Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3, Episode 10 Recap: “Terra Firma, Part 2”

Dept. of Guardians and Forever

Star Trek: Discovery Director | Chloe Domont
Season 3 | Episode 10 | 49 minutesWriters | Kalinda Vazquez, Bo Yeon Kim, Erika Lippoldt, Alan B. McElroy
Terra Firma: Part 2
Georgiou faces dangerous choices in the mirror universe and Carl’s identity is revealed.

On this week’s on Star Trek: Discovery, “Terra Firma, Part 2,” Carl’s origins are revealed and we bid farewell to a contentious member of the crew!


Iain McNally: I am such an idiot.

Bahir Yeusuff: Where are you going with this?

IMN: Last week I was so focused on the “Good Soup” headline of Carl’s newspaper, I never bothered checking WHERE the good soup was being served! If I had, it would have reminded me of “The City on the Edge of Forever,” the classic Kirk, Spock, and McCoy adventure that this episode calls back to!

Do you have any idea what I’m talking about?

BY: None at all. Break it down for the ensign!

IMN: Hah. Well “The City on the Edge of Forever” was partially written by (in)famous sci-fi author Harlan Ellison, and is one of those episodes that most (old) people think of when they think of classic Trek.

The Guardian of Forever, aka Carl, is the same time portal that Kirk and Spock used to chase after a confused McCoy, who accidentally used it to travel back in time to the 1930s and prevented the birth of The Federation! Kirk and Spock used the time portal to arrive before McCoy did so they could figure out what he did and fix the timeline. While they wait around, they go to the 21st Street Mission (home of good soup!) and Kirk falls in love with a woman who works there, Edith Keeler, as played by Joan Collins!

Unfortunately for them all, Spock discovers that when McCoy arrives he will save Keeler from a car accident she was “supposed” to die in, and instead, she will go on to found a pacifist group that prevents the U.S. from entering WW2, resulting in Nazi Germany conquering the planet! 

In order to save the future, Kirk must let the love of this life die!

The Guardian of Forever

BY: Whoah. Okay a couple of things while I catch my breath:

1. That sounds awesome.
2. Of course Kirk falls in love. He falls in love easier than it is for me to order too much food.
3. That line from pacifist group to the U.S. not entering WW2, to Nazis taking over the world, and finally no space federation is quite the logical leap. But also, pretty awesome.

IMN: It’s widely regarded as one of the best episodes of early Trek. The concept is so easy to understand, the motivations of every one so… human. Kirk actually has to block McCoy from saving Edith as she gets run over, after catching himself from saving her first. Such a gut punch. 

I never considered Carl could be the Guardian, as it wasn’t a person in the original show, just one of those regular old talking time and space portals.

Now that the fan service is out of the way (I’m pretty sure they used a clip of the original Guardian’s voice during Carl’s big reveal) how did the episode fly for you, without all that baggage?

BY: This is where Star Trek: Discovery really excels for me. There is baggage (named Carl!) but at the end of the day, I like that the choice of whether or not I go investigate Carl is left up to me. I don’t need to pause the episode, go read up about Carl (and the “Good Soup!”) to enjoy what was coming up next. The only thing Discovery asks of you, is that you remember what happened in the previous episodes and seasons. The references are in universe (and time!) and not to something on a show years before I was born.

Cool Portal Bro

IMN: So for you it was just a case of “cool portal bro” and then you could get on with the emotional heavy lifting of saying farewell to EMPEROR Philippa Georgiou. For now.

BY: Sort of. But it was also because I knew we’d be doing this so all I had to do was say “cool portal bro” and wait for this week’s Star Trek History 101 lesson. 😛

IMN: I was planning my lesson all night! 😉 So excited! 

BY: Okay, before we go into the portal, is there anything else about Carl/Guardian of the Time/Galaxy that I need to know about? Did I say how surprised/not surprised I was that neither Michael nor Philippa seemed to bat an eye at the newspaper that Carl was holding?

IMN: I think you mentioned it last week. It’s Starfleet man, every day is an adventure to strange new worlds. I guess they all undergo “looking aghast avoidance” training, so as not to look like complete fools in front of more advanced species.

As Kirk ran into “Carl” after Discovery left the past, there would be no reason they would know about him anyway, and “Carl” never really turned up again apart from an episode of the animated series.

He was more of cutesy McGuffin here. Given human form to throw Trekkies like me off the scent. Which is cool, but now I’m sad I didn’t get to see John De Lancie as Q. Oh well.

With all that said, Carl evaded answering our big question from last week. Did Phillipa actually go back and alter her past timeline, or was it yet another, slightly different parallel universe, or magic, or something? 

Somebody Save Philippa

BY: Okay so just just a quick forward recap. Once Philippa comes back from her portal jaunt, she has three months worth of bio data points on her Garmin smartwatch, but was only away from Michael for a minute. But as you say, we don’t know if she went to the real past, a simulated past, or a different past. I read it as a Carl test. It was Philippa’s Kobayashi Maru (NAILED IT!).

The result isn’t important. It’s that you tried to change what happened and that shows growth. Philippa, you are a real person now. You have a heart.

IMN: It was a nice contrast to the “Do or do not, there is no try” of Star Wars. Even in the face of insurmountable odds, like say, an entire universe of scheming backstabbers out to get you the moment your back is turned, trying to make a change is still important.

That seems to be the ethos for this season. Even in a world/time they don’t understand, where everyone tells them all hope is (nearly lost), the crew of Discovery are still trying. 

BY: And still hoping. Which is quite nicely seen in the B-plot with the rest of Discovery’s cast focused on getting to the medical ship at the centre of The Burn.

I don’t know if it’s super overt overt, but it almost seems like the Admiral doesn’t much care for that ship, almost inferring to Saru that his interest is personal.

Are we still distrusting of the Admiral? Maybe it’s because I haven’t been burned as much as you, but my views on the Admiral are softening. I don’t know if he’s at the head of a conspiracy, or just without hope that any of that Burn stuff is going anywhere.

Admiral Distrust

IMN: I don’t know! He seems to follow every suspicious move with a really heartfelt interaction with Saru or the other members of the the crew… which doesn’t disprove my theory that he’s essentially a PR man for The Emerald Chain. It might even reinforce it.

He did seem pretty worried about The Chain tech interacting with Disco’s super-sphere- data-computer-systems, and it wasn’t clear if that was out of genuine worry for Discovery being subverted by the chain… or if he was afraid the crew would gain some insight into The Chain and find out that that he’s been working for them the whole time!

It’s really well done. We’ve been talking about this for weeks now and have no clue either way!

BY: You just have an Admiral trust issue. You should look into that. 

Okay, all that is done. Let’s talk the about the fun universe! Full of backstabbing, bitchy jibes, and murderous side glances! 

IMN: With all the murder and mayhem, the thing that really freaked me out was “Det-mirror’s” matching eyes! We’re so used to seeing her with the plate in her head and mismatched eyeball!

BY: Things I learned in Star Trek: Discovery this week: Kelpians are high in cholesterol!

IMN: And delicious!

“Assault Commando Saru” was pretty cool. He straight up MURKED Culber!

You just knew that mirror Burnham was going to turn on Georgiou, but I wasn’t 100% sure Philippa would have had a backup, backup honor guard ready. Even I thought she might have gone a little soft. 

The Eyes Have It

BY: Honestly, I wasn’t sure if Michael was going to turn. I wasn’t surprised that she did, but I was curious to see if Philippa was able to get to Michael. The killing of Detmer sort of threw me off.

If Michael was willing to kill one of her co-conspirators in such cold blood, maybe she was on Philippa’s side. BUT I WAS WRONG! 

IMN: Nah. Betrayal is just the Terran way. I was surprised after all their snark and side-eye, only Killy and Owosekun stayed loyal. Has mirror Owosekun now had more character development than prime Owosekun? 

BY: I think mirror everyone has had more development than the prime crew. 

IMN: Did you spot Killy giving orders to both Commander Nilsson and then Commander Airiam on the bridge? Both roles were previously played by the one actor (Sarah Mitich). I think the other blonde actor (I cant find her name in the credits) was supposed to be Airiam. In the mirror universe she must not have had the accident that required her undergo cybernetic enhancement. Which is kinda neat! 

Sad we didn’t get any Lorca though.

BY: I really had my money on Lorca making an appearance this episode. I missed the Commander Nilson/Commander Airiam thing, but I truly enjoy Killy’s murderous glee at being given the assignment to torture Michael. I like Killy. Killy is fun.

IMN: Just that little grin as she starts to mentally plan out exactly how far she can go torturing Michael without killing her.


BY: Mary Wiseman, is really showing great range as Tilly in the show. From the shy, demure Tilly in Season 1, growing into herself in Season 2, being given authority in Season 3, all while swapping into gleeful, murderous Killy when in the mirror universe.

Killy in the Name Of

BY: There is also great control in her performance as Killy. I’m not sure if it’s written that way, or if it was a Wiseman choice, but Killy could so easily have been a jokey performance of murderous. To avoid straying into campy villainy is truly the work of a confident performer.

IMN: I think it’s something that happens with all Trek series. Actors fill roles, then the writers see the strengths and weaknesses of those actors and start writing with them in mind, and there’s a beautiful back and forth. So many Trek actors then go on to become directors (hello to Jonathan Frakes). It does seem like Star Trek: Discovery has replicated that creative playground of past series. 

Returning to the mirror universe after Season 1 must have been informed by how much fun everyone had making that season. 

Sadly, it looks like it’s the last we’ll see of the mirror universe and it’s terrible Terrans for some time, along with Georgiou’s departure.

We had previously wondered what was happening with her Section 31 spin-off and how it could happen in this far flung future, and I guess this episode cleared that rigght up!

I was expecting a quick clip of Philippa arriving somewhere messed up after she walked though the Guardian of Forever portal, and then diving into a fight with glee. I was surprised they gave us nothing. 

BY: So do you think she went through the portal and landed in the mirror universe, or prime universe? It has to be prime right? Cause I don’t know what the point of a Section 31 in the mirror universe would be. Or why we would care.

Mirror, Mirror

IMN: In the mirror universe, section 31 is probably just in charge of Kelpian corpse clean up, so I agree it has to be Prime. Carl said she didn’t fit in the mirror universe anymore. That was the point of the test. And he sent her “back” to when the two universes were closer together, so that could be anytime between when Discovery left for the future and give or take 100 years. No point sending her back before then. Having two Georgiou’s running around the same universe would be… troublesome.

BY: Troublesome is one way of putting it. So just out of curiosity, would you, Iain the Star Trek fan, prefer Georgiou to have landed back in mirror universe, or prime universe? Taking into consideration that we’d be seeing an entirely different cast of characters. For me, I think prime would be fun-ner (that’s not a word is it?), mostly because Georgiou’s snipey, bitchy, murderous personality is so much more entertaining when contrasted with the uptight, goody two shoes Federation.

IMN: Seeing as Ash Tyler was the head of Section 31 after Discovery left, it would make some sense to pair her with him, so there could be some familiar faces around, along with plenty of opportunities for new faces to appear.

Section 31 wasn’t really mentioned during Kirk’s time so they could do some weir, but cool, background stuff in that time period.

It will be the last we see Michelle Yeoh on this show though. I think it would undo everything, including that quite nice toast scene, if they had her reappear on Discovery.

To Philippa

IMN: It’s funny, I remember quite a lot of people mocking her, or aspects of her performance, when she first turned up. I’m not imagining that right?
That all stopped once she turned into the Emperor though and started kicking ass, physically, on the regular. 

BY: Yeah. I think the “stern Asian mother” figure wasn’t working for people but the “stern Asian empress” kicking ass did. I for one liked both characters. But Empress Georgiou is a lot more fun. And an Ash and Philipa Section 31 show would be quite the duo! 

I agree with you though. That toast at the end of the episode has to signify the end of Michelle Yeoh’s involvement in the near future with DISCO. I mean, I would absolutely jump out of my seat if she returns in season 6 or 7, but anytime before that would feel like a cop out.

IMN: She could always leave messages for Burnham, like messages in bottles for her to discover in the far future, but yeah, this a great farewell… for now.

Subspace Report

  • Discovery rehashes the trope of using a different opening sequence for mirror universe episodes but only flips the footage and puts a negative filter on it. Despite all the many problems with Star Trek: Enterprise, the way it subverted its regular, boring opening credits for it’s mirror universe episodes was great!
  • I did like the blue logo treatment though.
  • The hints the show has been dropping about Georgiou’s past and a person called “San” over the past few episodes were still not followed up on. We presume it’s going to be for part of her spin-off show. Georgiou’s comment that she had a chance with San “a long time ago” might also indicate where the portal sent her.
  • “Candy is not food, it’s practically an accessory.” You’re damn straight Reno!

Star Trek: Discovery, Season 3, is now streaming on CBS All Access in the U.S., as well as on Netflix internationally. You can check out all our other Star Trek content here.

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