Part One Of The Star Trek: Discovery "Terra Firma" Is a Strange Trip
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Part One Of Star Trek: Discovery Terra Firma Episode Takes Georgiou On A Strange Journey

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BY April 26, 2021

From the premiere episodes of Star Trek: Discovery season 3, this season proved to be a highpoint for the series. Storytellers blended the unique look and tone of the previous seasons with an ethos that feels more like the Trek of old at its aspirational best. Yet, part one of “Terra Firma” on Star Trek: Discovery feels like just half of an episode, which we suppose it is. The focus is squarely on Michelle Yeoh’s Phillipa Georgiou, the former Emperor of the Mirror Universe. Throughout this season, she’s suffered from strange flashes of what we assumed were memories. However, with a return of David Cronenberg’s mysterious Starfleet Guy in Glasses, we learn what’s really afflicting her.

Of course, Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham is going to do everything she can to help. In the very first episode, her Philippa died as a result of her mutinous actions. Since then, she’s been trying to atone for that by taking on this dark version of her former mentor. Thus, the quest of the episode is not to find out what caused “the Big Burn,” but rather to save the life of the worst member of the Discovery’s crew.

Since the series made the jump 900 years into the future, the state of the Galactic Federation and Starfleet is a bit mysterious. They are barely keeping it together, forced to make hard choices. However, Oded Fehr’s Admiral Vance makes a surprising call in this episode. How we and the characters are supposed to feel about Starfleet is a huge theme this year. Yet, for all the ways this series is different than past Trek shows, the premise remains the same. Starfleet is an organization that is as good as its people.

Spoilers to follow.

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Part One of the Discovery Two-Parter Feels Like Two Half Stories

Star Trek Discovery Season 3 Finale Part One Michelle Yeah Philippa Georgiou SOnequa Martin-Green Michael Burnham Doug Jones Captain Saru Image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive.

Naturally, since this is a “part one,” the Star Trek: Discovery “Terra Firma” is incomplete by design. Yet, the episode makes a jarring shift midway through that makes this single episode feel like two halves of two stories. First, let’s focus on Philippa’s journey, because that’s the main part of the episode. It’s revealed that what she’s going through has to do with the fact that she’s both from a different dimension and a time-traveler. In fact, Starfleet Cronenberg shows that a non-human crewman from the Kelvin Timeline, though in the Next Generation era given his uniform, also traveled to the future as part of the “Temporal Wars.” He succumbed to his illness.

However, thanks to the data from the sentient sphere that forced Discovery to make the jump to the future in the first place, Philippa’s fate is not so certain. In pure sci-fi fashion, they find that there is a single planet where she might find the cure for her condition. And she does. Though why and how is a mystery that will have to wait to be solved.

Philippa walks through a portal and finds herself back on the deck of the Discovery in her own universe and time. She’s in the past, right before Jason Isaacs’ Captain Lorca staged his coup attempt. We don’t see him, but we do get to see the Mirror version of Michael Burnham. Philippa stops the coup but comes short of killing her adopted daughter.

The State of Things to Come (and Who the Hell Is ‘Carl?’)

Star Trek Discovery Season 3 Finale Part One Michelle Yeah Philippa Georgiou SOnequa Martin-Green Michael Burnham Image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive.

Before she left the prime universe Discovery, Philippa shared a tender moment with Doug Jones’ Captain Saru. When she encounters him, as a slave, in her universe she shows him mercy. It’s a subtle nod to how soft her time in the prime universe made her, however she still hasn’t lost her edge. Honestly, I have no idea where they are going with this story. However, I do suspect that my instincts saying her “memory” flashes were of Michael Burnham’s death. Yet, it’s not in the past but rather in this new timeline she’s creating.

Back in the prime universe, the crew of the Discovery decodes the distress call from the center of where the “Big Burn” happened. It’s a message from a Kelpian ship meant to investigate a “nursery” for dilithium crystals. Something they did caused all of the dilithium in the galaxy to be destroyed. Thus, the crew’s mission is to figure this out all while waiting to see if the gangsters they faced off with on Book’s home planet are going to attack again.

Finally, the biggest question is the character of Carl. He merely appears on the planet Burnham and Philippa travel to, and he opens the “door” that takes her back to her universe and her time. My first thought is that he’s a member of the Q species. It’s all very strange. Yet, it’s also very compelling. I am very eager to see what happens next and what the status quo of the series will be in part two of the Star Trek: Discovery “Terra Firma.”

Star Trek: Discovery airs on Thursdays on CBS All Access.

What did you think of the episode? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This post was updated because I thought we were only get 10 episodes this season, and I thought this was part of the finale. Like a whole dummy. 

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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.

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