Star Trek Discovery: Terra Firma, Part 1

Empress Georgiou is far from home. She’s stuck in the wrong time and the wrong universe, and her body is starting to suffer from the displacement. After consulting the sphere data, Discovery takes Georgiou to Dannus V, an icy world where a mysterious portal might offer Georgiou a way home.

For the past few weeks, Discovery has been teasing us with Georgiou’s condition. Right after her interview with Kovich, Burnham caught her spacing out. After another dissociative episode during Book’s rescue, Georgiou was reluctantly persuaded to submit to the ministrations of Culber and the other medics aboard Discovery. In this episode, we finally uncover exactly what’s going on – Georgiou is suffering from being not only in the wrong time, but in the wrong universe. I have to admit to being a little disappointed by this turn of events – of all the intriguing possibilities for Georgiou’s illness, “she’s in the wrong universe” was the most mundane and easily guessable of them.

Anyway, obviously the next order of business is to find some way to help Georgiou. For once, Saru is on the side of helping out Starfleet and assisting with the greater good, but surprisingly it’s none other then Admiral Vance who tells him that helping Georgiou should take priority. On the one hand, I understand Vance’s reasoning – when it comes to encouraging crew morale and unity, then showing that you’ll go out of your way to help someone is a real plus. On the other hand, Starfleet admirals are usually sticklers for the rules and the needs of the many, so to hear Vance counsel Saru otherwise is a bit surprising. Maybe he’s just accepted that Discovery is going to do its own thing every week come what may, and has decided to go with the flow.

Many writers will be familiar with the phenomenon where you have a really great scene or situation you want to write for your characters. There’s just one problem – you first have to write all the logistical preamble that gets your protagonists into the right place at the right time. Doing this with skill – and not making what you’re doing embarrassingly blatant to the reader – is an art unto itself.

Unfortunately, if this episode is anything to go by, it’s not one that the Discovery writers have mastered. The story they clearly want to write is that of Georgiou’s return to the mirror universe, but how to get her there? Naturally, the sphere data comes into play, somehow containing the exact location that Discovery needs to go to, but that’s not all. Once Burnham and Georgiou have trekked around the snowy wastes of their destination, a mysterious man named Carl lets Georgiou go through a portal that takes her back in time to the days leading up to Mirror Burnham’s assassination attempt. Who or what is Carl? Will it ever be explained? Watch this space.

Anyway, the actual mirror universe part of the episode is generally entertaining. I always feel a bit uneasy about the sheer amount of bloody death in the mirror universe, but if you’re going to be evil, at least this universe does it in style. I spent much of the episode admiring the villainous fashion sense of Mirror Georgiou, Burnham and Tilly, and wishing they could somehow meet up with Intendant Kira.

Given that this is the first of a two-parter, naturally the story isn’t finished here. Georgiou has managed to alter the timeline of the mirror universe, but to what end? Will she still get to the right time and place to star in a Section 31 spin-off? All we can do is keep watching until we find out.

Who is Carl?

Who is Carl, the man reading tomorrow’s newspaper and sitting next to a portal to the mirror universe? We can’t know for sure right now, so let’s wildly speculate instead.

  • Qarl: Obviously the first thing that springs to mind is that Carl is a member of the Q Continuum. Carl sitting and reading his newspaper is highly reminiscent of the appearance of the Q Continuum in Voyager’s Death Wish, and of course the Q’s powers could easily make a portal to another reality.
    Would the presence of a Q invalidate Discovery’s struggles? They’ve just spent the best part of three seasons on various missions to save the Federation, the galaxy and all intelligent life therein. Of course, the Q could step in at any point and fix anything they like, but thanks to their capricious and unsympathetic natures, it’s easy to believe that they just wouldn’t bother.
  • The Prophets: Carl is on a planet near the Gamma Quadrant, and wormholes across vast distances are the Prophets’ stock in trade. Not only is time meaningless to them, but in DS9 we saw Kira go back in time to meet her mother – an event not dissimilar to Georgiou’s return to her past in the mirror universe.
  • The Guardian of Forever: The powers of Carl and the Portal are very similar to those of the Guardian of Forever. His newspaper, The Star Dispatch, is also seen in The City on the Edge of Forever (thanks to my occasional viewing companion for pointing this out).

Other notes

  • Why did the sphere data not just tell Georgiou and Burnham to beam down to Carl’s exact location, instead of having them trek across a frozen wasteland? There wasn’t even the usual excuse of needing to beam down outside some kind of dampening field.
  • Mirror Stamets ultimately didn’t participate in the assassination, so why did Georgiou kill him? Was it an attempt to warn off Burnham, or to change the timeline? Georgiou may have softened a bit thanks to her stint in the prime universe, but life is still cheap to her.

Summary – Terra Firma, Part 1: Your mirror universe counterpart is already dead.

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