Star Trek Guide

Hold On, Where Is Michael Burnham In Star Trek's Kelvin Timeline?

Where is Star Trek: Discovery's Michael Burnham in the Kelvin Timeline? J.J. Abrams' reboot movie trilogy is set in an alternate reality from Star Trek's Prime Universe. In 2009's Star Trek, a 24th century Romulan named Nero time-traveled to the 23rd century to prevent the destruction of Romulus; when he arrived, Nero's ship destroyed the U.S.S. Kelvin, which caused the death of George Kirk, the father of James T. Kirk. This incident in 2233 created an alternate timeline where many key events in Star Trek happened nearly a decade earlier than they do in the original universe. But how does the Kelvin timeline affect Michael Burnham?

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The lead character of Star Trek: Discovery, Michael Burnham was Starfleet's first mutineer who ignited the Klingon War of 2256/2257. Michael's redemption was the focal point of Star Trek: Discovery season 1 and fans learned she was orphaned when Klingons murdered her parents when she was ten. Michael was adopted by Ambassador Sarek and she was raised with Spock as her adoptive brother on Vulcan. Burnham joined Starfleet instead and by 2256, Michael rose to the rank of Commander and First Officer of the U.S.S. Shenzhou before she ignited the Klingon War. Since then, Michael has served on the U.S.S. Discovery as a Specialist and Science Officer; after she helped end the Klingon War, Michael regained her rank of Commander. At the end of Star Trek: Discovery season 2, Michael led her starship and crew to the 32nd century and they were redacted from Starfleet's records.

Production on Star Trek: Discovery began in early 2016 and Star Trek Beyond, the third film produced by J.J. Abrams, hit theaters that summer, meaning Michael Burnham's place in the Kelvin timeline was likely never discussed. However, Michael must exist in the Kelvin timeline because she was born in 2226, seven years before the divergence point that created the alternate reality in 2233. In the Kelvin timeline, James T. Kirk became Captain of the Enterprise in 2257, nine years sooner than he does in the Prime Universe, with J.J. Abrams' trilogy takes place between 2257 and 2263. This is the same time period in the Prime Timeline where Michael's Star Trek: Discovery adventures would have happened. However, there's no evidence the Klingon War of 2256/2257 took place. So, how closely does Michael's life in the Kelvin universe mirror her life in the Prime universe?

It's possible for Michael's Kelvin life to equal or approximate her life in Star Trek: Discovery. In Star Trek 2009, there was a snippet of Spock's childhood and his relationship with his human mother Amanda Greyson; though Spock never mentioned having an adopted human sister, Michael could still be retconned into Spock's past just as she was in the Prime universe (assuming, of course, her Kelvin parents were also killed by Klingons in 2236). If Michael were raised on Vulcan in the Kelvin timeline, she could have still joined Starfleet. And, because Section 31 exists in the Kelvin timeline (as seen in Star Trek Into Darkness), it's possible Michael's mother Gabrielle could have also become the Red Angel and traveled to the future in the alternate reality as well.

Michael would have likely been impacted by Nero's destruction of Vulcan in 2257. If the Klingon War never took place, the Shenzhou could have been one of the Starfleet ships wiped out by Nero at the Battle of Vulcan - meaning Michael (and Georgiou) could have perished there. However, if Michael's Kelvin life hews as closely to the events of Star Trek: Discovery as possible, then somehow a Mirror version of Gabriel Lorca became Captain of the Discovery and recruited Michael as part of his plan to conquer the Mirror Universe in 2256. If that happened, then a portion of the events of Star Trek: Discovery season 1 could still occur in a somewhat similar fashion in the Kelvin timeline.

Star Trek: Discovery season 2's Red Angel story gets more complicated in the Kelvin timeline because there's also no evidence Section 31's Control A.I. tried to wipe out all organic life in the universe, but if that did transpire, then it's possible Captain Pike of the Kelvin universe took command of the Discovery just as he does in the Prime universe (since Pike is on Earth at Starfleet Academy). But if Star Trek: Discovery season 2's events took place after the events of Star Trek 2009, then it would make more sense for Captain Kirk could have taken temporary command of the Discovery to find the seven red signals in space and a variation of the team-up with the Starship Enterprise took place to stop Control.

As for whether Michael leads the Discovery into the 32nd century in the Kelvin timeline - who knows? Ultimately, there are too many variables and divergences for Burnham's Kelvin life to perfectly mirror her Prime universe story in Star Trek: Discovery.