‘Terra Firma Part 1’ took us all a little bit by surprise, subverting our expectations by taking us back into the mirror universe, here’s what the writing team at Trek This thought about episode 9.
We start with Vedran, who feels the jump into the mirror universe is an unnecessary diversion from some of the other plot points Discovery season 3 could be exploring.
There are times when it is not easy to write a review. This week’s episode – ‘Terra Firma Part 1’ – falls in such a category. The problem, as we will soon see, is not necessarily in the episode plot per se. Rather, the issue I have with the episode is the amount of stuff forced into the plot, as well as the episode being the first part of a two-parter. Lastly, there is the problem of ‘Terra Firma Part 1’ fitting into the overarching story of the third season, which will be addressed at the end.
Before addressing the main topic, I will give a brief overview of the events happening on the USS Discovery – A, this week. Last week it became obvious that something very wrong is happening with Georgiou. This week with the little help of mysterious agent Kovich we got the answer. Our favourite snarky empress-in-exile is dying, as a result of temporal displacement. Her arrival to the future, combined with her mirror universe origin, is killing her. There is a cure, however, and to find it, Discovery will need to travel to the border of the gamma quadrant. This presents the problem, as the ship and its crew are required in the emerging conflict with the Emerald Chain. For those who hoped to see more of the conflict (and learn more about the Federation’s biggest nemesis), more patience is required. The good thing is, the Fleet admiral Vance is definitely a good guy, and his advice to Saru (who is still learning the ropes) was a nice Trek touch. There is also a weird plotline that leads us to the Kelpian science ship that was lost a century ago. The emergency signal transmitting from the nebula is coming from that ship. Could that ship be related to the Burn? And why the call for help had to be encrypted prior to sending? The answer will have to wait for the next episode (or maybe the one after). This episode is focusing on Georgiou, and you guessed it, Burnham.
Once at the indicated remote planet, Georgiou and Burnham are searching for the cure. I must mention the winter walk scene that nicely mirrors the scene from the show’s pilot – The Vulcan Hello. Unexpectedly, we are introduced to a mysterious and cryptic being who calls himself “Carl”. Here, I could write an entire essay on Carl and the content of his newspapers. Suffice to say, Carl could be related to the Guardian of Forever, although why the writers decided to throw in an omnipotent being at this moment, is quite puzzling. Carl, who speaks in riddles, offers Georgiou a kind of solution. A passage on the other side of a conveniently located portal, which leads us to…
…Mirror Universe! It seems that the solution to all Georgiou’s troubles lies in reliving her dark past. This will make some fans happy, and I am sure that the cast had the time of their lives acting as cartoonish evil Terrans (Yeoh is clearly enjoying herself). It could be that Georgiou, who is now confronting Mirror Burnham for the second time (and who decided to spare her adopted daughter this time), has now an opportunity to rewrite the past. It could also be, that her return to the Mirror Universe is a chance for us to see how much this character has changed during the long sojourn in the Prime Universe. And who knows, we might see Lorca once again? However, the detour in the Mirror Universe, which will last at least one more episode is a weird choice in the season that is all over the place. Especially as we are nearing its end. Why address the issue with Georgiou, who was mostly side-lined through the season, in this very moment? This continues the trend of the writers throwing in beautiful and bold ideas, but instead of exploring them, they move to the next one. We barely got any serious reaction of what could be a watershed moment. The emergence of Discovery’s self-awareness (briefly seen in “Forget Me Not”). Beside a few titbits of information, we have little or no knowledge of the socio-political situation in the 32nd century. Not to mention that the Emerald Chain is shown briefly, and all we got from Osyraa was comical villainy. The most concerning of all is the Burn. This pivotal event is still clouded in mystery, and if writers are planning to resolve it by the season’s end, they are risking rushing it.
I want to hope that this season can end in a satisfactory end. But with the entirety of the next episode apparently happening in the Mirror Universe, there is a real danger of losing the thread. Instead of a satisfying finale, we might get a chaotic and disappointing ending. Something that “Discovery” does not deserve.
Jack, on the other hand, found this to be a strong episode and an encouraging opening to a potential great two-part episode that leaves him impatient to see the conclusion
I think my review this week will be shorter than normal. Only because ‘Terra Firma Part One’ was by its very nature, incomplete. A typical two-parters first half, like all the episodes so far this season are by their very nature, an incomplete beast.
This is definitely the case here with ‘Terra Firma part one’. The Mirror Universe on the I.S.S. Discovery has been done before in the show but as part of an arguably overwritten season one. That meant it was (in my mind) explored only to the briefest extent and even then, more just a plot device to kill off Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and bring back Michelle Yeoh. I doubt this will be more than a brief sojourn to the Mirror Universe, exploring it even substantially is off the table, but I expect the two-parter forms the back-door pilot vehicle to get Empress Georgiou to appear on the Section 31 spin-off which is in the works. Michelle Yeoh is a commanding actor but without knowing the numbers involved, I cannot imagine such a talented and seasoned actor (and one who does most to all of her own stunts) is particularly cheap. Utilising her elsewhere in the franchise (particularly a fledgeling part of it) just makes sense now that this show is well established. This brings me onto my next point, Gabriel Lorca. Though spoken about, Jason Isaacs sadly never appears, it would make no sense to bring Isaacs in just for the sake of it, particularly because he too likely commands a significant paycheque and as mentioned above, while the pair have shared few and far between scenes In Discovery’s three seasons so far, I find it probable that it is a financial and logistical nightmare to get both into an episode too often.
I would also like to know if the cigar wielding gentleman was in fact a Q or if the doorway he ushered Georgiou through is actually the Guardian of Forever from TOS’s ‘City on the Edge of Forever’. Star Trek has lasted fifty-four years and counting, it would be a nice (if unsubtle but also unmistakable) Easter Egg to long-time fans and perhaps introduce new fans to both the sublime The Next Generation and what I would argue is one of The Original Series few excellent episodes. However, Carl doesn’t have to be either of them and could in fact be a new entity entirely.
Frankly, this is a part one episode, so we may not know the answers until next week’s instalment if at all but it is fun to look at possible theories. I also enjoyed the blink and you miss it line from the equally probably expensive David Cronenberg regarding the Kelvin – verse of J.J. Abrams’ trilogy which is referenced offhandedly. Much more Universe building.
Overall, while I feel it would be better if Netflix once again did what they did with Discovery’s premiere and air the two parts simultaneously to avoid the episodes incomplete feeling, I feel this is more indicative of my impatience in the era of streaming than any problem with the show. Fundamentally, it makes me desperately want to see the resolution which, in my opinion, is the best way to compliment the opening story of a two-part episode.
‘Unification III’ still sits atop the pile of the season so far, but ‘Terra Firma Part 1’ is one of the best from the selection box so far. A strong recommendation and 4.2/5.
Finally, Dave revels in the easter eggs in this episode and welcomes the return to the Terran universe.
I spend a lot of time reading and watching reviews and theories online relating to all aspects of Season Three of Discovery. As someone who runs their own Star Trek website, it’s very useful to keep up to date with the opinions of the community and the fanbase, but I mainly do it because its fun. I am a fan of Star Trek first and foremost after all. And while a lot of the theories I have seen have all been very logical in their thought process; all the while making a lot of sense, I was very surprised (happily I might add) to see that they were all wrong. That to me is good writing. In season 1 everyone guessed that Lorca was from the mirror universe and when Discovery made the leap it came as a surprise to no one. It seems that the writers have learnt from past mistakes. It was not only the return to the Mirror Universe that offered that subversion of our expectations but also with the source of the signal coming from the nebular thought to be ground zero of the Burn. A lot of theorists online suggested this could Discovery, lying in wait for 1000 years somehow travelled back in time (to take Georgiou home?) and tying in with the events of the Short Trek episode ‘Calypso’ with a front seat to the events of the Burn. Again, so wrong. As a result of this fantastic act of misdirection, we now have a whole bunch of other questions to build our theories around, most notable of them all, who the hell is Carl?
This was the best part of the episode for me, mainly because it came so far from left field that no one had seen it coming, helped by the fact that Carl just appeared from thin air in a style not too dissimilar from say, a Q. When Burnham and Georgiou visited the planet, I half expected to find some old piece of technology which could be used to get Georgiou home in some capacity. While I enjoyed the Guardian of Forever theory and wanted that to be what they found, in my mind’s eye I didn’t think they would revisit that aspect from Star Trek of old. However, there is every chance that Carl could be an actual Guardian, a manifestation of the gateway in some way, again this is a stretch. I don’t think Carl is either a Q or a Guardian, but possibly a new being all together, after all, it was found using the Sphere data that is millennia old. It also a stable of Star Trek past that beings with unique powers are spread across the galaxy. What thrilled me most with this sequence was the newspaper and all the easter eggs that laid in its pages, something I will be doing a separate write up on soon so keep an eye out for that. Nods to ‘City on the Edge of Tomorrow’, ‘Relics’ and ‘Parallels’ to name a few. This was so exciting to see and demonstrates that the writers (or at least someone in the writer’s room) know something of Trek past. What was most fascinating in this short scene was that all the easter eggs related to time travel or different dimensions, so I don’t know if there is a deeper meaning to what was in the paper, or if it was just a fun wink to the theme of this episode and what was about to come. Georgiou travelling to a point in time before she killed the Mirror Burnham.
As we don’t know the intentions of Carl, although it seems that he wants to help Georgiou, we can’t really determine where Georgiou is. Has she indeed travelled back in time and back into the Mirror Universe? Or is this some kind of elaborate illusion or alternative reality? No matter where she is, how will living past experiences help cure her of the time displacement that seems to be killing her? It seems that she has arrived at the point in which Lorca and Burnham attempt their insurrection which is quickly stopped as Georgiou has all her memories still in place. Instead of killing the treacherous Burnham like she did the first time around, her time spent in the Prime universe has obviously changed her and so she spares Burnham’s life. This will no doubt have massive implications to the events that we saw in season 1 of Discovery when we first visited the Mirror Universe in this show. Another aspect to consider which wasn’t addressed in this episode is the flashbacks that Georgiou had been suffering with over the course of the past few episodes. I would theories that this is linked to what she will experience in this new timeline in the Mirror Universe, is the dead body she mourns for actually Burnham? Maybe Burnham is always due to die in the Mirror Universe and there is nothing Georgiou can do about it. Could this absolve her conscious somehow because it does appear that the death of Mirror Burnham has plagued Georgiou throughout her time on the show.
For me, it’s been a welcome return to the Mirror Universe, in all our visits there its clear that the actors love playing evil versions of their characters and that again is clear here. Things are playing out differently and it’s going to be exciting to find out how this impacts on Georgiou’s health, how she returns in time to front the ‘Section 31’ show in development, the impact it has (if any) on the Terrans and of course, finding out who the hell Carl is!
Bring on part two.
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