Star Trek Guide

Star Trek Discovery: 10 Things About Burnham Every Fan Should Know

Since it first hit the airwaves in 1966, Star Trek has continued to expand the mythology of a future where mankind has become a utopian society that has joined alien races to explore the universe, seeking out new life and new civilizations. Starting with the adventures of the USS Enterprise under the command of Captain James Kirk and continuing through to Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Captain Kathryn Janeway, and Captain Benjamin Sisko, fans of Star Trek have seen over 100 years of the future across TV shows, movies, books, and comics.

With Star Trek: Enterprise, the early history of Starfleet was explored as viewers followed the story of Captain Jonathan Archer. And now, Star Trek: Discovery has been able to give the world a glimpse of the days a decade before Captain Kirk started his five-year mission and the state of the universe almost a thousand years later, bringing Star Trek to a future never before explored. And leading the way has been Commander Michael Burnham.

10 A Single Season Plan For Her Story

Brian Fuller, best known for creating Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, and the Hannibal TV series, started his career writing for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. When he first pitched Discovery, he saw the show as an anthology series, not unlike American Horror Story. Fuller's plan was to use each season to explore a different aspect of the Star Trek Universe, beginning with Michael Burnham, a main character the likes of which Star Trek had not seen before. Sadly, before filming even began on the first season, Fuller left the show to pursue American Gods.

9 A New Type of Hero For The Star Trek Franchise

Before he left, Fuller set up the intentions of the first season, including having a main character who stood out from the previous leads in the five previous Star Trek series. For Discovery, Fuller wanted to move away from having the captain of a ship - or in the case of Deep Space Nine a space station - and focus instead on a lower-level crewmember.

Fuller also knew he wanted the lead to be unlike any of the previous Star Trek leads that had come before, and so he and his writing team set out to build a new type of hero that would exist in the universe Gene Roddenberry's creation. Someone who would have connections to the past, but act as a bridge to the future. That character was Michael Burnham.

8 The Bangles Connection To Her Name

Bryan Fuller liked to give female characters names that are usually associated with men. On Pushing Daisies, Anna Friel's character went by Chuck, and in Wonderfalls, Fuller chose the name Jaye for his lead played by Caroline Dhavernas. In the Discovery writer's room, names were being pitched for the main character when executive producer Aaron Harberts suggested Michael. Harberts liked the name Michael and pointed to two women - a Chicago gossip columnist named Michael Sneed and Michael Steele, the bassist for the 1980s rock band The Bangels - as examples where the name worked. And with that, Michael Burnham had her name.

7 Sonequa Martain-Green Was Initially Unavailable For The Role But It Eventually Worked Out

The moment Sonequa Martin-Green auditioned for the role, everyone knew she was perfect to play Burnham. Martin-Green felt like the character was a perfect fit for her as well, and wanted to take on the role, but there was a problem; scheduling. Sonequa Martin-Green had already accepted a job that would take her off the table during the planned shooting schedule for Discovery.

The production team of Discovery continued to look for an actress to play Burnham, but when the show's filming schedule was pushed back, it opened the door for Sonequa Martin-Green to take the role, and the rest is Star Trek history.

6 The Girl Who Made The Stars

Born on Earth in the year 2226, Michael Burnham Jr. is the daughter of Mike and Gabrielle Burnham. Not long after her birth, Michael and her parents moved to a space station before being stationed on Doctari Alpha where Michael's parents worked on a top-secret project for Section 31.

Just days before the Burnhams were supposed to vacation to Mars, Doctari Alpha was attacked by Klingons. Both of Burnham's parents were seemingly killed in the attack, leaving the young girl an orphan. Hiding in a cabinet, Michael listened as a group of Klingons, after killing her parents, sat down and ate the dinner that was meant for the family. This moment would leave Michael with a deep hatred for Klingons.

5 The Logical Step-Sister Of Spock

Following the attack on Doctari Alpha, Michael was adopted by the Vulcan Sarek and his human wife Amanda Grayson. Previously an only child, Michael now found herself acting as the older sister to a young boy named Spock. While she is human, Michael was raised in the ways of the Vulcans, meaning that she learned to repress her emotions and make her decisions based on logic.

Life on Vulcan was not easy for Michael. Vulcan logic extremists who believed that having a human attending the Vulcan Learning Center was sacrilegious attempted to kill the young girl, and they nearly succeeded. Fearing that her presence put her family in anger, Michael ran away, but Spock was able to find her thanks to a red angel that appeared to him.

4 The Missing Brother

Discovery seems to have left out one of the other members of Spock's family, his half-brother Sybok. The son of Sarek and a Vulcan princess, Sybok is not mentioned on the show when Burnham's past was explored, but the series made sure to leave some space for Spock's evil brother to still fit into the overall mythology of Star Trek. And while there have been some questions as to why Spock never mentioned his foster sister to Captain Kirk, Star Trek: The Original Series and the movies have shown that Spock does not talk about his family with others. When Kirk first met Sarek, he didn't even know he was talking to Spock's father.

3 Charged & Convicted Of A Historic Mutiny

Every main character in the Star Trek universe is famous for something. Archer is the captain of the first starship built by the United Earth and helped build the United Federation of Planets. Kirk was the first cadet to ever beat the Kobayashi Maru test at Starfleet Academy. Picard saved Earth from a Borg attack and all but destroyed the cybernetic race. Sisko protected the Bajoran wormhole and put an end to the Dominion War. Janeway was the first captain to successfully traverse the Delta Quadrant.

For Michael Burnham, her moment of history came when she became the first member of Starfleet to be charged and convicted of mutiny following her decision to ignore the orders of her captain and take over the USS Shenzhou in order to attack a Klingon ship, starting a war between the Federation and the Klingons.

2 Ending The War She Started

For her mutinous actions, Burnham was sentenced to life in prison but was given a second chance as a crew member of the USS Discovery, a top-secret science vessel that tested new technology for Starfleet, including the experimental spore drive that allowed the ship to travel across the universe in the blink of an eye.

Along with her crewmates on the Discovery, Burnham played a major role in ending the Federation-Klingon War by planing a planet-destroying bomb on the Klingon homeworld of Qo'nos and threatening to destroy the world unless all fighting ceased.

1 The Time Traveler's Daughter

While Burnham had grown up believing that Klingons killed both of her parents, the truth was that her mother used an experimental suit to travel into the future and survive the attack. Attempting to return to her own time and save all of existence from Control - an AI system created by Section 31 that would destroy all organic life - Michael's mother started to appear across the universe as "The Red Angel" leaving behind a burst of red energy that would lead the Discovery crew to important moments in Control's growth in order to destroy it. In order to save all organic life, Michael and the crew of Discovery chose to contain Control on the ship and travel nearly a thousand years into the future where the AI could be destroyed.

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