Thursday, December 17, 2020

Discovery, Season 3: Terra Firma, Part 1

Discovery, Season 3
"Terra Firma, Part 1"
Airdate: December 10, 2020
38 of 38 produced
38 of 38 aired


The crew feels strangely dedicated to helping out Emperor Georgiou. To that end, they bring her to a mysterious planet and a portal to another dimension.

"Just 14 or 15 more characters and we'll have finally cleared out the dead weight..."



This episode is somewhat schizophrenic. It becomes clear at the outset that we're going to explore the long-hinted-at (two episodes of hinting, one minute apiece)  "Georgiou is Sick" story. The first half of this episode doesn't make this prospect sound any more exciting than one might think. We get a bunch of stupid technobabble about the cause of her illness. You see, it's because she is a time traveler, and a dimensional traveler. Um, OK? I don't remember any other time travelers suffering from Marty McFly Syndrome in the franchise. They try to weasel out of this by saying it's because she has traversed both dimension and time. Umm, OK? Worf suffered no ill effects besides a slight dizziness in "Parallels." Spock suffered absolutely no ill effects in the Abrams movies, which are confirmed as canon both within the movies themselves as well as by David Cronenburg within this episode (no, I'm not going to memorize his character's name, I have better things to do, such as cleaning bathroom tile grout). Hell, they could have said it was because she had stayed outside the Mirror Universe too long, but then, Lorca also seemed to suffer no ill effects. This is not to mention that the mechanism for illness is facially silly - as if people who traverse dimension could somehow still not have traversed time - time within our universe is not standardized but pliable based upon relative velocity. OK, I digress. Look, it's all sci-fantasy. I get that. But I want the rules to be consistent, otherwise it just feels like arbitrary garbage. Anyway, the plot then proceeds by what I am sure will become my least favorite crutch ever: Sphere Data! The Sphere Data (almost entirely forgotten except for one brief line of dialogue this season) tells the crew that they should go to Planet X in order to.... find a cure or something. Great! Except the Federation is about to get embroiled in a war with the Emerald Chain, led by snotty suburban "Karen" Ossyra. Saru says the wise thing, that they shouldn't remove the fleet's most flexible ship in order to serve the needs of one person. But he is overruled by everyone, including Admiral Vance, because THEY ALL CARE SO MUCH ABOUT GEORGIOU. I just... everyone knows she is from the Mirror Universe. And she is awful to everyone. But we get not only this argument but teary goodbyes from... Tilly? And Burnham? Why do these people care about Mirror Georgiou? It's just so emblematically Discovery. Emotional stakes are indicated to be high although nothing in the actual plot justifies them.

Kevin: My broader problem is I just don't care about Georgiou. I can handwave away the idea that time travel plus dimensional travel creates some effect blah blah blah. It's really the heart of technobabble paradigm. If the hand-waving is in the service of a story I care about, I can let it ride since it gets me somewhere I want to go. Yes, I roll my eyes when the Enterprise is just coincidentally the closest ship to the scientists in trouble, but I like watching the Enterprise help scientists, so I can overlook that convenience pretty easy. The difference is, this isn't a convenience to jump to the interesting part of the story, it's a substitute for the story. They just haven't done enough to make Georgiou an interesting character. Even as a snark machine, most of her jabs have fallen pretty flat. 

Matthew: Things actually take a turn towards the interesting when they get to Planet X. This is not a word I use lightly, because of course very little in the past 3 seasons has been interesting in the slightest. They meet a strange man dressed like an Earthling of the past, sitting in front of an incongruous wooden door. This has a very "Q" vibe, or perhaps a "Spectre of the Gun" feeling to it. I like those things! It almost felt like we were in line for a "Tapestry" sort of thing, with "Carl" informing Georgiou that she would learn a big lesson and heal herself if she walked through the door. Cool! It was a really nice change of pace and tone from the rest of the season, in which everything is Important and Threatening and Dramatic. This was just a nice sci-fi mystery.

Kevin: I agree the scene had a fairly well done TOS/Guardian of Forever/Random Energy being vibe which was not unwelcome. The problem for me remains that without caring about the character all that much, it's a well staged scene unconnected from anything else.

So she goes through the door and she lands smack dab in the Mirror Universe. But she is reliving something from her own past - the day she executed Mirror Burnham for betraying her with Lorca. I was... shockingly engaged by most of these scenes. They gave us some information about Geirgiou, they developed her character by showing us that she could not easily slip back into her former cruelty and violence, and they gave the side characters (such as Owo and Gen Rhys) far more interesting things to do than those characters get in the main story. Mirror Stamets got to use some of his Mirror Broadway chops in the big celebration show, and then he got stabbed in the neck. So I was actually really feeling this until, you guessed it, Burnham shows up. This is Mirror Burnham, who in addition to chewing Kelpien ganglia also seems to ingest large chunks of scenery. Her presence diminished my interest, because it became clear that yet another story would be All About Burnham (there is also the matter of the performance, which I'll get to below). But it was a nice twenty minutes overall! I was actually mildly interested in the proceedings,  possibly because no exposition dumps relating to the Big Dumb Plot were occurring.

Kevin: Maybe I am just so over the Mirror Universe and have been since about the third DS9 episode of it, that with the exception of the Enterprise entry In a Mirror Darkly, I just kind of actively dislike the Mirror Universe now. They turn up all the dials on cartoonish, pointless evil that you wonder how they manage to keep the lights on let alone run an empire. I will admit my view may be colored by having lived the last four years in a universe much closer to the Mirror than the Prime universe, but here we are. I have come to find the Mirror Universe tedious and I don't care enough about Georgiou to override.


Michelle Yeoh has been horribly wasted by this show thus far. Here she shows us why - placed into a stressful situation, she shows us with her acting choices that there is in fact a character present with an inner life and conflict. When she is liberated from her typical "Snark Dispenser" duties, she can anchor  show in a way that, frankly, I don't think anyone else on the cast here is capable of.

Kevin: I agree and will add that giving her just the tiniest bit of actual human emotion to anchor in, her performance becomes even better.

This was Sonequa Martin-Green's worst episode. We have always said that she deserved more range of emotional expression than "whispering almost cry" and "whispering full on cry." Now I'm not so sure. Mirror Burnham is ridiculous and does not feel like a real person with an inner life and conflict. Her "Lady Joker" breakdown at the end almost sprained my eyeballs they rolled back so hard.

Kevin: I will agree that her Lady Joker scene was not...good. I will only add that I have seen her be good elsewhere in the show when they let her and she has been good in other things, so I continue to blame the writing and/or directing. Based on her other performances, I have a fairly easy time believing the director was just off camera screaming "MORE! MORE!" at her.

Production Values

The Mirror Universe is pretty good, visually. I like the costumes. In fact, I like them better than the main universe costumes. No, I still have no idea who holds what rank, but it looks like armor and it has gold and stuff, so I dig it. They also light the ship in an interesting way. Do I feel a bit cheated that this was effectively a bottle episode for the Mirror Universe? Sure. But I still enjoyed it.

Kevin: I did like this better than the first iteration of the Mirror Universe from season one. I was...not...a fan of the dream ballet at the end. They were going for high camp but I don't think it worked.

I liked the planetary location. It was stark and pretty, and the camera work was lots of steady pans and crane shots, with very little shaky cam BS. I also liked Carl and the door. I was interested!


This show is stupid and violent and badly written. At least when they’re in the Mirror Universe, this tone actually fits and doesn’t do any damage to the Star Trek people know and love. I hate this show, and this was my favorite episode of the season. It ditched the stupid Burn plot. Characters actually had scenes with each other that developed character. Side characters who are nearly anonymous in the main show actually gain personalities here. When a diversion like this is so much more engaging than the main show, what does that say? The mirror episodes of the first season were also that season's best. This is clearly the show these people actually want to create. I wish they would just grow some storyballs and do it already. I actually kind of want to see how this will be resolved, which is something I don't believe I have ever said about this series. I think this is a 3, which was a big surprise to me. I have no faith this level of "quality" will persist beyond the next episode, after which I presume we will return to the Boring Universe and the Big Dumb Plot.

Kevin: Well, I did not expect to see this day. You like an episode of Discovery more than I did. I see all your points, and I will say that I appreciate that most of the episode was about a single story, but the finished result is still something I just don't really care about, and it doesn't get higher than a 2 for me, for a total of 5.

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