Star Trek Guide

Star Trek Discovery Theory: What Michael Has Done For One Year In The Future

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 2 - "Far From Home"

The ending ofStar Trek: Discovery season 3, episode 2, "Far From Home", reunited Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) with her lost crew aboard the U.S.S. Discovery but with a jaw-dropping twist: It's now the year 3189 and the Discovery arrived one year after Michael. Burnham, naturally, looked different from how Commander Saru (Doug Jones) and her friends last saw her, which to them was only about a day ago. But what has Michael been doing by herself in the 32nd century for a full year?

In Star Trek: Discovery's season 3 premiere, "That Hope Is You, Part 1", Michael emerged from a wormhole into the year 3188 and collided with a starship piloted by Cleveland "Book" Booker (David Ajala). They both crashed on the planet Hima and became uneasy allies as they sought dilithium from the Mercantile controlled by an alliance of Orions and Andorians. Meanwhile, Book revealed to Michael that the United Federation of Planets collapsed because of a cataclysm called the Burn, which destroyed the dilithium in the warp cores of every starship in the galaxy. Still, Book and Burnham were able to escape Hima and he took her to a derelict Federation relay station where they met a lone Starfleet liaison named Aditya Sahil (Adil Hussain). Burnham charged Mr. Sahil with the task of being her communications chief to search for the missing U.S.S. Discovery. In turn, Michael vowed to find the isolated pockets of the Federation scattered across the galaxy and reunite them.

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The fact that a year has passed for Michael is a huge swerve for Star Trek: Discovery season 3. This places Burnham in a position to have potentially seen much of the 32nd century and give her an infinitely deeper understanding of the state of the galaxy than her crewmates aboard the Discovery. There's also the question of how much one year without her friends and loved ones might have changed Michael beyond just the length of her new hairstyle. So what has Commander Burnham been up to for a year? Let's examine some possibilities.

Michael Joined The 32nd Century Starfleet

When Michael and Book met Mr. Sahil, he gave her a grim rundown of the state of the Federation and Starfleet. Both do still exist but they are shells of their former selves. The Burn also destroyed the Federation's relay stations, making long-range sensors inoperative beyond a few sectors. With a lack of warp-capable starships, this means most of the Federation has been isolated from each other and unable to even communicate for decades.

However, Mr. Sahil did note that there were two Starfleet ships operating in his sector. Rejoining Starfleet and coming aboard one of those starships would have been a logical choice for Commander Burnham. Although she would have a thousand years of knowledge to catch up on, Michael is still a highly-experienced officer and it sounds like Starfleet would need true believers like her. Still, if she did attempt to rejoin Starfleet, Michael would find the transition extremely difficult, and the 930-year difference between her and the Starfleet Officers of 3188 might be too much to overcome.

There's also the fact that Michael Burnham and the Discovery were expunged from Starfleet records by Spock (Ethan Peck) when they time jumped in 2257 in order to keep the secrets aboard Discovery safe. So it's more likely that Michael didn't attempt to become part of the current Starfleet and became a private operative. Although, luckily, Burnham isn't truly alone in the 32nd century since she made important friends in Book and Mr. Sahil.

Michael Returned To Vulcan

It's possible that Michael may have returned to Vulcan, which is the closest thing to a homeworld that she has. Michael was born on Earth but she was brought to space by her scientist parents at a young age and lived most of her early years on space stations. Michael's parents were killed by Klingon raiders on Doctari Alpha when she was 10 (although she later learned her mother was alive thanks to time-traveling as the Red Angel), and the orphaned girl was adopted by Ambassador Sarek (James Frain). Michael was then raised on Vulcan by Sarek and his human wife Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner) alongside their son Spock.

Michael excelled at quantum physics at the Vulcan Science Academy and she applied to join the Vulcan Expeditionary Group but they rejected her because she was human. Sarek then contacted Starfleet and placed Burnham aboard the U.S.S. Shenzhou under the guidance of Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), and Michael eventually rose to the rank of Commander and First Officer at the start of Star Trek: Discovery season 1.

Given her lack of options, it would be a logical decision for Michael to return to square one and attempt to reconnect with her Vulcan roots. While the Vulcans might not welcome her, Burnham would at least be curious about what became of Vulcan, and they very likely would have the answers she seeks about everything that happened in the 930 years that she missed. In Star Trek: Discovery season 3's trailer, Saru is shown meeting a Vulcan so perhaps Burnham made the introduction.

Michael Became A Courier Like Book

There are definitely sparks flying between Michael and Book. Given that he is the first friend that Burnham made in 3188, it would be logical for Michael to stick with him and join Book and his very large cat, Grudge, on his courier route aboard his starship. Flying at Book's side would also be an ideal way for Michael to experience the state of the galaxy and actively search for the Discovery, while Mr. Sahil remains on the relay station monitoring for signals of her lost starship and friends.

Book also offers an attractive, independent lifestyle for Michael, who was already beginning to question why she is always being "reflexively supportive" when the Orions and Andorians drugged her with hallucinogens on Hima. Michael is on the cusp of personal change, which is logical since she's now separated from her past mistakes by 930 years. And, without the Discovery, Michael is also free from the responsibilities of being a Starfleet Officer, and she can now reinvent herself. There's probably no better way to do that than by becoming a courier and Book's partner.

Michael May Have Solved The Galaxy's Dilithium Problem

Michael is also a brilliant scientist in her own right and she might have applied her formidable brainpower to solving the galaxy's dilithium problem. Not only does Burnham want to unify the remnants of the Federation and Starfleet, but she would also need to work out what happened that caused the Burn in the first place in order to prevent a reoccurrence of that catastrophe. And, if the Burn was a man-made event, Michael would want to learn who the culprit was.

As a quantum physicist and xenobiologist who is also the Science Officer aboard the U.S.S. Discovery, Commander Burnham is as good a candidate as any to solve the mystery of how the Burn affected the galaxy's dilithium. She would just need the resources to do the research. But if Michael did apply herself to this problem, it's quite possible she would have made significant headway or even developed a workaround in one-year's time.

In any case, Michael Burnham's one-year head start will be a big benefit to her mission when she reunites with her crew and starship in Star Trek: Discovery season 3, but it will also be fascinating to see how different Michael is from what her crewmates remember after one year in the 32nd century without them.

Star Trek: Discovery season 3 streams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Netflix.

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