Thursday, February 7, 2019

Discovery, Season 2: New Eden, Season 2
"New Eden"
Airdate: January 24, 2019
17 of 29 produced
17 of 29 aired


Discovery spore-drives over to a distant location and finds a wayward colony of lost humans there. How did they get there, and how did the Red Herri... I mean Angel, bring this about?

Goin' to the chapel and we're... gonna get short-shrifted...


Kevin: This is not a perfect episode by any stretch, and I think it leaves the most interesting version of its main conflict undiscussed, but by and large, I liked this episode. For being part of an arc, it was a well contained story that produced one new piece of the 'red angel' puzzle that felt worth the time, the knowledge that whatever this is has appeared before. This is probably the best they have done so far in advancing a season arc while telling an individually coherent story. This episode has notes of several TOS episodes visiting seemingly idyllic Earth-analogues. This also felt a lot like Terra Nova from Enterprise. I liked what we saw of Pike and Burnham's opposing views but wish they had articulated them better. Particularly in light of Jacob directly asking for confirmation, it seems like the waters are muddier than deciding that since they branched off from humanity before warp drive it's not a question at all. There's a good classic Trek debate to be had there and we scratched deeper than previous episodes have, but not as deep as I would like.

Matthew: Yeah, this episode needed a good conference room debate, a la "Pen Pals." I also would probably have granted it a full additional point if someone had mentioned the Neo-Transcendentalists. I think a number of interesting ideas were hinted at, such as religious syncretism, but few were explored. I also think Pike's decision to leave these people in the dark was some bullshit. They are not a unique culture. They are a retrograde version of a past Earth culture, one which has many people in it desiring change and reintegration. They should have at least taken the dude with them. As for the Red Angel plot, I'm going to say this now, with the full expectation that it will come into play in future episodes: I do not like this notion of the Red Angels being involved in everyone and everything. Oh, look, they were involved with Spock! Oh look, they were involved in World War III! It just multiplies the absurdity of the prequel nature of this show, and it's dumb, lazy storytelling that seeks to amp up "stakes" simply by referencing familiar events and characters.

Kevin: Pike gets a little shading. I liked it by and large. His father was a religious man, though he appears not to be, even if he remains conversant. I felt like the episode weirdly dropped giving Owosekun some development. They mention she would be suited to this mission and then she spoke a collective four words on it. This is the real pitfall of serialized storytelling from the get go. So many other balls have to be juggled. In a more serialized format, the red angel stuff would get dropped for a B-plot where Owosekun interacts with the people and she loves/hates it and it tells us something about her/these people.

Matthew: She was a Luddite? Not a Neo-transcendentalist? She has no feelings about the guy begging to go with them and leave his backward existence? Yeah. This is the problem in any show in which 50% of every episode is given over to the Big Dumb Plot. Anyway, yes, this episode made Pike something other than a TOS retread. He is thoughtful and has interesting takes on things. Are they consistent with the TOS character? Who the hell knows, but at least it's something to give him interest that doesn't rely on my knowledge of past Trek. Burnham, on the other hand, is a dedicated rule follower now. OK...

Kevin: The Tilly plot is the weakest. They are right back to early season 1 levels of annoying with her and it...annoys me. The slightly seasoned version we got at the end of season one is just a much more nuanced character. I liked the conversation with Saru about balancing risk in pursuit of goals. I just enjoyed having someone discuss the positive aspects required for a Starfleet captain before they become a Starfleet captain. The sub-sub plot with ghost friend was a real needle scratch for me. Given the discussion of Hugh in the network, I feel like they are priming the pump for his return. I'm not saying I'm going to hate it. I'm saying they have a fine line to walk to make sure I don't.

Matthew: Yeah, this is an unfortunate continuation of a nonsensical plot thread that wasn't explained when it started (we need "dark matter" asteroids for... some reason.) Now Tilly's seeing ghosts! Except... I don't care! There's just not enough "there" there. It ends up reading as annoying stuff that I have no confidence will ever be explained enough to make it interesting. It's like people drew a dozen different Scrabble tiles out of a bag, except these had story ideas and characters on them.

Kevin: I am also annoyed that the spore drive is just...back. They pay lip service to the risks or whatever, but I thought it was a solid decision to mothball it at the end of season one. I don't hate it the way Matt does, but I think it's a crutch. As this episode demonstrated, the ability to appear anywhere instantaneously is pretty much an infinitely useful ability. It slices. It dices. It makes julienne fries. And it will technobabble any problem for you.

Matthew: These mofos said in no uncertain terms last season that they had used up the last of the spores. No more. Nada. Shut it down, no more spore drive. When a show can't even follow its own rules, I check out mentally and emotionally.


Kevin: Everyone does a pretty good to very good job. I bought everyone's performances. I liked Andrew Moodie as Jacob, and again, it's easy to picture in a standalone episode him getting more of a  story, and I would have enjoyed seeing that. As annoying as the writing is for her, I continue to like Mary Wiseman. She commits to everything in a way that almost carries off all the too-far writing choices.

Matthew: I think this was Anson Mount's episode. He builds on the "charming handsome guy" from last episode and gets interesting things to say and do, and seems emotionally invested in the world.  Sonequa Martin-Green is starting to wear on me. She imparts a sleepy quality to her character that I don't like. I get that she's trying to act like someone raised by Vulcans, but it just comes off as disinterested. It's like her character has two settings - disinterested and sad.

Production Values

Kevin: Jonathan Frakes directed this episode and it shows in a good way. Maybe I'm projecting, but the action felt calmer and more focused. Shots lingered longer than a second and even the space action sequence had some staging to it rather than just too tight closeups. The planet set was good, and felt like the good version of TOS homage. I feel like the TOS crew beamed down to a lot of simple wooden settlements in three years and this felt like the high end version of that.

Matthew: This was definitely less frenetic than other episodes in this show, and it was welcome. There was still inexplicable shaky cam during quiet interior scene. Why? Just because steadicam rigs CAN do something doesn't mean they SHOULD. I loved the sets. This was the first time I have felt like I was someplace real. Which, you know, two episodes into the second season seems like a bad time for that.


Kevin: I am going with a 3. The story on New Eden would be interesting and present a fun moral challenge even abstracted from the red angel storyline. It was the first time in a while in which the experience didn't feel like a sensory onslaught. If the solution to the red angel thing were anything other than knockoff Thanos, I would actually be really impressed by the buildup so far. I think the episode does show that core of Burnham, Stamets, Saru and Tilly are all actually capable of doing a solid, good faith riff on a TOS story and it proves they should try for it more often. And though I do think this is actually non-terrible arc progression, the time spent progressing the arc did take away from the story of the week I was actually enjoying. Still, in the balance, I did enjoy this episode.

Matthew: I've been grousing, but it's a force of habit at this point. I agree with the 3 for a total of 6. This is probably the best Discovery has been since the pilot, or maaaaaybe the Harry Mudd episode. And why? Because mostly it was about one thing and the characters reacting to that one thing. It actually felt like Star Trek for extended stretches. Unfortunately, it was held back by its lack of deeper investigation and debate of the issues raised. I guess I'll watch Orville for that.

No comments:

Post a Comment