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Star Trek Discovery: Terra Firma, Part 1

'What the hell is this?'
'This is obviously... this.'

By nature I love brevity: It's a setup episode, which means we get a heck of a lot of stuff that doesn't pay off. But what we got was pretty entertaining for the most part and pretty well executed. Also, I love Carl.

It's no secret that this reviewer (For anyone confused, no, I'm not Billie. Big thanks to her for filling in for me, but now I have the time to take up Disco again!) is not a huge fan of Mirror Universe Philippa Georgiou. It's no shade to Michelle Yeoh; I just happen to think the character and the material they write for her are really not good. But I have to admit that since they gave her this health issue and the ticking clock towards her death, she has gotten a lot more compelling. It's almost like seeing characters as fallible, complex human beings and not caricatures helps to make them relatable. Huh.

It is equally worth noting that she provides some interesting ways to make Michael Burnham more interesting, too. Burnham is a character desperately in need of a goal, and mentor figures tend to be helpful for setting character goals. It's therefore an interesting wrinkle to throw in that Burnham's mentor figure is a psychopathic evil warlord from another dimension. But while this drama makes for good tv in theory, I haven't always liked what they've done with it in practice.

All this to say that their scenes in 'Terra Firma I', while they are a far cry from excellent, are at least interesting and fun to watch. That's saying something for an episode centered around easily the two characters that frustrate me most on this show.

There really isn't a ton of meat here just yet. Burnham and Georgiou have a somewhat interesting relationship, but it isn't really explored, that is until we get to the Mirror Universe. Mirror Burnham, in addition to being pretty fun to watch as Sonequa Martin-Green gets to ham it up, has a deep hatred for Georgiou. But like all hatreds, there's an element of love or she wouldn't feel so strongly about it. We see a little snapshot of their dynamic here, as tensions between them bubble to the surface, and it all comes to a head when Georgiou finally breaks with the script (she's lived this day before) in a meaningful way. Not only does she spare Saru, she decides not to punish Burnham for her treachery. Georgiou's words are pretty powerful here: 'That is the easy way, and I know how that story ends. You die, or I die, or both. But as of this moment, our future is unwritten. Let's make it count, shall we?'

There are a few B-stories here, as the various folks aboard Discovery go about furthering the main storyline. Adira and Stamets make some progress on the distress signal, and it's revealed that it's coming from a Kelpien-manned ship at the center of the nebula. This is obviously distressing to Saru – he doesn't report it to the Admiral – and it will be interesting to see how this affects his judgement as things ramp up. We do get a nice scene between Stamets and Adira. I continue to be impressed with Blu del Barrio. They're very good, especially considering their age and the massive amounts of pressure they must feel taking on this role. Frankly, Rapp's the one that felt a little out of his depth in this scene. He continues to underwhelm me.

We also get a random scene where Saru responds to an offer of help by telling Book to go get smart. Yeah, you tell him! Stop being helpful, Book! Go read or something, I don't really care!

Ah yes, and Carl. I love Carl. Carl is an old man sitting in an armchair reading his paper, in the middle of a frozen wasteland on an alien planet. He speaks in clever riddles and he's very witty, played to perfection by Paul Guilfoyle. He makes an instant and lasting impression, and his enigmatic presence adds just the perfect touch of classic Trek wackiness.

Strange New Worlds:

Today's adventure takes us to a planet called Dannus V. Something in the sphere database indicates that a cure for Georgiou's condition will be found here, and so far, we've made some progress. That is, if you count Carl and his door as progress (I very much do).

New Life and New Civilizations:

Not much in the way of alien insights this time around. But we did see a Betelgeusian, of 'background character in one shot of The Motion Picture' fame. A Kelvin timeline Betelgeusian, no less. More on that later.

Pensees:

-We learned that massive time travel combined with sustained inter-universe travel is the cause of Georgiou's condition.

-Kovich's reveal of Lt. Cmdr. Yor the Betelgeusian represents the very first time that the prime universe has explicitly acknowledged the Kelvin timeline, as the alternate universe from JJ Abrams' 2009-2016 Trek features has been dubbed. Kovich says it resulted from the time travel of a Romulan mining vessel. The vessel in question was Star Trek (2009)'s Narada.

-This also quells (or would quell if people were a generally reasonable bunch) fan conspiracy theories about DIS secretly taking place in the Kelvin timeline because of a rumored 'legal document' that Viacom/CBS and Paramount both deny exists.

-This episode was directed by Omar Madha, who's been racking up Director's credits on tv since 1997. The experience shows. No complaints here.

-Always nice to see Rekha Sharma again.

-Mirror Stamets bites the dust here, because at least one major character from the show must die in all Mirror Universe episodes. It is law. He lived past these events in the original timeline, however, which is perhaps a sign that this may not be real.

-Carl is reading an edition of The Star Dispatch. This is a newspaper that has appeared once before in Trek history (I won't say where because spoilers). But it contains references to the USS Jenolan, Scotty's ship from the TNG episode 'Relics'; Worf winning a Bat'leth competition, as he did in the TNG episode 'Parallels'; the Twenty-First Street Mission, run by Edith Keeler in the TOS episode 'City on the Edge of Forever'; and the Tkon supernova, an event referenced in the TNG episode 'The Last Outpost'.

Quotes:

Georgiou: 'You think you're so different from her. You have the same need to bend people to your will. The only difference is you lie to yourself about it.'

Burnham, about the door: 'Why is it here?'
Carl: 'So she can go through it. Maybe you should have studied up on doors before you came here.'

Pretty good setup, we'll see how it plays out. 4 out of 6 frozen wasteland armchairs.

--
CoramDeo, hemlock is poison.

1 comment:

skyemaidstone said...

Michelle Yeoh is so wasted in this show. The writing, script and acting is so bad in general.

As a massive Star Trek fan I barely made it through these season out or loyalty.

Michael Burnham is vastly more annoying than Wesley Crusher ever was but that pretty much applys to the whole crew (the ones with lines) except Saru of course.