If you wanted an idea of how much 'Star Trek: Discovery' is trying to steer itself back into the river, 'New Eden' feels like a cast-off episode from the eighth season of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'.
As we mentioned in our review for the first episode and the overall season, the second season of 'Star Trek: Discovery' is binding itself into an overall story arc - but the nature of it allows each episode to be somewhat self-contained. Basically, like vintage 'Trek'. So it goes with 'New Eden', where we see the crew of the Enterprise - sorry Discovery - beam down to a planet that's been cut off from the rest of the universe and are basically Space Amish.
The people living on the planet - named New Eden - are descendants of the survivors of World War III and have basically amalgamated all their religions into one, and worship a being known as the Red Angel. This being, it seems, is responsible for those signals that appeared in the last episode and form the loose arc of the series. That they're going in to the old ways - theme planet, away team, religion and science mixing it up - in the second episode means that they're serious about winning people back.
Not only that, you've got Jonathan Frakes - better known as Commander William T. Riker of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation', and now in-demand TV director - behind the camera for the second episode. In any of the episodes - or movies, for that matter - that Frakes directed for 'Trek', you could tell he had an understanding of what made it so special and why people loved it. It's not just about the hopefulness and optimism, it's about the respect and goodwill it imbues in people.
You want the away team to survive, and you want Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) to succeed, because they're fundamentally decent people. In fact, Pike specifically chooses an away team member - Lt. Owosekun, played by Oyin Oladejo - who has an understanding and sensitivity with societies who have rejected technology. When they eventually beam down to the planet, they embed themselves with the society there - just like vintage 'Trek' episodes - and try to understand how they're there, and how they can help.
The standout of the season so far has been Anson Mount as Captain Pike, and that the two episodes so far have demonstrated how likeable a character he is and how his performance is so refreshing from last season's morally ambiguous Captain Lorca. However, Anthony Rapp - returning as Lt. Paul Stamets - really does have one of the key emotional beats of the episode where he reveals that he's seen his dead husband in the mycelial network that powers Discovery's spore jumps. It's one of the few subplots that survived the first season, but it works in context with the second season's overall exploration of the idea of faith versus science.
Overall, while 'New Eden' might not stack up against some of the best 'Trek' episodes ever, it's certainly a welcome return to form. It might be familiar to a fault, but isn't 'Star Trek' supposed to be a comfort? Why can't 'Star Trek: Discovery' be the same?