Burnham's ta'al

“Terra Firma:” Will Georgiou See Her Shadow?

Marie Brownhill
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Marie's blog, Fan Collective Unimatrix 47.


There’s a tremendous amount already on Discovery’s plate, but “Terra Firma I” takes the show in a surprising direction. Now, bear in mind, Trek as a franchise has a long history of putting the “strange” in “strange new worlds.” TOS had “Assignment Earth,” in which Gary Seven appears for the first and last time. DS9 gave us the beautifully realized “Far Beyond the Stars.” “Terra Firma” follows in those footsteps, but more importantly, this is Emperor Philippa Georgiou’s story.

Plot Ahoy!

Dr. Culber and Kovich confer regarding Georgiou’s worsening condition. Kovich explains that Georgiou suffers from a variety of time sickness that threatens to unravel her at a molecular level. As a Terran, she is in the unique position of having traveled between realities as well as time, which is why she alone has developed these symptoms. Kovich tells Culber to prepare for the worst, but Culber consults the Discovery’s computer, which offers Georgiou a 5% chance of survival if the Discovery takes her to Dannus V.

Saru initially demurs in favor of remaining with Starfleet to investigate the Emerald Chain’s wargames, but Admiral Vance tells him to go to Dannus V because Saru must demonstrate to the crew that he is willing to do whatever it takes to protect them in order to earn their trust. Saru therefore agrees and directs the Discovery to jump to Dannus V. Before the jump takes place, however, Book approaches Saru because he wishes to remain with Discovery. Book offers Saru intelligence he’s gained from couriers because he wishes to earn his keep, but his intelligence only confirms knowledge already in Starfleet’s possession. Saru tells him that like Discovery, Book will have to wait for the ideal moment to prove himself.

Adira, with some counsel from Stamets, finds the problem with their algorithm, and they decode the distress signal. Stamets has them fetch Saru because the vessel from which the signal originates is a Kelpien science vessel, deployed to the nebula to investigate a dilithium nursery at the nebula’s center. Saru asks Stamets and Adira if they can access the ship’s internal sensors, and they affirm that they can engineer a backdoor into the ship’s systems. Michael Burnham finds Georgiou to tell her that the ship has found a solution, and despite Georgiou’s initial unwillingness—there’s some axe throwing about it—Burnham convinces Georgiou to accompany her to the planet.

What they find on the deserted planet is a door to nowhere and a gentleman of vague middle age, sitting at a café table with his cigar and paper. “Carl” offers Georgiou the opportunity to save herself by entering that door but warns her that while she won’t disintegrate, there are other ways to die where she’s going. Burnham expresses some concern, but Georgiou plows through the door and back into the Mirror Universe. It’s the day they christen the Charon and when Burnham and Lorca kick off their attempted coup.

Georgiou, despite having returned to the world she has claimed to miss so much, struggles with the realities of life in the Terran Empire. She explains to Captain Killy that she is aware of Burnham’s betrayal and that she plans to address the issue as she sees fit. Captain Killy warns her that failure to execute Burnham for treason would be perceived as weakness, which would erode the loyalists’ faith and secure her own death. Despite Killy’s warning, Georgiou spares not only Saru from becoming the main course on Mirror Burnham’s table but also elects not to execute Burnham when Killy and Georgiou confront Burnham about her treason. The episode ends with Georgiou telling Burnham that they have a new future ahead of them, and they should make it count.


While the episode touches on the other major plot points that have been building this season, the episode really focuses on Georgiou and her complicated relationship with not only the prime universe’s Burnham but also her own Burnham and the world Georgiou left behind. “Terra Firma” may be the first part of a redemption arc for the evil emperor, though this is a strange way to go about setting that up. The episode’s conceit seems to be a cross between “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Groundhog Day.” Is Carl Trek’s version of Clarence Odbody? We don’t yet know, but we do see Georgiou stepping into her own past.

Georgiou has never minced words regarding the superiority of her own universe and her Michael Burnham. She has grumbled that diplomacy is too slow. While trudging through the snow on Dannus V, a shot no doubt intended to recall Burnham’s walk with prime Georgiou in the series’ first episode, she tells Burnham that her own Burnham would have already found a solution to Georgiou’s ailment. In light of entire episodes’ worth of such characterization, one would expect Georgiou to revel in her return, but she doesn’t. She saves Saru, almost despite herself, when Burnham orders him executed for daring to approach her with an unwanted beverage. We know that when the events first played out for Georgiou, she did execute Burnham, but this time, she chooses not to do so.

Georgiou herself gives voice to the episode’s overarching theme when she tells Burnham not to confuse growth with weakness. In making that statement, Georgiou acknowledges that she has grown, both from having experienced these events before and from her time in the Prime Universe. Taken in that light, Georgiou is clearly more efficient than Phil Connors because she does not require repeated iterations of the same day to learn that she needs to live differently. Whether the Terran Empire is ready to experience a more enlightened Georgiou is an entirely different question, and based on Owo’s shocked look, I’m guessing that the rest of the Empire will confuse Georgiou’s growth for weakness to their own peril. After all, Georgiou did handily kill Stamets without batting an eye.

From a story perspective, “Terra Firma” intelligently uses Georgiou’s reactions to convey how twisted and depraved the Mirror Universe actually is. After her stint in the prime universe, Georgiou sees her home empire with new eyes, and because she does, so do we. This is a good move because while we do recognize Detmer, Owo, and Gen Rhys, there really hasn’t been enough development of those characters yet for the cruelty of their counterparts to land the same way it does with Burnham. When Burnham recounts blinding and maiming artists in order to force their works to appreciate in value, Georigou’s distaste is our own. Despite that distaste, however, Georgiou remains staunchly convinced that Burnham can be saved, which takes a page out of another Star franchise’s book. I don’t share that belief because the point of Georgiou’s adventure will likely be that she must choose between the prime universe and the mirror universe. That choice will determine whether she survives in the prime universe, and considering we know there will be a Georgiou spin-off, my guess is she chooses the prime universe and must therefore let go of the Terran Empire.

Honestly, Michelle Yeoh uses this episode to give a masterclass in how so much can be conveyed with the most minute shifts of expression. Watching her Georgiou struggle in the mirror universe is a true delight, and she and Doug Jones play off each other beautifully whenever Georgiou and Saru interact. Sonequa Martin-Green is chewing through her scenes as Mirror Burnham, and watching Burnham descend into rabid madness is kind of fun. I’m definitely looking forward to next week’s conclusion, but frankly, “Terra Firma I” suffers from a profound lack of Lorca. Burnham and Georgiou mention him so often that I’m going to be really, really disappointed if Jason Isaacs doesn’t make a cameo appearance next week.


Four cups of Earl Grey Tea

Stray Thoughts From the Couch:

  1. Adira’s frustration at themself when they overlook their failure to reinitialize the algorithm is an entire mood. Adira, we’ve all been there.
  2. The existence of Yor confirms that the Abrams’ films take place in an alternate reality.
  3. Killy still has straight hair, and Wiseman’s delivery of her lines is fantastic.
  4. Hi, Kovich! No, we didn’t know you knew anything about Georgiou’s medical condition either. That was a very odd line.
  5. I’m not looking forward to Saru struggling with the possibility of the Kelpiens causing the Burn. Here’s hoping they didn’t.
  6. Y’all, they gave Georgiou a literal halo. Just in case you missed that she’s better than she was. Still, the costume designs for the mirror universe are fantastic, even if the Terran salute makes me uncomfortable.
  7. Bringing season one’s Ellen Landry was a nice touch.
Share this GiN Article on your favorite social media network: