TV Review: Star Trek: Discovery S2 – Episode 2: “New Eden”
Starring: Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Wilson Cruz, Oyin Oladejo, and Anson Mount
Story by: Akiva Goldsman & Sean Cochran
Written by: Vaun Wilmott & Sean Cochran
Directed by: Jonathan Frakes
“Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous.”
Star Trek: Discovery does it’s first honest-to-God Prime Directive episode in “New Eden,” the sophomore effort from season 2. Using the narrative opportunity afforded to them by the mysterious “Red Lights,” Disco leans into the episodic nature of the franchise and delivers a neatly constructed second episode, one that gives us some good, old school Trek action while fleshing out the characters and central mystery of the newest season. I am still somewhat concerned about the Spock of it all. This episode thankfully plays with less than the season opener. “New Eden” was a breezy, slickly directed second episode, keeping Disco’s new season on the right track, at least for the moment.
Starting from the episode’s cold open, “New Eden” delivers a plot that is vintage Star Trek. Chasing the latest “Red Light” out into the boonies of the Beta Quadrant, the crew of the Discovery discovers (I’m so sorry) a planet that is populated by a pre-Warp society who have been living there for nearly 200 years! Absconded from Earth during the thick of World War III by an “angelic figure,” who they have based their hodge-podge of a religion around as they live in aguarian bliss on their backwater planet. To make matters even more complicated, the rings surrounding the planet are collapsing. The ship’s crew must find a way to keep the away team’s cover while saving the planet from radioactive debris.
Again, much like the problem of the opening episode, I am so, so, SO pleased that the stories this time around have been more thoughtful and science-based. Vaun Wilmott and Sean Cochran’s script really nails the struggle of Starfleet officers in the face of the Prime Directive, sorry General Order 1. This states that no post-Warp society can meddle in the affairs of a pre-Warp society or reveal their advanced tech in a way that will upset the natural order of the species.
It is precisely the kind of moral and intellectual quandary that I want from Star Trek and better still Wilmott and Cochran don’t take the easy out of having the away team just upset the whole planet to save themselves. It’s one thing to give the character’s principles, but to have them actually stick to them and keep up the character growth that they have been enjoying from the start makes it an even more satisfying experience.
Furthering the satisfaction of this episode is the vastly improved direction of Jonathan Frakes and how he uses his stellar core cast. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with the work of Will Riker behind the camera. Like, I really love the novelty of Trek actors being on their shows for so long they start to direct. (I am currently watching Voyager and LT. Tom Paris is the first one on that show that starts shooting episodes, and that’s so fun for me.)
Frakes is one of the better crew members behind the camera…most of the time. I mean, he did give us Star Trek: First Contact. That gives him some goodwill, but he also made Clockstoppers so we should measure our expectations a touch here. BUT with “New Eden”, he seems to have really sharpened up! The camera dramatically lilts around the bridge and actors as the crew rattles off exposition and he delivers quite a few really striking shots of the Discovery mid-flight, in particular, the sequence in which the Disco does a donut in space. Yeah, you heard me. A far cry from his sometimes stilted scene direction and turgid action.
I am also very, very happy this episode is continuing season two’s streak of giving everyone something to do. Captain Pike and Burnham are the Ops and Science Officers of the away team. This episode gives us some amazing facetime with Tactical Officer (I think. Her Bridge station is right beside Lt. Detmer’s, who mans the Helm AND if we are going by TOS rules when it comes to Bridge layout, the Tactical station would be right next to the conn. We also know that women make up the majority of the Senior Staff so I really wanna say she’s the TAC officer. You signed up for this, btw.)
LT. Joann “Owo” Owosekun, played with playful steel by Oyin Oladejo. She joins the Captain and Burnham, who themselves are settling into a really fun Kirk and Spock esque dynamic, on the planet’s surface due to her apparent time in a Luddite colony. If you don’t think that is the dopest shit ever, then get out of my face. The season opener really surprised me with how much the ancillary bridge crew was getting a spotlight. I am really glad to see “New Eden” taking that even further.
VERDICT: WATCH IT
I didn’t really get into the Tilly stuff this episode partly because I am not sure where it is going yet (but rest assured, Mary Wiseman is still all sorts of adorable), aside from drawing weird comparisons to the Stamets plot last season, but I think I have taken enough of your time mainly to say “New Eden” is pretty great and keeps Discovery improving as the season starts out. I mean, this is an episode where an away team barrels through a plot right outta the Original Series, and the Discovery does a donut in space. What is not to love?
NEXT TIME! “Point of Light!” The return of Michelle Yeoh and a certain super hot Klingon badass! Until then, be seeing you.