Star Trek Discovery "Terra Firma Part 1" - Detailed Analysis and Review


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By Adam David Collings. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Today we talk about the first part of Star Trek Discovery's first traditional two-parter. It's a character study of Georgiou and it takes us back to the mirror universe. Meanwhile, Stamets and Adira continue to uncover new information about the source of the burn.



Welcome to Nerd Heaven

I’m Adam David Collings, the author of Jewel of The Stars.

And I am a nerd.

This is episode 46 of the podcast. Today we’re talking about Star Trek Discovery Terra Firma Part 1.

But just before we launch into that, did you hear about all the new Star Wars shows that Disney+ just announced? They announced 7 new TV shows. Combined with The Mandalorian and Obi-Wan Kenobi, that’s a total of 9 shows.

We currently have 6 Star Trek shows either already on the air, or in various stages of pre-production.

That’s a whole lot of sci-fi entertainment. Now … if only we can get an official green light on the new Stargate show they have in the works. That would be awesome.

But as I said, today, we’re talking Star Trek.

The description on memory alpha reads

The USS Discovery crew journeys to a mysterious planet in hopes of finding a cure for Georgiou's deteriorating condition. Stamets and Adira make a stunning breakthrough with the newly acquired Burn data.

The teleplay for this episode was written by Alan McElroy based on a story by Bo Yeon Kim, Erika Lippoldt & Alan McElroy

It was directed by Omar Madha

And it first aired on the 10th of December 2020.

Make it so.

This episode has a big Georgiou focus.We open with Culbert seeking advice from the Starfleet interrogator. The one that was questioning Georgiou a few episodes back. Apparently, the character’s name is Kovich, although I don’t think that’s ever been said out loud in-universe. A lot of people have been referring to him by the name of the actor playing him. A guy named David Cronenberg. He sounds like a big deal. I’m not familiar with him myself. I actually thought he reminded me a little of British actor Bill Nyee. Some people have even theorised that he’s section 31, which is a reasonable theory, but certainly not yet canonised.

Why Culbert goes to Kovich, I’m not sure. But it turns out, he has all the answers we’ve been looking for. It turns out to be a case of temporal displacement. Our molecules like to remain in the time they were created. But the whole crew have travelled 900 years into the future, and they’re all fine. But Georgiou not only travelled in time, she’s also from another universe. A universe which has been growing ever further apart from ours. Every molecule in her body is screaming to return home. So the hologram theory is out.

And then Kovich activates a holographic image of Lieutenant Commander Yor, a deceased time soldier from the Temporal War. And he’s wearing a Next Generation season 1 uniform, with the shoulder stripes. IT was delightful to see this nostalgic old uniform on Discovery. Do you notice that Discovery is paying a whole lot more respect to TNG than it ever did to TOS?

But I was all set to have a good old nitpick about this. You see, I’d seen images from an episode preview, that they show in America, which clearly showed Tor in this uniform, but with a Voyager-style com badge. That com badge didn’t come into effect until 2371, which would have been the 8th season of TNG. It was never worn with this particular uniform.

Now Kovich says something that can explain it shortly, which we’ll get to in just a sec.

But I noticed in my second watch of the episode, that they’ve edited it. They’ve put in the proper TNG com badge that matches this uniform. That must have been a digital effect. It’s a silly mistake that should never have been made, but I’m glad they sorted it out.

But Kovich explains that Tor is from the year 2379. Okay. So that means the Voyager com badge was correct, but the uniform was dead wrong. 2379, the year Star Trek Nemesis was set.

But then he says something that changes everything.Tor came from an alternate universe created by a temporal incursion caused by a Romulan mining ship.


So Tor is from the Kelvin universe. This is huge. This is the first outright acknowledgement of the Kelvin universe from the prime universe. This is also our first canon look at someone from the TNG era of the Kelvin universe. So apparently, over there, they didn’t change uniforms near as often as they did here in the prime. They skipped the TNG season 3 uniform, the Voyager/deep space nine uniform, and the First Contact uniform. This is really interesting.

So this also means that the Kelvin universe was involved in the temporal wars. Which kinda makes sense. That war was all about temporal incursions and creating new timelines. Although Enterprise used a different concept of time-travel than what Star Trek 2009 did, but let’s just leave that aside.

So yeah, wonderful to see that uniform, and fascinating to get a connection with the Kelvin timeline.

Sadly, things didn’t turn out well for poor old Tor. He ended up in so much pain the Federation petitioned for euthenasia. They couldn’t send him back to his own universe, because to do so would violate the temporal acords, which were taken very seriously.

That doesn’t bode well for Georgiou, because it means Starfleet won’t allow her to return home either.

Kovich doesn’t want Goergiou to know of her fate. A dying Terran’s instinct is to find a way to die in battle. Much like a Klingon. Nobody wants that loose on Discovery. He recommends sedation and locking her up.

But Culbert, the good doctor as ever, asks the computer to find another solution, combining all additional data that Discovery had, which obviously includes the sphere data.

And, much to Kovich’s surprise, it’s found another option.

Meanwhile, Gorgeous can’t even pick up a glass, because her hand goes straight through it.

I kinda like how Georgiou refers to Tilly as Saru’s walking command blunder, echoing what a lot of people have said, that her promotion makes no sense. Tilly is awesome, but she’s not ready for first officer yet.

The sphere data says the solution is on Dannus Five. A world near the border between the alpha and gamma quadrants. It’s still only a 5 percent chance for her, but better than zero.

I like the way Discovery has been using the sphere data this season. Remember back in Voyager ,when an alien entity put gigaquads of information about the universe into the ship’s computer, and it was never mentioned again? That was an absolute travesty. Discovery is still probably under-selling the usefulness of this data but it’s doing a significantly better job than Voyager did.

Saru is inclined to not ignore Goergiou’s plight. The Emerald Chain are conducting exercises near Federation space and Starfleet are on yellow alert.

But Vance is willing to authorise the mission on one condition. That Michael assures him she can let go of Georgiou when the time comes, because the odds are not good. She hesitated when she had to sacrifice Arium. Vance wants to know that she won’t hesitate again. And she gives him her word. This has got to be one of the hardest parts of being a starfleet officer. The willingness to sacrifice a life to save a crew. I don’t think I could handle being in a situation like that. I don’t think I have what it takes to make a tough call like that. Especially when it’s somebody you care about.

We see a very good conversation play out between Vance and Saru. Saru is trying really hard to be the good reliable captain. He doesn’t want to let Vance down. He wants to prove that he can be trusted to serve the needs of this new Starfleet. That’s why he was willing to sacrifice Georgiou and forgo the mission altogether.

Vance explosions a little of his backstory. He made a lot of mistakes over the course of his career. One thing he’s learned is that if a crewmember is drowning, and you let her, the crew will never look at their captain, or the Federation, the same way again. The hard pragmatic choice is not always the right one. You have to have heart and compassion. You have to treat your crew as people. Any captain needs a little bit of Kirk in him.

I love this scene. I’m loving Saru’s arc through this season as he learns to be a better captain. And I’m really liking Vance as a character more and more.

Georgiou’s vulnerability is really poking through the cracks of her bravado. We’re seeing past the tough emperor to the scared little girl inside her. She doesn’t see much hope for success in this plan. She wants an honourable death. She wants Michael to kill her.

But Michael’s having none of it.

This episode is really showing us what Michelle Yeoh can do as an actor.

We also get a little backstory about mirror Burnham. Apparently Georgiou picked her up from a rubbish heap.

We get a pretty heart-warming farewell to Georgious from both Saru and Tilly. Georgiou has come a long way so that she can look Saru in the eye and call him captain. When they first met, she saw him as nothing but dinner.

So they beam down to the planet. It’s a pretty icy place. And I love the visible rings in the sky. I doubt it’s scientifically accurate, but it looks awesome.

As much as I like their trek through the snow, why didn’t they beam directly to the coordinates? Why beam down close and then walk, following the tricorder’s directions?

Now we cut back to the overall season plot with the burn. Honestly, I was expecting this two-parter to be all about the burn. Learning what was in the centre of the nebula. I wasn’t expecting a character study of Georgiou, or a re-examination of the mirror universe, although, given the episode title, I probably should have connected Terra with the mirror universe.

Anyway, Adira is still trying to use the algorithm to decipher the starfleet distress call. Stammets notices that Adira is exhausted and has made a silly mistake, which has cost them hours of wasted effort. Adira is really frustrated by this. It’s the same old story. Starfleet officer becomes obsessed with a task and refuses to sleep. But in this case, we see realistic consequences. And I really like that.

As a computer programmer, I often make stupid mistakes like this which take hours to hunt down. And that’s when I’m not sleep-deprived. It happens.

Gray is still not speaking but Adira is apparently not angry, although facial expressions may suggest otherwise. Stammets points out that Gray wanted Adira to make more ties with the outside world. Friends. Maybe that’s why he’s hiding.

Adira makes a good point. “He doesn’t get to decide what’s good for me.”

It feels a bit manipulative, especially for the disembodied spirit of a dead person.

And the algorithm has finished.

While on his way to find out what Stammets and Adira have uncovered, Saru has a chat with Book.

Books wants in. He wants to help the crew of Discovery. But he wants to do it on his own terms. Saru isn’t interested in that. I’m not sure exactly what Saru is expecting. Putting on a Starfleet uniform and joining the crew perhaps? Which may require training at whatever the equivalent of Starfleet Academy is these days.

I think it’s going to take a while for Book to really find his place, and it’ll take a little bending on both sides.

It turns out, the ship stuck in the nebula is Kalpien.

So a few years before the burn, their ship got stranded in the nebula. Another ship was coming to rescue them. The end of the message is sadly lost.

A lot of people were theorising that it was actually discovery in that nebula, trying to tie it into the short trek Calypso. That made a lot of sense, but I’m kinda glad that’s not where the show is taking us. That would have just been another case of “The red angel is actually michael.” I used to enjoy that trope, but it’s getting a bit old, to be honest.

This Kelpien thing is interesting, because it’s an unexpected development. I’m keen to learn more about that happened, and what they may have had to do with the burn.

Gorgeou keeps comparing Michael to her mirror counterpart. The reason she picked Burnham from that rubbish pile was that she was the only one not begging for help. She was prepared to be her own salvation, and Georgiou respected that.

It’s interesting. Georgiou clearly had a desire to experience motherhood. So there was always some form of humanity in her. She probably wasn’t able to have children biologically. But her choice to pick someone from a rubbish heap is interesting.

She wasn’t there to do charity work. If she’d really cared about helping kids out of poverty, she’d have rescued the mall. She certainly had that within her power as emperor. But she ignored all the pleas and just took Michael.

But why not adopt some other way. I don’t think we have enough insight into her character to really understand this yet.

This is where things get … interesting.

They find a wooden door just sitting in the snow, and a man dressed in 1940s style clothes, smoking a cigar and sitting on a park bench reading a newspaper, which claims “Emperor Georgiou dies horribly painful death. The newspaper is called The Star Dispatch.

Who is this bloke? He offers Georgiou a doorway into her own past. Back into the mirror universe.

I can only assume he is a Q. This is totally their style.

The episode keeps the truth of this character pretty close to its chest. We will probably learn the truth next episode. I’ll probably be disappointed if it’s anything other than the Q. Because I can’t see anything else making sense.

Anyway, the guy calls himself Carl. He tells a few really punny dad jokes, and then makes it clear the door is for Georgiou to walk through.

He makes an interesting statement. The door doesn’t lead. It follows. Does that mean that Georgiou plays a big part in determining what she’ll experience? Her past in the mirror universe, and her relationship with mirror burnham are clearly on her mind, so it makes sense she’d lead the experience where it goes.

I tried to pause the episode and read some of the other headlines in the newspaper, but it was too blurry.

Michael wants answers, but Carl says the question needs to proceed. It’s dangerous to go the other way around. Now, apart from giving me some Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy vibes, this suggests to me that Georgiou is not yet sure what exactly she’s seeking, or what question she needs to answer. She’s about to go on a journey of self-discovery.

Michael rather illogically wants to return to Discovery. This is what they came down for. This is what the sphere data lead them to.

So she steps through and finds herself in the mirror universe. Onboard the USS Discovery. Being welcomed by captain Killy.

This is actually the first time we’ve seen Mary Wiseman play Killy. We’ve seen prime Tilly try to impersonate Killy, but that’s all.

It takes Georgiou a moment to adapt to her settings, but she quickly realises she’s in the past. This is the day they christened the Charon. The day Lorca and Michael betrayed her.

Now I’ve been complaining a little bit that over seasons 2 and 3, Gorgeous just doesn’t seem evil enough. She’s the mirror universe emperor. She’s ruthless and cares nothing over taking lives. She eats Kelpiens.

But I’m seeing through this episode that they’re taking her character in a new way. They’re showing that her time in the prime universe has changed her. More than she had realised.

And that’s cool.

So they’ve actually won me over.

I mean, they could have done a better job of portraying her as a little more evil throughout season 2, but I’ll buy that he time in the prime universe has slowly made her a better person. I just felt like it happened too rapidly and suddenly.

But this episode is really highlighting how she’s changed. She misses her own Michael, regrets killing her. She tells Tilly she wants to bring Michael back into the fold.

But as we’ll soon learn, in Michael’s eyes, Georgiou was already becoming weak. Not as ruthless as a Terran emperor should be. Even before she met anyone from our universe, she was already softening. Initially, we saw her from the perspective of the prime characters, so she looked like a monster. But now, seeing her through mirror Michael’s eyes, she is an old softy. It’s fascinating. And it’s pretty well done.

This episode is also the first time we see mirror burnham. Sonequa Martin Green plays her wonderfully ruthless.

And it’s also an excuse to bring back Landry from season 1, played by BattleStar galactica’s Rekha Sharma.

Mirror brnham really hates Kelpiens. When she calls for Saru to be killed and cooked for dessert, Georgiou intervenes.

This is the moment we realise just how much Georgiou has changed. She can’t just sit by and watch while Saru, a man she seems to have come to respect, is treated like meat.

The Terrans have basically taken on the role of the Bau’ul in the mirror universe. They kill kepliens before they can finish going through vahari. That makes them much easier to enslave, obviously.

And Saru ends up being a useful source of intelligence for Gergiou.

But Georgiou has a problem. We’ve learned the reason Michael and Lorca tried to overthrow her was because of her weakness. But now, given the way she’s changed, she’s more weak, not less, (at least in the way that the mirror universe defines weakness)

Gorgeou keeps trying to drop hints about the importance of loyalty.

I think Michael knows she knows.

It turns out that mirror stamets was in league with Lorca and Michael. But Georgiou knows this. She kills Stamets, which is the first major change to history.

So we have to ask. Is she actually in the past, changing the timeline? Or is this all one big illusion, as the Q often like to play with? We won’t really know until next week.

Given how much ambition she’s supposed to have, I’m surprised Killy hasn’t tried to overthrow Georgiou. But she’s smart. She probably figures she can gain more power by siding with the emperor against Lora and Michael, cementing herself as a trusted captain.

Georgiou offers to let Michael live, if she’ll confess. This is why Michael tried to kill her in the first place. The weakness she has seen in her mother.

Gorgeous says don’t confuse weakness with growth. And this is actually how we’d see this from a prime universe perspective. We don’t see compassion as a weakness. We see it as a strength. A virtue. Something to be applauded.

Georgiou has learned that from us, but it’s a lesson that won’t serve her well in the mirror universe.

She’s not really sure what she’s supposed to be accomplishing here. But she’s been given a chance to go back and do things differently. And she’s taking it.

And now we get to understand Michael’s adoption from her own perspective. She was a master of that rubbish heap. But now, she’s forever in her mother’s shadow. Lorca loves her for her.

But, of course, he doesn’t. She’s just a tool to get at Georgiou.

When goaded into executing Michael, Georgiou can’t do it. She spares her daughter. As of this moment, their future is unwritten.

I think Owo is unconvinced. She may be the next one to turn.

I spent the whole second half of this episode waiting to see if Jason Isaacs would return as Lorca. I really expected to see him in the last few minutes. But that didn’t happen.

So what do you think? Will he turn up part 2?

This was not what I was expecting from Discovery’s first traditional two-parter. I really didn’t think we’d ever be going back to the mirror universe. But I enjoyed it. It was kinda cool to see it again and to get to see some of the characters we’ve heard about but have never seen.

I think in a lot of ways, this episode is setting up Georgiou to be ready to helm the section 31 series. Making her a better person, so she can believably be the hero that we root for.

A lot of people have been assuming she has to go back to the 23rd century because they assume that’s when the show will be set. But I’ve never been convinced of that. I mean, the reason they brought Discovery into the future was so that the show didn’t have to trample all over TOS canon. If they go back and do section 31 in that time, it kinda defeats the purpose.

I know Strange New Worlds will be set in that time, but its exploration focus will make it a lot more insular. It’ll be less likely to stomp all over canon.

I have mixed feelings about the section 31 show. I love Georgiou, and I love section 31, but I’m not a fan of what discovery did with the organisation in season 2. So I suppose I should clarify that I love section 31 as it was portrayed in Deep Space Nine. Can this show redeem what discovery season 2 did? Maybe. We’ll see.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to next week. It should be fun to see how things are going to be resolved.

Next week, of course, we’ll be talking about Terra Firma Part 2.

We’re getting close to the end of the season. It’ll all be finished in early January.

I’m looking forward to the Christmas holidays. It’s been a long year and I’m exhausted. I’m gonna have 3 weeks off work, which will be nice, and should allow me some time to catch up with my writing. At present, this podcast basically takes up all of my creative time and energy. And I really need to get Jewel of The Stars book 3 out soon.

Speaking of which you can grab book 1 for just 99 cents at

It’s basically Star Trek but on a cruise ship.

Well, I’m tired and I can’t think of anything else to say, other than

Live long and prosper.

Make it so.

57 episodes