Is that a bottle in your episode, or are you just happy to see me? Okay, that wasn’t the smoothest segue I’ve ever written but, much like the lesson learned by Burnham and Rayner by the end of this week’s episode of “Discovery,” a rough start doesn’t necessarily have to be the final word. The pair discovers this the hard way in what essentially turns out to be an homage to a tried-and-true television trope.

Originally conceived as a measure to cut corners and save money when a season ran the risk of going over budget, bottle episodes have always been a win-win situation for everyone involved. The producers and studio bean counters, naturally, will be happy with anything that saves them a tough conversation with the bosses. And although fans these days typically look at constraints as an unequivocal disadvantage for artists, there’s actually something freeing about the process where writers are forced to come up with unique scenarios and creative storylines by thinking outside the box — simply to justify using only the same few sets, a handful of actors, and a less extravagant vision.

For instance, a typical episode of “Discovery” tends to involve away missions to far-flung locales, space battles with enemy ships firing lasers, and all sorts of VFX-dominated mayhem. This time around, however, all of the action (outside of the opening few minutes, that is) takes place entirely within the confines of the USS Discovery … and constantly in the exact same rooms and hallways, too. The Captain’s ready room gets a steady workout, as does Paul Stamets’ (Anthony Rapp) place in Engineering. Otherwise, we really only ever return to generic hallways, the elevator, and the bridge. Yet despite the small scale, “Discovery” embarks on its most high-concept adventure yet.



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