Star Trek: Discovery: Terra Firma, Part 1
December 10, 2020 10:13 AM - Season 3, Episode 9 - Subscribe

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.

Where Memory Alpha is from, we were prime, and you were the mirror:

  • This is one of fourteen Star Trek episodes with titles derived from Latin, in this case meaning "solid earth".


  • The episode establishes that traveling across both time and dimensions is bad for a person. There would be two instances in canon that I know of where this has happened: the 23rd century, prime-universe Constitution-class USS Defiant (NCC-1764), which went through a rift in the space-time continuum to the 22nd-century mirror universe; all its personnel were dead and it's unclear whether this problem affects inorganic matter. The other instance would be prime-universe Spock ending up in the alternate "Kelvin" timeline; again, the problem may not affect someone from the prime universe who is present at the point of divergence.


  • The example that Kovich cites, Yor, is from the Kelvin timeline (assumed that the "Romulan mining ship" that he refers to is the Narada); although he is from 2379 in that universe, he's wearing what looks exactly like a prime-universe Starfleet uniform from about the early 2360s (the first few seasons of TNG). Who knows what that means.

  • Paul Guilfoyle, playing Carl, was a regular on CSI, and also was in Three Men and a Baby, directed by Leonard Nimoy.


  • "I never listened to advice when I was green, but take it from an old salt who's made a lot of bad calls in his day. A crew member is drowning. If we let her, then your crew will never look at you, or the Federation the same way again. And you will never look at yourself the same way either."

    - Vance, to Saru

    "What is that?"
    "What do you call a cute portal? A-door-able. A clown held a door open for me. It was a nice jester. Hmm. No sense of humor, huh?"

    - Burnham and Carl

    "Let me make myself clear. Lorca's coup will fail, Michael will return to the fold, and the path of what has been set in motion will change, because I will change it!"
    "My apologies, Emperor. You know I seek only to protect you, and so I must tell you that if this situation were known, you would risk losing the trust of your loyalists, and they will show you no mercy."
    "Then I will need you to make certain that it is not known by anyone. I will not die today. I know Michael. It is not too late for her to make a different choice."

    - Georgiou and Tilly (mirror)

    Poster's Log:

    So... in the lead-up to what looks like a Federation-Emerald Chain war, we get a two-parter set largely in the mirror universe. When the ep started out with Kovich (fka Cronenberg/Angleton) establishing that Georgiou's condition was because of wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey-parallel-universey, I thought that they might simply be setting her up to go back to the 2250s for the Section 31 show, which is still a possibility, but there's also a suggestion of a redemption arc for Georgiou that I've suspected previously. She's already diverged from the events previously established for DIS' part of the MU; Mirror-Burnham was supposed to have died in a shuttle accident (which was used by Prime-Burnham to infiltrate the MU), but that's not going to be a thing; also, M-Stamets dies a lot earlier. I'm not sure that seriously altering the MU's continuity is really an option, because of its numerous intersections with prime continuity, but can Georgiou change herself?

    Anyway, despite the interruption/slowdown of other events in the season arc, I liked going back to the MU; the reception/party for the Empress was a neat mirror of the S1 party, and the various minor changes (Killy's beehive, seeing some crew that we didn't see in the S1 MU episodes), and I also liked the Cirque du Soleil/ballet staging of the christening-cum-would-be-assassination scene. The scene on the planet was also intriguing; Burnham and Georgiou's hiking across the snow was a neat counterpart to Burnham and Prime-Georgiou's hike across the desert in the very first scene in the series, and "Carl" made me think of an American version of a certain traveler across space and time. (Couple of things about that: the door standing in the middle of nowhere that leads to other places, times, and/or dimensions was a feature of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, and Memory Alpha hints that there are other things of interest on that newspaper.)

    Poster's Log, supplemental: The winter scene also reminded me that Star Trek Online just started up its winter carnival. It's not the first year that they've hosted it, but they've got at least a few new things; last night, I battled assimilated snowmen.
    posted by Halloween Jack (32 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
     
    So Carl was a Q, right? A much less insufferable Q?
    posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 11:32 AM on December 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


    I don't think so...Carl's paper is the Star Dispatch, and this isn't the first time the Star Dispatch has appeared in Trek. [Possible albeit still speculative spoilers re Carl at that link.]
    posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:35 AM on December 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


    It goes by fast, but one of the headlines on Carl’s Star Dispatch mentions the 21st Street Mission from City on the Edge of Forever, so it’s looking really likely that he is the (a?) Guardian. I like that a lot better than Q.
    posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:18 PM on December 10, 2020 [6 favorites]


    I'm totally and completely confused with the Carl thing and how they figured to find him and ...?

    But I'm really digging any excuse to explore the MU stuff.
    posted by porpoise at 4:00 PM on December 10, 2020


    I'm totally and completely confused with the Carl thing and how they figured to find him

    They had directions from the ship's computer, combined with the Sphere data.
    posted by hanov3r at 4:11 PM on December 10, 2020


    Too bad they didn't think of transporting to Carl directly instead trekking through the wilderness for hours.
    posted by ShooBoo at 6:03 PM on December 10, 2020 [4 favorites]


    That's the transporter's built-in uncertainty principle circuit kicking in. It's a neat little thing that allows the characters to do just enough exposition before moving on with the plot.
    posted by Kyol at 6:49 PM on December 10, 2020 [16 favorites]


    I'm totally and completely confused with the Carl thing and how they figured to find him

    So there's this god, you see. And he descends on the stage via a machine. And he advances the plot. It's an old trick, but you seldom see it used so baldly in modern circumstances.

    The deus ex machina in this case is Paul Guilfoyle, best known from CSI. In what could have been a very special Christmas episode he reminds me a lot of Clarence from It's a Wonderful Life. Perhaps every time a soul shrieks in the agonizer, a doorman angel gets his wings.

    My favorite thing about the Star Dispatch is their crossword puzzle is hexagonal. Fun production detail. Also check out the symbols in the lower left of the page.

    Still loved this episode, but boy it takes a lot of faith to be willing to be along for this ride. Suddenly the show is 24/7 Georgiou and we're back in time in the Mirror Universe? I guess they're setting up Section 31? Or about to do some timey-wimey stuff with altering the timeline, which might make me throw things at the screen.

    I did appreciate that in the B plot we're getting closer to the cause of the Burn. Stupid Kelpians, should have remained a food species for their betters.
    posted by Nelson at 10:20 PM on December 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


    At last count, Carl was fanservice for:
    Clarence, angel second class
    Doctor Who
    various Trek reality benders (Trevanian, Q, the Prophets, etc)
    Mr Mxyzpltk
    Alien Space Bats*
    depending on how part 2 goes, the Ghost of Christmas Past
    Not bad.

    Online ARG puzzle vulnerable me was just relieved the crossword wasn't a QR code or something. I've got too much time on my hands to go full Hanso Foundation.

    My sound mix was weird? Or the floors are just really loud and clangy and that's why they wear sneakers in the Prime timeyverse.
    posted by bartleby at 11:12 PM on December 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


    Huh, kind of glad I didn’t know going in that this was a part-one! Was thinking recently about how they’ve stopped showing episode titles onscreen, and how that kind of prevented the Oops! All Mirror Universe surprise. I kept waiting for them to cut back to what I had thought was the A-plot, heh.

    I kind of expected to hate going back to the Mirror Universe, but instead I actually kind of enjoyed it ?? Fairly curious how the season is going to shake out overall at this point, honestly.
    posted by DoctorFedora at 2:59 AM on December 11, 2020 [2 favorites]


    I now want to rewatch the one where they free the Kelpiens from that dark gooey god substance, the better to (A) recollect what the whole deal was with that and (B) determine whether it might be related to the Burn.

    Is this the first two-part backdoor-pilot in TV history?
    posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:47 AM on December 11, 2020 [1 favorite]


    In fairness, I would watch the *shit* out of "Michelle Yeoh is James Bond IN SPAAAACEEE!" Not sure this is the best way to get there, though.
    posted by Mr. Excellent at 5:47 AM on December 11, 2020


    Tilly (mirror)

    Pretty sure you mean "Captain Killy" there.

    Anyways, I have no idea where they're going with all this. But I'm willing to go along for the ride I guess; it's certainly been an interesting change of pace.

    I always think Mirror Universe episodes must be a hoot for the actors to do, and this one was no exception.
    posted by mstokes650 at 7:05 PM on December 11, 2020 [5 favorites]


    Oh, right.

    The Sphere Thing and Total Database must have given the Discovery's ship's computer super databases (and probably AI sentience, but the computer is hiding it knowing the history from 'Picard' that humans hate sentient AI).

    Which makes Carl a Q-level meddler make more sense, especially if Disco's Ship's Computer is in cahoots (perhaps reacting to hidden/ previously-encoded data).


    Not sure I'm a fan of all this meddling in cannon. I abhored the nuTrek/ Kelvin Universe (the JJ Abrams movie stuff?).

    Otoh, I'm a sucker for time travel stories, but this is not being done well and is a poor precedent.

    Especially given in-show prohibitions against time travel because it sucks.
    posted by porpoise at 10:04 PM on December 11, 2020 [1 favorite]


    Benefits of Terran Empire: Hair, Makeup, Clothes, and You climb over the corpses of your defeated foes.

    Downsides: Terran Supremacy.
    posted by mikelieman at 6:12 AM on December 12, 2020 [3 favorites]



    My sound mix was weird? Or the floors are just really loud and clangy and that's why they wear sneakers in the Prime timeyverse.


    There was a lot more clang overall, in the MU parts. When they walk, when they salute, when they all bow when the Emperor entered the party...

    Terrans rely on force because they can't stealth worth a damn.
    posted by Mogur at 7:33 AM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


    Why is the Mirror Universe so glamorous?

    That halo...
    posted by yonega at 2:59 PM on December 12, 2020 [4 favorites]


    the Carl Continuum
    posted by DoctorFedora at 3:28 PM on December 12, 2020


    I am so proud that, when we got to zoom in on the lower left corner of the back page of the newspaper, and we were trying to work out what writing system it was, I said "Vulcan?" and my spouse pulled my Star Trek Encyclopedia off the shelf (got it for my 13th birthday) and confirmed that. Yup! That's Vulcan.

    Also proud that, as we were speculating about Carl's and the door's whole deal, I said "Guardian of Forever" which then got shout-outs in the paper (the stuff about the civilization that built the Guardian, the soup stuff).

    I believe I've never seen "City on the Edge of Forever" - but I did read Peter David's branded novel Imzadi, and I read Harlan Ellison's angry essay about that episode in a 1990s TV Guide about a Trek anniversary (the same issue where I read my first Camille Paglia essay, about her crush on Data).

    I enjoyed this episode a lot; I am really curious what the show will do next with Georgiou, who was not (in previous seasons) a character whose stories I looked forward to!
    posted by brainwane at 8:42 PM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


    Michelle Yeoh is of course wonderful and fun to watch, but personally I'm not thrilled by the idea of a redemption arc for Space Hitler. But OK, I guess this is what we're doing for the next couple of episodes.

    (Maybe I'm being a little unfair and she's Space Genghis Khan, not Space Hitler, but still. One reason I love Star Trek is because it centers people who are fundamentally decent and are doing their best to make the world a better place. There are plenty of shows about jerks.)
    posted by Syllepsis at 1:24 PM on December 13, 2020 [2 favorites]


    I am also wincing at the moral do-over for Georgiou--this transformation just doesn't strike me as being psychologically plausible in a narrative sense? I suppose we're putting this down to the Power of Love...

    Speaking of which, I did like that Mirror Burnham has exactly the same issue re: Lorca that Prime Burnham did: yearning for a perfect parent-substitute (this time around, in the form of a lover) who will provide apparently unconditional love. Which leads to their betrayal, in both cases.

    Kovich's glasses seem suspicious from a Terran POV, although they aren't sunglasses. Hmm.

    Now wondering if the possible timeline shenanigans are going to tie into the Short Trek episode, which has been an awkward fit so far.
    posted by thomas j wise at 2:11 PM on December 13, 2020


    This is the episode where I feel like we went from "Star Trek Fever Dream" to "Star Trek Paint-huffing-induced hallucination" and I'm.. kinda here for it?
    posted by some loser at 9:13 AM on December 14, 2020 [2 favorites]


    This the episode where I feel like we went from "Star Trek Fever Dream" to "Star Trek Paint-huffing-induced hallucination" and I'm.. kinda here for it?

    Don't be a Herbert.
    posted by mikelieman at 9:54 AM on December 14, 2020


    My partner and I were so here for this episode, just loved "Carl" at the doorway, and then we both groaned when Georgiou stepped into the MU. I shouted out "I've had enough of this place!"

    And then when she was getting dressed for the Charon christening and donned that fabulous outfit we both took it all back. Is there anything more delicious than Michelle Yeoh just throwing herself into this devious character?
    posted by rocketman at 10:48 AM on December 14, 2020 [8 favorites]


    The mirror universe episodes were sort of a blur for me, so maybe I missed it being explained: why is the mirror universe so similar to ours? Why did the same gang of people get together, despite the chaos? Why didn't anyone stab Evil Stamets when he was an insufferable child, why didn't the ship turn up instead of down one day, why didn't that evil butterfly flap its evil wings and cause some major evil event that meant the crew never got together?

    I do love that straightened hair is eeevil. I love the whole evil ship, actually.
    posted by The corpse in the library at 3:24 PM on December 15, 2020


    > Is there anything more delicious than Michelle Yeoh just throwing herself into this devious character?

    Goth Eyeliner Dr. Culber is pretty great, too, if only in the background.
    posted by The corpse in the library at 3:26 PM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]


    The mirror universe episodes were sort of a blur for me, so maybe I missed it being explained: why is the mirror universe so similar to ours? I have asked that question soooo many times, and still don't have a good answer, except a vague hypothesis that there is *something* physical that ties the two universes together. And which one is the real universe, and which one the reflection? Or are they both reflections of an unglimpsed whole? And if "our" universe is a crapsack one now, does that mean that the Terrans became peaceful and enlightened in response? And Michael's attempts to fix the Federation spell doom for the MU, will it forced - by the law of reflection - to slide into anarchy again as the Federation ascends?
    posted by Mogur at 3:49 PM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]


    I'm of the theory that Giorgiou is going to be offered a reign in hell or serve in heaven choice by Carl (Clarence, angel second class).
    Your molecules want to be back in the mirrorverse; fine, I'll even put you back to before it all went wrong for you, so you can subjugate everyone properly this time.
    But oh, what's this? Now that you've spent time in a kinder gentler universe, you're not so sure of yourself. Having a conversation with Saru? That's not a captain, that's dinner! What are you doing?
    I think Giorgiou has been doing an Empress-in-Exile tough guy bit in the Kindverse, trying to have it both ways.
    I bet the next episode is going to be a stay here and be Empress, and torture Mirror Michael to death in orDer to retain that power. Or become compatible on both a physical and philosophical level, and remain in the Kindverse, as a nobody on someone else's boat.
    But either way, you're going to have to 'commit to the bit'.
    posted by bartleby at 4:55 PM on December 15, 2020 [3 favorites]


    Why did the same gang of people get together, despite the chaos? Why didn't anyone stab Evil Stamets when he was an insufferable child...?

    It seems like the parallel universes like to evolve on parallel paths, hence the same grouping of people, until someone crosses over from one to the other, then people start dying and things go haywire, and 14 billion years of things heading in the same direction gets all wobbly. That's my theory, anyway.
    posted by jabah at 7:16 PM on December 15, 2020


    Well they head in the same direction in many ways (the same people) but then radically different in other ways (those people can't tolerate normal universe sunlight). Not to mention the spaceships and role assignments are identical except that the Terran Empire are a bunch of fascists. What do you suppose is on the regular Discovery where the agonizers are installed on the mirror Discovery?

    My retcon for this is that there are infinite mirror universes, all divergent from ours in different ways. And when the transporter accident or whatever bridges the two, it selected the one that was most familiar and yet also hilarious and campy and the most fun for the cast and crew to film. Which is why we viewers are so lucky to get someone as delicious as Bisexual Dominatrix Kira; this Mirror Universe was chosen for our pleasure.
    posted by Nelson at 6:42 AM on December 16, 2020 [2 favorites]


    What do you suppose is on the regular Discovery where the agonizers are installed on the mirror Discovery?

    Jeffries tubes. In TOS, it was just a little crawlway that Scotty used on rare occasions. Now they are everywhere and you have to crawl into one just to change a fuse, like Stamets did when he bled out.

    I went back and watched this episode, which I basically never do, and I have to say they pulled out all the stops. Costumes, makeup, lighting, music. Giving Michelle Yeoh a chance to act. Mirror Burnham's unhinged confession.

    If you'll notice, it's a combination of the two favorite TOS episodes (City on the Edge of Forever, and Mirror Mirror), so I think they are signalling a high point in the season.
    posted by jabah at 12:08 PM on December 16, 2020 [2 favorites]




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