Star Trek: Discovery: New Eden
January 25, 2019 9:57 AM - Season 2, Episode 2 - Subscribe

The USS Discovery chases a lead.

Memory Alpha is still thin at the time of posting, (thinner than the season premiere was last week), but they do have a page up about May Ahearn already.

We also learned:
- Detmer got her pilot's license at 12.
- Owosekun grew up in a 'Luddite collective,' even though her family held no religious beliefs.
- Spock is currently in a lot more trouble than previously advertised.
- Captain Pike is considerably more committed to General Order One than Kirk was.
- Tilly is seeing ghosts.
- The Red Angels were active on Earth centuries ago, and still appear to be keeping tabs on the leftover colonists.

The discussion of 'what to do with this lost colony' is similar to the one in Enterprise's episode Terra Nova.
posted by mordax (37 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I loved Pike’s reaction to the spore drive jump. As Saru pointed out, “ You never forget your first.”
posted by Roger Pittman at 10:01 AM on January 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Poster's Log:
I was frustrated by the Prime Directive discussion, because it felt like an opportunity to have a more nuanced discussion of the whole thing and I feel they dropped the ball for the 100th time.

We've talked about this a lot in prior Trek threads, and the most plausible explanation for the whole thing I ever heard was simply that the Prime Directive exists to prevent younger races from 'skipping in line' when it comes to technological progression, a view that seems to be supported by Pike's final explanation of why he won't take the poor caretaker to the stars.

What I want is a discussion of colonialism: the idea that more powerful civilizations have trouble maintaining balanced and non-coercive relationships with less powerful ones. I wish DSC had gone there, especially since this is extra murky because those people are humans who did not leave Earth voluntarily.

I liked all the same stuff I've been liking: Tilly is great, Saru is great. It was fun to see some more crew get names and lines.

I remain concerned about the Stamets stuff - seems like they're going to maybe have a Search for Spock thing happen, but it's tough to say how it'll play out. I also remain concerned about the depiction of Spock, but I guess we'll see.
posted by mordax at 10:06 AM on January 25, 2019 [16 favorites]

I thought this was far more TREK-ky than the season premiere. Prime Directive issues! Mysterious, super-powerful beings! (Shades of the Prophets in DS9, I thought.) Technobabble! (Well, OK.) Granted, the galactic mystery could wind up misfiring, but I'm fine with it so far. Although I do hope the seven red things are not the Seven Seals or anything of the sort...

Burnham's relationship to Pike seems to be replaying Spock's to Kirk. (Are we doing doubles again this season?)

Saru's reprimand/encouragement of Tilly was quite good. Wondering if May Ahearn is an example of mycelial networking gone awry or if she's connected to the Red Angel(s).
posted by thomas j wise at 10:15 AM on January 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

Isn't leaving the guy behind in the technological backwater the opposite of what was done for Saru in the Star Trek Short #3?
posted by cardboard at 11:06 AM on January 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

Isn't leaving the guy behind in the technological backwater the opposite of what was done for Saru in the Star Trek Short #3?

Unfortunately, it fits with my Prime Directive complaints:

Saru proved he was too good for a primitive backwater by working with an alien communications device, and so he was deemed fit for special dispensation to leave his home, but only if he promised never to go back and help them.

This guy was a victim of circumstance and he made a clear plea for help, but that wasn't good enough for asylum because he didn't prove he belonged in space. Pike going back to even let him know he wasn't crazy was bending the rules.

It's... well, a Trek problem rather than a DSC problem, but it's pretty frustrating.
posted by mordax at 11:14 AM on January 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm loving getting to know the bridge crew a little better. ONE DAY CAN THEY HAVE SOME SHORT TREKS PLEASE? Ahem.

Owosekun grew up in a 'Luddite collective,' even though her family held no religious beliefs.

The original Luddites were objecting to losing their livelihoods due to the mechanisation of weaving, they weren't a religious movement.
posted by Coaticass at 2:10 PM on January 25, 2019 [16 favorites]

The original Luddites were objecting to losing their livelihoods due to the mechanisation of weaving, they weren't a religious movement.

Thanks. :)
posted by mordax at 2:55 PM on January 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Keith R.A.Candido's review on
posted by Coaticass at 6:20 PM on January 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

So, after 50-years of space-nazis, space-communists, space-segregationists, space-gender-essentialists, space-eugenicists, space-pacifists, space-capitalists, space-Native Americans, and space-Irish we now have....

Crunchy granola organic Unitarian-Universalists!
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:30 PM on January 25, 2019 [21 favorites]

Talking about why it should apply or not would get into whether or not it should, and why that order exists -- is it because interfering bears risks? Is it because of power dynamics? Is it because of weird views on evolution? Trek has advanced a lot of different ideas for why that rule exists (and why it doesn't apply, sometimes) and it would have been nice to have more of that here.

Right? Discovery has been progressive in a number of places earlier Trek fell down, (especially prevalent in our ENT rewatch), so this feels like an especially bad missed opportunity. I'd love to hear... something. Or, even better, I would've preferred they just offer to help those people, since they weren't voluntary colonists.

Those stories can even deal with similar themes without needing to be directedly linked by deus ex machinas!

On a lighter note, this pretty much guarantees I'll be fighting either Red Angels or whatever they're protecting the galaxy from in Star Trek Online before the year is out. (Captain Killy has already made an appearance, and she was hilarious.)
posted by mordax at 7:24 PM on January 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

Did TOS have replicators? How advanced are replicators in STD?

Or do exploration vessels maintain a contingent of costume designers/ tailors to make infiltration-/ contact- appropriate clothing on board?
posted by porpoise at 7:54 PM on January 25, 2019

Did TOS have replicators? How advanced are replicators in STD?

Burnham had a new uniform "printed" in an episode of S1. The protein resequenced on the NX-01 could create a complex structure like a chicken sandwich -- if you can 3D print a passable chicken sandwich out of feedstock you have the tech to print clothing.
posted by nathan_teske at 8:09 PM on January 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

One of the worst bits of handwavium in Trek is how everyone seems to find out about these galaxy-level events involving synchronized red lights, whale-whispering alien probes, or VGER within a relatively short period.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 8:12 PM on January 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

One of the obvious advantages to having a warp drive would be the ability to study short-lived astronomical events at your leisure. Last year's neutron star merger? You can repeat your observations a dozen times before lunch. The mysterious cloud event at Sag A*? Schedule it for a time that's convenient for your crew. Red dwarf outbursts? Collect them by the hundreds. The Great Eruption of Eta Carinae is no longer a mystery, you can figure it out on your way to Vulcan.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 8:59 PM on January 25, 2019 [6 favorites]

All good points. I'm going to wait it out on the "General Order One" aspect and remain hopeful that they will cover more ground as the season speeds along.

I was stuck on Tilly's ghost. The first time I saw her I thought, "cool". The second time, she just appeared in the sick bay. Wait what? Where did she come from and wait, no one talked to her the first time she appeared.

After the episode I thought, yeah so Tilly's ghost providing the vital guidance to Tilly in order to save the colony on the planet. Soooo....maybe that was really the or a Red Angel? And maybe Hugh is one as well, since he provided Stamets with guidance that helped to save Discovery. That may be what Stamets is started seeing Hugh again when he jumped the last time. Things that make me go hmm..

Then again I may just be following wild threads.
posted by serenitynow at 9:54 PM on January 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

I really, really like how much more Trek-like this season's stories are feeling.  Having said that, just once I want them to take a story like this and pay lip service that these are humans, not aliens.  They're us, members of a species that has already discovered FTL, and deserve to be treated as adults.  Just because their particular society isn't in space doesn't mean they're ignorant children.

Clearly they understood they were no longer on Earth, knew of spaceships and the possibility of FTL.  So I'd rather see the crew say "Oh by the way, here's a compendium of the knowledge you need to get back to us.  We can't take you with us, and it'll take you a century to bootstrap yourselves to FTL travel, but Sol's address in there too.  Oh, and there's guidance too for not making all the mistakes we've made in the past.  The choice is yours."  Hell, it'd make an even stronger story and a way to explore where the ethical edges of the Prime Directive really are.  You'd get the chance to view the wistful looks back as the crew hopes they've done the right thing, and a shot of the colony of Terrans gathering together to decide how and how far they want to proceed with this gift from their home planet.

Just once.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 12:02 AM on January 26, 2019 [12 favorites]

My housemate pointed out something with regards to Tilly's ghost. It may be related to the scene from What's Past is Prologue when just after their jump from the Mirror Universe back home, the Spore Drive bay was filled with energized spores floating in the air, and the camera made a point to linger on a tracking shot of a particularly glowy spore as it swirled down past Tilly's head to land on her left shoulder.

Then we have in this episode, when Tilly's taking her laser core sample, a stray dark matter rock breaks free and drifts out in a slow motion shot that shows it passes right past Tilly's left shoulder before crushing a cart. Last week established that the spores go crazy with mycelial energy spikes in proximity to this stuff. And it was shortly after that that our ghost started appearing, even going so far as to point out that she was in the shuttle bay with Tilly when her accident happened.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:51 AM on January 26, 2019 [16 favorites]

You know, all this discussion of the Prime Directive makes me think that a series set around the Starfleet Diplomatic Corps would be fascinating. Imagine a whole season about navigating first contact!
posted by Automocar at 7:52 AM on January 26, 2019 [6 favorites]

Tilly's line to stamets about the ship being "good haunted" is looking questionable.

I'm glad that in addition to more meaty cuts of the plot, Tilly is also getting a good foil. May managed to be pretty effectively unnerving while also generally helpful and friendly. I thought she was just a telepathic crew member, but I'll also take vaguely menacing mushroom ghost.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 2:57 PM on January 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you think being able to see astronomical phenomena separated by tens of thousands of light years doesn't make any sense, you're going to hate subspace communication.
posted by runcibleshaw at 3:23 PM on January 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

Was that counter-clockwise? OR CLOCKWISE?
posted by biffa at 3:24 PM on January 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Starfleet Diplomatic Corps

Screw a season, give me a whole series on this, set some time in the Federation future. They'd fly around the galaxy, cleaning up the messes made by gung-ho captains, while bitching about them the entire time. Their bureaucratic nemesis would of course be Section 31, who make the really ugly messes they have to clean up. Only Section 31 is so secret they can't bitch about them at the local bar, and have to just sigh and suck it up. Then, as they wrap up the series, Starfleet Diplomatic Corps learn they've won the good fight, and the UFP has decided to disband Section 31. Much celebration ensues.

The final camera shot as it fades to black of course, will be the reveal it still exists. The camera will pan across a door of a nondescript office somewhere on Earth Spacedock, revealing its new name, Special Circumstances.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 4:37 PM on January 26, 2019 [22 favorites]

There's a higher bar to clear for suspending disbelief as elements move closer to the core of a narrative's premise.

I think you're right, but I'm having hard time wrapping my head around the why of it. I mean you already said why but for some reason that answer is unsatisfying to me. Part of me is bugged by the Doctor Who levels of timey wimey going on with the red lights. But another part of me kind of likes how it picks at the holes in how the physics and technology of Star Trek works. If you think about FTL travel and communication for more than a minute you'll realize that every starship is a time travel machine and that they're playing fast and loose with concepts like causality.

In screenwriting class they talk about the idea of the 'big buy'. You can basically ask your audience to buy one or two incredible things and they'll be fine with it. Anything that flows down from those big buys naturally is okay. But, if you start throwing too many implausible elements at the audience eventually they can't take it anymore. If you saw The Day Time Ended episode of the most recent MST3K you'll know what I'm talking about.

I kind of felt a bit of the "this is too much to swallow" feeling with the spore drive in the first season, but they leaned so hard into it and made it such an integral part of the show, that they eventually won me over. I'm hoping something similar happens with these red lights.

Other thoughts:

The actor playing the robotish person (Amaria? Analia?...) seemed like they were having a hard time acting through the prosthetic. Seemed real stiff, especially around the mouth.

I do think they could have talked a little bit more about the why of the prime directive a little more. Like why is it a good policy to not interfere with pre-warp civilizations? Why is warp the dividing line? I don't think any Trek has really dealt with these questions head-on. It's just taken as a given that the PD is mostly a good idea when they talk about whether or not they should violate it. The Saru thing seems like a contradiction, but Saru chose to leave. The guy in this episode (whose name escapes me now) doesn't seem to actually want to leave once he has the answer he was looking for.

I do think that some of takes in this thread have assumed that giving warp technology to a civilization that doesn't have it is an unalloyed good, but I don't think that's necessarily true. It makes me think of the guy who tried to contact that one tribe on that island and got killed. I think very few people thought that dude should have been allowed to fuck with that tribe's society. Why should Star Fleet be allowed to fuck with New Eden society? I mean, they did fuck with it by showing up, visibly beaming away, and then leaving a super battery behind, but I think that's an argument for following the PD, not against it.
posted by runcibleshaw at 8:07 PM on January 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

mordax! suuper happy to see you helming the thread, hope you and yours are keeping well.

I don't have a whole lot to say except to second the observation that Luddism is not religious but specifically technological, yay more TOS-like plots, yay protagonist stuff more widely shared esp with the specific landing party we saw, and finally and more i dunno noddingly or something YES to every damn thing Commander Mordax says above.

A specific beat that I'll just note is that the little girl seen on the planet appears in shot frames in such a manner as to imply that her parents are Jacob and the priestess (uh, "Mother" on the IMDB credits). A bit heavy-handed maybe, but maybe only if you are looking for it.

It seems likely with the repetition of the Red Angel imagery and the explicit citation of secular and anti-religious themes this season is taking a run at a primary - and risky - Trek theme, the justification or lack thereof for religion and religious practice itself. Hell yes, I'm on board for more Apollo and Kukulkan hijinks! With luck we'll drop by Megas-tu as well.

More seriously, I really do think we're off to a promising start. Mordax' critiques are correct, though, and I would love to see the show answer them. Nice to see you all again. IDIC etc etc xxoo
posted by mwhybark at 10:46 PM on January 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I read a book on writing poetry that talked about the tendency for some contemporary poets to purposefully "leave their eyeglasses on the page" to draw awareness to the fact that it is a poem by a poet.

Yes, Star Trek is wonderfully squishy science fiction (Darko Suvin: fiction that uses elements from science to create cognitive estrangement), and everything in Star Trek runs on the speed of plot. My problem with the Red Lights is that they're obviously a plot device, and the only rule we're given for figuring it out is "Spock knows something." And I don't mind that it's contrived handwavium to make Spock necessary, just as the beta-quadrant location was contrived to keep Stamets around and the resolution in this episode was contrived so that Detmer can do donuts (because Detmer is fucking awesome). But the Red Lights have not paid off enough for me to see past the multiple pair of eyeglasses left behind during the Pike/Burnham conversations about them.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 9:14 AM on January 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Initially, [the seven signals and the Red Angel] started as a conversation about the way in which Trek has dealt with the issue of space vs. science. Gene Roddenberry had a very specific take on religion as it relates to Star Trek. In the original series, religion doesn’t exist.

Kurtzmann might want to watch some of the original series — say, “Balance of Terror” ( which begins with Kirk officiating a wedding in the ship’s chapel) or “Bread and Circuses” (which ends with Uhura, Kirk, and McCoy speaking approvingly of Christianity spreading on that week’s Planet of the Hats) — and ponder this statement. And I can only hope that the word “space” in the first sentence is a transcription error for “faith,” which would at least make his point intelligible if still incorrect.

Berman, Braga, Kurtzmann... I keep imagining how much better Trek would be if it were in the hands of someone at least moderately intelligent and interested in the setting. I grant that it has had occasional brushes with such people (Manny Coto trying to salvage the final year of Enterprise, Michael Chabon writing an episode of Short Treks) but then it does a hurried course correction back into the team of being Just Another Teevee Series.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:26 AM on January 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

I may have mentioned this in a comment last year but I’ve watched both seasons of Discovery in parallel with my chronological Trek watch - last season with TOS/TAS, this one as I wrap up TNG season 5. I’m still a ways away from any episodes I remember from childhood, so it’s been fun to compare three eras of Trek with minimal preconceptions. I agree with some of the criticisms leveled at Disco Trek but I find myself inclined to go easy on it, because a lot of the time it’s held up to standards that fully 75-80% of TOS and TNG wouldn’t be able to meet, even after stripping away the worst third of each show.

Anyway! This episode does that Classic Trek Thing or creating a meaty moral dilemma that could easily fill an entire episode, then skimming over it so there’s time for mortal peril and technobabble. At least the two plots tie together better than the “Lwaxana Troi’s wedding is interrupted by killer slime” type story.

I’m with previous posters that it would have been nice for a modern Trek show to delve into the colonialist/imperialist implications of the Prime Directive like older shows never quite did...though as someone firmly #TeamJacob, what I felt was missing most was a #TeamPike argument that “rescuing” the New Edenites would destroy their entire culture. They missed their opportunity to make it feel like a living, breathing culture that had value, and not just a desperate hodgepodge, which is why it seems so cruel and ridiculous to leave them in the dark when a more obviously alien culture might’ve seemed worth protecting even at the expense of specific individuals.

May Ahearn’s actress did a great job of behavioral Uncanny Valley - I found her immediately unsettling even though it took me a second scene to be sure she wasn’t a real person. It was good to see more of Owosekun/Detmer, and Dr Pollard is delightfully snarky and I hope she gets to stick around after Hugh’s inevitable return. The Pike/Burnham dynamic is more engaging than I was expecting, but the Saru/Tilly interplay this episode was A+.

I haven’t seen a mention yet that this was directed by Jonathan Frakes? Here’s a nice interview with him from a few days ago.

On an inclusiveness note, I noticed there were at least four WoC this episode with multiple lines, which shouldn’t be as noticeable as it was, but there you go.

Also, it’s obvious that Spock will appear eventually but Netflix spoiled his appearance with the preview image, booooooo

Now I’m off to finish watching Short Treks and then... “The Inner Light”? I’ve heard that’s a good one.
posted by bettafish at 1:03 PM on January 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

oooh! be sure to post in the TNG thread!
posted by mwhybark at 1:58 PM on January 27, 2019

Now I’m off to finish watching Short Treks

They are a nice little bonus to the series. But because of them, I found myself asking the same question as cardboard did above, and for the same reason: counting in airing order, it was only three episodes ago that we saw Starfleet scoop up a native of a low-tech planet once said native discerned the existence of an ultra-tech civilization all around him. It raises the question and then never really addresses why the answer is yes half the time and nope half the time. Really, Saru might have had something to say on this once Pike beamed up.

Although I am on balance enjoying the show so far, the reluctance to consider this -- coupled with Tilly's means of detecting the red anomalies by modulating the sensor dish or whatever it was -- hearkened back to the more indifferent episodes of TNG, where the knotty problem is solved by Geordi reversing the graviton flux in the warp drive's intermix dampers so we can all fly on to next week's episode.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:02 PM on January 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

oops, I guess we don't have a TNG thing up! I really thought we did.
posted by mwhybark at 2:10 PM on January 27, 2019

You'd get the chance to view the wistful looks back as the crew hopes they've done the right thing, and a shot of the colony of Terrans gathering together to decide how and how far they want to proceed with this gift from their home planet.

Do you want a planet of gangsters? Because that's how you get a planet of gangsters.

Or worse, Nazis. And Im pretty sure that Roman Earth was because somebody invited the locals to movie night with "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."

I do think they could have talked a little bit more about the why of the prime directive a little more. Like why is it a good policy to not interfere with pre-warp civilizations? Why is warp the dividing line?

Even leaving aside all the examples of human history of how contact with less technologically developed cultures went, the OldTrek series kinda went into this. You get local cultures warped into horribly disfunctional cultures that mirror the worst of Earth culture.

Contrarywise the argument in favor of ditching the Prime Directive rapidly boils down to (to paraphrase an earlier commentator) Are we justified in not allowing the Sentinalese or Brazilian rainforest indians the benefits of modern life extension technologyc? Or the internet for that matter? Doesnt it rapidly devolve into "The Native Americans should be greatful to the Europeans?"

Honestly, I wish James Nicoll's "There's Something About Titan" was still available, as it flips things around with contemporary Earth dealing with some very advanced and superior (in every sense of the word) time travellers.

As for warp being the dividing line, that's simple: then they cant be avoided. Also based on OldTrek, if the culture is able to attack the Enterprise in orbit, the Prime Directive gets really flexible.
posted by happyroach at 10:50 PM on January 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

One more comment:

I think it's really easy to overlook how damn good this show looks. Every episode looks big budget movie quality to my eyes (excepting some makeup issues I noted above*). I wonder if in a decade the effects and sets will look as cheesy as TNG or TOS looks to me today.

*There was also a particular scene that had some real weird fast cuts that I didn't like. I can't quite recall which one though.
posted by runcibleshaw at 8:49 AM on January 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

Not a lot to add, except that my favorite moment is when Tilly is telling Detmer about her idea of doing a donut in space, and Detmer's eyes pop a little as she's sitting down to her console.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:13 AM on January 30, 2019 [5 favorites]

... all this discussion of the Prime Directive makes me think that a series set around the Starfleet Diplomatic Corps would be fascinating.

Sadly, Keith Laumer isn't around any more to write for that show.
posted by hanov3r at 10:27 AM on February 1, 2019

I saw shipping potential between Tilly and May before it because clear that May was not a person actually there. So that was too bad.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:16 PM on February 11, 2019

I'm late to this party, having resisted getting a CBS subscription until Jordan Peele's Twilight Zone reboot convinced me to give it a shot. The one thought I've had about this episode that I don't think anyone has covered yet is just how weird it is to apply the Prime Directive to a group of people descended from folks whisked away from Earth in the 2030s. Vulcans made first contact with us in 2063, canonically. These New Eden folks only missed it by 30 years. They are an unplanned colony of a civilization that now has warp drive, and at least some of the colonists are convinced that Earth still exists and is space-faring. It's really crazy for anyone to think that this is a situation where we have to be super-scrupulous about not letting then know what happened three decades after they were moved away.

They only reason I can see for not telling them is that they are so far away there's no practical way for them to have ongoing contact with the Federation unless (1) we start using the spore drive on a regular basis (iffy) or (2) we agree to use it enough to bring them back home to Earth, at least the ones who want to go. I would have been okay with Pike saying "This one's pretty dicey; let's shut up for now until we report back to Starfleet and get instructions." But the blanket "No, we can't tell these lost Earthers what's what" is just weird.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:07 AM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I really hope the techy New Eden dude's "I know we'll see each other again" quip to Pike pays off next season, or before the show ends.
posted by emkelley at 9:09 AM on May 6

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