A ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Novel Points To A Theory For What’s Going On With Georgiou

The following analysis has spoilers (and potential spoilers) for Discovery season three.

Episode 305 of Star Trek: Discovery (“Die Trying”) featured Michelle Yeoh’s Georgiou being interrogated by the mysterious 32nd-century character Kovich, played by David Cronenberg, spawning several theories. It seemed the interrogation did something to the former Terran Emperor, and in episode 306 we saw her suffer some debilitating blackouts and visions. This storyline was not picked up on last week’s episode 307, but the previews for this week’s episode (“The Sanctuary”) hint that Georgiou is going to get examined by Dr. Culber.

Michelle Yeoh and Wilson Cruz in “The Sanctuary”

Before the good doctor can examine Georgiou, it’s worth taking a look at those traumatic visions Georgiou suffered in episode 306 (“Scavengers”). There is a clue in there that could tell us where this story is headed.

The emperor flashed back to the Mirror Universe

There were actually two different vision/blackout scenes for Georgiou in “Scavengers,” and taken together they start to shape a picture. Importantly, both featured several moments from the four-episode Mirror Universe arc in season one of Star Trek: Discovery.

Michelle Yeoh as Emperor Georgiou in “The Wolf Inside,” from Georgiou’s flashback in “Scavengers”

These moments within the flashbacks appear to be there to establish that the visions that Georgiou is suffering are from the Mirror Universe, and more significantly are from her past.

The Emperor’s flagship before it was destroyed in “What’s Past Is Prologue,” from Georgiou’s flashback in “Scavengers”

The flashback is about someone who died

Interspersed throughout both of the flashback scenes were glimpses of something new, all of which appear to be a painful moment in the Emperor’s past. We see brief moments of a younger-looking Georgiou fussing over the body of a bleeding figure in a specialized suit.

Georgiou reaches out to the bleeding figure

Georgiou looks at the blood

To emphasize that is from the Mirror Universe, the suit has some subtle Terran Empire stitching, and nearby is a bloody Terran knife.

The bloody Terran knife

That someone is “San”

The identity of the stabbed figure is obscured by a mask.

Masked figure

However, we do get a name. We can see Georgiou call out to “San” in both flashbacks from “Scavengers.”

Georgiou calls out to “San”

Georgiou calls out again to “San”

San is from a book

This is the first reference on Star Trek: Discovery of anyone named San. However, there is a character named San associated with Georgiou: San was mentioned briefly a couple of times in John Jackson Miller’s Star Trek: Discovery novel Die Standing. Released last July, Die Standing is set between seasons one and two of Discovery and tells the story of how Georgiou got her start in Section 31.

Cover for Die Standing

In the novel, Georgiou has a dream of a younger time and someone named San…

From Die Standing

That dream eventually turns dark before she awakens, but it was also clarified that San was male. So from that, we learned a young Phillipa was very close with this San. And he came up again briefly later in the book when Georgiou is being implored to find new friends in the new universe she finds herself.

From Die Standing

This last passage indicates that losing her beloved friend San was a pivotal moment in Georgiou’s life. It is implied that the loss of San turned her colder and taught her not to get close to people.

It may also be noteworthy that Georgiou’s interrogation with Kovich was in an episode titled “Die Trying,” which is not that far off from the book title “Die Standing.”

Kovich brought this memory back for a reason

There is no indication from the book that this memory of San was repressed; it was just part of her past, so the flashbacks seen in season three of Discovery should not be a revelation to Georgiou. San is an important person from her past and apparently part of the foundation of her character. Yet after her rigorous interrogation with the mysterious Kovich, this memory of San’s death—something she has lived with for a long time—is becoming debilitating.

During Georgiou’s interrogation, Kovich and his pair of holograms indicated they had an advanced understanding of Terrans. We already know there are differences between Terrans and humans from Earth in the Prime Universe but by the 32nd century, they had an understanding of these on a deeper level. One hologram says “all Terrans are duplicitous by their biology,” and the other says “we have discovered a chimeric strain on the subatomic level in the Terran stem cell.” Kovich also revealed he knew quite a bit about Georgiou herself, shown when he brought up her motivation to stay with the USS Discovery due to her closeness to someone on the crew, obviously Michael.

Kovich’s MU database includes entry for Georgiou’s ship the ISS Charon in “Die Trying”

Theory 1: Kovich gave Georgiou a conscience

One of our favorite theories about Kovich is that he is recruiting Georgiou for a 32nd-century version of Section 31, either to join or possibly help reconstitute it. However, one of the issues they may have is her ruthless past and arguably evil nature. They point out that she is “a murderer in at least two universes.” And when working with Section 31 in the 23rd century, Georgiou never seemed all that loyal to the organization, Starfleet or the Federation. And from a production standpoint, we know that there are plans to give Michelle Yeoh her own Section 31-focused show at some point.

So, perhaps Kovich and his team have taken their knowledge of Terran biology and Georgiou’s past and found a way to give her an upgrade of sorts, just like Starfleet did for the refit USS Discovery. Instead of detached nacelles, Georgiou could have been given a conscience. They found a way to tap into that pivot point in her past when she turned cold and flip that switch, allowing her to make more connections beyond just Michael Burnham. What we are seeing with Georgiou could be some side effects of the process, or possibly even her rejecting the process for now.

A darker version of this could have a 32nd-century version of Section 31 altering the Emperor’s memories. Maybe they changed who was responsible for San’s death. If Georgiou believed Mirror Michael Burnham was responsible, maybe that could sever her loyalty to Michael Prime, and make her more amenable to recruitment.

Kovich watches Georgiou’s debriefing in “Die Trying”

Theory 2: Georgiou is being used to access the Mirror Universe

In The Ready Room‘s exclusive clip for the upcoming episode “The Sanctuary,” Dr. Culber and Georgiou are discussing what’s happening to her, and Culber suggests that if she doesn’t want help, she can find out on her own if her condition is “physiological, psychological, temporal, or interdimensional.” And the trailer for “The Sanctuary” shows Georgiou being examined, with something very strange happening to her. Her face is severely distorted, with an effect that looks somewhat like 32nd-century programmable matter.

These clues indicate that whatever’s happening to Georgiou is more than psychological, and might very well be temporal or interdimensional. If it is interdimensional, it could be possible that Kovich is looking for a way to access the Mirror Universe. He made a point of telling Georgiou that it had been 500 years since anyone crossed over, so perhaps he did something to her to help access that universe once more. It’s possible he sees the MU as a potential source of dilithium, assuming The Burn only happened in the Prime Universe.

Why all of this is anchored in a specific memory of San remains to be seen.

Preview of “The Sanctuary” shows something is happening to Georgiou beyond blackouts

UPDATE: Kovich diagnoses Georgiou

Episode 308 and a preview for 309 have added some more clues. Check out our updated analysis.

What do you think?

Are you as curious about Kovich as we are? Do you think he is just some guy interested in the Mirror Universe? Do you buy into any of our possible theories, or do you have your own? And what do you think is going on with Georgiou? Sound off in the comments below.

New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery premiere on Thursdays on CBS All Access in the U.S. and on CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, where it’s also available to stream on Crave. Episodes are available on Fridays internationally on Netflix.

Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.

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So here’s a thought, what if this isn’t Georgiou’s body? What if Kovich put her in stasis somewhere and connected her mind to an avatar body created from programmable matter? We still don’t know much about whether programmable matter is distinguishable from regular matter. The blackouts could be moments of lost connection.

I honestly had a similar thought. What if this isn’t the Georgiou we know? I was originally thinking hologram (with a hidden, portable holo-emitter like the Doctor), but it could be some form of programmable matter.

I also like this theory.

But then they’d be doing <cast member isnt who you think they are> trope AGAIN

First it was Lorca
Then it was Tyler/Voq

I can’t see them doing it a third time.

If Georgiou was substituted just a few episodes back, it’s more like any number of classic episodes where this has happened on an away mission.

I like the idea of a programmable matter synth substitute as a twist on this.

But then the who did it and to what purpose, becomes central.

Will we see the real biological MU Georgiou back? Will the experiences be integrated?

Well, an artificial (and easily replaceable) Georgiou can be sent on much more risky missions than the real one, including one-way trips

What if the section 31 show is still due to be set in the 23rd century? Maybe something is happening in which she will need to be sent back to her own time and maybe as glasses guy said the distance between the prime and mirror universe has become so far a part that it’s having an impact on her.

The more this season goes on the more it looks like Georgiou won’t be going back in time.

Strange New Worlds will be the 23rd century series, and has the showrunner who is happy to work within the canon of that era.

The showrunners for Yeoh’s show seem to be in the “looking for fresh snow” group.

That’ll be interesting. Kovich will turn to be the 32nd Century Dr. Soong.

That’s brilliant!

Fascinating (^_^)v

Its true. That also explains how she knew about the 24th century items.

Honestly, Georgiou isn’t Georgiou though is she? I spent a lot of time watching episode 5 shouting that “she’s in the wrong timeline”. Not a biggie when those timelines are dimensionally close but leap forward 1000 years…think of the divergence!

OMG – like Westworld, without the orbs?

If the burn did not affected Terran universe he could be after dilitium

Yes, that’s what the article suggests.

Maybe. Good thinking.

That’s some twisted legal logic there – time travel in your universe is prohibited, but bouncing around in a mirror or alternative timeline is perfectly okay? I can understand why the Vulcans are pissed at the Federation at this point, if that’s true.

Some Vulcans are now eager to join the Federation. This is something I look forward to watch, hope we can see some of that before the finale.

It’s more like the Romulans on Ni’Var rather than Vulcans are eager to re-join the Federation

Absolutely bonkers that Space Hitler/Stalin is able to strut about giving it large in a universe which is purportedly Star Trek. Any of the captains from actual Trek wouldn’t have such a dangerous individual roaming about. Imagine Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway or Archer being like “yep I’m perfectly happy for this vile person to freely access any part of my ship/station and allow her to be around my crew”… it’s ridiculous.

The sooner she’s killed off or there’s some nonsense about Georgiou’s personality from the main universe taking her body, the better.

Then sort out the uniforms, make everything less blue and write some coherent stories and Discovery may be a viable show.

Please try again when you aren’t whining. Thanks.

How is she hitler again?

When this character was introduced, she was presented as “All Hail her most Imperial Majesty, Mother of the Fatherland, Overlord of Vulcan, Dominus of Qo’noS, Regina Andor”.

A megalomaniac emperor of subjugated peoples, probably racist given she considers the Kelpians so inferior they are food and “mother of the Fatherland”. Short of a rubbish moustache and a dodgy haircut, can she be any closer lol?

Imagine Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway or Archer being like “yep I’m perfectly happy for this vile person to freely access any part of my ship/station and allow her to be around my crew”… it’s ridiculous

You mean like Kirk with Khan or Sisko with Garak or Picard with Rasmussen or nearly any other guest on the Enterprise or Janeway with the Borg?

I think the word “freely” is very important in my comment.

laughs in Khan….
(freely enough to take down the ship)

She is in the process of a reboot, an upgrade to her character/personality. Please remember, this show had a very rough first season. I assume Kurtzman had to merge Fuller original concept with CBS directive.

I really like how they are fixing/improving the show and the characters. Burnham, Phillipa, and Tilly are different during this season. All the others that are cool, have no significant changes.

I doubt Fuller had anything to do with creating MU Georgiou though. And even if she was an idea when he was there, he only wrote the first two episodes and she didn’t show up until way later, so they could’ve changed whatever they wanted by then.

But I do agree with you, they are trying to fix the characters more this season, so I won’t judge it yet. It is the most interesting Georgiou has been so far as well.

You have a half dozen hugely problematic people in the history of the franchise, hell, you have a security chief on the damn enterprise who murdered someone in cold blood in a revenge killing. You have a security chief in DS9 who is a terrorist and another who looks the other way when his friends are involved in crimes. But this murderer is the problem because she’s from a different universe where that is entirely the way of life. For someone who used to be emperor or a murder power cult of an empire, she’s been remarkably restrained. So honestly, grow up.

These replies are quite something (with the exception of Jay’s, which is reasonable). There’s a difference between a character having a skeleton in the closet or two and a genocidal maniac who munches on sentient humanoids.

Lol so she’s the victim here? Equating Worf’s and Odo’s indiscretions with a genocidal maniac is silly. I think I’m not the one who should grow up.

You gotta love the moral relativism in that comment, no?

“It’s okay because she’s from a different universe with a different way of life”

“It’s okay because she’s from a different culture with a different way of life”

“It’s okay because she’s from a different country with a different way of life”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you apologize Hitler and the Holocaust!

Speaking of moral relativism, VS. Constantly downplaying the Holocaust by compairing an obvious comic book character to Hitler is also disgusting and respectless.

Not at all, not at all. As defined by the writers Space Hitler committed multiple multi-species planet-wide genocides that make the Holocaust look like child’s play!

In the eyes of one of the EPs of the show and president of Secret Hideout, this is ‘delicious’. You could say as far as moral decay goes, the fish is rotting from the head down!

To be clear, it didnt have to be this way. But, to abuse an old idiom, the writing’s on the wall ;)

The problem is that those writers don’ t take inspiration from real life, but only from other writers and not even the good ones. Someone wrote the Edda and an other made Lord of the Rings out of it then they made Conan the Barbarian out of it and then Masters of the Universe out of this and then it is copied into Georgiou. You might not belive it but Hitler was no joyful, hedonistic, swashbuckeling ninja warrior. He was the exact opposite of Georgiou, not even able to eat meat out of disgust for anything voluptuos.

Spot on mate. The idea that the crew are fine with this genocidal dictator joining their crew and committing questionable acts all this time is just ridiculous, but then this IS Discovery, having characters act like Starfleet officers and genuine believable people isn’t exactly its forte.

Also, love that valid criticism is always dismissed as “whining” here. Nevermind that people still hate on Voyager and Enterprise to this day, Discovery and the other new shows are perfect shows beyond critique apparently.

Have to agree here about Space Hitler and we don’t agree on everything. This character is just repulsive and a big reason why it’s still hard to love this show. And I imagine why so many still don’t, at least partly.

Season 3 is doing a better job with her at least, but I really don’t want her ‘redeemed’. I just want her off the show. I’m really hoping if nothing else this is her last season on Discovery knowing the Section 31 show will start filming sometime before the next Star Trek movie happens, which means some day.

I must agree with this. The cartoonish nature of the character, plus the impossibility of making a genocidal tyrant into a sympathetic character, mean that the show would be better off without her. The proof? Look no further than “Unification III,” where Georgiou made no appearance whatsoever, and nobody got into a fistfight. That was one of the season’s best so far.

ahhhhh janeway and a exborg? sisko did his fair share ….romulan embassador assassination. Need I go on?

Maybe it’s also just an effect from long term exposure to the Prime Universe. In the past most who have crossed between them have done so on a relatively short term basis. Although that wouldn’t explain how Mirror Lorca wasn’t experiencing something similar

Kovich said the “distance” between the two universes had increased significantly (whatever that means). Perhaps this is a side effect of being at an extreme “distance” from your native universe for an extended period of time?

I’d wondered if it might be something along those lines too.

“Die Trying,” which is not that far off from the book title “Die Standing.”

Fun Fact:
It is also not too far from “Die Festung”, which is a sequel to “Das Boot”.

“It is also not too far from “Die Festung””

It is also not too far from “Die Fisting”, an X-rated snuff movie.

You naughty Germans! ;)

Also, before season 3 was delayed due to post production taking longer, the book was scheduled to release around the time of the episode would have dropped.

San could also be MU Michael? MU Mama Burnham? Papa Burnham? This why the mask and the color of the skin. That could explain her tolerance to Prime Burnham.

What if the universe Discovery is in now is the actual Mirror universe?

Again!? Kovich already stated they are not from MU Phillipa’s universe.

The Federation doesn’t exist in the mirror universe,

That was 1,000 years ago. We became of the Mirror Universe is still a mystery.

She got Cronenberg.

Cronenberg feels that for the Federation to be resurrected, the Federation must espouse a bit of the Mirror Universe’s malice which is based on genetic differences. To that extent, he is already experimenting with Georgiou and we are seeing a preview of the resulting side effects of his experiment in the trailer.

I can’t really see Section 31 giving her a conscience. Anybody with a conscience would never work for Section 31. Her ruthlessness is what S31 would be most interested in.

The Cronenberg scene is the only scene I remember enjoying somewhat of this season so far. At least they’re realizing Phil G. can’t just be a cartoon villainess inexplicably hanging out with the huggy crying Disco gang. (Silly Tilly, we wuvved you this entire time, now you will be Federation President because of your pure heart and because we wuv you so much, silly Tilly AWWWWW)

It’s Treknobabble, but “we have discovered a chimeric strain on the subatomic level in the Terran stem cell” is absolutely meaningless.

What do they mean by subatomic? There can’t be vast differences in how an atom of an element is made up, aside from isotopes. Gold is gold, lead is lead, protactinium is protactinium. Chemicals combine in predictable ways.

If they mean there are differences on the elementary particle level? Also doesn’t make sense. You can’t make an electron with a different number or combination of quarks.

The physics of the MU are not wildly different from the Prime universe – otherwise people couldn’t breathe air, eat food, interact with objects, the spore drive wouldn’t work, etc.

At the subatomic scale, there is no such thing as a “chimeric strain.”

A chimera is a genetic abnormality that results from one individual having dual genomes. Often it happens when two zygotes fuse.

There are flowers that express two different colours with bilateral symmetry, and animals that express chimeric coat colours, again often in symmetry – we’ve all seen cats with an all-black half and a calico half, etc.

Generally though, chimeric DNA is not visible and would only be detectable if you did a full analysis, like would be done to prove parentage.

(They could just be referencing the b-movie Chimera Strain, of course)

Narratively, it sounds like they instructed the holos to pepper her with things that sound vaguely insulting in order to measure her reactions. Implying that at some deep rooted level, Terrans are naturally evil.

To someone from the Empire, ideas of good and evil are different, because of the completely different history and cultural context. (This is true even now between cultures on Earth – not totally different, but different histories and belief systems value different things.)

It is shown that other races in the Mirror Universe are not “exact opposites” to their Prime counterparts, even as far back as ‘Mirror, Mirror’ where the Halkans were exactly the same.

What does seem to be happening is that Kovich, a self-declared student of the Mirror Universe, has some interest in controlling Giorgiou as an asset. He’s clearly Future Section 31 or equivalent. This recurring vision of the ‘inciting trauma’ that turned her cold might be an experiment to see if she really is as emotionally armored as she thinks she is; if he can get her to actually care about something, maybe she’ll become loyal?

The thing that came to mind for me is that each of the universes in the multiverse has its own quantum resonance signature. (This is a thing that’s come up several times in the various 24th century series.)

So, if there is some kind of deep difference at that level, MU individuals may be unable to survive in the Prime Universe in the long run, especially if the drift in resonance increased as the universes “moved apart.”

I really hope there is no Gollum Phillipa. Not again on Discovery.

Not to open another can of worms, but nothing was mentioned about the destruction of the Romulan homeward as portrayed in the Star Trek reboot movie. Yes, it’s part of the Kelvin timeline story, but Spock’s attempt to save the planet occurred in the prime timeline. Or could Discovery be part of another timeline all together or went to another timeline which is causing problems for Georiou? Did I miss something?

It wasn’t mentioned, but it still happened. Presumably that’s why the Romulans all live on Ni’Var now instead of Romulus.

Ni’Var, which was Vulcan, which got sucked into a black hole in the Kelvin timeline? This is the same timeline of TOS and TNG. Romulus’ star goes Nova, Spock presumably dies there, but actually gets sent back in time, and bam. Movie verse.

My wild guess is that she’s a changeling and this isn’t the real Georgeou. A lot of DS9 is referenced in this season so far. But attempting to crossover to mine the Mirror Universe’s dilithiem probably makes the most sense.

A Georgeou changeling is not a bad theory, we’ve never seen how they play out in the mirror universe. I think it is more likely that the burn was caused by attempting to mine the mirror universe, since they mention they already had issues prior to the burn.
Is it possible they are actually in the mirror universe already as they were trying to build a brigade between them and got burnt by seemingly peaceful but still evil terrans.

I just assumed that Georgiou was already headed to her next Sec31 mission, & the catatonic episodes we’re seeing are the result of some poor well-meaning programmable matter synthetic, tying itself up in mental knots trying to emulate Georgiou without violating protocols.

I agree that Georgiou is despicable and irredeemable, which is why I enjoy seeing her on the show. Making oneself indispensable is the true survival trait in Terran society; I don’t think a bunch of officers from the post-Archer, pre-Kirk, wartorn period of the Federation’s history, when TOS-era virtues were still materializing, would be quick to exile someone with Philippa’s levels of intelligence & intel. Exiling Khan didn’t work out so well! Plus, what Mirror Universe character *wasn’t* a monster until shown how to be something better? I hope she never reforms, but I hope they keep trying.

As for Kovich’s interest in Georgiou, I expect we’ll see that *both* of them will be feeling the heat, under each other’s magnifying glass.

I posted some of this under another Trekmovie article a few days ago but I was very late to the party ;) So here it is again, this time with some more speculation:
+ Kovich is definitely Section 31. The all-black John Wick outfit gives it away too.
+ In the 32nd century, the Federation’s access to “programmable matter” now includes Section 31’s ability to apply the same techniques to living beings, not just inanimate objects and technology. MU Georgiou is still who she appears to be — she hasn’t been “replaced” etc — but Kovich and Section 31 have been reprogramming her right down to the subatomic level. They effectively have complete control over her if necessary. That’s some huge psychological leverage over Georgiou to get her to do what they want.
+ Georgiou’s personality is also in the process of being reprogrammed (or this has already happened, and the effects are gradually manifesting). She’ll be quite a different character by the time the Section 31 show launches. I suspect she’ll be much more like Prime Universe Georgiou, but with some of MU Georgiou’s calculating ruthlessness that would be required for S31 missions.
+ The weird stuff happening to Georgiou’s face in the preview: If Section 31 can “reprogramme” her physical appearance too, that would be a useful way to disguise Georgiou during her missions. Maybe the showrunners plan to take the Quantum Leap approach: As the audience, we’ll see her as Michelle Yeoh during these undercover missions, but the in-universe characters will see Georgiou as whoever she’s disguised as at the time.
+ The alleged real-life “men in black” apparently wear anachronistic antiquated mostly-black outfits, they have somewhat strange eyes, and they can be very threatening and intimidating when interrogating people who have witnessed UFOs and aliens. Alex Kurtzman has said the setting of the Section 31 show will come as a surprise. Here’s a guess: It’s going to be set in “our time”, and Kovich’s attire and behaviour are references to his alleged real-life counterparts — which the show will depict as Section 31 agents and may involve some kind of time-travel aspect too.
+ Kurtzman has also said some people online have correctly figured out aspects of the Section 31 show. I’m going to double-down on my previous suggestion that the show might involve time-travelling Section 31 agents deliberately inciting problems on 21st century Earth as a build-up to World War 3 and subsequently First Contact with the Vulcans. As I’ve mentioned previously, in Trek canon a peaceful united Earth and (later) the Federation cannot exist unless World War 3 happens first.
+ Random thoughts: I recently saw the Jessica Chastain political thriller “Miss Sloane”. The lead character’s personality, demeanour and “chess game” strategic thinking is *exactly* what the female lead in a Section 31 show should be like. It would be very realistic and believable.
+ By the way, “Miss Sloane” is also a superb film in its own right — like a darker and harder-edged version of Aaron Sorkin’s stuff, including razor-sharp smart dialogue. Jessica Chastain’s performance is fantastic too. I’m deliberately avoiding giving away spoilers here, but you’ll love the movie if you want a political version of Jason Bourne.

I don’t like this biological basis for the mirror universe. It all smacks too much of midichlorians.

I don’t think either of those theories hold any water, especially number two, after seeing today’s episode.

Or, and here’s a wild thought, they spilled the beans in this week’s ready room

So they did.

I’m just hoping that the next episode is not the last we see of Cronenberg’s Kovich.