Burnham awakes. Georgiou sits in front of her, cradling her arm, a bloody bandage wrapped around her shoulder. They’re both sat on the hard metal floor of a prison cell, formed out of the same dull bronze as the rest of the Klingon installation. On the other side of the bars there is a large hall, filled with burning torches and a whole host of Klingons.
“Philippa, your arm!”
Burnham struggles to get to her feet, but Georgiou raises her hand to stay her. “Sit down, Michael. You were concussed. I’m fine, the Klingons stapled the wound.”
“You’re not fine, Captain, you need medical treatment.” She groans and gently massages her head. “As do I, it seems. How long was I out?”
“About ten minutes. The same Klingon that treated me used some kind of device on your head. I think it was to treat your concussion.”
“It feels like they spun my brain around in a centrifuge.”
Georgiou smirks. “I imagine it would be more suited for Klingon brains.”
“They kept us alive,” Burnham ponders, “but they killed Tallman. What do they want with us?”
“That’s a good question. If you speak Klingon you could ask them.”
“Well, if I had a communicator,” Burnham says, “I could use the universal translator. Of course, if I had a communicator I could have contacted Detmer and gotten you out of here already.”
“Assuming Detmer is still able to receive. Besides,” Georgiou says, glancing at the Klingons near the cell door, “I’m sure the guards would confiscate any equipment. Which is why I’m waiting for them to get distracted.”
“Distracted? Why, do you have some way of getting out of here?”
“To paraphrase your father again,” Georgiou says, smiling, “I like to think that there are always possibilities.”
Burnham raises an eyebrow. “You know, it wasn’t actually my father who first said that.”
In the expansive Klingon hangar bay, Detmer sits on the boarding ramp of the shuttle, casually leaning against the side wall. Furlan stands on watch on the hangar floor, phaser in hand.
Detmer picks at a loose thread on her uniform. “It’s been twenty minutes. Do you think we should contact them, or…?”
Furlan keeps his gaze on the internal entrance to the hangar as he answers her. “They’ll contact us if they need to. Just stay alert.”
Behind them both, in front of the shuttle, a small hatch in the floor slides open silently. A lithe Klingon warrior slips out, followed by another, and then a third. They draw daggers, and slowly, quietly, creep towards the shuttle.
“Did you hear they’re developing a new BT-16?” Detmer asks. “They say it’s going to be quite the thing to see. I’ll bet that baby flies like a humming bird.”
Furlan roles his eyes. Behind him, the three Klingons continue to creep toward the shuttle. Ahead of him, in the corridor to the hangar, a full squad of Klingon warriors lurk out of sight, firearms in hand. The leader peeks out around the bulkhead, holds his hand out to steady the squad.
Detmer raps her fingers on the metal floor of the shuttle. “Have you ever flown the old version? It was great, you could turn that thing on the head of a pin, but the rear thrusters used to burn out all the time, it was a pain in the-”
As one of the Klingons behind her nears the shuttle, alarms sound, and the voice of the shuttle computer calls out “Proximity Warning! Proximity Warning!” Lights flash inside the shuttle.
Detmer starts, and tumbles back inside the craft, whilst Furlan spins on his heels. As he sees the three armed assailants heading towards him, he looses phaser bolts at them, dropping two. The third charges him, but he gets his phaser to bear and lands a shot in the centre of its chest.
Behind him, the squad of Klingons in the corridor flood into the hangar, loosing off energy blasts from their weapons. Furlan hunkers down and dashes into the shuttle. “Get her in the air!” he shouts, “get us out of here!” He hammers the door control, and the ramp swings up behind him. Klingon weapons fire strikes all over the shuttle.
Detmer hyperventilates as she hurries towards the controls. “Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.” She makes it to the seat and starts tapping commands into the console. “Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.” Klingon disruptor bolts scorch the window next to her. “Crapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrap,”
“Detmer!” Furlan shouts, “Breathe! And then get us the hell out of here already!”
Detmer glares back at him angrily, then activates the engines.
The shuttle lifts off the deck. Its engines flare and it rockets away from the advancing Klingons and out into space.
In the cell, Burnham sits, defeated, with her back against the wall. “Go on then, Captain, what do you have up your sleeve?”
“Nothing up my sleeve,” Georgiou says, pulling her sleeve back to prove her point. “See?”
“Well, then how do we get out of here?” Burnham presses.
Georgiou shrugs, then grimaces at the pain in her shoulder. “Just wait.”
Outside the cell, in the main hall, there’s a disturbance. The Klingon squad leader from the hangar storms in, shouting in the incomprehensible Klingon language. The other Klingons, including the guards, turn to watch as the squad leader marches up to an impressive-looking Klingon male, adorned in regal, black armour armour.
“We didn’t have to wait too long,” Georgiou says. She slams the heel of her foot into the floor, hard, but the guards don’t notice. On the edge of the sole of her boot, a panel pops free. She hooks her finger into the gap and slides out a small, compact electronic unit.
Burnham watches with interest. “A communicator?”
“I modified it myself,” Georgiou explains. “Shorter range, had to remove one of the power packs, but it works.”
“Contact the shuttle,” Burnham insists, “we have to get out of here.”
“We have to remember our mission,” Georgiou says. “We need to figure out what’s going on here.” She adjusts some of the controls on the slimline communicator.
The Klingons start clamouring, shouting in protest at the black-armoured chieftan in the middle of the hall. He raises his arms to silence them, and begins speaking himself. As Georgiou adjusts her communicator, his guttural Klingonese resolves into English. Georgiou and Burnham look on as he speaks.
“- fly away if they wish, it matters not! One shuttlecraft cannot hinder our great, blessed work! And truly, we must be blessed,” he says, spreading his arms to address the whole hall, “for look at the gift Kahless has brought us! Not a lowly repair crew, but a Starfleet captain! And her first officer!” He gestures towards the captives, but the Klingons pay them no heed, and instead cheer their leader.
“Truly we are in his favour! Kahless, The Unforgettable, First King, Greatest Warrior of All Warriors!” Heavy boots stamp and raucous cheering echoes through the hall. “We shall unveil the Federation’s deceit! Expose their inner barbarism!”
There are more cheers, but one warrior steps forwards in challenge. “You speak as though our fate is decided, but what if they do nothing? What if the Federation simply turns and flees?”
The chieftan turns to the warrior. “Then, my sister, we shall have exposed them for the witless cowards that they truly are! And the Klingon Empire shall re-unite not under the banner of war but to the sound of the hunter’s horn! When the Galaxy sees them scatter and flee in the face of adversity, we will be there to carve up their territory and chase them across the cosmos!”
Cheering, stomping. The hall fills with noise. “But hear me now, proud warriors of the Empire. The Federation are nothing but beasts, wearing the hides of philosophers. They believe that their technological achievements elevate their culture above ours, but toys and contraptions cannot replace Honour, or Courage, or Pride. When they see their own slaughtered like the targs they are,” he gestures again at Georgiou and Burnham, “the Federation will lift the mask from its face to show the slathering maw of the animal within. And I, T’Kuvma, Bearer of the Torch of Kahless, last member of my house, will have brought the Great Houses of the Klingon Empire together once again, and united we shall slay the beast!”
Georgiou and Burnham lock eyes, and share a look of common understanding – and horror.
As the Klingons chant and clamour, Georgiou flips a switch on the communicator. “Georgiou to Detmer, Georgiou to Detmer, do you read?”
Detmer’s voice answers. “Captain! Captain, I read, I’ve been trying to contact you. Are you okay?”
“We’re fine. Detmer, status, where are you?”
“We’re in space,” Detmer answers from inside the shuttle, “near the station. We had to lift off, we were attacked. Why are you on this frequency?”
Georgiou ignores the question. “Detmer, listen, this is important. Head straight for Shenzhou, go straight there and warn Starfleet – the Klingons mean to bait us into a war. Go back, now, tell Saru and the others not to engage, don’t fire a single shot, no matter what happens. You hear me, Detmer? It’s a trap. Tell them to maintain the peace, that’s all that matters.”
“But what about-”
“Keep the peace, Detmer! At all costs. That’s an order, Detmer. Keep the peace.”
Without warning, Burnham lunges across the cell and snatches the communicator from Georgiou. She shouts into it. “Detmer! Beam the captain out now! Lock onto the Viridium signal and get her out! Now!”
Georgiou looks on, unsurprised, and a little sad. One of the guards hears Burnham shouting and turns to see what’s going on. Aboard the shuttle, Detmer taps the ‘Energise’ command on one of the consoles.
In the cell, the blue shimmering of the transporter engulfs Burnham. Her face twists in horror as she realises what’s happening.
“I’m sorry, Michael,” Georgiou says, as Klingons rush into the cell. “I will see you soon.” The Klingons grab her roughly. Some try to get hold of Burnham, but she has already dematerialised.
Georgiou is hoisted to her feet as T’Kuvma, the chieftan, strides into the cell. He growls at Georgiou, then turns away and speaks in Klingon. “This changes nothing! Get to your ships! I will prepare the beacon!”
Aboard the shuttle, Burnham materialises, the same look of horror on her face. She cries out as though in agony. She reaches over her shoulder and pulls a small, thin, dark patch of shiny fabric from her uniform. She examines it for a moment, then lets it fall to the floor.
Furlan rushes to her side. “Commander, are you alright? Where’s the captain? Commander Burnham, where is Captain Georgiou?”
Burnham seems stunned. She ignores Furlan and reaches up to an overhead locker, and takes a phaser from it. She moves forwards to Detmer. “Beam me back.”
“I can’t, Commander, there’s too much interference.”
“Beam me back!” Burnham shouts. “I have to get her, we have to save her!”
“I can’t! I can’t get an accurate fix, you could die!”
“Then turn the shuttle around! Take us back! That’s an order!”
Detmer doesn’t relent, even facing Burnham’s intensity. “That hangar bay was a Klingon murder party when we left, they’ll cut us to bits!”
Burnham’s tone goes flat. “Keyla, turn this fucking shuttle around and take us back to that station.”
Detmer’s face turns to shock, but Furlan steps forwards. “We can’t. You heard the captain, she gave us an order to get back to the Shenzhou and warn Starfleet. Now, calm down, take a moment, and-”
Burnham raises the phaser and shoots Furlan in the chest. He collapses in a heap. Detmer gasps, but Burnham grips the side of her neck and presses hard. Detmer quickly passes out.
Burnham sags, as though her strings had been cut. She stares at nothing for a few moments, trance-like. She slowly sits down in the co-pilot’s seat and sets a new course.
The shuttle banks back towards the station, as two small pods detach from its underside and ignite thrusters. As the shuttle drifts into the hangar, a group of armed Klingons rush in, aiming their weapons at the advancing craft. The shuttle’s phasers burst into life, blasts of amber energy sweeping across the deck, wiping out the warriors.
The shuttle settles on the hangar deck and the rear ramp opens. Burnham steps out. One of the Klingons on the floor groans, wounded, and reaches up with his disruptor. She fires her phaser at him, and he falls silent again.
Burnham steps over his body and heads for the main corridor into the rest of the station, phaser in hand.
There’s a lot going on with this story. The determined narrative for ‘Discovery’ is complex – a Starfleet officer mutinies, and starts a war with a politically unstable empire in the process. This is where I had to make the most radical changes from the show, which I’ll go through below.
First off, Burnham’s a career officer. She’s smart. She’s raised by Vulcans, who are a peaceful, highly rational culture. Which means that her mutiny has to have a hell of a lot of emotional drive behind it, and that means it has to be immediate. Burnham’s mutiny in the show is incredibly muted, emotionally. She just sort of reaches a conclusion based on a story told to her by Sarek, and I never felt like she reached the emotional peak that was necessary to humanise her actions. In essence, she acts like a weirdo, and so I found it really difficult to empathise with her as a character.
The other issue is that so much is made of her starting the war, but she doesn’t. At all. She gets stopped and thrown in the brig before she can fire on the Klingons, and they then start the war themselves when they choose to open fire. By the time she kills T’Kuvma, the battle is over and the war is in full swing.
Which is another issue, namely that the Klingons from the other houses turn up, T’Kuvma says “Let’s attack,” and they all just attack. Really, if this is going to be some massive interstellar war, I feel like you need a little more to it than that.
There’s one other problem, which only becomes a problem in hindsight, which is all of T’Kuvma’s backstory. It’s good for your villains to have motivations and complexity, but T’Kuvma will be dead by the end of the pilot episodes, and ultimately his most important aspect is that he wants to start a war that will unite the Klingon Empire. All of his tragic childhood ends up contributing very little to the actual story of ‘Discovery’.
So, how do we fix all these things?
Simple. We bring them all together.
- Here is T’Kuvma’s plan: lure a Federation ship out here by sabotaging a satellite.
- When they investigate what happened to the satellite, capture them.
- Use the beacon’s immense signalling power to broadcast the execution of the prisoners. Then, either:
- The Federation retaliates, precipitating full-blown war.
- The Federation refuses to act, proving their weakness
- Either way, Qa’plah! The Klingon Empire can all pull together, in war against a hypocritical enemy or in conquest of a weak empire.
That’s T’Kuvma’s plan. We can embellish it a little with some Klingon spirituality and mythos and whatnot, but that’s what it comes down to. Whatever happens, T’Kuvma succeeds in uniting the Empire.
Of course, it’s also important for him to cover his bases with a few tricks up his gauntlet, but we’ll get to that.
Then, we bring Georgiou, Burnham, and the Shenzhou into the mix.
We set Georgiou and Burnham up as having an unhealthy relationship. That’s the first thing. Michael’s idolisation of Philippa, her crippling fear of abandonment, and with Philippa’s unwitting indulgence of that insecurity, means that Michael will literally do or give anything to protect her maternal mentor.
Then, they get taken captive. This might not be too much of an issue for the Vulcan-raised Michael under other circumstances. But with Klingons in the mix, Michael’s childhood trauma is getting twisted in exactly the right way to send her off the rails.
Which finally happens when they get separated. Georgiou would never let one of her crew – especially Michael – suffer in her place, so she obviously swaps the Viridium patch. And so now Michael is separated from her mother-mentor, who she knows is going to be executed. And that’s not based on a story from two hundred years ago.
I even tried to fold in what would be Star Trek’s first “fuck” into this pivotal scene. It struck me as odd that they drop the f-bomb during a fairly standard conversation of Treknobabble, but never again throughout the series. They use it at one of the lowest points of emotion, and never at the highest. Here, it’s a sign that Burnham has finally cracked – her swearing like that shows us a Starfleet officer over the edge, falling apart – and about to do something really stupid.
So, now we have an evil plan to start a war that hangs around the fate of our beloved captain and first officer. The first officer is driven to betrayal of her crew mates to save her captain, currently being held by the evil warmonger.
And what’s more, here we have a chance for Burnham to save the day. If she can rescue Georgiou, she might just stop the war from ever starting.
Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Here are just a few plot holes in my own damn narrative:
- Detmer just forgets to use the transporter. She should’ve done it as soon as the Klingons attacked the shuttle. My excuse? She was panicked. She’s not a coward, but she is green.
- So, what happens if the Federation don’t investigate the creepy temple station that’s almost definitely a trap? Well, in my head T’Kuvma would just keep busting up satellites until they had no choice but to investigate, but his plan is flawed in relying on the Federation to behave a certain way.
- His plan also relies on the other Klingon houses behaving in a certain way, but for me, that’s his test of his own people. If they can’t unite for war or conquest, then they probably aren’t worthy in the first place, and his cause is truly lost.
- Scattering fields, how the shit do they work? Who knows? My theory: it’s kind of a chaos membrane – you can’t beam or communicate from outside into it, or vice versa, but if you’re inside of it, you can kinda beam around and communicate inside of it, with some limitations. It’s a plot device, okay? It’s a cruddy one, but it does what it needs to – walls all of this action off from the Shenzhou.
I wish I had a simpler set of plot points to aim for. But I don’t. If I’m doing this properly, I have to start from the same place as the show, and finish in the same place as the show, and roughly touch upon the major plot points along the way.
Also, can we have a quick lament for Furlan, whose fellow redshirt dies and for whom no one mourns? Furlan who keeps telling women to calm down, and gets phasered in the sternum for his trouble?
He had it coming, if you ask me.