Mark Watches ‘Discovery’: S03E09 – Terra Firma, Part 1

In the ninth episode of the third season of Discovery, Burnham and Georgiou travel to a mysterious, snowy planet to pursue a cure. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Trigger Warning: For talk of death, terminal illness.

Holy shit, y’all, I really love when Discovery leans full tilt into the weird??? Because this episode is SO STRANGE!!! Who the fuck is Carl???

Distress Signal

So, before I address the signal itself, I wanted to talk more about Adira’s story. I wonder if Stamets was correct here: Gray has stopped visiting Adira because he wants them to find a way to live in the world. I can see that being the motivation for his absence, but at the same time, I appreciated that Adira got to vocalize how Gray appears to have made a decision for them. Which sucks when someone forces your hand like that! And perhaps Adira was telling the truth when they said they’re having the time of their life. I do get the sense that they’re more comfortable now on Discovery as they’ve found their place, you know? Plus, it’s got to be nice to have both Stamets and Dr. Culber on their side. I was reminded of the experience of going through a break-up that involved radio silence on one end, or even having a friend or potential partner ghost you. There are ways that we find to move on, but it’s a haunting experience, isn’t it? I tend to be the kind of person who obsessively wonders what the other person is thinking and doing, so I can only imagine how Adira is dealing with this. 

I also found myself feeling an immense concern for Saru, but that kind of concern that comes from knowing how difficult his journey has been as a Kelpien. Seeing another Kelpien was emotional because it’s been so long since he’s seen one, but knowing that they became a part of the Federation? Knowing that they were trusted with missions like Dr. Issa was? Plus, there’s the sadness of knowing that it is very certain that no one came to the aid of Dr. Issa’s ship. It’s all a LOT for Saru to take in! I JUST HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS FOR HIM.

Terra Firma

I genuinely do not have a confident theory about what or who Carl is. This is such a bizarre storyline, and I am absolutely here for it. For the past few episodes, we’ve been watching Georgiou cope with the reality of her mysterious illness by doubling-down on some of her worst (and most Terran) qualities. I think it’s easy to read all of this as a defense mechanism because at heart, Georgiou is scared. If this had happened to her as soon as she crossed into the Prime universe, I don’t believe she would have reacted the same. Georgiou has changed, hasn’t she? 

That’s the point of the first part of this story arc, though, and it becomes much clearer by the end of the episode. Georgiou’s time in the Prime universe has absolutely changed her outlook. So, I believe that a lot of what we’re seeing as she lashes out at others is a combination of her fear of her own death and her refusal to accept that she is no longer the same person she used to be. She took pride in being the Terran Emperor, and there was a certain amount of fun she had being this antagonistic force every day in Starfleet, which she then transferred to being on Discovery in the future. But is that all she is capable of? Is that all that makes up her personality, her desires, and her motivations? 

I wonder, then, if the experience through the mysterious door on Dannus V is meant to force Georgiou to consider these things. I guess that’s the only working theory I have? I’m not certain, though, because Carl is so deeply vague about their purpose and the purpose of the door. What is it that the Sphere saw on Dannus V that made it think that this was where Georgiou needed to be? Even then, I still don’t know how this solves the medical issues brought up by Kovich, the man who previously interrogated Georgiou a few episodes ago. (I can’t believe I didn’t recognize him as David Cronenburg!!! A few days before writing this review, I re-watched The Fly.) If Georgiou’s body is falling apart because of her time spent in the “wrong” universe, did Carl’s door actually return her to the Terran universe? 

I am not sure. One thing that’s confusing me is that the flashes of images we’ve seen that Georgiou experienced are apparently unknown to her. There was that scene with Dr. Culber where he realized she didn’t know what she was seeing, right? And if that’s the case, then how does this work? Carl’s door sent Georgiou to the past. Which is a treat from a storytelling perspective! For two seasons, we’ve heard about how Terran Burnham betrayed Georgiou and Georgiou executed her. NOW WE GET TO SEE WHAT HAPPENED. Sort of? Because I can’t tell if Georgiou’s consciousness was genuinely sent to the past to relive this coup attempt, or if this is all an illusion or something. 

Does that matter? Maybe it will in the end, but as Georgiou stepped through that door and “Terra Firma, Part 1” slipped entirely into this new narrative, I was caught up with seeing this world again. But there were all these fascinating echoes to season one’s journey into the Terran universe, except this time, Georgiou fulfilled the role that Michael Burnham did. IT WAS SO SATISFYING TO WATCH THIS. Because it quickly became obvious that parts of Georgiou’s home unnerved her. Even in the opening moments, she found it difficult to switch back into the role she’d spent the majority of her life with: as a ruthless Terran. 

Some of these moments were more subtle than others, but all of them build the case that Georgiou has been altered. She speaks to Captain Tilly differently, which I felt was a subtle nod to what Tilly said in the Prime universe to Georgiou. During the party and Georgiou’s reactions to Burnham, it was also clear that Georgiou forgot exactly how brutal Terrans can be. (I’m speaking specifically about the Kepler scouting mission and the artists.) She offers to spare Saru and hide it within her decision to take Saru “back” from Burnham. And then, in her own quarters, her conversation with Saru demonstrated that she no longer felt the same about Kelpiens as she once did. (Though I thought it was obvious that she was also fond of Saru himself and couldn’t stand to see him killed.) 

All of this fed into the idea that inspired Burnham and Lorca to turn against Georgiou: She was changing for the worse. So it was ironic, then, that Georgiou was placed in this exact part of her life after she already had changed. Each decision she made only emboldened those who would betray her. Georgiou knew that! And yet, she still made different choices. She spared Saru’s life. And even after killing Stamets in order to protect herself, she also spared Burnham’s life rather than execute her. What is the cost of those different choices? What does it mean for whatever Carl has offered Georgiou when she stepped through that door?

I don’t know because I still don’t know what all of this is. Plus, this is only half the story! (Assuming this is a two-part episode, BUT I DON’T ACTUALLY KNOW.) Will those who were loyal to Georgiou turn on her now after she spared her daughter’s life? I feel like this experience will forever change how Georgiou sees Prime Burnham, too. How could it not? Early in this very episode, Georgiou spoke of Terran Burnham with pride and honor, and yet at the end, it’s clear that Georgiou has re-examined how she felt toward her daughter.


The video for “Terra Firma, Part 1” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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