Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Terra Firma: Discovery S03 E09/10


David Cronenberg will be back for season four but now he's helping sort out the conundrum of Philippa Georgiou's mystery illness.

Terra Firma opens up with us having the fact that Discovery is in the Prime Universe thanks to the holographic arrival of Vor. He's a time soldier from 2379 who didn't survive the time and universe jump due to being out of sync. 

Vor is from a timeline created by the incursion of a Romulan mining ship and wears a TNG season 1/2 uniform with a First Contact combadge. Ok, I can hear the grumbles now, but in that timeline this uniform might have been used from the 2360's through to the 2370's rather than just a couple of years before it had the piping removed. Let's just roll with this because it's not as odd as things get.

Georgiou is indeed dying thanks to her displacement in time and space so she needs to go to Dannus V where there's a 5% chance she'll survive. Under approval from Admiral Dance, the Discovery spore jumps to the planet with Georgiou and Burnham beaming to the surface.

It's a nice mirror to the desert scene that introduced both characters in The Vulcan Hello and leads them, inexplicably to a well dressed gent in an armchair reading a newspaper. The door by which he sits is the 5% chance and of course, Georgiou takes it.

Who is this Carl? A Guardian of Forever? A Q? Will we find out? Probably not and it's got to be up there among strangest plot moments in the whole of Star Trek, yet this is on the start of the Terra Firma story. 

The other side of that door is the Mirror Universe. Only a couple of episodes before we were told the gap between the realities had widened but now Georgiou is right back there and at a point just before Burnham turned traitor.

Terra Firma is, very clearly, a full on Georgiou two-parter and once she's into the Mirror Universe that is all we see until the cliff-hanger. All the regulars are back as their alternate selves including Hannah Cheesman (Ariam v2) in human form. 

With her knowledge of the future of this timeline, Georgiou is prepared for the treachery ahead and makes some drastic changes to her actions. The return to the Mirror Universe isn't what I expected to see half-way through the season that's taken us deeper into the future of Star Trek than ever before yet it is completing a circle and more than likely setting everything up for the announced Section 31 series. 

Clearing her Discovery account we are getting a very clear presentation of how Mirror Georgiou has been changed by her experiences on the other side. She shows a glimmer of kindness towards the servant Saru, spares Burnham and perhaps most controversially, accepts a hug from Prime Tilly. 

In that sense, Terra Firma is not your usual run of the mill Mirror story in which we get all the bad things, moustache-twirling and evil spins, this is serious look at how the Emperor has become a different person. She's not quite the homicidal, stone cold dictator of season one and has been smoothed by the passage of time in the Prime time. 

There's nothing particularly flashy either about this one. We know what's going to happen, Georgiou even telegraphs it if you've forgotten but once that choice to imprison and not kill Burnham is taken, the story is in new territory.

Part II doesn't break its stride either, imprisoning Burnham and focusing on the parallels to Georgiou's relationship with Michael in the Prime Universe.

Georgiou is very clearly changed, offering herself new choices to old problems. That's not saying that the answers are what she wants or expects. Her link to Burnham is key and breaking her is key to destroying the plot to remove Georgiou from her throne. 

The removal of the conspirators is nice and swift but you just sense it's not going well. Philippa's change in attitude towards Kelpiens also rises to the fore; explaining to Saru that the vaharai is not an end but a start - nor is ganglia on the menu. 

It's not that Georgiou has become any less brutal in fact she chooses to make Burnham's suffering prolonged to break her and is easily prepared to go hand to hand when the occasion arises. With her experiences in the Prime Universe though, her judgement is now more balanced and open. She is capable of seeing opportunities and variations rather than a simple A to B.

As for Kirk's later plea to Spock to reform the Empire, Georgiou sees a chance to change her era. A common theme again because this isn't a timeline where such things sit well or will ensure the longevity of the Empire beyond the 24th Century.

Ending in Georgiou's death at the hands of Burnham, the second part reveals that the whole experience back in the Mirror 22nd Century was a test to see if the emperor would make the same decisions or has changed. Of course it's the second but the bigger and more burning question is, who has been causing this.

Georgiou's medical device indicates that she's gained three months worth of memories while only having been unconscious for a matter of a minute. In what may be ne of the most jaw-dropping fan service moments of Discovery's history it comes to pass that the bowler-hatted newspaper reading Carl is...the Guardian of Forever.

Returning for a third appearance - City on the Edge of Forever and Yesteryear - the Guardian has been hiding out at the edge of the Gamma Quadrant on Dannus V to keep out of the way of the Temporal War. The sphere data lodged aboard Discovery located the portal in an attempt to save Georgiou.

This links back to Saru's belief that the sentient data is now looking after the ship just as they saved it from Control. While there's no cure, the Guardian does give Georgiou the appropriate send off into a time where the two universes are closer together and won't kill her...just in time to prep for Section 31.


Yet with all the Mirror Universe excitement, there's something missing from this two parter that leaves a sense of disappointment. The reveal of the Guardian is incredible and suitably upgraded for 2020. It could have been absolutely anything from a Q to, well, the Guardian, and it's easily the highlight of this hour. The Mirror scenes are over-snarly, revenge-fests that, by the end, feel unfulfilling. They are a clear vehicle for Michelle Yeoh's show and a way to separate her from Discovery and the 32nd Century.

It does leave us non-the-wiser as to when she'll show up again and you can guess it'll more likely be in the 22nd, 23rd or 24th Century to link into one of the older shows or even Picard.

Slipping almost under the radar is the continued research into the Burn. Thanks to Book, Stamets and Adira are able to link into the KSF Khi'eth's sensors and as such be able to find out what's been going on in the Verubin Nebula. Not a lot to add to this part of the arc however the Kelpien ship has been there for 125 years so it might not even still be there...

Terra Firma Part II  doesn't fit well with the overall structure of this season. It's a necessity to relieve the show of Georgiou and counter The Vulcan Hello in showing how this Burnham/Georgiou relationship has flourished but it stalls the season and offers only a tiny insight into the overall season arc.

Track back on our season three Discovery reviews HERE

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