In a return to the original series format for Star Trk, Discovery’s New Eden was a strange combination of intriguing character arcs and a huge dose of nostalgia.
In the second chapter of the seasons mystery, Captain Pike learns two things; one, there’s a red burst pointing in the direction of a far off distress signal. Two, he’s just taken command of a ship that can zap through space in an instant thanks to a magic mushroom highway.
Ignoring the law for the greater good, Pike asks Stamets to strap himself into the spore drive once again to get them to the source of the signal where they find a remarkably Earth-like world filled with pre-warp humans with limited technology and a strange faith…
In it’s run so far, Discovery has been more adventurous in it’s format, creating it’s own voice to tell the stories of Starfleet’s finest. This time round it borrows a lot from the franchise past, primarily with the trip to the mysterious world, Terralisia, as they follow the path of the red angels.
Much like many worlds encountered by Kirk and the Enterprise, Terralisia is just like Earth. Leading a team to the surface, Pike learns that the people living there are human, taken by the Red Angels during the third world war where they came to form their own culture and religion; a combination of all the best and most popular faiths on Earth. Burnham believed they should be offered the chance to rejoin the current era of space faring humanity, but as the world hasn’t achieved warp yet and remains technologically stunted, Pike has to apply the Prime Directive and keep the truth from them that Discovery is in the skies above.
At t’s core it’s basic Trek. Te conflict between Michaels scientific mind and desire to bring these humans back into the fold clashes with Pike’s belief that they should be left to evolve on their own. Much like in original series the crew has to blend in, hiding the truth even from the one man – Jacob – who believes Earth survived the war.
It’s by the book stuff, really. Bur after barely leaving the ship in the first season it’s another step outside their comfort zone to show us the characters motives through their situation. Where the first season was a new twist on the Trek world and told a war story behind the lines, this was a familiar and comfortable mission enhanced massively by a little background on the Angels and the hint of a much bigger picture.
Another Angel, Another Disaster….
In the series opener we saw Discovery let to a crashed ship where they would rescue it’s long lost injured crew. This time we begin to learn it might not have been coincidence as on Discovery, Saru learns that the planet is on the edge of a natural disaster.
Where the ground mission brought a calm familiarity, Discovery was filled with excitement and energy as Tilly led the charge in using the dark matter acquired in the first episode to lure the asteroids away. It wa the first time we’d seen the collaborative team work of the crew; Saru heading up the big chair while Tilly formed a plan, brought in the bridge crew and everyone began to pitch their elements to bring it all together.
Down side is that, while Stamets is suffering the anxiety of re-entering the spore drive, the place he last saw his lost love, an accident while collecting dark matter saw Tilly end up in sick bay with a new imaginary friend cheerleading her on. No matter whats happening with the angels and wit Terralisia, Discovery still remains hooked to their spore tech; Stamets is almost living in fear of it and that somewhere in there the ghost of Hugh will be there waiting to haunt him, while Tilly’s dark matter collision seems to have drawn out some ghosts of it’s own…
Faith of the Heart
What really elevated this episode though was the character work. With Trek veteran and former number-one himself Jonathan Frakes behind the camera, instead of the bold epic of the first episode we had a strong focus on these characters driving the plot. In doing so we get a more positive vision of what they can achieve with leaders who allows them to express themselves; both in Pike bringing his confidence and swagger while Saru offers positive reinforcement, particularly in reminding Tilly that she has to care for herself before she can care for others after she puts herself at risk with the dark matter in hopes it can help replace Stamets as the spore drive catalyst.
We also learn a lot more about Pike. Which isn’t difficult, to be fair. Not only learning a little about his upbrining, his faith and his morality in dealing with the Prime Directive. particularly in how he finds common ground with Burnham to reveal himself to Jacob; breaking the rules for an exchange of vital information, as well as to restore Jacob’s faith in humanity surviving beyond the townsfolk comprehension.
New Eden is a stark contrast to the Discovery we’ve got used to. It’s bright, positive and energetic while teasing a lot of whats to come from the inevitable return of Culber to the looming question of who these red angels are and why exactly did they save humans from a dying civilisation?
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