Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3 Episode 10
“Terra Firma Part 2”
Star Trek: Discovery continues to focus on Georgiou as she relives a significant time in her life.
This episode has a mountain to climb going in as success is largely dependent on how much you can invest in the Mirror Universe. I’m of the opinion that the Mirror Universe is a fun diversion from the norm with comically evil versions of the characters that we know so well. Deep Space Nine changed it up by having less evil versions -or in the case of O’Brien, absolutely no difference- that viewers could root for because that’s the only way the story would work. The Deep Space Nine interpretation of the Mirror Universe was more nuanced than The Original Series in the sense that the people were altered and the setting around them was darker but many of them weren’t as cartoonishly evil as had been portrayed previously. Without going too much into it that both worked and didn’t depending on the episode being watched.
The Discovery approach is more along the lines of holding up a mirror to aspects of the Prime Universe and framing it through the lens of Michael Burnham as most things in this show are. In the Mirror Universe her counterpart was raised by Georgiou’s counterpart therefore continuing that parental connection that existed between Prime Burnham and Georgiou. This allowed for exploration of the relationship through the expectations each had for the other that could never be met. It is a complex and well developed connection that never failed to be interesting but the Mirror Universe itself isn’t that interesting beyond the superficial. Framing it through Burnham went a long way towards getting around that as there was a personal connection in there and her struggle to distance her feelings about the Prime versions of the people from their over the top Mirror Universe counterparts did successfully add depth. It’s basically the tried and true Star Trek method of exploring an alien culture by dropping one or more of our character into it to provide context. It has worked for decades in the franchise and continues to work now.
This episode has the major difference of having no Prime Universe perspective with Georgiou serving as the next best thing. In my review of the previous episode I compared this to “Tapestry” where Picard was encouraged to reflect on a particularly important part of his life to understand why it ended up informing so much of the person he became. A similar thing is happening here though almost in reverse as Georgiou’s past is being used to help her understand how much she has changed rather than understand how a particular event shaped her life. The time period in question is quite a bit before Discovery crossed over into the Mirror Universe. Lorca is beginning his campaign to overthrow Georgiou and tensions are at their height as people choose their sides in the coming conflict. Georgiou is now armed with knowledge of what happens next and has an opportunity to change it except everything is framed through what she has learned in the time she has spent in the Prime Universe.
Examples of growth were shown in the previous episode through the way she treated Saru for example and this continues here with Mirror Saru becoming something of a confidante who has her respect and even her compassion. She tells Saru the truth about Vahar’ai, gives him advice on how to honour the fallen among his people as well as avenge them, gives him hope for the future by telling him what his counterpart achieved and generally shows that she has come to appreciate what non Terrans have to offer.
It’s interesting to see as an example of growth while making a case for Georgiou having redeemed herself to some degree and makes for the strongest content in the episode but there’s a lot that doesn’t work as well. Most of the coverage around Georgiou and Mirror Burnham amounts to a waste of time as we have no baseline for that relationship to build from. Mirror Burnham isn’t a character; she’s an overblown caricature who does nothing but betray. The episode frames it as if the viewer should be sympathetic towards her as she’s being brutally tortured as punishment for her betrayal but there’s no reason to be as there’s no person behind that anger and no reason to invest in that relationship because nothing is known about it.
Some things do work such as the tender moment where Georgiou recounts raising Mirror Burnham. It shows that she had the capacity for kindness and compassion long before her trip to the Prime Universe and it’s something she took great steps to suppress because those looking to overthrow her would definitely see it as a sign of weakness and look to exploit it. Trying to examine how the hierarchy of the Mirror Universe works is a pointless exercise because there’s no way it could reasonably function given the setup but it’s well understood that someone in power is one mistake away from losing it so Georgiou had to maintain the appearance of invincibility in order to remain in her position. This means neglecting Burnham and silencing her softer instincts. It’s not something the episode goes into but that one moment tells us a lot about Georgiou even if it reveals little about Mirror Burnham. In fairness it isn’t her story but considering a lot of what Georgiou is dealing with is connected to that relationship the general portrayal of it is very weak. It culminates in Mirror Burnham betraying her and them both dying together which holds very little meaning because there’s no reason to assume that Mirror Burnham wouldn’t betray her.
Ultimately the Mirror Universe part of the episode is in service of the important lesson that Georgiou needs to learn which means the events themselves are somewhat pointless as they don’t seem to be actually happening. There is fun to be had but why this was stretched over two episodes is beyond me as the point could have been better made over a far shorter time frame. The reveal that Carl is the embodiment of the Guardian of Forever was a nice piece of fan service that works well enough within the framework of what the episode is doing though it is unnecessary as leaving Carl as a mysterious omnipotent being would have been fine though the expansion of the mythology around such an iconic episode of The Original Series really worked for me and didn’t hurt the episode in any way.
The lesson that Georgiou learns is that she has become a better person and that is reflected in the decisions made during her test. It’s interesting that she doesn’t entirely become a virtuous person looking to make up for her past mistakes. Such a transformation would be unrealistic but her outlook has changed enough for her to think differently. In the Mirror Universe she still wanted to rule because she is always going to be someone that craves power but she wanted to find a better way to do it that was informed by what she had seen in the Prime Universe. She recognises the value that non Terrans have and understands that violence isn’t really the answer in any situation because it only begets more violence. It’s not a paradigm shift but it is growth and proves that Georgiou isn’t a threat because she has her own take on morality that will enable her to do some good. With it confirmed that the lesson has been learned Carl is confident in letting her live out her days in another time period which sends her on her way to the announced spin-off that Michelle Yeoh will be leading.
She can’t leave without a meaningful exchange with Burnham where they both recognise how important an influence they have been to one another. Burnham tells her that the way she feels about this Georgiou is unique and doesn’t connect to how she feels about the Prime Universe version. Georgiou tells Burnham how great she is and that she’s meant for so much more than she can imagine which feels about right for this show. It’s a sincere goodbye that works really well because of the work that has been done to develop this complex relationship. The Discovery crew gathering to pay their respects to Georgiou feels a lot less sincere as it hasn’t been earned to the extent the show wants it to be.
Outside of the Georgiou centric plot there’s more busy work related to the Burn with Discovery still struggling to learn more about the ship broadcasting the distress call. Reno makes an appearance to deliver some snark and Book shows how he can be of use both in and out of the confines of protocol so there is a fun exchange between good characters but on a plot level it’s uninteresting and is dragging on relentlessly with very little in the way of answers. Vance offering Saru his condolences as well as his support if things are getting on top of him is another strong character moment from him that continues to add depth. Despite some watchable character beats the Discovery portions of the episode felt superfluous and at odds with the bloated Georgiou narrative so none of it really hangs together.
An effective Georgiou focused episode that does a good job of exploring how much she has changed and grown since leaving her native universe. On a character level the Mirror Universe plot works because it allows Georgiou to examine decisions made back then while looking to make changes. Her interactions with Saru highlight her growth because she shows him respect, gives him important advice, offers him hope and generally shows that she values what non Terrans have to offer. Much of the rest of the episode tries to focus on her relationship with Mirror Burnham which doesn’t work nearly as well because there’s no baseline for that relationship and Mirror Burnham is an overblown caricature that can’t be invested him. Her eventual second betrayal means nothing because there’s no reason to assume she won’t do that. Highlighting that Georgiou was capable of compassion prior to leaving the Mirror Universe through the scene where she recounts raising Burnham was a really strong moment that provides depth through the implications of what Georgiou says as well as Michelle Yeoh’s performance. The lesson she learns after Carl points out her growth works well enough and the reveal that Carl is the embodiment of the Guardian of Forever may be unnecessary but it’s well executed fan service that doesn’t do the episode any harm.
Georgiou’s lesson is well learned and ideal for sending her off onto the spin-off as she doesn’t completely change. Her outlook is altered enough that she isn’t a threat and is eager to use what she has learned to help others. It makes for realistic growth and the final scene between Georgiou and Burnham is a strong encapsulation of the complex relationship that exists between these characters. The Discovery scenes were largely superfluous with very minor movement on the Burn plot allowing for some fun character interactions and another sincere advisory moment from Vance to Saru. It was certainly an oddly structured episode that didn’t entirely hang together but definitely had merit.
- the Georgiou/Saru interactions highlighting how much Georgiou has grown
- Georgiou’s meaningful moment with Mirror Burnham adding depth to Georgiou and that relationship
- a well learned lesson for Georgiou
- Georgiou and Burnham’s farewell
- fun interactions on Discovery
- more depth added to Vance in the support he offers Saru
- well used fan service
- the Mirror Universe plot being largely pointless
- Mirror Burnham more of a boring caricature than a character
- more busy work around The Burn plot
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you might want to talk about. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up. Don’t forget to share your rating in the “User Review” box
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.