“Let the Gaians preach their silly religion, but one way or the other I shall see this compound burned, seared, and sterilized until every hiding place is found and until every last Mind Worm egg, every last slimy one, has been cooked to a smoking husk. That species shall be exterminated, I tell you! Exterminated!”
— Academician Prokhor Zakharov, Lab Three aftermath
Mechanically, the Temple of Planet is an upgrade to the older Centauri Preserve. It grants the same lifecycle bonus to native life and the same increase in the clean mineral limit. The main difference is that it comes at the end of the game, requiring the Secrets of Alpha Centauri to be unlocked, where its predecessor required the much earlier Centauri Meditation technology.
Narratively, though, it represents something far more interesting. It was clear as far back as the reference to the Gaian Acolyte’s Prayer in the Weather Paradigm video that the Gaians intended to approach the ecosystem with religious reverence. But Zakharov’s quote and the name of the facility show that the Gaians have gone on to establish a full-blown religion in the end game.
Among other things, this puts Lady Deirdre’s “Conversations With Planet” into a very different light. Her story isn’t just an intellectual exercise in communication with an alien being. These are actually the recordings of her conversations with what she sees as her god. By this point Lady Deirdre is best seen as the prophetess of a novel, alien religion.
The earlier Centauri Preserves were better seen in the light of modern-day mainline environmentalism. The idea was to try to minimize the impact of human habitation on Planet. But this was seen as a largely prudential measure. Which makes sense, given that when the Planet is disturbed, it has a nasty tendency to send waves of mind worms at the offenders.
But we see here that it is only after Lady Deirdre comes to completely understand Planet’s inner workings on a scientific level that she orders the creation of Temples to its glory. Contra the Gaian prayer, there are no longer any mysteries left to cherish. So the content of the Gaian religion, if not the tone, must be something rather different by the end of the game.
Of course Zakharov would remain a devoted secularist. He isn’t going to go in for worshipping Deirdre’s alien ecosystem any more than he has truck with Sister Miriam’s God. But Zakharov’s hostility toward the mind worms here is something new.
The best clue to what happened is in the attribution. Lab Three is one of the default base names for the University. And “aftermath” sounds quite ominous. Given the target of Zakharov’s rant, we can presume that it was badly damaged by a late-game mind worm attack. It may have very well been completely destroyed.
In canon, Zakharov’s pronouncement almost assuredly means war between the Gaians and the University. If the compound Zakharov refers to is a Temple of Planet, then we can conclude the Gaians go so far as to hold live specimens within the grounds. This would certainly explain the additional lifecycle bonus for native worms built at the base. And thus, his war of extermination against the Mind Worms would seem to require him to minimally occupy the Gaian bases and burn their temples to the ground.