How much continuity is too much? The answer, of course, is the point at which it becomes alienating to new viewers – the point at which it’s so suffocating and self-reflexive that it’s offputting. That’s not to say there isn’t a value in developing a mythos, or a certain glee to alluding to wider continuity, but there’s a need to make sure it’s not overpowering. Star Trek: Discovery is managing to stay on the right side of the line – for now – but it’d perhaps do well to ask itself this question more often. At the moment, it’s got it just about right; those who know will enjoy the nods to Matthew Decker or Christopher Pike, while those who don’t won’t be confused or taken out of it by reference to the Daystrom Institute. (Indeed, it’s often the more dedicated fans who do understand these allusions that are more likely to get tied into knots about it!)
There’s an addendum to the above, though, which Discovery is running risk of falling foul of: Just what does the continuity add? Choose Your Pain is an episode worth interrogating on this note, given the inclusion of Harcourt Fenton Mudd. Mudd is a fan favourite character, albeit one I’ve never really understood the appeal of – he’s a human trafficker played for laughs, from some particularly poor episodes of The Original Series. Was he a necessary inclusion? Was there anything about his plot function that demanded he be Harry Mudd, rather than an original character in a similar vein? Admittedly, it might be too early to say; we know that Mudd is set to return later in the series, so it’s possible that in hindsight this appearance will prove to be important set up for a story that does demand his inclusion. Otherwise? I’m less than convinced.
I am very much not a fan of Harry Mudd, as you’ll no doubt remember from previous reviews, but he was… alright, I suppose, in Discovery.