Thursday's new episode of Star Trek: Discovery was a pleasant surprise after the season première. A solid episode directed by Jonathan Frakes, it continued the series' tendency to introduce issues without actually exploring them, in this case a conflict between faith and science, but with this episode the second season's effort to bring the intriguing background characters more into the foreground really started to bear fruit. Though the episode, called "New Eden", might've been even better if it had this song:
Spoilers after the video
Yes, the supporting characters are not only bearing fruit, they're throwing away the rind.
For a show widely considered to wear modern progressive politics on its sleeve, the crew dynamic this season surprisingly seems to be that of a level headed patriarch surrounded by childlike, adorable women. I find it amusing more than anything else, only the continued infantilisation of Tilly (Mary Wiseman) really annoyed me.
Miss Butterfingers is the one dissecting the unstable dark matter asteroid with a powerful laser? Alone? Why not get Inspector Clouseau while you're at it? The idea that she's going to be a captain one day just seems more and more absurd. But she is cute.
So's her ghost friend (Bahia Watson) and the young women on the bridge. There's a marked difference in how the men are played compared to the women, though Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) generally seems calm, thanks to her Vulcan upbringing, as does the intriguing cyborg lady we still don't know anything about, Airiam--though maybe we'll learn more this season as apparently she's changed actress from the first season, where she was played by the unknown actress Sara Mitich. Now she's played by Hannah Cheesman, who has a much longer filmography, including a prominent role in the Guillermo del Toro produced 2013 film Mama (she played a different version of a character also played by Doug Jones). Mitich has been demoted to playing a human background character. I have this info via Memory Alpha which also has a collection of contradictory quotes from production crew about Airiam's background.
Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo) also generally seems to keep her head and I thought we were going to learn more about her in this episode since she accompanies the away team specifically because she grew up in a "Luddite collective". What? Sounds like she really might have something to say about the strange community of humans on an alien planet with inexplicably antiquated technology. Sadly, she never gets the chance.
We learn that Pike (Anson Mount) might be a bit religious and his disagreement with the more secular Burnham forms the centre of the dramatic conflict that almost happens in this episode. But I guess there's no reason it should really come to a head when The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and the original series have already done this kind of plot several times. "New Eden" felt like an ode to those episodes, an ode that didn't have the impulse to actually build on the discussion. But why should it? Maybe the fact that the show knows its place is commendable. Especially since the conflict was basically part of the backbone of the series concept for Deep Space Nine, the ideological conflict alongside professional respect between Sisko and Kira leading to several nice episodes. Maybe the best way to look at Discovery is a televised Star Trek Experience; something primarily designed to augment the sensation of the Star Trek universe rather than creating genuinely new stories in it. It sure is pretty. I like the colour scheme in Pike's new quarters.
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A box of roads were used in careful chunks.
On jumbled paths the molecules'll walk.
The matching pods were lined along the bunks.
A giant stone begins to slowly talk.
As rungs appeared the lines a ladder made.
For model stripes were nothing like a cage.
In human form the morning made the grade.
To sleep to make a dream beyond the age.
A brush's bristles turned to arms of sleep.
Across the bed a glory waits in grammes.
Fatales were queued to cut the glitter heap.
Detectives claimed the cold and bundled hams.
The metal unexplained remained aboard.
A flute was more than finger tapping chord.