Those viewers who have spent much of Discovery’s run frustrated by the lack of traditional Star Trek stories can be safely reassured by this week’s instalment, which pits science against religion on a planet with a helpfully contrived background. Naturally, it’s a fantastic episode.
The crux of it concerns a classic Trek moral dilemma: do we risk shattering a legitimate belief system that is at best only a partial version of the truth, or do we allow it to stand safe in the knowledge that it could lead to death and destruction that could end the civilisation entirely. This being Star Trek, you probably don’t need to guess which way it goes.
The episode doesn’t spend a huge amount of time interrogating these ideas to any great depth, but it’s nice to see these things discussed and watch the characters and their opinions and viewpoints bounce off one another. The fact that these people are transplants from Earth and demonstrably not the result of natural phenomena is sadly given little discussion, though. At the very least, it gives us a good reason for why Pike might be persuaded to interfere with their development the way he does!
Genuinely, I’d like to see Discovery return to this planet and these characters at some point and see what their interference has wrought. The fact that it ties heavily into the red angel mystery does suggest that there’s a chance of this actually happening, and it’d be great to see Discovery do what other Trek series rarely bother with and really grapple with the compromises made by its characters in service of a single story.
Tilly remains the series MVP, however. She’s clumsy, she’s disorganised, she’s reckless and she’s excitable, and in that way she might well be Star Trek’s most relatable character ever. Because given the technologies and opportunities at her disposal, who amongst us would not be?
And hey, that’s two for two episodes where the emphasis was on science and exploration instead of war and espionage. As good as the first series was, this is Star Trek doing what Star Trek does best.
Were there any Easter Eggs?
It’s not really an Easter egg but World War III, which takes place in 2053, is a fairly major part of established Trek lore. I think this is our first ever look at it in any detail though. As Pike says, warp travel wasn’t invented until after World War III (you can get the whole story in Star Trek: First Contact) which is why this civilisation is considered “pre-warp”.
A CLASSIC piece of Star Trek also occurs in this episode when Pike encounters a situation, recognises that “General Order 1” (later known as the Prime Directive) applies, and then ultimately disregards it on moral grounds. Never in history has a Federation ship encountered a pre-warp civilisation and had a moral quandary made any easier by the Prime Directive.
And as for a couple of LEGIT easter eggs, the distress beacon noise on the beacon Pike finds is taken from Balance of Terror (TOS 1×14) and Tilly mentions that she wants an Risan Mai-tai, which is a drink previously mentioned in ENT 1×25: Two Days and Two Nights.
What are the Unanswered Questions?
Ah, unanswered questions.
So: the red angels saved these humans from death and brought them to New Eden. But why?
The signal led Discovery to New Eden, presumably because they knew of the threat posed by the debris – so did the red angels know they’d follow it up or were they just hoping for anyone to help?
Spock has checked into psychiatric care. But why?
How did Tilly’s friend appear to her from beyond the grave? Is that connected to the red angels, and if so, why take the form of a long dead human?
And of course, the biggest question of all: will Stamets get those things in his arm removed one day because MAN, they freak me out.