Discovery: New Eden

Discovery decides to play it safe with an episode that’s so The Next Generation that it needs Commander Riker to direct it.

The mystery of the red signals leads Discovery to the Beta quadrant via a quick use of the spore drive. There they discover a colony of humans from pre-warp Earth. Meanwhile in orbit, the collapse of a planetary ring of radioactive rocks (just go along with it) imperils not just the lost colony of humans but the away team (Pike, Michael and crew member of the week).

It’s nice enough. There’s a theme of faith versus science with Pike sort of taking one side and Michael the other. There’s an ecumenical perspective on religion that nonetheless centres Christianity. A very North American church with stained glass windows, including one with a crucifix surrounded by religious symbols from other faiths sums up the episode’s take on religion in one go. It’s striving to be inoffensive and it’s not implausible given the back story of how this particular church finds itself in the wrong bit of the galaxy.

As below, so above. Nothing is resolved about the mysterious signals or the red-angelic figure glimpsed by Michael last episode. However, the presence of the blurry winged beings is now known by Captain Pike as well.

Pike is being pitched as an older, father-figure like captain in the Picard model. This is some distance from the Pike of the original series Pilot, a more youthful, if melancholic figure but consistent with the J.J.Abrams version. The dynamic between him and Michael works nicely. Michael’s complex reaction to authority figures is one of the most interesting things about her character — seeking approval and yet somehow on the edge of rebellion. It’s a trait that she shares with Tilly, whose eagerness to help out leads her into doing dangerous things and defying orders from Saru this week.

The return of the Prime Directive as a plot point underlines the whole TNG feel of the episode. It’s probably the weakest application of it ever — this is after all a human colony — but it’s not gratuitous. I doubt the show will be able to maintain quite such a strict application of the rule (I like to think of it as a strict rule in the same sense that ‘fair use’ in copyright is a strict rule — as in not at all).

Speaking of consistent ethics, Pike has no problems sending Stamets back into the spore drive. The rationale is that it is OK to fire up the dangerous spore drive which relies on unethical war-time human experimentation and which directly endangers the health and sanity of a crew member because Starfleet would really like to know what those red signals are all about and hey, that’s not so very different from being in an existential war of survival. I envisage Chidi from The Good Place with his blackboard on the deck of the Discovery trying to point out all the ethical inconsistencies. On the one hand, this is pretty minor compared to Season 1 but on the other hand, Season-1’s ethical lapses were mainly by an actual psychopath from a literally evil universe.

Rankings

  1. Brother – an action orientated fresh start for the Discovery crew
  2. New Eden – The Next Generation of The Next Generation

Bits and Pieces

  • A ghostly side plot for Tilly!
  • The Discovery crew really have that vibe of a workplace that recently lost a toxic colleague and can’t work out why things just seem happier somehow.
  • Disco-donuts in space!
  • OK, nice enough but is Discovery in danger of Chibnallism — all safeness and no WTFckery? I know I’m in a minority but I expect Discovery to deliver more intense nonsense than this 🙂
  • Saru on the tardigrade: “You had to be there.”
  • My grammar checker wants to change “spore drive” to “spare drive”.
  • Yes, I have a grammar checker. What you see is what you get AFTER the grammar checker.
  • Nice that Season 2 hasn’t forgotten that Discovery parked a giant rock in its hanger, given that Season 1 just forgot about a whole missing shuttle pilot.
  • ETA Cora explains that the third member of the away team was Lieutenant Owosekun — who actually is a regular cast member but I didn’t spot that. Sorry.
Advertisements

21 comments

  1. peer

    Im most impressed with the colonist who immeditly used the power device. I already have problems putting an AA battery correctly on first try

    Liked by 2 people

    • michaeleochaidh

      I put them in exactly the wrong way every time. When I try to trick myself and think, ah, I’ll put it in exactly opposite the way I would normally and it’ll work, it still doesn’t work.

      What’s worse is when I put them in the second time and it still doesn’t work and I realize I can’t remember if I actually switched it.

      In a just world there would be a way to monetize this.

      Like

  2. Bonnie McDaniel

    What will you wager that these so-called “angels” will turn out to be not angelic (and not nice) at all?

    I’m cautiously optimistic about this season. I really like that, so far, it’s not just the Trials and Tribble-ations Tribulations of Michael Burnham, and they’re starting to flesh out the bridge crew. Also they seem to be sticking to Pike’s proclamation of he and Saru having “joint custody” of Discovery.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cora

    Well, considering that the bridge crew was barely fleshed out in season 1, it’s very understandable that you didn’t spot her. And actually I had to look up the character’s name before writing the post, because I didn’t remember.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. stevejwright

    I dunno – I’m starting to feel a bit more optimistic about the characters and the show, now. Owosekun and Detmers both got something to do, and Owosekun got a bit of interesting background besides. (Even better, she got it because it made sense in the story! This was always a sore point with me and the Next Generation as compared to the original series: we got to know, for example, that Geordi’s sensor device compensated for his blindness but left him in continual pain, in a scene where he told Dr. Crusher that the sensor device compensated for his blindness but left him in continual pain: by comparison, we know that Sulu’s hobbies include fencing because an alien virus made him run around half-naked with a rapier. I prefer the latter method of delivering exposition, frankly.)

    Pike’s obstinate rules-lawyering around General Order One, too, seemed to hark back to his character in “The Cage” – in that episode, we saw him yearning for a simpler life where he could ride horses and be free of responsibility; it’s consistent with his behaviour in this one, trying to make sure the simple life of New Eden remains unspoiled. A bit of Cage-Pike in Discovery-Pike can only be a good thing, surely?

    Has Tilly been inhaling spores, do you think? She’s the one, after Stamets, who’s spent most time around the spore drive, and we already know Stamets is seeing ghosts – well, a ghost. Or maybe it ties in with the red angel…. The visuals on that, incidentally, remind me of the character design for the Iconians in Star Trek Online; same sort of attenuated feminine shape with wing-like structures…. hmm, and the Iconians had their gateways, didn’t they, for crossing vast distances in moments? Probably just a coincidence, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 1/26/19 Sitting On The Dock Of The Pod Bay Door | File 770
  6. Standback

    So far, Discovery’s telling a way more coherent story this season. Which is nice; I no longer feel the need to throw my screen at the wall, or write a rant every ten minutes. More than that: I can see this building somewhere good. Even if we get a whole season of these so-so action-adventure episodes, that’ll still do enough scaffolding for future episodes to build on (which Season One really didn’t; Season One couldn’t be bothered to construct any elements with real heft, and left most everything it touched as burning wreckage by the end of the story arc).

    On the other hand, it’s not very good, is it?

    It comes down to stakes, I think. As in: What is the episode *about*? What are you excited might happen; what are you afraid might be next?

    I’ve seen a lot of discussion about, yay, a Prime Directive conundrum, but… this wasn’t really. There wasn’t much of a conundrum; it was mostly presented as “Well, we’ve got this order, so we can’t just go in and get what we want.” We didn’t get much focus on the foreign culture that might be interfered with; we didn’t get any potential consequences to interfering with them (except, “we shouldn’t”); we didn’t get real complications, since the real complication is “oh no there’s an apocalypse happening.” And at the end, the question of interference is resolved, not by answering it, but by concluding it’s just less important than what *actually* matters: finding more clues to the Red Angel.

    That’s where the stakes are, I think. “What are these signals,” “What is this angel who’s jerking us around the universe rescuing people,” “What will we find.”
    But we’ve got a ways to go before this is actually a thoughtful consideration, and not a bland macguffin. The season looks structured as a FedEx quest — “Here are seven random missions you need to go on,” and I assume that then Burnham and Pike get to unlock Spock, and/or the Red Angel. I get really annoyed by that kind of story structure — I think of it as “Promised Land” stories, where the writers promise we’re totally going to get somewhere awesome eventually, and expect the audience to be cool with just kind of wandering through the desert until then.

    So, as last episode, there’s really no SF-nal, exploratory focus to this episode, examining a new culture or idea. We continue in action-adventure mode — the characters have a goal, and overcome obstacles on their way to it. The stakes aren’t, “Whoa, a culture of WW3 refugees”; they’re “Whoa, what mysterious cosmic entity might have rescued a bunch of WW3 refugees?”. (The answer will be “The mysterious cosmic entity we’ll tell you about in about 5-6 episodes.”)

    It’s definitely an improvement. I don’t think the series has found its feet yet, but at least it’s looking. It’s building itself up to the point where it can find itself, and that’s great.
    On the other hand, I’m going to continue turning up my nose at declarations that Discovery has finally found its Trekkishness, up until the point where it actually posits an SF-nal premise and sees it through.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Standback

    Small, scattered thoughts:

    – Tilly’s a delight, as always. This new arc with May is great so far, and a great example of how a “twist” doesn’t need to be shocking or even surprising. It just needs to be an interesting development.
    I’ve seen theories that May is some sort of ghost, actually reflecting the original May. Personally, I’m keying onto the “You’re a genius!” “No, YOU’RE a genius!” exchange, as indicating that May is a reflection of Tilly’s own psyche. This can go in fun directions.

    – Again, the short “The Brightest Star” just doesn’t seem to jive with the main series, with Saru telling us how eager he was to be a credit to his race, to prove his worth. Whereas TBS literally had Starfleet fawning over him for how impressive and intelligent he was, AND showed Saru leaving behind other Kelpiens as basically hopeless, docile cattle — that just doesn’t reconcile well to me. I would be happy to see TBS retconned out of existence — and while I don’t think it will be, it *does* look like they’re pretty much ignoring the very boring direction that TBS took the Kelpiens in.

    – I am really not buying that getting seven “red bursts” from across the galaxy, that they “can’t detect anything about,” has Starfleet giving its officers carte blanche to deploy emergency measures willy-nilly all across the known galaxy. Starfleet, weeks after a horrific war, should have about a million things more urgent than “we got this weird broadcast.”

    – I think Discovery is trying to take technobabble and making it light and bubbly. “Hit the brakes” from Pike, “Do a space donut!” from Tilly. Discovery, please stop doing this. Breaking gravitas once or twice is funny, maybe; making a point of how you never talk in actual professional terminology and go for peppy zingers instead is not nearly as cool as you think, and it’s gonna get old reeeeeal fast now.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. David Goldfarb

    Here’s a question I’ve heard before – I don’t remember where:
    “What does God need with a starship?”
    The red angel thingee moved a church full of people instantaneously across a truly vast distance. Every other being we’ve met that could do something like that, could deal with a few falling rocks by raising its eyebrow. Why instead send a signal? And one with no guarantee of being answered, to boot?

    It would be nice to have enough trust in the Discovery writing team to think that we’ll be able to look back and understand that, in a few months. But I don’t.

    Also, if the blue glowing matter chunks are so terribly massive, how was Michael able to lift that big one last episode?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ryan McNeill

      Here’s my theory: Both times they went somewhere expecting a ‘Big Red Thing’ and not finding anything like it at all. Instead, they find a humanitarian crisis of some kind to solve.

      Almost like something is testing them and their motivations…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cora

        This reminds of the old joke of the very religious person trapped in their house in a rising flood. Being very religious, they of course pray for help. And one by one the police, the fire brigade and the army show up to evacuate them, as the water rises ever higher, but the person always says, “No, I’m fine. God will save me.”

        Then the water rises even higher and the person dies. They find themselves in the afterlife face to face with God. “Why did you not save me? After all, I’ve always been faithful and prayed to you,” the person asks.

        And God replies, “I sent you the police, the fire brigade and the army. What more do you want?”

        It seems as if the red angel is using the Discovery or all of Starfleet as their personal fire brigade.

        Like

  9. Mark Hepworth

    I’m reminding myself that S1 repeatedly appeared to have settled into a plotline, only to take a hard left (or possibly a donut) to something completely different.

    Anyway, what was up with Tilly’s spirit/ghost thing? I got a bit confused by that.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Standback

    A friend of mine on Facebook commented:

    One gripe I had with it is “We saw this red burst over 100 lightyears away, we must get there now”. So you need to get somewhere to investigate a red burst that originated more than 100 years ago?

    And…. AGGGH. Yup.
    They’re really just letting the macguffin be a macguffin.
    Has a certain striaghtforwardness to it, and it’s not like it’s the point or anything. I’m not MAD their plot points don’t actually obey the laws of physics, even when they’re pretty dumb about it.

    But that does drive home the “What am I meant to care about?” question. I don’t care about the red bursts, I can’t care about the red bursts, because they’re written as just a placeholder for “plot point goes here.” But that plot point isn’t coming in service of anything. :-/

    Like

    • Cora

      Well, the fact that we don’t care about the red bursts (and I don’t care about them either – based on previous series, Starfleet investigates approximately five strange cosmic phenomena per week), even though the characters do basically is the definition of a Macguffin.

      Like

  11. Standback

    Well, I don’t think being *uninteresting* to the viewers is part of the definition of a Macguffin.

    For example, in the first Harry Potter book, the Philosopher’s Stone is a classic Macguffin — it’s just something everybody’s scuffling over, trying to reach first or protect. But there, the story invests in it — making a mystery of “what is it even”; building up how formidable its defences must be; realizing how ruthless and powerful whoever’s after it is; making *another* mystery out of who the people after it are. You *care* who gets the Macguffin, because the story convinces you it’s important.

    Discovery S2 is… trying that, I think. Stressing importance by Pike taking over the ship (because of “all three” contingencies 😛 ); showing Spock as going mad pursuing this thing; foreshadowing significance with Burnham’s narration; etc. etc.

    I don’t think it’s doing a good job of that, though. Discovery really is abysmal at making anything solid. It wants us to know the Red Angel is (A) important and (B) mysterious, so… it just goes “The Red Angel is really important! And mysterious!”. Over and over again. So far, though, if you ask a viewer *why* the Red Angel is important, I don’t think viewers are going to be able to answer that.

    Like

    • Cora

      Yes, the viewer should at least know why the MacGuffin is important to the characters. We understand why the characters are interested in the Philosopher’s Stone, the Maltese Falcon, etc… even if we ourselves don’t particularly care about either of them. But I still have no idea why these red angel signals are more interesting to Starfleet than any of the other five weird cosmic phenomena they discovered this week. I guess Spock’s nightmares and the fact he checked himself into a psychiatric hospital are an attempt to raise the stakes, but it doesn’t quite work, because we know that Spock will survive without any ill effects to serve under Captain Kirk, die, come back to life, etc…

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.