'Star Trek: Discovery' Season 3 Episode 9 Review: Philippa Georgiou makes a glorious return to the Mirror Universe
Can Philippa Georgiou truly be the ruthless Emperor she once was?
Spoilers for 'Star Trek: Discovery' Season 3, Episode 9 'Terra Firma' Part 1
There are a lot of questions left unanswered by the show's return to the Mirror Universe – is Philppa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) really in the past, or is this all a dream of some sort? Is the mysterious Carl (Paul Guilfoyle) a member of the Q Collective, and either way, what is his goal? Most importantly, however, is the question of whether or not Georgiou can return to the life she once knew, given how much she's changed since then.
The theme of 'Star Trek: Discovery' Season 3 appears largely to be about questioning how well one can fit into a role they may not be suited for. This has been made especially clear with Michael Burnham's (Sonequa Martin-Green) arc, as even now she struggles to fit back into a Federation role, but we see it expressed in other ways with the crew as well. Saru (Dough Jones) and Sylvia Tilly (Michelle Wiseman) in their new leadership positions, new character Adira Tal (Blu del Barrio) with their own gender identity, and the Discovery crew as a whole with their place in the 32nd Century.
No one, however, is more out of place than Philippa Georgiou herself, and it appears that that's making itself known on a molecular level. She's not only in the wrong universe, but in the wrong time period, as well, she's fading out of reality as her cells try to send her to a home that isn't there. It takes a Q-like stranger on a frozen planet charted by the Sphere to give Philippa the barest chance (5%, according to the Sphere) of survival - and that chance apparently involves trying to change her own past on the day it all went wrong.
'Discovery' goes all-in with its return to the Mirror Universe, with its metal, gold-and-black uniforms everywhere, ruthlessness and cruelty for their own sakes peppered into every other line, and always, that pervasive paranoia that the protagonists aren't projecting as much strength as they ought to be. Heavy eyeshadow is the new goatee, apparently, in indicating just how evil a Mirror version is, and the show is having a lot of fun with the Mirror Universe, even without explaining how and why it's returned.
That is the only real problem with the episode. It's having so much fun showing off everyone's dark mirrors - "Killy" and evil Burnham in particular - that the point of the story is a little lost in the glamor. It's clear that the show is attempting two things with this storyline - to show how much Georgiou has changed, and to show that even Burnham's darker self was struggling with her identity being swallowed up by a larger organization. The show misses several opportunities to really focus on this, but it is a lot of fun to watch.
It's worth noting that Georgiou never asked to be in the position she is now. She was taken to the Prime universe against her will, and being the Emperor of the Terran Empire again is all she may have thought she wanted. She certainly steps back into her old role without missing a beat, at first - realizing exactly what point in time she's been sent to, and doing all she can to change the past. It's a Philippa Gerogiou story that's been long overdue, and it's great that we're finally being given a chance to just focus on her. Despite her stubborn ways, Georgiou has changed and nowhere is that more stark than in the treatment of Kelpians. What she believed her last moment with Prime Saru was one of respect, and even back in her old role, she treats him with compassion and respect in a world where Kelpians are treated worse than slaves - they're all also potential meals.
With the way the Mirror Universe dominated the episode, it's easy to forget that it only appeared halfway in, but the first half of the episode had some great moments, too. Book's (David Ajala) earnestness in trying to be useful to the Federation is adorable. Saru is given an important moment of growth from Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) about a Captain's need for compassion that's quite sobering for Saru, eager as he is to do the right thing for the Federation.
Everyone on the Discovery has been thrust into roles that they didn't ask for. Some are more suited to it than others, and the best part of the episode is its nightmarish take on just why you can't go home again - and how impossible it can be to warp the past to better serve what you think you wanted out of life.
The next episode of 'Star Trek: Discovery' airs on December 17, on CBS All Access.