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As a commander, she served as the first officer aboard the USS Shenzhou in 2256, under Captain Philippa Georgiou, with whom she had served since 2249. (DIS: "The Vulcan Hello") In 2256, she was stripped of rank and sentenced to life imprisonment for mutiny, but she gained a second chance when she was assigned to the USS Discovery. (DIS: "Battle at the Binary Stars", "Context Is for Kings")
Early life Edit
Burnham's parents were killed by Klingons during the attack on Doctari Alpha when she was young. She was later raised on Vulcan by Sarek and was the first Human to ever attend the Vulcan Learning Center and the Vulcan Science Academy (DIS: "The Vulcan Hello", "Battle at the Binary Stars") where she studied quantum physics. She attended the Vulcan Science Academy between 2245 and 2249. (DIS: "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry")
As a child, Burnham was caught up in an attack on the Learning Center. The bombing left Burnham unconscious, forcing Sarek to initiate a mind meld with Burnham in order to revive her. As a result of this, a portion of Sarek's katra remained inside her mind, which later allowed him to communicate with her across interstellar distances. (DIS: "Battle at the Binary Stars")
During her childhood, her foster mother often read to her and Spock from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Even as an adult, she still owned a physical copy of this book. (DIS: "Context Is for Kings")
Starfleet career Edit
USS Shenzhou Edit
Although she had originally planned to join the Vulcan Expeditionary Group, in 2249 Burnham joined Starfleet and was assigned to the Shenzou under the command of Captain Philippa Georgiou. Serving as a xenoanthropologist, she eventually rose to the rank of commander, and by 2256, had become Georgiou's first officer. (DIS: "The Vulcan Hello", "Battle at the Binary Stars")
Encountering the Klingons Edit
Just prior to the Battle of the Binary Stars, Burnham was charged with mutiny after incapacitating Captain Georgiou and taking command of the USS Shenzhou, preparing to attack the Klingons by firing on them first. She subsequently pled guilty to these charges during a court martial, and was stripped of rank and sentenced to life in prison. (DIS: "Battle at the Binary Stars")
USS Discovery Edit
After serving six months in prison, Burnham was transported via shuttlecraft to another facility at Tellun. The shuttle transporting them was disabled, but she and three other prisoners were rescued by the USS Discovery. Following orders by Captain Gabriel Lorca, she participated in a boarding party aboard the USS Glenn. Lorca then offered her to stay onboard Discovery, assuring her that her life sentence would not be a problem. Burnham began sharing quarters with Sylvia Tilly. (DIS: "Context Is for Kings")
Burnham was reassigned from the command division to the sciences division and allowed to wear a Starfleet uniform again, albeit without any rank or other insignia. Lorca assigned her to work on the tardigrade, which had been captured aboard the Glenn. In collaboration with Tilly and Paul Stamets she discovered the tardigrade's connection to the mycelial network, which enabled the full utilization of the spore drive in order to stop the Klingon Attack on Corvan II. (DIS: "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry")
In the following weeks, the Discovery used the spore drive several times; Burnham grew concerned with the effects of this usage on the tardigrade, which became weaker and seemed to be at great discomfort when utilized for the drive. After voicing her concerns to acting captain Saru, she was confined to quarters by him. Following the succesful mission to rescue Captain Lorca, she and Tilly released the tardigrade into space, where it regained its strength and travelled away. (DIS: "Choose Your Pain")
Philippa Georgiou Edit
Burnham and Philippa Georgiou almost had a mother–daughter relationship: After taking on Burnham as a member of her crew, Georgiou decided to take a chance on Burnham and made her First officer. From their first encounter, Philippa boosted Michael's self esteem, telling her that her confidence was justified, much to Michael's shock and complimenting her back. Over the course of seven years, they developed an extremely close relationship. Georgiou grew to trust Burnham, and while exploring with her in 2256, said she trusted her with her life. On a relatively primitive planet, the duo opened a well, and enabled the planet's residents to survive a coming 89-year drought.
Burnham warned Georgiou of her encounter with a Klingon, and with hesitation, Georgiou believed her and locked weaponry on the object. Starfleet ordered the Shenzhou to wait until reinforcements arrive. When Burnham recommended firing first against the Klingons, Georgiou refused. Burnham disabled Georgiou with a Vulcan nerve pinch and took command of the ship, ordering an attack on the Klingon vessel. Georgiou recovered in time to stop the attack. (DIS: "The Vulcan Hello")
Georgiou arrested and imprisoned Burnham for mutiny. However, she escaped the brig after telepathic encouragement from Sarek, and convinced Georgiou to take T'Kuvma hostage. Using an explosive sent to T'Kuvma's ship with a Klingon corpse as a distraction, the duo boarded the ship and attack. Burnham fought off Voq, but Georgiou was eventually killed during the Battle of the Binary Stars by T'Kuvma. Burnham was distraught, weeping at the loss of her friend and captain and becoming consumed with grief. Following her death, Burnham felt she was responsible for the death of her captain and friend, completely guilt-ridden. (DIS: "Battle at the Binary Stars")
Sarek and Burnham have a father-daughter relationship due to the fact that after her parents were killed, Sarek took Burnham as his ward. Afterwards, he helped her countless times whenever her judgement was clouded by her human emotions.(DIS: "The Vulcan Hello")
"Huh... and he knows you."
While serving with Saru aboard the Shenzhou, they were in near-constant disagreement in how to read and approach situations. (DIS: "The Vulcan Hello") Even after her mutiny, which came as a surprise to Saru, he still considered her a valuable asset and the smartest officer in Starfleet, but he was now afraid of her and considered her very dangerous. (DIS: "Context Is for Kings")
Key dates Edit
- 2226: Born on Earth
- 2245–2249: Attends the Vulcan Science Academy
- 2249: Assigned to the USS Shenzhou under the command of Captain Philippa Georgiou.
- Participates in the Battle of the Binary Stars. Abandons the Shenzhou with the remaining crew after the death of Captain Georgiou. Is later court martialed on charges of dereliction of duty, assaulting a fellow officer, and mutiny, which she pleads guilty to, leading to a loss of rank and a sentence of life imprisonment.
- Is assigned to USS Discovery on the behest of Captain Gabriel Lorca.
Memorable quotes Edit
"We come in peace, that's why we're here. Isn't that the whole idea of Starfleet?"
"Hey – I taught you that."
"From my youth on Vulcan, I was raised to believe that service was my purpose. And I carried that conviction to Starfleet. I dreamed of a day when I would command my own vessel, and further the noble objectives of this great institution. That dream is over. The only ship I know in ruins. My crew... gone. My captain... my friend. I wanted to protect them from war. From the enemy. And now we are at war... and I am the enemy."
Michael Burnham appears in:
Background information Edit
Burnham is not the first character to have been depicted as being adopted by Sarek; in the first draft script of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Sarek adopted a Vulcan male named Galt, who had been spying for the Klingons.
Burnham's backstory, involving her parents being killed in a terror raid by Klingons and she then being raised on an alien planet (i.e. Vulcan), also shares some similarities with Worf, whose father was killed in an attack by Romulans before he himself was likewise raised on an alien planet (i.e. Earth). This was pointed out to Executive Producer/Writer Aaron Harberts on After Trek: "O Discovery, Where Art Thou?", but he stated that he hadn't previously thought of the similarities between Burnham's backstory and that of Worf.
Burnham is the second of two main characters to be canonically portrayed as being recruited aboard a series' main starship immediately after serving time in prison; Tom Paris likewise joined the crew of the USS Voyager after serving time at New Zealand Penal Settlement.
Apparently Burnham never attended Starfleet Academy. She graduated from the Vulcan Science Academy in 2249 and was immediately assigned to the USS Shenzou.
In the Pocket DIS novel Desperate Hours, Burnham became first officer in 2255 following the promotion of the previous first officer, Sonnisar ch'Theloh (β), who left to accept a post as the commanding officer of the starship USS Tereshkova (β).