Star Trek Discovery Review: “Terra Firma, Parts One and Two”

A portal on a remote planet will decide the fate of Philippa Georgiou.

Bonuses: the return of a character from an acclaimed TOS episode.
Jet eats black licorice.

Titles: “Terra Firma, Parts One and Two”

Directed by Omar Madha and Chloe Domont
Written by Alan B. McElroy, Bo Yeon Kim, Erika Lippoldt

Cast
Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou
Doug Jones as Captain Saru
David Ajala as Cleveland “Book” Booker
Anthony Rapp as Commander Paul Stamets
Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly
Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber
Emily Coutts as Lt. Keyla Detmer
Blu del Barrio as Adira Tal
Oded Fehr as Admiral Vance
Noah Averbach-Katz as Ryn
Ache Hernandez as Kyheem
Raven Dauda as Dr. Tracy Pollard
Vanessa Jackson as Lt. Audrey Wiilla
Rachael Ancheril as Cmdr. Nhan
Patrick Kwok-Choon as Lt. Gen Rhys
Oyin Oladejo as Lt. Joann Owosekun
Sara Mitich as Lt. Nilsson
Hannah Spear as Dr. Issa
David Benjamin Tomlinson as Kelpien
Hannah Cheesman as Lt. Cmdr. Airiam
Rekha Sharma as Landry
Tig Notaro as Jet Reno
David Cronenberg as Kovich
Daniel Kash as Duggan
Paul Guilfoyle as Carl/The Guardian of Forever (Highlight for spoiler)

Premise:

The Discovery’s mission takes it to a remote planet, where Burnham and Georgiou find a mysterious man with a door.

Georgiou makes her way back to the Mirror Universe, where she encounters a mutiny in progress.

High Point:

Part Two, in particular, is Michelle Yeoh’s episode, and she gives a complex and often nuanced performance. Some of her earlier work this season was stymied by the limited role the scripts gave her, but she shines here. We’ll see what happens when she returns to days of futures past in the forthcoming Section 31 series.

Low Points:

The Mirror Universe features some interesting elements—the stylized agitprop performed in the Empress’s honour, for example. However, the more we see of the Mirror Universe, the less it makes sense as a functional culture.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6

Effects: 6/6 The show continues to display its budget, and we even see one fairly creative transition enabled by CGI technology, and an impressive reveal at the conclusion of the episode.

Acting: 5/6 I’ve already discussed Yeoh. Reducing the cast opens the door to using Tig Notaro as Jet Reno more often. Her cameo was memorable, as always. For that matter, Paul Guilfoyle and David Cronenburg demand attention in their scenes. We have an episode where some of the best moments come from small but distinctive performances.

Production: 6/6 The Mirror Universe uniforms recall something that might have been designed for an earlier incarnation of Trek.

Emotional Response: 4/6 Tonally the halves feel very different, with the second one being more serious and effective. In the epilogue, the main cast suddenly become unusually fond of Georgiou, even though some have little reason to be. As an attempt to evoke an emotional response, it fell flat.

Story: 4/6: I felt a little like I did when I watched the second Avengers movie, Age of Ultron. I enjoyed it, but it devoted an awful lot of time to setting up better stories that would be told at another time.

Lorca gets mentioned so often in Part One that it feels like he should have appeared in Part Two. Granted, they had enough ground to cover already, and I don’t really like Lorca, but, as Chekhov (Anton, not Pavel) said, “one must never place a loaded Lorca on the stage if he isn’t going to go off.” Or something to that effect.

Overall: 5/6:

In total, “Terra Firma, Parts 1 and 2” receive 33/42

Lingering Question

I didn’t follow speculation regarding Carl’s identity anywhere save here. Did anyone here discern his identity before it was revealed?

11 replies on “Star Trek Discovery Review: “Terra Firma, Parts One and Two””

  1. zocalo says:

    I only got Carl’s identity when the “door” did it’s CGI thing and became more recognizable, so *just* before it was explicitly stated. With hindsight though, there were some pretty big clues in Part 1 that I’m kinda kicking myself for missing.

    • That means they did it perfectly. The audience is supposed to figure it out right before the cast does.

      I didn’t, and as soon as it became the door I recognized, got it, and squeed appropriately.

  2. One of the podcasts I listen to had accurate prediction’s of Carl’s identity after only the first part had aired, but I was unconvinced when I heard it.

  3. Oh, and as for Lorca, at this point in the timeline, he was no longer in the mirror universe. The Lorca they were looking for was the Lorca we met.

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      Then don’t emphasize him so much in Part One. It wasn’t necessary, beyond a reference.
      As for him not being there, that hardly presents a problem greater than others Trek has danced around in the past.

  4. lost says:

    I’m starting to think that the mirror universe’s culture being nonfunctional is rather the point of it these days. One thing we haven’t seen anything of in the mirror universe, though, is the common people. Without that piece of the puzzle, we can’t be completely sure just how nonfunctional it actually is.

  5. pythor says:

    One Youtube channel I watch guessed a Guardian based on the name of his Newspaper. That said, they also argued that it could be a Q and the newspaper could have been a red herring.

    • The “Star Dispatch” is a face newspaper title that has been used by Hollywood prop departments dozens of times since the 1940s. Sure, it was the same used in “City on the Edge of Forever,” but it was also used in “Batman and Robin,” “All the King’s Men,” and a lot more in the 1940s. Once you’ve made one set of printing plates, you might as well keep using them, right?

      That’s one of the reasons I discounted it when I heard it on a podcast. Some people know it exclusively from the original episode. Those of us who knew more about it found its use much less significant.

      • JD DeLuzio says:

        The Star-Dispatch even turned up on Bewitched.

        Of course, they could have had him reading a certain British newspaper.

      • I didn’t catch the paper, but now, knowing what I am looking for, it’s super obvious. The prop department can make doorways out of nothing, there’s no reason to precisely recreate an old newspaper unless you are referencing the original.

        My question now is, was Georgio really back in the Mirror Universe, or did she have three months of a hallucination?

        • JD DeLuzio says:

          Had I noticed the newspaper’s name, I might have felt the same way. As I said, I didn’t read any online speculation, and didn’t see it coming though, as others have said, it makes sense as an explanation.

          The newspaper’s name isn’t really an in-universe clue, however. It’s an Easter Egg fan clue.

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