Traversing multiple realms is familiar territory for Star Trek, but the blend of various timelines, universes, and alternate realities present in “Terra Firma, Part 1” breaks new ground for the franchise. Assessing Philippa Georgiou’s condition in sickbay, the mysterious Kovich (David Cronenberg) reveals classified data about a Betelgeusian time soldier (intriguingly dressed in an early TNG-style collarless uniform) who traveled forward in time from 2379 and across from an alternate universe that was created by a Romulan mining ship’s temporal incursion. This remarkable fact means that the Federation actually knows about Nero, the Narada, and the Kelvin Timeline by the 32nd century!
Additionally, Kovich explains that a person’s molecules thrive in the era in which they were born, so people (namely Georgiou and the Betelgeusian) who have moved through both time and multiple dimensions are even more susceptible to those ill effects. Kovich suggests no cure exists and that the Terran’s demise remains imminent, but Dr. Culber uncovers a potential solution after he instructs the U.S.S. Discovery-A’s computer to correlate data from before and after the starship’s journey into the future.
Georgiou’s “phasing” has worsened, leading to an awkward confrontation when Tilly attempts to offer a helping hand. Burnham intercedes and brings the Terran to a ready room briefing, where Culber relays that the Sphere data suggests a cure might be found on the planet Dannus V (located near the Dominion’s old Gamma Quadrant stomping grounds). Saru shares some unfortunate intelligence of his own, stating that the Emerald Chain’s upcoming military maneuvers will require Discovery to remain with the fleet. However, Admiral Vance authorizes the mission, privately explaining to Saru that captains must do everything possible to save one of their crew members.
In the vessel’s gym, Georgiou and Burnham spar physically and verbally, with the subject of Mirror Burnham being a particularly sensitive topic. Prior to beaming down to Dannus V, Saru and Tilly convey heartfelt goodbyes to the former Emperor, who seems surprisingly moved by the friendly gestures… or at least as outwardly appreciative as a Terran can be! Down in engineering, Stamets supplies fatherly advice to Adira, suggesting that Gray has avoided speaking to them so that they will socialize with the rest of the crew.
The astromycologist and his pupil manage to decode the distress signal emanating from where The Burn originated in the Verubin Nebula. The holographic message is from Dr. Issa (played by Hannah Spear, who previously portrayed Saru’s sister Siranna), a Kelpien aboard the K.S.F. Khi'eth, who explains that a Federation rescue vessel never arrived to assist her stranded ship. Stamets indicates that the recording dates back at least a century and was filmed before The Burn. Saru orders his team to work on remotely accessing the vessel’s sensors, as Dr. Issa’s mission entailed investigating a dilithium nursery in the nebula.
On the barren and snowy planet below, Georgiou and Burnham encounter a quizzical being named Carl (Paul Guilfoyle) who sits by a plain wooden doorway. After a series of befuddling statements from Carl, Georgiou resolves to seek the cure and steps through the door… where she is greeted by Sylvia “Captain Killy” Tilly in the I.S.S. Discovery’s shuttlebay. Georgiou deduces her arrival coincided with the time period in which Mirror Lorca and her beloved Mirror Burnham planned to enact their coup attempt.
At a gathering in a lounge, we see several familiar faces, including welcome cameos from Airiam (Hannah Cheesman) and Landry (Rekha Sharma). Mirror Burnham steps into the room with an evil air, and Georgiou probes her daughter for information related to Lorca and their secret plot. Burnham’s Terran counterpart becomes enraged at Mirror Saru, but Georgiou spares the Kelpien’s life. In the safety of her quarters, the emperor asks Saru for his perspective on why Burnham would betray her. The Kelpien elucidates that Burnham is under the impression that Georgiou has become weak, thus the younger officer must forsake the emperor in order to survive.
Georgiou resolves to demonstrate her strength, following through on her conviction when she murders Mirror Stamets just as he prepares to stab her at the I.S.S. Charon’s dedication ceremony. Burnham voices support for her mother, but Georgiou and Tilly capture her as she makes an exit through Discovery’s corridors. Burnham dares the emperor to execute her, but Georgiou restrains herself and declares that their future has not been written. Barely able to contain her anger, the emperor banishes Burnham to an agonizer.
“Terra Firma, Part 1” stands as a wild ride down unexpected roads, a trip which moves us closer to uncovering The Burn’s mysterious origins, connects the Prime and Kelvin Timelines, and jumps back in time to the Mirror Universe that the U.S.S. Discovery visited in season one. It is unclear if the Terran realm is real or illusory, but it is apparent that whatever transpires there will seriously impact whether Georgiou lives or dies. With only four episodes left in the third season, events are sure to intensify from here on out. Stay tuned as we continue to boldly go…
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer who has contributed articles to the official Star Trek website and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and the official Star Wars website. Jay also serves as a part-time assistant and consultant advising many actors and creatives who work on his favorite sci-fi shows and films. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.
Star Trek: Discovery streams on Paramount+ in the United States, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and on Netflix in 190 countries.