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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
For for the namesake of this episode, please see Vulcan Hello.

While patrolling Federation space, the USS Shenzhou encounters an object of unknown origin, putting First Officer Michael Burnham to her greatest test yet. (Series premiere)

Summary Edit

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Teaser Edit

A Klingon is speaking in a large chamber full of other Klingons. He says that the Klingons have lost their way, and forgotten the Unforgettable: Kahless, and the traditions of honor and glory he set down for them to follow. He mentions the lighting of a beacon, and the need to reunite the Houses and save themselves from an impending threat: an enemy that says "We come in peace" (the Federation, as he says this last phrase in English for emphasis).

Captain Philippa Georgiou and Commander Michael Burnham are on a desert planet attempting to locate a well that has run dry due to radiation from a meteor mining accident. A large storm is brewing overhead. Burnham predicts that an 89-year drought is imminent, and the (presumably pre-warp) non-humanoid species who inhabit the world – the Crepusculans – are facing extinction if they lose their water supply. Their goal is to repair the well and have the USS Shenzhou pick them up undetected, thereby avoiding a violation of Starfleet General Order 1. After walking past a group of egg sacs and eventually locating their objective, Captain Georgiou discharges a type 3 phaser into the well, shifting the water table and allowing water to reemerge from the well in a large geyser. At this point, two natives are visible watching from atop a plateau, and a third is shown crawling along the ground with octopus-like tendrils, seemingly unseen by the two Humans. The pair realize the gathering storm is preventing a transporter lock at their current location, so they begin to walk across the desert, discussing Burnham's future career. Soon the Shenzhou is shown breaking through the storm clouds, and transports them up to the ship. A bird's-eye-view glimpse of the desert reveals that the captain used their footprints to create a Starfleet insignia visible from overhead, allowing them to be located.

Act One Edit

Georgiou and Burnham on Crepusculan homeworld

Georgiou and Burnham on the Crepusculan homeworld

"First officer's log, stardate 1207.3. On Earth, it's May 11, 2256, a Sunday. The crew of the USS Shenzhou has been called to the edge of Federation space to investigate damage done to one of our interstellar relays. Blast burns around the hole are inconclusive. Were they caused by an asteroid, or was it deliberately destroyed to limit Starfleet communications? And if so, by whom? Despite the risks of our mission, I remain optimistic. It's hard not to be in the face of such beauty – in this case, a binary star system. Around these two suns, ice, dust, and gasses collide to form planets future generations will call home. A humbling reminder that all life is born from chaos and destruction."

The stardate is 1207.3, or May 11, 2256 in Earth terminology. The Shenzhou has responded to a signal from a damaged relay and arrives in order to make repairs. The relay is located in a region of space in close proximity to a binary star system in a state of stellar collision, and the collision has created a large debris field. Science Officer Saru believes that the relay was intentionally damaged. He picks up a signal from an anomaly in the debris field, but the object is somehow creating a scattering field, and deflecting their attempts to scan it. First Officer Burnham convinces Captain Georgiou to allow her to approach the object with a thruster pack, since the debris is too dense for a transporter lock or a shuttlepod. The large quantity of radiation in the area limits her space walk to twenty minutes. The debris field also has the potential to disrupt communications from the ship. Commander Burnham uses the thruster pack to travel the two thousand kilometers to the anomaly without incident, but communication to the Shenzhou is disrupted. Burnham floats over to the source of the scattering field, and realizes it is not a normal part of the debris field, but an a intricately-designed, sculpture-like object. As Burnham explores the object, she comes across a platform-like area with ten minutes left on her mission clock. The proximity sensor on her environmental suit is abruptly activated, and she finds herself standing across from a Klingon. As she attempts to make contact, the Klingon swings a bat'leth at her. She manages to activate her thrusters at a crucial moment, driving one side of the bat'leth through the Klingon's suit and body, impaling the Klingon and pushing it away from the platform. While this is happening, the Shenzhou is still unable to establish contact with Burnham.

Act Two Edit

In the Klingons' chamber, the body of the warrior killed by Burnham lies in a sarcophagus in the center. It is revealed that the anomaly investigated by Shenzhou is the "sacred beacon" placed by these Klingons. The body of the dead Klingon floats out of the chamber and into space. It comes to rest at a mausoleum-like area, which is open to space and already populated with many sarcophagi.

Unconscious, Burnham recalls her childhood at the Vulcan Learning Center. There, a computer system quizzes her rapidly on various Klingon and Starfleet-related facts. She becomes overwhelmed by video of a particular Klingon attack and pauses the computer program. Her mentor, a Vulcan named Sarek, arrives and lectures her on the importance of logic over emotion.

Commander Burnham wakes up in a medical pod covered in wounds. She is told that three hours have elapsed since she was rescued from the object, and she terminates the medical pod's anti-radiation procedure prematurely and climbs out. She makes her way to the bridge and notifies her crewmembers about the Klingon she encountered, but they are skeptical. She recounts what happened earlier to Captain Georgiou, and Saru suggests that she is confused due to suffering a concussion and tells her to return to sickbay. Georgiou believes her and locks on to what turns out to be a cloaked Klingon vessel. As soon as the weapons lock is initiated, the Klingon ship appears, seemingly from nowhere. The Shenzhou attempts to hail the Klingon vessel, but the Klingons ignore them and discuss a prophecy and reiterate the need to "light the beacon," now referred to as the "Light of Kahless." A light-skinned Klingon volunteers to light the beacon, but he is rebuffed by the assumed leader and told that since he doesn't belong to a Great House, he is unworthy for such a task. The light-skinned Klingon assures the leader of his faith and places his hand over an open flame and holds it there, causing severe burns yet leaving the Klingon unfazed. This act seems to change the demeanor of the leader, and he hands over his bat'leth to the the light-skinned Klingon and names him Torchbearer. As this is happening, a report comes in showing movement on long range sensors, which seems to fulfill a prediction made by the leader at an earlier time.

Act ThreeEdit

On the Shenzhou, scans of the Klingon flagship show it is covered in the sarcophagus-like coffins. Starfleet orders the ship to hold position and take no action until reinforcements arrive. Captain Georgiou is concerned that Shenzhou is currently the only line of defense between the Klingons and an Andorian colony.

Act FourEdit

An ear-piercing electromagnetic signal abruptly permeates through the ship and causes the crew extreme discomfort until they manage to filter it out. Commander Burnham opens a subspace channel to the Vulcan Sarek. They discuss the unusual behavior of the Klingons and come to the conclusion that some new leader is causing change within the Klingon Empire. Sarek also alludes to a dark incident in Commander Burnham's past. After finishing her conversation with Sarek, Burnham recommends to the captain that the Shenzhou attack the Klingon ship. She justifies her opinion by pointing out that the Vulcans have used preemptive strikes in the past to meet threats from the Klingons. The captain and commander descend into argument about the Federation's ideals and what would be the moral and right course of action in this situation. After Captain Georgiou orders Commander Burnham to stand down, Burnham disables the captain with a Vulcan nerve pinch. She then takes command of the ship and orders an attack on the Klingon vessel, while lying to the crew about the whereabouts of the Captain. She orders the attack over the objections of Saru and orders the weapons fired but Georgiou re-enters the bridge and orders that Burnham's orders be belayed. She trains a phaser on her Number One and orders her to stand down. Burnham desperately tries to plead with Georgiou that she is trying to save the crew's lives. Before anyone can react, the beacon from the Klingon vessel diminishes and the sensors pick up a series of warp signatures on an intercept course. Georgiou inquires if it is Starfleet arriving but Burnham quickly realizes it is the Klingons, who take up position against the Shenzhou and have them greatly outnumbered.

Memorable quotes Edit

"(in Klingonese) They are coming. Atom by atom, they will coil around us and take all that we are. There is one way to confront this threat. By reuniting the twenty-four warring houses of our own empire. We have forgotten the Unforgettable, the last to unify our tribes: Kahless. Together, under one creed, remain Klingon! That is why we light our beacon this day. To assemble our people. To lock arms against those whose fatal greeting is... (in English) we come in peace."

- T'Kuvma's speech to his followers
- This was the very first line of the series.


"We come in peace, that's why we're here. Isn't that the whole idea of Starfleet?"
"Hey – I taught you that."

- Michael Burnham and Philippa Georgiou, while on the Crepusculan's homeworld


"Saru's Kelpien. He thinks everything's malicious."

- Georgiou, on her science officer


"Despite the first officer's constant need to dismiss my ideas..."
"She apparently agrees with you."
"Really?"

- Saru and Georgiou, on the bridge of the Shenzhou


"Ensign Connor, agreement between my senior officers. Note the date and time."
"Noted, captain."

- Georgiou and Connor


"When emotion brings us ghosts from the past, only logic can root us in the present."

- Sarek

Log entries Edit

"First officer's log, stardate 1207.3. On Earth, it's May 11, 2256, a Sunday. The crew of the USS Shenzhou has been called to the edge of Federation space to investigate damage done to one of our interstellar relays. Blast burns around the hole are inconclusive. Were they caused by an asteroid, or was it deliberately destroyed to limit Starfleet communications? And if so, by whom? Despite the risks of our mission, I remain optimistic. It's hard not to be in the face of such beauty – in this case, a binary star system. Around these two suns, ice, dust, and gasses collide to form planets future generations will call home. A humbling reminder that all life is born from chaos and destruction."

Background information Edit

Format Edit

  • This is the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery, which is the first ever series where an episode title was not seen at the beginning of act one, and the first series premiere since "Beyond the Farthest Star" to not be a feature-length episode, the episode ending with a cliffhanger instead.
  • According to Aaron Harberts in After Trek: "Episode 1", "The Vulcan Hello" and the following episode, "Battle at the Binary Stars", form a "prologue" of sorts, with the third episode, DIS: "Context Is for Kings", being the "pilot". In pre-recorded interview footage from the same episode of After Trek, however, Director David Semel referred to this episode as "the Star Trek pilot." Star Trek author Christopher L. Bennett pointed that neither episode is technically a pilot and that "the first episode is just a premiere." [1]

Story and script Edit

  • When David Mack was asked to start work on writing the first DIS tie-in novel to be published (which ultimately became Mack's novel Desperate Hours), this installment was still in very early development. Mack commented, "They had not settled on what the pilot episode was going to be." [2] Although Michael Burnham's formative years on Vulcan and the attack on Doctari Alpha were initially to have been featured in the novel, the writing staff of DIS decided that they wanted to keep these ideas for the TV series. "They also weren't a hundred percent sure where they wanted them to go yet," recalled Mack. This was while Bryan Fuller, who was ultimately credited on-screen for co-writing both the story and teleplay of this episode, was still involved in conceiving the series. [3]
  • Early script drafts included very few character names or descriptions for the Shenzhou bridge crew. None of the preliminary concept drafts of the script were shown to author David Mack, though he did see production drafts of the teleplay once they had been approved by the studio and were being prepared for production. Even the first three or four drafts of those had many of the Shenzhou's bridge officers still unnamed; although Philippa Georgiou, Michael Burnham, and Saru were already named, the rest of the officers were referred to merely by their duty station. Recalled Mack, "I thought, 'Wow. Okay. In the TV show, to a certain degree, you can get away with that.'" However, because he had been assigned to pen the first DIS tie-in novel (the aforementioned Desperate Hours), Mack, with Kirsten Beyer's permission, invented a couple of those character names, which ended up being used in the actual episode too, as well as backstories for the characters, writing these up as a series of biographies. Influences on this work included production materials and the casting process. [4] Names Mack invented that were used in the episode include "Keyla Detmer", "Kamran Gant", and "Troy Januzzi". [5]

Cast Edit

Preproduction Edit

Crepusculan homeworld concept art

Concept art for the teaser of this episode

  • The spacewalk sequence was planned out in storyboards. [8] Many months prior to filming that scene, previz footage of it – essentially animation of how the sequence should basically look – started to be designed too. While filming was in progress, Director David Semel described planning the sequence; "It's really been about descriptively breaking it down from shot to shot, moment to moment. The sophistication of previz these days is so specific that it really helps [...] all of us, frankly, to envision what it's going to be." (After Trek: "Episode 1")

Production Edit

  • This is the first live-action episode of Star Trek since TOS: "Turnabout Intruder" to be produced with no involvement by Rick Berman.
  • During preproduction, Bryan Fuller and CBS Studios clashed over who should direct this episode. Whereas CBS opted for David Semel, Fuller felt he wasn't the right person for the job and instead approached multiple alternative directors, including Edgar Wright. Ultimately, CBS hired Semel against Fuller's wishes. (Entertainment Weekly, issue 1476, p. 26)
  • The scenes set on the Crepusculan homeworld were filmed in Jordan.
The Vulcan Hello greenscreen

Greenscreen filming of Michael Burnham's confrontation with Torchbearer Rejac

  • The spacewalk sequence was shot using green screen and wire work at Paramount Stage 16. This method of capturing the necessary footage called for Burnham actress Sonequa Martin-Green to imagine what Burnham was seeing instead of the green screen. For some of the footage, Martin-Green's stunt double Linda Jewell played Burnham. The Klingon torchbearer was also a practical element of the shoot, played by an actual performer. VFX Supervisor Jason Zimmerman considered the stunt team essential for achieving the sequence, the previz footage of which was displayed on the green screen stage during the filming. From the previz, Stunt Coordinator Joel Kramer recreated every shot using whatever equipment was needed, including wire rigs, which supported the performers playing Burnham from above, and parallelograms, on which Martin-Queen had to stand, though she had never been on a parallelogram before. The production crew had to create and use a wire system that adjusted to facilitate the shooting of a shot that would depict Burnham landing at a steep angle on the Klingon beacon. For the spaceflight footage, Semel imagined Burnham as though she was a deep-sea diver examining a reef. Although the performer was hanging from wires, the stunt crew had to make Burnham look as if she was neutrally balanced in a zero-g environment, with the thrusters on her jet pack dictating every move, rather than have her seeming basically like a puppet. Wearing the jet pack and a harness wasn't easy. Even so, Martin-Green, and the production crew in general, had a lot of fun shooting the sequence. (After Trek: "Episode 1")

Music and sound Edit

Continuity Edit

  • This was the first episode to establish that there are twenty-four great Klingon houses.
  • This was the first Star Trek episode to depict both a female captain and a female first officer serving aboard the same ship as each other. (After Trek: "Episode 1")
  • Burnham states the stardate in her log, then notes that, on Earth, it is "May 11, 2256; a Sunday" – which is the correct day of the week in advance calendars.
  • Given that the episode opens on May 11, 2256, it can be extrapolated that this episode chronologically takes place 101 years, 3 months, and 19 days after the events of ENT: "Terra Prime", the second most recent television episode prior to air to this installment (the most recent having been ENT series finale "These Are the Voyages...", which is technically set in 2370 but also features holodeck footage set in 2161).
  • The quotation Burnham cannot cite, "Sculptures are crystallized spirituality," is actually a paraphrase of a quote by Amos Bronson Alcott, which reads, "Madame de Staël pronounced architecture to be frozen music; so is statuary crystallized spirituality." [10]
  • While the Klingon death ritual in this episode has some new elements to it, the long-established death howl makes an appearance during Rejac's funeral: the Klingons gathered for the funeral howl not out of grief, but to warn the honored ancestors in Sto-vo-kor that a worthy Klingon warrior is coming to join them. The death howl was first established in TNG: "Heart of Glory".
  • The flashbacks in this episode serve as a prelude.
  • Although this episode includes some footage of Sarek set chronologically earlier than his first appearance in TOS: "Journey to Babel", this is not the first episode to do so. In-universe, young versions of the character also appeared in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and TAS: "Yesteryear".
  • Like previous spin-off premieres, the new crew of Discovery was sent off by a character who made a crossover from a previous role; in this case, Sarek returned, having previously appeared in numerous Star Trek episodes and films. Unlike most previous spin-off premieres, Sarek was not a main character from a series that directly preceded the new series. In the previous cases, Doctor McCoy was seen briefly in the Star Trek: The Next Generation pilot, "Encounter at Farpoint"; Captain Jean-Luc Picard appeared in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine pilot, "Emissary"; and Quark had a cameo appearance in the Star Trek: Voyager pilot, "Caretaker", in which DS9 recurring characters Morn and Broik also appeared. Zefram Cochrane had an uncredited cameo appearance in the Star Trek: Enterprise pilot, "Broken Bow", though he (like Sarek in this episode) did not appear in the preceding series, Star Trek: Voyager.
  • Michael Burnham desperately attempting to persuade the commanding officer and crew of the USS Shenzhou of the presence of malevolent Klingons, when Burnham is the only member of the ship's crew to be aware of this, is similar to James T. Kirk desperately attempting, in the film Star Trek, to persuade the commanding officer and crew of the USS Enterprise of the presence of malevolent Romulans, when Kirk is the only member of the ship's crew to be aware of this. Both Burnham and Kirk are recovering from a physical ailment while trying to present the information, and both of their commanding officers, Georgiou and Christopher Pike respectively, are initially doubtful of the news.
  • Multiple characters state Starfleet has barely had any contact with the Klingons for a century, there only having been fleeting run-ins. On one hand, this matches with the Klingons rather heavily interacting with Starfleet during Star Trek: Enterprise, which was almost exactly one hundred years before Star Trek: Discovery. It is currently unclear as to whether this was coincidental or if the Klingons entered into an extended period of isolationism, though the era featured the events of ENT: "Divergence" and the founding of the Federation, two events which might have potentially had a big impact on empire. On the other hand, it does not track well with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II", which establish "almost 70 years of unremitting hostility" between the Federation and the Klingon Empire starting in 2223.
  • Starfleet ships are shown to be still armed with phase cannons, even after phasers have been developed, as phase cannons are ordered to be locked on the Klingon ship. It's not known if the USS Shenzhou was armed with phasers as well, like the USS Discovery, which is armed with both phase cannons and phasers, as seen in "Context Is for Kings".
  • Captain Georgiou ordering that Starfleet be informed, "We have engaged the Klingons," resembles Captain Picard ordering that Starfleet be informed, "We have engaged the Borg," in TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds".
  • As Burnham subsequently relays to Georgiou, Sarek explains that the disastrous first contact between Vulcans and Klingons occurred 240 years ago in the H'atoria system. That system was previously mentioned in TNG: "All Good Things..." as the site of a small Klingon colony near Federation space. In the alternate future timeline seen in that series finale, Worf had become governor of the colony.
  • The scene in which Burnham renders Georgiou unconscious with a Vulcan nerve pinch is not the first time a non-Vulcan has used the technique. Other people who managed to employ a Vulcan nerve pinch include Humans Jonathan Archer (in ENT: "Kir'Shara") and Jean-Luc Picard (in TNG: "Starship Mine"), as well as the android Data (in Star Trek Nemesis), the Changeling Odo (in DS9: "Paradise Lost"), and reclaimed Borg drone Seven of Nine (in VOY: "The Raven").
  • This episode leads directly into the next episode, "Battle at the Binary Stars".

Reception and aftermath Edit

  • After Trek "Episode 1" discusses the making of, and events in, this episode.
  • In the UK, TV listings magazine TV & Satellite Week (23-29 Sept 2017 issue, p. 53) included a one-sentence synopsis of "the first weekly episode" of DIS, which the magazine erroneously claimed would be about "a human trying to save the Vulcans."
  • The CBS airing (and, in Canada, the CTV airing), originally scheduled for 8:30 pm US Eastern Time, started nineteen minutes late due to an overrunning NFL game. [11]
  • This episode is rated TV-14, even though the series as a whole is rated TV-MA.
  • Overnight ratings for the episode estimated that it reached 8.2 million total viewers, getting a 1.6 rating in the Adult 18-49 demographic. [12] Adjusted for the delayed start, the broadcast rated 9.6 million viewers and a 1.9 rating. [13]
  • Immediately after this episode debuted, "Battle at the Binary Stars" was additionally released.
  • This episode, along with its follow-up, "Battle at the Binary Stars", is the first Star Trek series debut story to not be adapted in literary form.

Production history Edit

Links and references Edit

Starring Edit

and

Special guest star Edit

Guest starring Edit

Co-starring Edit

Uncredited co-stars Edit

Stand-ins Edit

References Edit

13th century; 2016; 2249; 2256; 2345; accretion disk; acute radiation syndrome; Advanced Interstellar Combat; Alkaid; Alioth; Andoria; Andorian; antiproton chamber; atom; away team; Battle of the Binary Stars; Black Fleet; blood; blood pressure; captain; chain of command; Chateau Picard; chief science officer; cloaking screen; commander; communication module; communicator; coffin; concussion; course; Crepusculan; Crepusculan homeworld; crusade; crystal; data collection unit; debris field; Department of Foreign Studies; desert; DNA; Doctari Alpha; drought; Dubhe; Eagle-12; egg sac; Europa, USS; exoskeleton; extinction; eye; fable; family blade; Flight 819; food chain; footprints; funeral; Gamma Hydra; General Order 1; genetic unspooling; goggles; H'atoria; headlamp; hologram; hour; iconography; IDIC; internal sensor; interstellar relay; Kahless; Kelpien; Kelpien homeworld; Klingon; Klingon Empire; Klingon Houses; Klingon language; Laikan Military Academy; lieutenant; livestock; long range sensor scan; lumen; map; Megrez; meteor; minute; Mizar; mutiny; nanosecond; nitrogen; noodle; number one; optical processor; oxygen; phase cannon; plasmatic filters; president; privacy; proximity alert; Qo'noS; quantum efficiency spectrum; radiation; San Francisco Fleet Yards; Sarcophagus; scattering field; sculpture; second; sensor dead zone; Shenzhou, USS; Sol III; species; species map; spirituality; star; Star Cross; Starfleet; Starfleet Command; stealth mode; storm; subspace antenna; Sunday; superstructure; sympathetic vibration; telescope; three-dimensional chess; thruster pack; thunder; torchbearer; tractor beam; tribe; tricorder; type 3 phaser; United Federation of Planets; voiceprint; Vulcan; Vulcan; Vulcan Hello; Vulcan nerve pinch; Vulcan starship; Walker-class; warrior caste; water; water table; well; xenoanthropologist; year

Georgiou's bookshelf: All Our Yesterdays; Amok Time; Balance of Terror; By Any Other Name; Cage, The; City on the Edge of Forever, The; Deadly Years, The; Empath, The; Mark of Gideon, The; Metamorphosis; Mirror, Mirror; Omega Glory, The; Patterns of Force; Plato's Stepchildren; Return to Tomorrow; That Which Survives; Trouble with Tribbles, The; Way to Eden, The; Whom Gods Destroy

USS Shenzhou dedication plaque:

External links Edit


Previous episode:
First episode in series
Star Trek: Discovery
Season 1
Next episode:
"Battle at the Binary Stars"