Burnham Is Like Captain Kirk in One Way on 'Star Trek: Discovery'

Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is similar to James Tiberius Kirk in one specific way: Both heroic Starfleet officers don’t trust Klingons because Klingons killed members of their family.

On Sunday, TrekMovie published extracts from a new print issue of SFX in which more plot details are revealed about Star Trek: Discovery, specifically the reason why Sarek (Spock’s dad) takes a young Burnham under his wing when she’s just a child.

“Her parents were killed while being hosted at the Vulcan Academy when there was a Klingon attack,” Sarek actor James Frain told SFX. This puts a huge spin on Burnham’s motivations in Discovery. If she holds a grudge, it’s possible encountering the Klingons again could make her ready for some revenge. But because this is Star Trek, this kind of prejudice will almost certainly be treated as a double-edged sword.

In the original films, Kirk’s son, David, is murdered by Klingons in Star Trek III. By the time of Star Trek VI, Kirk is open about his hate for Klingons. But the entire point of the movie is Kirk, as well as other Starfleet crew facing their bigotry in order to move forward into a better future. Speaking of the assassin of the Klingon president in Star Trek VI, Kirk says this in the final moments of the film: “Gorkon had to die before I realized how prejudice I was.” When Kirk and Gorkon’s daughter — Azetbur — make peace in the finale of the movie, she tells him, “You’ve restored my father’s faith.” To which Kirk replies, “And you’ve restored my son’s.”

With Burnham, instead of a parent losing a child, it appears to be flipped. What’s interesting about all of this is that it’s a mirror for what we already know about how peace between the Federation and the Klingons eventually happens. In Star Trek VI, it’s Sarek who encourages Spock to open up a peace talk with the Klingons. Could this now retroactively be connected to events in Discovery? As hardcore Trekkies are probably already aware, Nicholas Meyer co-wrote and directed Star Trek VI, and he’s also in the writers’ room of Discovery. Thematically, former showrunner Bryan Fuller has said that Discovery is about people trying to “understand each other,” which seems to reaffirm the idea that the plot will revolve around Burnham starting an all-out war with the Klingons, and then trying her best to fix it. In the trailers, Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) asks Burnham, “You helped start a war, don’t you want to help me try and end it?”

The article also mentions that Burnham’s job in Starfleet is that of a xenoanthropologist, meaning she studies the anthropology of alien races. It seems like through this specialty, Burnham might be able to find peace a lot quicker than Captain Kirk ever could.

Star Trek: Discovery airs on CBS All Access on September 24.

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