Star Trek: Discovery: Terra Firma, Part 2
December 17, 2020 8:41 AM - Season 3, Episode 10 - Subscribe

Georgiou uncovers the true depths of the plot against her, leading her to a revelation about how deeply her time on the USS Discovery truly changed her. [CW: torture]

Memory Alpha is the most feared interrogator in the quadrant:

  • This would appear to be the last appearance of Phillipa Georgiou in DIS, barring flashbacks, future plot developments that take the ship back to the 23rd century, other time travel shenanigans, etc. Georgiou will be in the upcoming Section 31 show, still in development. (One thing that I didn't know was that Michelle Yeoh will also be in the MCU Shang-Chi movie. Neat!)

  • Per the speculations of some of our commenters in last ep's thread, Carl is confirmed as the Guardian of Forever, seen previously in TOS' "The City on the Edge of Forever" and TAS' "Yesteryear."

  • Georgiou's attempts to change both Mirror-Burnham and the nature of the Terran Empire mirror both Mirror-Spock's attempts to do so and their eventual failure, as detailed in TOS' "Mirror, Mirror" and DS9's "Crossover."

  • "You can still make a different choice, Michael. Please."
    "'Please'? What happened to you?"

    - Georgiou and Mirror-Burnham

    Poster's Log:

    I don't have a lot to say about this episode, mostly because it's really just logically following through both the events of last episode and of this season that concerned Georgiou and what we know about her being in the Section 31 show. I do wonder about what seems to me to be a disconnect between what Georgiou was still willing to do in the mirror universe and her sentimental "wake" on the ship after she went back. The prime universe crew had been exposed to what the MU was like; did they maybe not quite get the full experience and realize just how awful it was, or did they figure that Georgiou had changed more? Or am I underestimating just how forgiving they can be? I'm just kind of reeling from the warm words from crewmembers whose MU counterparts had just been slaughtered (in subjective time) by Georgiou and her shrinking number of allies. It is good to see that, even if the MU wasn't so easily reformed, Georgiou seems to have at least partially come around to giving up the Dark Side, as it were. I found myself wondering if she had any 32nd-century tech squirreled away on her; GuardiCarl (who seems to be at nearly Q-level here, as he not only can move himself and others across space and time, but healed Georgiou's mortal wounds as well) might have taken it away.

    I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the bit with the Emerald Chain app is a red herring; the way that the Sphere Data/Zora has been conceptualized thus far, I really don't see a Trojan horse program giving it much difficulty.

    Poster's Log, supplemental: The whole issue of the Terran Empire's willingness/ability to change in the long run gets an airing in Star Trek Online, in which at least some of the rebels against the Klingon/Cardassian Alliance in the MU form a new Empire. I'm not sure if they have an emperor/empress per se, but the highest ranking leader in-game is someone that DS9 fans would recognize.
    posted by Halloween Jack (26 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

    I get the criticism that we didn't see Georgiou softening enough for her MU actions to be credible, but to me it really makes sense that when she's thrust back into the Terran Empire, she misses the kinder life that she knew in our Prime universe, and since there's no one else around to try to change things, it has to be her. In short--it's easy to continue being ruthless within certain boundaries when you know that the system can handle it, but once you've grow used to being surrounded by trust and support, it sucks being just another ruthless person surrounded by ruthless people. I didn't think it was a big stretch to thing she would want to rebuild what she had experienced on our Discovery.

    I wish they hadn't dropped such big clues that Carl was the Guardian of Forever last week. The reveal might have been cool, but it was kinda "yeah, yeah, we know." I'm not sure the re-using the audio from COtEoF really worked, but it's probably better than Carl just offhandedly saying "I am the Guardian of Forever" as he folds his newspaper.
    posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:28 AM on December 17, 2020 [7 favorites]

    Personally I like the Guardian of Forever as a lumpy hag stone in a ruined waste. There's the implication that it one piece of a bigger mechanism, but now is the only remnant of a long dead civilization. It looks like magic, but it has the feel of incredibly advanced technology that's been beaten down by the aeons.

    It's got big Ozymandias vibes and I feel those are diminished when "Look on my works ye mighty and despair" is delivered by a guy in a three piece suit. Anyway Star Trek already has an omnipotent wild card character, his name is Kevin Uxbridge.
    posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:04 PM on December 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

    I have a ton of respect for Michelle Yeoh and the MU Georgiou character is an absolute blast ... but I felt that she was drawing a little too much oxygen from the core plot.

    Yes, it can absolutely be argued that she's an integral part of the core, but I want to know more about the Burn thing and how 23C Federation officers deal with the 32C.

    Still have super high hopes for the S31 show and seeing Yeoh again, but for now, I'm glad that arc is (mostly) closed.

    Did enjoy the bonus of seeing MU Saru getting to go badass.
    posted by porpoise at 12:58 PM on December 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

    I am ambivalent about this double. While I found it entertaining, it really just seemed like a forced redemption arc for SpaceHitler (and moving her back in time) purely as a setup for the spin-off, rather than adding anything to the current Discovery story-line.
    posted by Marticus at 2:06 PM on December 17, 2020 [5 favorites]

    It's very hard to shoehorn in a backdoor pilot without at least temporarily killing the momentum of the main show. This definitely killed momentum. They could've limited the damage some more by making it one episode instead of two - and I feel like there was definitely some padding you could trim - but on the other hand, the one thing that needed two episodes to accomplish, that being the start of Georgiou's redemption arc, really did need some breathing time to believably get as far as it did.

    Anyways, I agree with Halloween Jack and porpoise - this felt like going through the logical conclusion to last week, it accomplished what it needed to accomplish and was fine but I'm glad that both Georgiou and Discovery can move on now. It didn't really increase my enthusiasm for the Section 31 show, but it didn't dampen it either.

    The hole in Discovery's security personnel created when Nhan left has gotten even bigger now. Although I guess this episode was a nice reminder that Saru is definitely not somebody to underestimate in a brawl.
    posted by mstokes650 at 8:22 PM on December 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

    Noped out at 12 minutes, the torture plot is too much.
    posted by Coaticass at 12:29 AM on December 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

    This two-part pilot for the new series has been... weird. I kind of enjoyed it, especially with how much Michael channeled the Intendant, but also, boy, it sure did make the main plot threads of the season feel kind of like they don’t really matter.

    Interesting comment up there about Georgiou and her experiences in the Prime universe though. I’m imagining Avery Brooks filling the soundstage with his delivery of “it’s easy to be a demon when you live in Hell.”
    posted by DoctorFedora at 2:59 AM on December 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

    But here's the thing: if the Guardian sent Georgiou back to a time when the Prime and Mirror universes were one—that is, prior to the long-theorized point of divergence—how the hell do you get from THAT to Section 31? Unless this 31 show is gonna be some whacked-out dimension-jumping Dr. Who stuff.

    Perhaps Georgiou finds herself back in Genghis Khan Times and has to earn his trust (by defiling what he defiles, of course), attain a position of power, and somehow prevent his progeny from scuttling the Pax Mongolica, which thereby endures long enough for the empire to reach Paris and lay the foundations for the Federation.

    That's right: the mirror universe was our universe all along, damn you all to hell.
    posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:13 AM on December 18, 2020 [9 favorites]

    David Cronenberg told us that the last time travel between prime and mirror universe happened was 500 years before his time. So they could drop her then without mucking up the timeline.

    I agree the character Georgiou took up a little too much oxygen from the show, but on the other hand, I am never not there for more Michelle Yeoh. Star Trek is a land of contrasts. Georgiou was more of a mother figure to Michael than her own mother (or even Amanda), and dealing with the slippery backstabbing mirror version was interesting for a while, but something she has to grow past. I was really surprised Georgiou made the jump to the future with them (considering her own upcoming show) but again, if you have Michelle Yeoh you're a fool not to squeeze out all the screen time you can. It's always been weird having her wedged into an ensemble where she's definitely the star.
    posted by rikschell at 6:22 AM on December 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

    Noped out at 12 minutes, the torture plot is too much.

    In my opinion, torture scenes = lazy screenplay writing. And torture doesn't bring people around to your point of view in this universe, why would it in the mirror universe? Doesn't make sense.
    posted by jabah at 7:53 PM on December 18, 2020 [3 favorites]


    Historically I have always been fond of the Mirror Universe episodes. The original “Mirror, Mirror” was always a highlight* when it surfaced in after-school syndication on my seventies childhood, the DS9 ones were scenery-chewing fun, and the Enterprise two-parter was among the most enjoyable moments** of a show that was kind of a slog. I don’t think Discovery‘s handling of it has been all that great, generally. This was one was the least of them in my view.

    The family drama between adoptive mother and daughter felt forced and unearned. What was supposed to be a dramatic eruption of violence with a half-dozen participants in the melee had me trying to work out who (in identical uniforms, new hairstyles, and playing characters of possibly shifting loyalties) was fighting who before realizing I just didn’t care all that much. What was intended to demonstrate character growth in the Empress felt to me more like bad characterization, as she has pretty much been a twirling a metaphorical moustache for a season and a half before suddenly realizing There Is A Better Way. Carl turning out to be the GoF trying to nope his way out of the Temporal War was an intriguing idea, but sad to see both Harlan Ellison — creator of the GoF — and Vic Perrin, the voice thereof that we heard here, get ignored in the credits. Boomeranging Philipa back to the 23rd century seemed a kind of cack-handed way to get her into the Section 31 show that... wait, is it still happening? The farewell toasts and reminiscing had a lot of what TVTropes calls “Informed Ability.” We hear about how perceptive and insightful her wit was, how she was deeply admired for her strength by all of the crew... none of this was much in evidence when she was onscreen.

    The parts of it I liked were the unremarked small touches: Mirror Airiam is alive and uncyborged! Mirror Detmer has all her original eyes! Jett Reno returns, with her absence lampshaded!

    Still and all, this was a disappointment. I have largely been enjoying this season but this one felt like a real stumble.

    * Jerome Bixby wrote four episodes of TOS, and they probably all made my childhood top ten: “Mirror, Mirror,” “The Alternative Factor” (with the immortal Flint), “The Day of the Dove,” and “By Any Other Name,” with the Kelvans reducing inconvenient surplus crew to styrofoam dodecahedrons. My tastes have moved on a bit since age eight, but I still like them all. Not many Trek writers bat 1.000.

    ** And not merely because the first shot of Jolene Blalock’s astonishing midriff caused me to spontaneously utter a Takei-esque, “Oh, my.” I was as surprised when it happened, but those were some amazing abs.
    posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:46 AM on December 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

    Huh, I did not realize the same guy wrote The Alternative Factor and Mirror, Mirror. The Alternative Factor works much better if Lazarus is simply viewed as his mirror universe self, rather than the whole antimatter thing. I mean, alternative (mirror?) Lazarus is basically the same, but slightly more violent, with a slightly different beard.
    posted by jabah at 4:17 AM on December 19, 2020

    Sorry, 4:00 AM brain malfunction. I got the capsule synopsis right but the title wrong: Bixby wrote “Requiem for Methuselah.” “The Alternative Factor” was written by one Don Ingalls, whose writing credits also include the cheesy Captain America TV movie with Reb Brown, Airport 1975, and 29 episodes of Fantasy Island. No other episodes of Star Trek, though.
    posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:00 AM on December 19, 2020

    I've been enjoying disco since the beginning, but always with the expectation that it will improve as the crew dynamics become established, as with previous Trek iterations. I'm loving Capt. Saru, and i think the addition of Book and Adira are good.
    I think I would accept the MU derail more easily in a traditional length season, but with so few episodes these days they've been a buzzkill. I'm not really interested in Sector 31 as a concept. it doesn't seem very "federation" to me.
    I'm enjoying the attempts at emotional depth that Disco employs, but I agree that the salute to Georgiou seemed unearned. We had to wait until the bitter end this week to see Burnham cry, which now almost seems like a gag to me, she did grow up on Vulcan after all.
    posted by OHenryPacey at 10:35 AM on December 19, 2020

    Another genius episode. Truly a modern masterpiece.
    posted by some loser at 7:42 PM on December 19, 2020

    My main reaction to this episode is relief—relief that Emperor Georgiou is leaving the ship and the show, and will no longer be around to hurl petty insults at the crew, throw oatmeal on people's uniforms, and generally get in the way of the competence porn I want to be watching.

    Michelle Yeoh is great, and I really liked Georgiou Prime—Captain Georgiou of the Shenzhou—and wish we'd gotten more time with her. But Mirror Georgiou was a strange presence on the ship this season. I kinda think having her travel to the future with Discovery was a narrative mistake; she had little function other than to annoy the crew and undergo an uncompelling redemption arc. Better to have left her in the past with her spin-off show and give her a more convincing, gradual, earned redemption arc there.

    And as redemption arcs go, this was a weird one. Like, she is still torturing people into submission in this episode. Not that I think she should instantly transform into an upstanding do-gooder, but if your character arc has taken you from killing your daughter, to torturing and then killing your daughter, well, how far have you really come? Yes, she's changed, and yay for important steps like not eating people anymore, but she's still a terrible person, and she hasn't begun to atone for, or even show regret for, her past actions.
    > I get the criticism that we didn't see Georgiou softening enough for her MU actions to be credible, but to me it really makes sense that when she's thrust back into the Terran Empire, she misses the kinder life that she knew in our Prime universe
    I actually find her actions completely credible—like I think the character's reactions and the changes she goes through, such as they are, are believable. What I don't find credible or earned are the crew's reactions to her, or the showrunners' expectations for how the audience should react to her. She's a genocidal warlord—and not even a charming one; she's a jerk to everyone she meets. So why the teary farewell? I could see an argument that those who served on the Shenzhou (Burnham, Saru, and Detmer) were blinded by their affection for Georgiou Prime and gave Mirror Georgiou too much leeway as a result, but the show goes out of its way to reject that interpretation and show that the crew had a deep fondness for Emperor Georgiou qua Emperor Georgiou—and clearly the audience is meant to as well. What did she ever do to earn that fondness?
    posted by Syllepsis at 12:06 AM on December 20, 2020 [7 favorites]

    I'm becoming increasingly disappointed in the writing on this show (across the whole franchise tbh). I feel like I'm doing a lot of unpaid writer work as I watch, trying to spackle over narrative problems that the paid, professional writers should easily be able to fix or avoid.

    One, but by no means the only, example (just from this episode!) is that Jet Reno is almost done converting the entire ship to a new power system... and Stamets didn't know about it.

    What the fuck?

    Why, as a writer, would you undermine your characters' competence and the credibility of the system they work in? For the sake of a cute character interaction you wanted to see? That's your priority?

    There are far too many "Wait... what?" moments in every episode. The pretty visuals and funny quips can't compensate, and they shouldn't be expected to.

    And I'm sorry, but the fight scene where they rescue the Empress was execrable. It looked like they filmed a slow walk-through of the fight choreography and tried to hide the fact with a lot of camera movement.

    The Section 31 spinoff better take place largely in the Mirror Universe or at least substantially reference it. If it doesn't, they just wasted two valuable episodes on fanservice, creating pointless character backstory that belongs in some other show besides this one.

    Sorry to drag the show. I just want the people who make the show, who have mind-boggling resources at their disposal, to give as much of a shit about storytelling quality as the fans do. But it sure feels like they don't.
    posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:37 AM on December 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

    The Star Trek CCG touched this episode just once. It's an action oriented game, so this decidedly un-action-oriented episode just happens to just be the source for this card for playing holographic personnel on your ship in Second Edition. Go fig.
    posted by StarkRoads at 7:37 PM on December 21, 2020

    > The Star Trek CCG touched this episode just once.
    Still pretty impressive considering that the episode's only been out for four days. (I think you posted this on the wrong thread. This episode doesn't even involve holodecks. Still, it does raise the question: Now that Discovery has traveled to the future, when is it getting retrofitted with a holodeck? Saru would make a great Sherlock Holmes...)
    posted by Syllepsis at 8:53 PM on December 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

    I think you posted this on the wrong thread
    Yup, this post properly belongs under 'Family'. Mea cupla.

    Thanks for the prompt, Syllepsis, there IS a card relevant to this episode: The Guardian of Forever from 2000's Mirror, Mirror set, an all-purpose time travel and card draw engine.

    I would not mind a bit of Sarulock Holmes, now that you mention it, though it seems that by Discovery's current timeline many of the holodeck's utilities have been replaced by programmable matter.

    Even by the time of the Picard series, the holo-technology has gone from being contained to specialized environments to being fully integrated into all kinds of places: the Starfleet archive, La Sirena, etc.
    posted by StarkRoads at 9:53 PM on December 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

    "Why, as a writer, would you undermine your characters' competence and the credibility of the system they work in? For the sake of a cute character interaction you wanted to see? That's your priority?"

    I fail to see why this is so egregious. The characters and interactions are important, the competence and credibility of their systems is entirely irrelevant. We already know Stamets is a competent character, one character moment gag doesn't undo any of that. Don't think it should be shocking for that to be their priority, it's as Trek should be. The magic spaceship mechanicsms are only important when it's part of that episodes plot.
    posted by GoblinHoney at 8:08 AM on December 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

    Man, is it just me, or is Discovery just a really odd show?

    I mean, the cast is huge, so much so that they have to rotate many characters out on an episode by episodes basis. I can't think of a bridge crew or cast on any Star Trek or Sci Fi show that I've been less familiar with. I mean, Lt. Owosekun, who the camera loves, I can't tell you anything about. She's Ops, but what is that? What does she do? Same for Bryce, Rhys, Nilsson. Culber and Stamets have a very sweet relationship which they devote 3 seconds of each episode to. Tilly is like the Ed McMahon of the show. I mean that in a good way. Saru gets a lot of time as Captain, which is cool, but the show isn't even about him. Burnham gets the majority of lines, as it should be, but I wish they'd give her more of a reason to chew the scenery (God bless her). Then you have Jett Reno who it seems like they added just because she was cool. And Adira, who is rebuilding the engines without asking anyone first, because…?

    The classic Sci Fi shows, from those with smallish casts (think SG-1, Red Dwarf) to even largish casts (think Farscape, DS9), you always knew who these people were. I can tell you more about Harry Kim than the people on the Discovery bridge, which is saying something. Maybe they're just trying something new (exponentially expanding cast list?) to see how it works, I don't know.

    Then there's the bad guy, which is...history? Even if they figure out who did the Burn (or as Burnham says, "the Berrrn"), what are they gonna do? Rewrite history? Fix it with the Guardian? Cos that's gonna suck from a moral standpoint. I used to complain about Nu Trek, saying, "Not every story has to have a bad guy. Star Trek IV had no bad guy. Nu Trek 3 didn't need a bad guy. Remember 'Flight of the Phoenix'? It should have been that." But the last two seasons of Discovery have been a little unfocused because…no bad guys? I mean, the show runners say they have years of plot mapped out for Discovery's future, but it really doesn't seem that way watching the show.

    I feel sorry for the people making the show. I tried to write some fan fiction set on Discovery, and I was like, where do I begin? So many people…
    posted by jabah at 6:18 PM on December 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

    Funny how flat this episode landed for a lot of people. Me too. I think because it was just Too Much. The Mirror Universe conceit was fun when it was a weird side episode of Trek, an excuse for the actors to vamp it up and play sexy and evil and silly. But starting with season 1 of Disco they turned the MU into a whole Thing with its own story and lore and weight. Only it is truly and terribly awful. And the GrimTrek aspect of Disco meant they really had to play up the awful. Including this episode, all the agonizer torture. We don't need to see that stuff, it dehumanizes us.

    It's all supposed to be softened because Georgiou is actually torturing Michael out of maternal love. WTF? That's monstrous. They leaned way, way too heavily on this idea that Georgiou is now nostalgic and romantic and is going to single handedly reform the Terran Empire with the power of her heart. Fuck all that, it makes no sense.

    BTW folks referred to this as a backdoor pilot for Section 31. No way. We had that already, last season. There was nothing Section 31 about these two episodes except Georgiou being in both. I think this was the showrunner's idea of a finale for Discovery Georgiou's storyline, a half-assed "what if she had a turn of conscience" play that didn't really work. Too bad; her character was much more fun when you could just enjoy her catty lines and ignore the Space Hitler reality. Clarence the Guardian Angel was far too coy about where she was going next; I think she'll be sent directly to the main universe and timeline for Section 31.

    Honestly Georgiou had no place in this season of Trek, she never fit in the 32nd century plot. My secret theory is the only way they got Yeoh in a contract for Section 31 was to promise her steady work and they had a year gap in the production schedule they had to do something with. At least that's over with.
    posted by Nelson at 7:20 AM on December 27, 2020

    OK, so this one was hard to watch. It took me a month to get through the episode. Could only do the interminable torture in little five minute increments, and I was so dispirited I'd use any excuse to watch literally any other show.

    And while a lot of the criticisms of this episode really land, somehow in the last ten minutes I found myself strangely moved. The parting between Burnham and Georgiou was genuinely affecting. It doesn't hurt that Yeoh and SMG are both great actors. They gave the scene more emotion than it probably earned.

    And Burnham as a character? No matter what the writers have put her through, this is a woman who had multiple years with four very different mothers, all of whom loved her and mentored her to the best of their abilities. I'm kind of a little jealous of that.
    posted by seasparrow at 6:15 PM on January 15, 2021

    Having finally watched most of Disco after giving up on it early in the first season, I find it surprising how poorly this and the prior episode landed with people here. Maybe it just hits one differently when you actually have to wait a week between episodes.

    What I saw was an empress knowing that her way would only lead to disaster trying something a little different, but being stymied by the system. Turns out that while one person can make a difference, rarely can one person, no matter how powerful, completely turn things on their head. She got some people to come along by cloaking her aims in being even more ruthless, but not enough in the end.
    posted by wierdo at 10:38 AM on February 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

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