With “Terra Firma, Part 2,” the third season of Star Trek Discovery reached the end, for the time being, of Emperor Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius’ storyline.
And what an ending it is!
Arguably no “Mirror Universe” story since writer Jerome Bixby introduced it all the way back in “Mirror, Mirror” (1967) so powerfully uses the concept’s potential to illuminate, in a Halloween carnival funhouse reflection way, the ideas driving the enduring appeal of Star Trek.
Star Trek Discovery takes us back through the looking glass
Yes, this episode’s inverted opening credits are nifty. They are analogous to how Star Trek: Enterprise replaced its usually inspiring and optimistic montage of humanity’s exploratory milestones with a “sizzle reel” of our worst, warlike moments instead for “In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II.”
But our opening approach to the ISS Discovery impresses even more. The upside-down camera moves bring us through the ship’s lower hull to its brig, where, in another reversal, captive interrogates captor. Mirror Michael Burnham demands to know why Georgiou is showing her mercy.
This intense opening sequence delivers several direct shout-outs to “Mirror, Mirror,” beyond the existence of the Mirror Universe itself.
We see an agonizer booth—apparently far more painful than the one in which Mirror Chekov suffered.
We see the Emperor possesses a Tantalus Field device, meaning the Terran Empire plundered that poor “unknown alien scientist”’s lab long before the Terran James Kirk seized command of the ISS Enterprise.
Even Georgiou and Mirror Burnham’s confrontation, set in and outside Burnham’s cell, harkens back to the way Spock surveyed with fascination the loud, raving doppelgangers of Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura in the USS Enterprise’s brig.
“Terra Firma, Part 2” isn’t the first trip Star Trek Discovery takes to the Mirror Universe. But for all these reasons and more, it is the most artful.