Star Trek: Discovery has never shied away from changing up its premise or central cast. Last week’s episode of Discovery opened the “Terra Firma” two-parter where we learned Emperor Georgiou’s (Michelle Yeoh) days were numbered. She was given the chance to revisit her origins in the Mirror Universe and reflect on what she would’ve done differently. This week, “Terra Firma (Part 2)” sees Georgiou rescuing and reuniting with her former protege, Mirror Universe Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), and her exiting the Discovery’s timeline. It’s a fun action-packed story with a twist, but ultimately it feels like a weak send-off for one of the show’s best characters.
Star Trek Discovery (Season 3)
“Terra Firma (Part 2)”
Chloe Domont (director), Kalinda Vazquez, Alan McElroy, Bo Yeon Kim, and Erika Lippoldt (writers)
Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Wiseman, Doug Jones, and Michelle Yeoh (cast)
December 17th, 2020
Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Wiseman, Emily Coutts, and Doug Jones all shine as the Mirror Universe counterparts of Burnham, Tilly, Detmer, and Saru respectively. Mirror Universe Burnham comes off particularly evil and villainous as Martin-Green’s bold makeup smears around her eyes and mouth in key scenes. As well, Mirror Saru takes a great turn from subservient to murderous, as he bravely defends Emperor Georgiou in her final moments in the Mirror Universe.
“Terra Firma” fits the classic Mirror Universe story archetype, as they all slowly double and triple-cross each other for power, until few are left standing. The Mirror Universe segments are incredibly fun to watch, and all the actors give great performances, but it’s also the classic Star Trek trope of a story that didn’t ‘really happen’, where we see a possible timeline that doesn’t exist by the end of the story, and only really existed for one character, Georgiou.
Georgiou eventually wakes up and finds herself on Dannus V with Burnham and Carl (Paul Guilfoyle), where things started. Carl reveals himself to be the Guardian of Forever, from the classic Star Trek: The Original Series episode, “City on the Edge of Forever.” This twist should’ve been obvious, especially considering his newspaper The Star Dispatch, also appeared in and references the classic story, but Discovery is so chock-full of references to various Treks that it didn’t stand out to me.
Carl tells Georgiou that he was testing her to see whether she’d changed as a person from her experiences with the Discovery, and that she passed his test and will be returned to a time and a place where she can live out her days peacefully. There’s a similarly touching moment earlier as Mirror Saru tells Georgiou that she must not be a Terran, and must be from another universe, because of how kind she is to him. In both instances, Georgiou protests and reiterates that the Mirror Universe is her home and that she’s still a cruel Terran at heart, and she and the viewers are told otherwise.
Unfortunately, I must agree with Georgiou, and do not understand this episode’s morality and message. Georgiou only kills Mirror Burnham when she is absolutely driven to do so, but Georgiou still delights of her own free will in torturing Burnham in an “agonizer” for countless hours. Georgiou saves Saru and in doing so, subverts the course of the Mirror Universe Discovery, but she still comes off incredibly cruel to every other character and a Terran at heart. There are countless moments Georgiou could’ve been more forgiving and kind-hearted, including not torturing Burnham, not ordering Burnham to kill Detmer, or uniting with the brewing interplanetary alliance instead of sabotaging it.
The writers obviously love Georgiou, and Michelle Yeoh gives a fantastic performance throughout, but she comes off more villainous here than in any other appearance since her first. It feels remarkably tidy and easy that Georgiou just gets to live out her days happily elsewhere, in a time we won’t see, rather than deal with the consequences of her actions.
It feels like the writers were surprised Michelle Yeoh was available for Discovery Season 3 and didn’t know where they wanted or planned to take her character. Her storyline feels cut off in the middle of a much larger redemptive arc that we’re told happened, but that we’re unable to see. “Terra Firma (Part 1)” feels like the creative minds behind Discovery having fun shaking up their box of toys by throwing familiar characters into different outfits, personalities, and alliances. Meanwhile, the second half feels like the writers randomly throwing away their Emperor Georgiou toy.