After last week's mind-blowingly excellent season premiere of CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery, this week's follow-up episode "New Eden" had a lot to live up to. While the latest episode did not have the same humor and flow as last week's "Brother," it was a very classic Star Trek television episode – and still light years better than anything we saw in Season 1.
As is apparently standard for this season, the episode was a self-contained story within the larger season arc. In addition to uncovering additional information about the mysterious red signals the Discovery is chasing, we saw General Order 1, character development, doughnuts, crafty exit strategies, and ready room bonding. It was like old times… or future times… or future times we have seen before… you know what I mean.
So beware: this review is a meteor shower of spoilers!
As "New Eden" begins, Discovery sees one of the seven red signals reappear. The signal is too far away to reach by conventional warp, so they have to plug Stamets (Anthony Rapp) into the spore drive. It is Pike's (Anson Mount) first Black Alert and his describing it as travelling the "mushroom highway" is both witty and apt. When they arrive, the crew of the Discovery finds a colony of humans in a place where they could not possibly be… and they have been there for more than 200 years! Unsurprisingly, the Discovery has to save these colonists from certain death while not alerting the pre-warp society to who the Federation is and what they can do: a rule known as General Order 1 (better known as the Prime Directive).
While there is still a lot that we do not yet know about the red dots and what they mean, it appears that the signals are an indication of impending disaster. If the rest of the season follows the same pattern as the first two episodes, Discovery will be sent on at least five more missions by whatever entity or entities are controlling the signals. It is almost like the signals are assignment coordinates coming from a cosmic 911 operator.
SIDE NOTE: Speaking of which, I wonder if the red dots and the missions associated with them have something to do with the mycelial network? Like the force, the mycelial network flows through all things and is a giant road map of space time. Theoretically, someone or something might be able to read the network for signs of trouble and then send a red signal to alert the universe. Or the network itself could be sentient and sending the signals.
The episode plot itself is bread-and-butter Star Trek – and that's a good thing. The crew discovers a planet that has humans but has not yet invented space travel. Disguised as locals, the crew travels to the planet to gain information about the colony and one of the locals is too smart for their own good and figures out the crew are from a spaceship. The crew have to lie to cover their tracks after Pike saves a local child from the dangers of modern weapons. After secretly saving the planet from a threat they never even knew about, the Captain breaks General Order 1 with the only local that knows the crew's true origins in order to obtain what the Discovery needs for their mission. This episode pattern has played out numerous times across numerous Trek series – and it was cozy and comfortable to see it, like visiting home after your first year of college.
"New Eden" also gave us the opportunity to get to know Lieutenant Joann Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo), the Discovery's Operations Officer. Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) selects Owosekun for the mission because the Lieutenant was raised on a Luddite collective on Earth. Apparently 23rd century Earth has "The Village"-like colonies of people who don't use modern technology. The story of Owosekun's upbringing was an interesting character backstory and provided a good reason for Pike and Burhnam to call her off from their away team bench. I liked her confidence and interactions with the other away team members and the locals, and it was super cool to see her use a magnet to open a latched door. I really want to try that trick now.
Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) continues to be both the deus ex machina and comic relief for the show. After being injured while drilling a hole in a super-dense asteroid without back-up, a Discovery crew member named May (Bahia Watson) assists Tilly in figuring out a fly-in-a-doughnut-while-dragging-a-magnet maneuver to save the human colony and the away team. The twist? Near the end of the episode, we discover that May was actually one of Tilly's school friends – who is now dead.
So where did May come from? My theory is that May is Tilly's imaginary friend, a part of Tilly's mind being reflected externally by whatever asteroid power Tilly was hit with. While the situation was cute in this episode, if previous Trek imaginary friends are any indication then things could get a lot worse for Tilly before they get better.
This was an excellent episode of Discovery: it maintained last week's momentum, and I like where they are going with the season. I have one major quibble, however: Where's Spock (Ethan Peck)? We were promised the Enterprise, Captain Pike, and Spock. While two out of three is enough for some people… I want to see Spock! In this episode, Burnham learned from Captain Pike that Spock has checked himself into a psychiatric hospital and refuses to permit his family to be notified. What we don't know is what happened to make him take that drastic step. As to when we will finally get our first glimpse of Spock in the flesh, your guess is as good as mine… but I hope soon.
In the meantime, I leave you with some additional random thoughts from this week's episode – currently available for streaming on CBS All Access.
● World War III takes place in 2053, so pencil it in now, you have 34 years to prepare.
● Is the new doctor the only person working in Sick Bay? Why is there never anyone there watching Tilly?
● How does a Luddite colony citizen end up in Starfleet? Do they have their own version of Rumspringa?
● This year both Star Trek: Discovery and Doctor Who have quoted Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Is this the beginning of a movement?
● Captain Pike appears to be religious, or at least open to religion.
● Lieutenant Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts) has had her pilot's license since she was 12. What does that mean in the 23rd century?
● Does the Federation ever manage to meet with another civilization without breaking the Prime Directive?
● Is Discovery's current cluster of rescue missions cosmic penance for the crew's actions in Season 1?
● "New Eden" was directed by Commander Riker himself, Jonathan Frakes.