Star Trek: Discovery 3.09 Terra Firma, Part 1
We're heading towards the back of season three and between the mysteries of the Burn and the rising conflict with the Emerald Chain, there is plenty to focus up before Star Trek: Discovery wraps up its latest run. So devoting not just one episode, but a whole two-parter, to a trip back to the Mirror Universe pre-season one, feels like something of an odd move in what has otherwise been a very strong season of Star Trek.
The first act certainly tackled some of the mystery behind the Burn, with Adira and Stamets finding a 100 year-old Kelpian distress call. But this narrative dropped off the edge of the cliff the moment Georgiou returned to the Mirror Universe. There were some other interesting moments in that opening handful of scenes, most notably the return of David Cronenberg's Kovich, though he seemed a far less mysterious character this time round as he worked with Culber to help investigate Georgiou illness. A terrific mention to the Romulan ship from the 2009 Star Trek movie reboot that spawned the Kelvin timeline and a flash of Star Trek: The Next Generation-era uniform was a nice touch, but the mysterious of the Temporal War remain just that; mysterious.
The idea that being propelled through time and in an alternate universe lies at the heart of Georgiou's ilness, resulting in the Sphere data sending Michael and Georgiou to a deserted planet in the Gamma Quadrant (no mention of the Dominion though). It really felt as if this might be the end of Georgiou as a recurring character, as as her farewells to Saru and Tilly suggested; presumably the events of the Terra Firma two-parter will lead into her own Section 31 spin-off series?
Guest actor Paul Guilfoyle's Carl was an interesting, oddball idea. Some form of omnipotent lifeform with future knowledge and a doorway leading to Georgiou's past, you have to wonder if this is Star Trek: Discovery's introduction to the Q. I hope we see more of him in the future.
The focus of the episode was in the events of the ISS Discovery on the day of Michael and Lorca's attempted coup against Emperor Georgiou. It was fun to see Captain Killy and the rest of the bridge cast were clearly having a lot of fun playing ruthless, evil versions of themselves. Oyin Oladejo certainly looked the part as the leader of Georgiou's honour guard, a very violent, merciless version of Joann Owosekun. I simply find Patrick Kwok-Choon's performance as Gen Rhys too nice to ever be truly evil, but his fight with Owosekun was still fun to watch. There was a nice of return of Rekha Sharma's Commander Landry too.
Sonequa Martin-Green alternate Michael Burnham was dead by the time the crew of the Discovery visited the Mirror Universe in season one, so it was interesting to see just how arrogant, cold and nasty this version of the lead character could be. I absolutely bought her ambition and hatred for Georgiou and there was a nice dynamic in seeing the emperor - usually the most bloodthirsty, violent character in the room - tempered in her approach. This was certainly an episode that proved Michelle Yeoh could lead her own series by being more than just violent and sassy.
With the powerplays, the grandeur of the costumes, the performance in Georgiou's honour and the many mentions of Lorca (I was disappointed that Jason Isaacs didn't show up), it was fun to revisit the OTT nature of the Mirror Universe, while still having some depth to the machinations and plots in a way that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's mirror universe episodes never achieved. But I also found myself asking why? Particularly when the episode ended abruptly with Georgiou sparring Michael's life and changing history. The jump to the credits seemed to come out of nowhere. Perhaps, then, Terra Firma fell into the trap most spin-off set-up episodes have; the focus away from the main characters and plots feels too jarring.
Terra Firma Part 1 was an enjoyable 45 minutes of television, but that took too much time away from the main threads of Star Trek: Discovery season three. Maybe when we've watched part 2, it's relevance might be more apparent, but right now, it feels as if season three has slipped off to indulge itself a little too much. There are only 13 episodes this season, so storytelling real estate is at a premium. Is a pre-season one two-part trip to the Mirror Universe an indulgence too far?