (or, alternatively, avoiding)! Captain’s log-style narration, crew fraternization, romantic tension between two characters that is consummated and then erased by Quantum Shenanigans by the end of the episode.
And fans noticed:
Even some folks who were lukewarm on the series overall, had to admit that it was more like Star Trek than Discovery has been so far.
“I do feel happy that they went for something more ‘Star-trekky’ in this episode,” wrote badBear11 in the Star Trek subreddit, “and I hope they continue on this path. But it was simply horribly written. In the end, maybe I would even say it is the best episode so far, because it did feel more like Star Trek, albeit a bad one.”
It’s certainly true that Star Trek: Discovery has responded to the trend in modern television for season-long arcs rather than episodic storytelling. Most Star Trek series, while not so episodic as to be procedurals, were heavily rooted in the hour-long adventure in which the status quo is restored at the end. Star Trek: Voyager occasionally played around with season-long arcs, and Star Trek: Deep Space 9 is infamous for, over the course of its run, pushing the furthest of any Trek series into overarching storylines.
Deep Space Nine writer Ron Moore would go on to create the Syfy Channel’s Battlestar Galactica reboot, one of the best regarded serialized sci-fi epics of the past fifteen years, which was anything but episodic. In an era of prestige television, it makes sense that Star Trek: Discovery would seek to modernize itself as well.
And it also makes sense that a relatively contained episode — full of wild science fiction ideas but with a focus on character development rather than pushing the overall plot forward — would resonate so nostalgically with fans.
“It’s kinda like DS9 and TNG hooked up, mixed in just a tiny bit of ENT and just a dash of Kelvin Trek and squirted our this new version of Trek,” snake202021 wrote on Reddit. “Honestly the show is pretty much what Star Trek would have been had it come out in 2017 instead of the 60s.”