Wow. After the decidedly pitchy season-opener, Star Trek Discovery really gets into its stride with the second episode. [No spoilers] We are given World War Three, angels (with the possibility of divine intervention), a properly interesting counterpoint debate about the Prime Directive and the Beta quadrant! It’s a lot for one episode – but it all manages to remain coherent. It’s a triumph. There are some proper science fiction concepts and writing going on here.
More than that, there’s even a classic-series style episode-of-the-week based on an away-mission to a strange planet. It’s New Eden. I’ll not say more than that. I’ll let the episode title suggest what’s going on.
This episode is not really ‘a Michael Burnham’ episode. It’s much more of a Tilly and Pike episode. And one of the bridge crew finally gets some back-story: the Ops Officer Lieutenant Joann Owosekun. It turns out that back on Earth she comes from a ‘Luddite Commune’. Wow. Sounds cool. They are obviously anti-tech because of how technology (with its rare-metal mining) has ravaged the environment.
[Spoilers from here on] In episode 1, Burnham saw some demonic sort of angel – but it could have been a trick of the light or she might have imagined it. Episode 2 confirms that the angels are a real thing. And they have been interfering with human affairs for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. Clearly, the angels do not adhere to the same Prime Directive as the Federation. Are they well intentioned or malign in intent? Spooky. How have they altered the course of human development? Have they limited us through malign meddling or enabled our ascent to the stars?
In the New Eden episode, the angels have used their power to relocate several hundred humans from the midst of World War Three on Earth (in the year 2059) to a virgin planet in the Beta quadrant. Potentially, they have saved our species and allowed it to start again. But the human survivors on New Eden have regressed, with their technology slowly failing and without the necessary knowledge or resources to fix it. With each generation, they’ve gone backwards. They’ve become more superstitious/religious too – forming a hybrid religion out of the seven old religions and the relics of the original settlers. Is that a good or bad thing? It’s hard to say. Should the crew of the Discovery take them off the planet and return them to Earth? Or should they leave well enough alone?
So, it’s some epic, spiritualist, near-future, hard science fiction going on in the series now. Long may it continue!