Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Discovery's Latest Episode Homages The Next Generation & Original Series

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 9, "Terra Firma, Part 1," now streaming on CBS All Access.

The latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery takes a turn for the surreal, even by the sci-fi series' standards. In "Terra Firma, Part 1," Philippa Georgiou is in critical condition medically speaking, a physical consequence of her jump between dimensions and nearly a millennium into the future. Seeking a cure, she and Michael Burnham travel to the frozen wasteland of Dannus V. There, she is presented with a strange opportunity that pays homage to The Next Generation and The Original Series.

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On Dannus V, the duo discover a door that takes Georgiou back to one of the most seminal days of her life. She is Emperor of the Terran Empire once more in the Mirror Universe, arriving on the Mirror Discovery to christen her palace vessel. But the leader is facing a coup, led by Gabriel Lorca and aided by the Mirror version of Michael Burnham. In the past, Georgiou was forced to kill her adopted daughter for her treachery, a decision she regrets to this day. But she chooses to create a new path, electing to spare Michael's life at the end of the episode.

The notion of going back in time and changing important decisions in one's life goes all the way back to The Original Series. "The City on the Edge of Forever," touted as one of the best episodes of the franchise, sends Kirk, Spock and McCoy back to the United States in the 1930s. There, McCoy saves the life of a woman named Edith Keeler, a nurse who Kirk falls in love with. "Terra Firma, Part 1" even gives a shout-out to this episode, as mysterious character Carl is reading the Star Dispatch, the newspaper seen in "The City on the Edge of Forever."

Unfortunately, saving Edith's life when she was supposed to die changes the future immeasurably. The trio discover that a series of events will now ensue that leads to Nazi Germany taking over the world. Unfortunately and heartbreakingly, Kirk must go back and let his lover die to preserve the future.

In The Next Generation's "Tapestry," Jean-Luc Picard is given an opportunity to go back in time and change his own personal timeline. Q sends Picard back to his younger days at Starfleet Academy, on a day where he was previously stabbed by Nausicaans and given an artificial heart. This time, he avoids the brawl and the blade, and the ramifications are huge.

A flash forward to the future shows a very different Picard on this new path. Instead of being captain, Picard is a junior science officer who has led an unremarkable career doing routine work. This is because the choice he made caused him to become averse to risk moving forward. Deciding that he'd rather die as the captain of the Enterprise than live as nobody, he goes back one more time, this time allowing the stabbing to happen.

"The City on the Edge of Forever," "Tapestry" and "Terra Firma, Part 1" all focus around the same idea: Going back to prevent tragedy. But the The Original Series and The Next Generation episodes also teach an important lessons to the main characters. While changing your fate may seem a good idea on paper, it can cause ripples that make things for the worse down the line. To that point, tragedy is an unavoidable part of life, and helps make us the people we are at our core.

Considering "Terra Firma" still has one part to go, that may inform where things are headed for Philippa Georgiou. When she re-entered the Mirror Universe, she had the express goal of changing the past. But given what Kirk and Picard had to do before her, it's more likely than not that she'll have to end up doing what she swore she would never do again: Kill Michael Burnham.

Streaming on CBS All Access,Star Trek: Discovery stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham, Doug Jones as Commander Saru, Anthony Rapp as Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly, Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber, David Ajala as Cleveland "Book" Booker, Blu del Barrio as Adira, Ian Alexander as Gray, Tig Notaro as Chief Engineer Reno and Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou. New episodes of Season 3 air on Thursdays.