star trek discovery new eden review

This week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery, “New Eden,” brings us even more old-school Trek goodness by providing us with a thought-provoking adventure, finally! In fact, we learned a lot of thought-provoking things, which only deepen the overarching mystery of the season. Let’s dive into what we learned.

A Luddite colony in space

The Problem of the Week is the Discovery saving an interstellar Luddite civilization, New Eden, from certain radioactive doom. It’s a doom that one member of the colony, a scientist, seems to have known about ever since his childhood, as his entire lineage have been rebroadcasting a distress call for 200 years. However, the leader of the colony – someone who looks like and talks like a New Age, rich white woman who just happened to pick up yoga one day – dismisses science, believes Earth perished in the third world war, and focuses her energies on the will of the gods.

This mission provided us with so many elements of what makes a great Star Trek episode. We had ensemble participation, with Rhys, Bryce, Airiam, and Owosekun all getting speaking parts and chances to show their personalities. Owosekun even got to be part of the away mission! Alex Kurtzman has been bringing the goods within these two episodes, and I’m so excited how much he has allowed the writers to embrace the Star Trek way.

It seems like he’s also allowing the writers to throw jabs at the first season, since Pike had the hardest time understanding how Discovery figured out how to travel across space thanks to a space tardigrade. As an answer to Pike’s confusion, Saru glibly said, “I guess you had to be there.” Translation: “What a ridiculous first season, right? Thanks, viewers, for sticking with us as we got things together.”

This colony also gave us one of the biggest Star Trek trademarks – a moment to think about the unity of life. As much good as I have to say about the first season, I feel like the lack of focus on unity was one of the season’s biggest mistakes. Much of the focus was on war and separation, when at its core, Star Trek is about celebrating what makes us connected. We saw that philosophy come through in the form of the New Edenites’ church, which combines all of the major religions into one. It speaks to a philosophy I grew up with.

Even though I was raised Christian, my mother has always said that she feels like all of the major religions are just different forms of worshipping the same spirit. She’s not unique in this feeling: a lot of people take this approach with universal spirituality and you could argue that the Bahá’í faith is actually based on this philosophy. I wish there was more time for this episode to focus on that line of thinking, but it seems like religion will be a running theme throughout the entire season, so maybe this moment is being treated as the first part of this season’s thesis.

Another thing I liked about this episode: we got the classic conundrum of breaking the prime directive of not interfering with a civilization. Pike orders Owosekun and Michael to not reveal who they are, and Pike nearly succumbs to that order when he saves a girl from one of the phasers the scientist brought to New Eden’s leader to prove Pike and his crew weren’t from “the north,” as they said. Once Pike is safely brought back onboard the Discovery and treated, Michael convinces him to give our scientist friend some closure to the questions his family have been trying to answer for decades.

Seeing Pike give Mr. Scientist some much needed closure made me very happy, since I didn’t want him left in the dark to wonder forever. In a way, it’s almost as if the episode made a statement about belief, however, it reversed the usual suspects. Usually, it’s the faithful who are made to believe they’re weird for wondering about a higher power. This time, it’s the scientist whose made to feel like an idiot for wondering about his version of a higher power, science. In a way, Pike is like a messenger from on high to tell Mr. Scientist, “You are absolutely right.”

The purpose of the Red Angel

The main line of conflict for this episode regarding religion is if the spiritual can coincide with the scientific.  I don’t know how deep the series plans on getting, but it seems evident that some folks’ worldviews are going to become turned upside down thanks to the reappearance of the Red Angel, which seems to be guiding the Discovery to these various points in the universe. So far, it’s only manifested itself to our two most devoutly scientific people, Michael and Spock. It would seem that the Red Angel has driven Spock to the outer limits of his sanity, since he’s confined himself to a mental health facility. Either that, or he’s uncommonly scared of what the Red Angel represents.

Michael, on the other hand, is just now coming to grips with what she saw on the asteroid. What she thought was a hallucination seems to be a real entity, worshipped by the New Edenites. The mystery deepens: is this Angel a galactic friend or is it a foe? Is it an undiscovered alien or someone with technologically-advanced suiting, or is it an actual spiritual sighting? We still don’t know the answer. But whatever it means, it will almost certainly bring about a melding of the scientific and the religious, two spheres of thought that are usually seen as antagonistic towards each other, but actually have more in common than people within those circles believe.

Tilly’s ghost

Tilly stammered her way into a solution to save New Eden from destruction, but she was helped along the way by a mysterious (and creepy) Discovery crew member named Amy. Amy creepily tells Tilly how awesome she is, and at first, you’re inclined to think that Tilly has somehow made a new friend (or possible love interest). However. We eventually find out that Amy is as creepy as we initially thought she was – she’s a ghost!

At the very least, she’s a figment of Tilly’s imagination, since Tilly was initially knocked off her feet when she extracted a segment of the asteroid in the cargo bay. The blast sent her flying back into huge crates, leading to a bleeding hit on the head. Perhaps, Tilly hallucinated Amy. But would she have hallucinated a grown Amy, when the last time she saw her, she was a preteen? Even stranger: Amy is dead. Call the Ghostbusters!

Maybe there’s a more logical explanation for Amy, but as I’ve already written, the theme for this season is the scientific versus the supernatural/spiritual, so why not include ghosts in this? Let’s go for it and make this season as weird as it can possibly be.

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