Review - A Return To The Mirror Universe In "Terra Firma Pt 1"

Review – We Return To The Mirror Universe In “Terra Firma Pt 1”

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I’m not sure what I was expecting from this Georgiou-focused two-parter, but it certainly wasn’t this. And it’s all for the better too, because the surprise twists and turns only brought me more enjoyment to a story that I am so very curious how it will be resolved in Part 2, which can’t come fast enough!

So, let’s start at the beginning. Culber (Wilson Cruz) and Kovich (David Cronenberg) are discussing Georgiou’s (Michelle Yeoh) deteriorating condition. For a while, I was somewhat convinced that Kovich had something to do with it, but it seems the show has subverted that expectation of an evildoer within the midst of Starfleet with just Georgiou dealing with a temporal sickness. She doesn’t belong in this time or this universe, and every molecule in her is trying to fight their way across time and dimension. This is why she’s going out of phase. The rest of the crew are okay because they are still in their universe despite the time travel. This information all comes from the fact that Georgiou is not the first to cross over from time and universe. We discover the existence of a time soldier, Lt. Commander Yor, from the Kelvin timeline created by Nero in the Star Trek 2009 film. Yor travelled forward from 2379 and into the Prime timeline and eventually was in such agony that the doctors had to petition for euthanasia simply because the rules of the Temporal Accords meant they could not send him back.

This revelation is truly astounding, not only because this is the first time a Prime timeline show has confirmed the existence of the Kelvin timeline, thus an explicit display that the film and TV divisions have merged back under one roof, but also this gives us in-universe context perhaps for the passing of Prime Spock in the Kelvin timeline. After all, Prime Spock was only about 161 years old at the time of his passing in the Kelvin timeline, and Vulcans are known to even live past 200 years old. Given the rather sudden and unexpected nature of his passing, temporal sickness could have contributed to Prime Spock’s ill health. And in one scene, it brought more depth and stakes to time travelling and universe hopping, as well as giving us glimpses of the future of another timeline that seems stalled in telling its stories on the big screen. It’s almost as if the show was saying, “it’s okay, we can handle this.” Though perhaps the show’s ability in taking in the Kelvin timeline aspects isn’t so surprising, after all, Alex Kurtzman is one of the architects of the Kelvin timeline films.

(CBS) Culber & Kovich Discuss Georgiou’s Deteriorating Health

Now, Kovich doesn’t believe in a solution to this sickness, but Culber is not one to just sit on his hands and give up. So, he puts in all the information they gathered into the computer and asks for a solution, and there is one. It makes perfect sense that Culber wouldn’t give up on finding a solution, this is a man who came back from the dead through a mushroom network after all. It also seems that the sphere data is trying to help once again. This seems convenient but it is logical within the story with Discovery having information that the future lost in The Burn, a combination of their resources would inevitably do better. The solution is brought to Admiral Vance for discussion and surprisingly the Admiral agrees for it to go forward, though not without questioning if Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green) could truly let Georgiou go, especially when she hesitated with Airiam last season. And this is where I have to talk about Admiral Charles Vance (Oded Fehr).

I was tempted to write a sonnet about the man, but I don’t even think sonnets could do justice to what I feel about this character. For numerous episodes, I often did wonder if my love for the character was perhaps connected to my adoration of Oded Fehr as an actor. After all, he did play one of my favourite characters, Ardeth Bay, from the old Mummy movies I used to obsess over as a kid. And there was always a fear in the back of my head that maybe the Federation and Starfleet could be bad, or he was another one of those “badmirals” that past Trek shows often had. But this episode has erased those doubts from my mind entirely. In fact, 8 minutes into the episode, it was as if Oded Fehr had walked up and emotionally sucker punched me in the chest. I was entirely unprepared as Vance bared his heart open to Saru so he could give the new captain some advice from an old salt. In one of the most eloquent lines of the show, he tells Saru that a crew member is drowning, and if they do nothing, then his crew will never look at Saru or the Federation the same way again, and Saru would never look at himself the same way either. Delivered with such heartfelt sincerity by Oded Fehr, Vance lets his guard down a little and we see a good man who cares about his people. Yes, he is weary and exhausted, holding everything together by duct tapes basically, but beneath that rough exterior is something who is Starfleet and has a kind heart driven by compassion. In another brilliant expectation subversion, the show used the moment to give both Vance and Saru depth in their character development.

We understand why Vance doesn’t end up chewing them out for essentially starting a war with the Emerald Chain last episode because sometimes the one is more important than the many. He can see that Saru is trying to prove that Discovery can fall in line, that the crew is a part of the Federation, but he is also wise enough to realize that rules and protocols aren’t always necessarily right. As he said, he’s made bad calls in his days, and he is trying to guide Saru onto a better path. Now, I have to say though, when he said that they’ll handle the Chain’s possible military incursions and see Discovery when the crew gets back, my ominous alarm bell ringing did return. Because characters saying those similar kinds of words never seem to end up with good fates. I can only hold a prayer circle in the hopes that Vance will not die because the Chain attacked somehow while Discovery was gone, and the crew will return to find an even more wounded Starfleet and Federation or even a kidnapped or dead Admiral. For once, Discovery crew deserves a space parent who will stick around! I swear if he dies or becomes evil somehow, I’m rioting!

(CBS) Burnham, Admiral Vance & Saru Evaluate The Mission To Save Georgiou

Speaking of learning from a parent though, Saru is learning some important lessons this week. It has been noticeable the last few episodes that Saru has been trying to follow protocol as much as possible. As he even states to Booker, leaning on protocol where there is inexperience or unknown situations is what he recommends. But as his conversation with Admiral Vance shows, and as his previous conversation with Ni’Var’s president also shows, following rules and maxims so strictly can also be a detriment, because it removes out of the box thinking and emotional truths. I appreciate the fact that Saru is not perfect. His path to captaincy is hardly a normal one either. It’s good to see a story where even a captain can still learn and not just reach the rank and magically know all the answers. Experience and advice are what will help Saru, and especially now faced with the discovery that the ship inside the Nebula sending the distress call is Kelpien. It’s clear that the news affected Saru, though it could be that Saru is reminded of his sister when seeing the Kepien doctor delivering the distress message, since she is played by Hannah Spear who previously portrayed Saru’s sister Siranna. But for so long he’s been the only Kelpien, I think it’s strange for him to face a future where his people have grown and changed so much, beyond perhaps even what he thought they could be. And I’m sure that a part of him is also concerned if a Kelpien ship might have been the cause of The Burn somehow. It would be devastating if a Kelpien ship caused the destruction of an institution that gave Saru and his people their newfound life.

The message from the distress signal relays that over 100 years ago before The Burn, the KSF Khi’eth was stranded in the Verubin Nebula while trying to investigate a dilithium nursery. They called for help and the U.S.S. Hiraga Gennai answered the call to rescue but never arrived, so it is feared that the ship was destroyed trying to get into the nebula. Side note, Hiraga Gennai was a gay Japanese polymath from the Edo period (1603 to 1868). He was a pharmacologist, physician, author, painter, and inventor.

We still don’t have much information about what happened, but I can’t help thinking that perhaps the destruction of the Hiraga Gennai is what set off The Burn? If the ship was trying to penetrate the nebula that has so much dangerous radiation, perhaps the explosion of the ship set off the dilithium nursery inside the nebula and some sort of signal wave travelled out and set off all the dilithium across the galaxy. We all have been thinking that The Burn is a nefarious plot, but what if it’s just an accident or the good intentions of a Federation ship crew trying to save others?

(CBS) The Crew Listen To The Distress Call From The KSF Khi’eth

But the road to hell is paved with good intentions isn’t it? Good intentions sometimes still cause hurt, whether physical or emotional. Adira (Blu del Barrio) is dealing with the emotional strain that is affecting their work, they are trying to deny their pain and hurt over Gray (Ian Alexander) just disappearing and not speaking to them. Stamets is there once again to guide and comfort them. Maybe Gray has good intentions to leave but Adira is adamant that Gray doesn’t just get to decide what is good for them or not. And I love that Stamets just listens and doesn’t try to invalidate Adira’s feelings. The kindness and fondness that Anthony Rapp has on his face say all the things that he doesn’t need words to express. I’m not sure what is going on with Gray, but judging from Ian Alexander’s recent interview, something is unfolding from Gray’s end, and I don’t know if it could lead to a physical resurrection somehow?

I know who is hoping for a resurrection though, Mirror Georgiou. She’s been pissed and grouchy. It is Georgiou’s defence mechanism. But Michael is not without her own ability to poke and prod back, because she knows that Georgiou doesn’t want to just remain here and be a study. If she wants to honour, then go down to the planet that supposedly has the solution and finds it. With a future fit-bit strapped to her wrist and a future phaser that dematerializes into a badge on the arm, Georgiou goes to leave with Michael, but not without exchanging some last words with Saru (Doug Jones) and Tilly (Mary Wiseman). Saru notes this may be the last they see of her and says he’s learned as much from her as her Prime counterpart. Tilly admits that Georgiou has weirdly been good for her and even hugs a surprised Georgiou. While Georgiou may snark and attack at times, it is also clear that she’s formed a bit of attachment and a grudging respect for the crew that she’s spent so much time with. Even she couldn’t leave what was possible last words with total anger. And it really does seem like this is the last time we will see of Michelle Yeoh. These days it’s not often that shows can surprise anymore given how often spoilers and leaks find their way to the public. And this rather early exit has certainly taken me by surprise as I thought she would exit at the end of the season instead.

But off to the planet of Dannus Five they go, just Michael and Georgiou, in a parallel to where the show began in season 1 with the two-part pilot. Instead of them walking through the desert, here they are in the snow, in a poetic full circle. Of course, they don’t wander around in silence, there’s still some antagonizing going on. Georgiou tells the story of how she found Mirror Michael on a trash heap but chose her instead of the other children because Mirror Michael wasn’t waiting for a saviour. She admonishes Prime Michael for refusing to let her die because Michael is still trying to save someone who is already dead. In a way though, Georgiou is not wrong. She is in this universe because Michael pulled her into the Prime timeline. One could argue that Georgiou’s situation is partly Michael’s fault because Michael was saving Georgiou out of guilt due to losing Prime Georgiou.

(CBS) Carl Who Is He??

Their argument, however, comes to an end when they run into a mysterious figure called Carl, sitting by a doorway reading a newspaper. A newspaper that looks like the one from the TOS episode “City on the Edge of Forever” where Kirk, Spock, and McCoy travelled through time by a gateway called the Guardian of Forever. I’m sure many are already theorizing, or even combed through that newspaper for clues and easter eggs. It is entirely possible this is the Guardian of Forever, after all, this show is not afraid to take elements of past Trek and giving it a new spin. It could also be Q with all the vague answers and riddles. Or it could be something entirely new. I still think it’s too early to say for sure because we don’t even know what portal Georgiou stepped through and where exactly she is. But this portal is her 5 per cent chance and she’s taking it.

And right into the Mirror Universe past, she goes. Or at least that’s what it seems. It’s the day they christened the Charon, when Mirror Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and Michael betrayed her. But now Georgiou is armed with the future knowledge to change things. This is where we see how the Prime timeline influences have changed her, she is no longer just solely bloodthirsty but sees values in different things that Terrans never considered a strength. And more than she admits, she just truly wants to know why her daughter stopped believing in her. When she saves Mirror Saru and gets him to tell her why Michael is betraying her, Saru points out her change, that Michael cannot love what is too weak to survive. And she cannot deny her change either, because even watching a theatre show of her own history no longer feels her with the joy she would have once felt. There she is standing in her glorious gold circle crown that perfectly in one shot aligns with the burning sun in the background, yet it feels hollow like she no longer belonged. And when she does not kill Michael, even her own loyalists look worried. And what about Mirror Michael’s fury that Michael could not stand on her own because of Georgiou? Can that be something that Georgiou could simply fix or change?

The Mirror Universe performances were all stunning, including notable surprise returns of Hannah Cheesman as Mirror Airiam in human form, and Rekha Sharma as Mirror Landry. The menace that everyone channels are so palpable. Not to mention this is the first time we actually see many of our characters’ Mirror counterparts properly, rather than as our characters pretending to be their counterparts. Mirror Michael is utterly brutal. Mirror Tilly is terrifying in her quiet efficiency. Mirror Rhys and Owosekun even get a moment challenging each other for power. Dark, cruel, and over the top at times, each actor hits the Mirror mark so perfectly that I don’t even see them as the Prime characters we’ve spent three seasons loving.

(CBS) Empress Philippa Georgiou Her Most Imperial Majesty, Mother of the Fatherland, Overlord of Vulcan, Dominus of Qo’noS, Regina Andor, Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius

But what I love the most about Discovery’s trips to the Mirror Universe is how much it’s linked to character development beyond just an evil gimmick. Back in Season 1, the Mirror universe was used to show how easy it was that the Federation could fall prey to that kind of Mirror-level darkness. It took that trip for Michael and the others to learn that they must never let go of their principles no matter how bad things get. And now in Season 3, we see Georgiou re-evaluating her Terran life with a level of self-awareness that no Mirror character has ever done. She wants to change her world. She’s seen a different world with a different future and a different Michael. Her old world is no longer enough, and she is trying to re-mould the Terran Empire and Michael. But who knows if she will succeed and is this even her world? After all, what did she even step through? Could this just be a dream or is she actually in the Mirror Universe? Or maybe even an alternate timeline of the Mirror Universe? Also, with all the Lorca mentions, when will Jason Isaacs pop back up again?

I don’t know where fate will take Georgiou next week, or if all our questions would even be answered, but Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt have never let me down before, and this is their story along with Alan McElroy. Seeing as Bo and Erika will be showrunners for Georgiou’s Section 31 show, I trust that they will do a great job giving us and the characters the closure we all need, while setting up exciting adventures ahead for Georgiou in her own show.

We’re down the homestretch with 4 more episodes of Discovery to go, and I’m beginning to sense a multi-season arc instead of its usual fast-paced one season arcs of the past. I can’t say I dislike it though, because it’s allowed the story and characters to breath more. Onward!

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