‘Star Trek: Re/Discovery’ – Battle at the Binary Stars Part 7

The previous installment can be found here.


Aboard the Shenzhou, Saru strides onto the bridge, Detmer in tow. She hurries forwards to the helm station and relieves the stand-in. As she sits down, the navigation officer leans over to her. “Are you sure you should be flying the ship? Weren’t you unconscious ten minutes ago?”

Detmer shrugs. “Well, I feel like I spent the night sleeping inside a warp coil, but the doc gave me a stimulant and cleared me. I’ll be fine.”

Saru steps up behind the captain’s chair and grips the back of it with both hands. “Status report, please.”

The ops officer responds. “Still no word from the captain, sir. We’ve detected some strange readings from the object, even through the scattering field. Tachyon emissions, building up over time.”

“Tachyon?” Saru queries, baffled. His threat-ganglia sprout from the sides of his head. “What could possibly-”

He’s interrupted as the bridge fills with blinding white light, and a painful shriek fills the air.


On the Klingon station, Burnham moves slowly into the main hall. It’s dark, lit only by the torches on the walls scattered between huge statues of Klingon warriors. On the main floor of the hall, there are piles of Starfleet torpedoes. Past them, at the far end of the hall beneath a great window into space, is a raised dais, and on it is T’Kuvma, with Georgiou on the floor beside him. Her hands are cuffed and her shoulder is still bandaged, but she is otherwise unharmed.

In front of T’Kuvma is a raised control panel. He cries out something in Klingon, and then he activates it. The hall fills with a dull hum, which gradually increases in pitch and volume. Burnham covers her ears, as does Georgiou, but T’Kuvma merely spreads his arms in triumph.

As the noise reaches its most deafening point, the entire hall disappears in a burst of white light. Burnham looks around, but she can barely make aything out beyond faint outlines. As her eyes adjust, other details slowly render into view, and the shape of the hall becomes apparent again – except now it is pure, brilliant white, with no refuge for the oppressive, murky shadows by which it was previously characterised.

Burnham, in her blue uniform, now appears as a glowing azurite idol in the brilliant light. Georgiou’s shoulder wound shines red and vivid, her uniform darkened by the blood. T’Kuvma, with his onyx Klingon skin and ornate, jet armour remains untouched by the light.

T’Kuvma stands facing the window, staring out at the darkness of space. The stars have vanished, unable to compete with the light from the station. The rocks and asteroids around the station, however, are bathed in the light, each one shining brighter than the full moon as they tumble and roll past the window.

Burnham takes the opportunity to move forwards, towards Georgiou and her captor. She advances up the middle of the hall, directly behind them both, darting from cover to cover.

As she reaches the half-way mark, the deafening shriek abates, followed immediately by a single loud, low, thudding pulse.

On the dais, T’Kuvma turns to Georgiou. “Time for the Galaxy to hear our truth,” he says.


On the bridge of the Shenzhou, the crew struggle to maintain their duties whilst blinded and deafened. Information and updates are shouted from one station to another, whilst Saru stands in the middle of it all, baffled. His ganglia stand proud on the sides of his head.

The noise abates whilst the light remains, and many of the bridge officers sag with relief at this respite. Saru doesn’t move, but stammers out a request. “Status report? Anybody?”

The ops officer volunteers an explanation. “A massive subspace disturbance, sir. That was a bang that the whole quadrant could hear.”

“What kind of a bang, lieutenant?”

“Single-frequency, massive amplitude. It…” The officer processes the data. “Wow.”

“’Wow’, lieutenant?” Saru’s expression is one of confusion and frustration.

“No, it’s, it’s one thousand, four hundred and twenty megahertz, sir. The Wow signal.”

Saru ponders for a second or two, before the comms officer chimes in. “Mister Saru, there’s an incoming transmission. From the station.”

Saru turns his head to her. “They’re hailing us now?”

“No, sir. They’re broadcasting everywhere. Putting it on screen.”

The image of T’Kuvma fades in on the main screen, stark against the brilliant white background. He holds his arms out before announcing himself. “Warriors of the Empire, and lesser nations across the stars, I am T’Kuvma. I am the appointed emmissary of Kah’less, Steward of His Holy Beacon, on which I now stand. Inheritor of ancient tradition, and guardian of the faith of my people.”


Aboard the Buran, Lorca, Tyler and crew watch the same transmission, silent and perplexed.

T’Kuvma continues, “A short time ago, this sacred shrine was assaulted by Starfleet soldiers. They sought to continue their campaign of cultural vandalism, by destroying this beacon and assassinating me.”

His image is replaced by footage from the internal sensors of the station’s hangar, as Burnham’s shuttle flies in and wipes out the squad of waiting Klingons. T’Kuvma speaks over the footage. “These operatives failed in their mission to erase yet more of our traditions, our way of life.”


Aboard a Klingon ship, a commander in vibrant armour decorated with gruesome trophies watches in outrage as the footage switches to Burnham, shooting the wounded Klingon and stepping over the body.

T’Kuvma’s voice continues. “Despite Starfleet’s brutality, my fellow warriors and I were able to counter this traitorous and dishonourable sneak attack, but the Empire must know – Starfleet means to end us. Klingon honour and Federation sensitivities cannot co-exist, and so they seek to pre-emptively gain supremacy.”


Back on the Shenzhou, Saru, Detmer and the others are still watching. T’Kuvma’s image returns to the screen. “I cannot abide such treachery!” he roars. “I am Klingon! We all are Klingon, and we cannot allow such trespasses against us!”

He reaches down and hauls Georgiou to her feet by her neck. “The Federation must pay for its transgressions! Starting with this one, this assassin and spy!” He shakes her. “Tell them! Tell them who you are! Tell them what you came here to do!”

Georgiou, visibly in pain, does her best to retain her composure. The harsh light amplifies the dirt on her face, and the wound on her shoulder. T’Kuvma’s hand chokes her, but she fights to speak audibly. “My name is Captain Phillipa Georgiou. We came here in a spirit of peace. We intend no harm to the Klingon Empire, we seek only-“

“FEDERATION LIES!” T’Kuvma roars, screams. He squeezes Georgiou’s neck tighter, and with his free hand draws a Klingon dagger. “In the name of the Empire!” he shouts, as he plunges the dagger into her chest, straight through her heart.

The crew of the Shenzhou gasp, and cry out. Saru staggers backward, aghast. Detmer shudders, her hands over her gaping mouth, her eyes wide in fright and shock.


In the main hall, behind T’Kuvma, Burnham watches as he releases his grip on Georgiou and lets her body drop limply to the floor.

Burnham doesn’t respond at first. She stays motionless, knelt behind cover. Her breathing grows deeper, and more ragged. She stares at Georgiou’s body. Silence pervades.

Burnham closes her eyes.


Saru is still stood up, but only in the strictest sense. His entire upper body hunches over, his head low and held in his hands. One of the officers weeps quietly. Detmer’s hands are still covering her face.

T’Kuvma starts talking again. “Such is the price of dishonour. My fellow Klingons, you already know the true face of the Federation. You are familiar with the beast that. To the rest of the galaxy I say this: the Federation has too long hidden its fangs behind the false nobility of its own enlightenment. At its heart, it is a crueller, more violent tyranny than even-“

He chokes, and then shudders. The centre of his chest glows, and then disintegrates. Red particles cascade across his body leaving grey dust in their wake. T’Kuvma’s body vaporises, vanishing to reveal behind it the figure of Michael Burnham, a phaser in her hand and her face twisted in anger and grief.


On the station, the blinding white light fades away, and the hall returns to its torch-lit murk. Burnham drops her phaser and sinks to her knees besides the body of Georgiou. She cradles her captain’s head in her lap and begins sobbing, overcome with everything that had come to pass so far.

Burnham gathers Georgiou’s body in her arms and awkwardly gets to her feet.


Aboard the unknown Klingon vessel, the Klingon commander, in her ornate armour covered in trophies, watches as the image of Burnham, phaser in hand, fades away. One of her subordinates approaches her. “Your orders, General L’Rell?”

L’Rell’s eyes narrow. “Set course for the binary star system.”


Let’s talk about the above events as they’re portrayed in the show.

Nothing that the crew does has any impact on what transpires. More specifically, none of Burnham’s actions change any of what happens. All of the drama around her mutiny is nullified, because she’s apprehended before she can actually do anything. The war is started because T’Kuvma gives the order to fire. That’s it.

In my version, T’Kuvma’s gambling. And the truth is, his plan may not have worked. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have worked at all. Until Burnham goes rogue – twice. First, by attacking the Klingon squad with the shuttle, and then sealing the deal by revenge-killing T’Kuvma. Now, there is clear, definitive evidence of Starfleet wrongdoing – even if it was all precipitated by T’Kuvma’s own violent actions, it casts the Federation, with its reputation for temperance, in a very new light.

Is this new version of the story perfect? No, absolutely not. But at least it ties things in together a little more. Now there is some justification for the crew’s hatred of Burnham – she may have avenged a beloved captain, but she has also bound them all into a war with the Klingons.

Also, L’Rell makes an appearance. It never made sense to me to have L’Rell as such a low ranking member of the Klingon Empire. It turns her into a bit of a spare wheel, and makes her arc of becoming leader of the whole Empire nonsensical. If she’d had her own ambitions, I’d buy it, but she spends all of her time in support of either T’Kuvma or Voq, which means that when she is simply handed leadership at the very end, it’s somewhat unsatisfying.

So now, she’s a General. It means she has much more scope to interact with the story around her, and in my mind, sets up much better any leadership arc upon which she may later find herself.

Also, L’Rell refers to “the binary star system,” as if there’s only one. Obviously, there are many binary star systems in the galaxy. But the Klingons certainly wouldn’t use an Earth designation for it, and using a different name means explaining somewhere in a story that’s already overly long just what the Klingons call the star system in question. Referring to it as The binary star system means that everyone, including the audience, understands exactly what she’s referring to, in the fewest possible number of words.

The Moral Lesson of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’: We Should Use Super Weapons To Install Despots in Foreign Nations

You’re faced with a choice. Allow your own species to become the victims of genocide, or commit genocide against your enemies to stop them. Then a third option becomes apparent: hand a weapon of mass destruction to a religious militant and install them as a dictator, ending the war that is about to end your civilisation.

What would you do?


The season finale of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’, titled ‘Will You Take My Hand’, was touted by many as a “return to Starfleet’s ideals.” A lot of the dialogue focused on principles, on morals and ethics and standing by what’s right, not what’s convenient or easy.

This is an article about lots of boring but important geopolitical stuff, but there’s a side-note that I want to bring up first that I didn’t include in my initial article about the season finale. And I should have, because it’s also important.

In ‘Will You Take My Hand’ Ash Tyler, the victim of L’Rell’s imprisonment, torture, rape, and Mengele-esque medical experimentation, chose, freely, to join his abuser on her adventures, rather than linger with Starfleet.

I don’t really have any more I can add to that. I hope that that fact speaks for itself, and I hope that it brings to light just how offensive this show really is.

But it gets worse.

Much worse.

Let’s talk about L’Rell for a moment.

As mentioned above, L’Rell is a torturer. She even claims that as her profession. I dunno, maybe she uses the word “interrogator” but she definitely tortures people. She also definitely rapes people – she admitted herself that she sexually abused Ash during his captivity, either before or after he was transmuted with Voq’s essence.

Speaking of, she also subjected Ash, against his will, to a grotesque series of experimental medical procedures that literally imbued him, forcefully, with the suppressed consciousness of another sentient being.

Oh, and she eats people.

As of ‘Will You Take My Hand’, L’Rell is unrepentant for all of these crimes. And they are crimes. They’re so ghastly in nature, and she was personally, directly involved in all of them. Not only is she unrepentant, she actually seems proud of the things she has done.

A bit of background: L’Rell is a religiously-motivated militant. We first meet her as part of T’Kuvma’s movement of Kahless-inspired renegades. She is present when T’Kuvma opens (unprovoked) fire on the Federation fleet, and remains loyal to T’Kuvma’s cause throughout – that cause being the unification of the Klingon Empire by any means necessary.

T’Kuvma’s movement is heavily implied to be suggestive of Islamic fundamentalist movements in the Middle East – motivated by religion, with extreme views against “outsider influence”, particularly the U.S. and Western European nations, and using violence and military action to prosecute their agenda.

Indeed, the whole Klingon Empire falls into this allegorical pattern – scattered nations and tribes, called “houses”, connected by shared cultural history but ultimately divided, the Klingon Empire is almost an embodiment of the Western world’s anxious perception of the Middle East – a collection of aggressive, socially regressive cultures united only in their hatred of the West.

This view of the Middle East is a grossly simplified caricature shaped and reinforced by a frantic news media, but in ‘Discovery’ it is borne true of the Klingons. They do wage a war against the Federation, they do so for religious reasons, they commit “terror raids”, they take prisoners and hostages and subject them to torture. Just as the Klingon’s of ‘The Original Series’ were stand-ins for Russia at the height of the Cold War, the Klingons of ‘Discovery’ are stand-ins for Islamic extremists in the second phase of the ‘War on Terror’.


A Simple Plan

In ‘Will You Take My Hand’, the crew of Discovery discover that Starfleet has secretly sanctioned a mission of genocide.

An evil agent is recruited by Starfleet and sent to Qo’Nos, the Klingon homeworld with a population of billions, to destroy it. She is given a drone-mounted bomb powerful enough to set off the planet’s volcanoes, pouring lava across the surface and generating enough fumes, smoke and ash to render the planet uninhabitable, slaughtering countless sentient beings in the process.

The crew, our protagonists, react to this by threatening mutiny and refusing the mission. Instead of genocide, they find a third way.

They reprogram the bomb’s detonator, and give it to L’Rell.

Certainly, that’s preferable to genocide. As a result of this action, L’Rell appeals to the Klingons to end the war. When they mock her, she threatens them with the destruction of Qo’Nos and the presumptive end of their civilisation. They fall into line. The war ends.

Our protagonists go home, to peace. They are awarded medals. They are pardoned of their past crimes. They are celebrated as heroes. And it’s certainly true that in the artificial scenario with which they are presented, in which the only options are genocide or a threat of genocide, they chose the lesser of two evils.

So far, so Starfleet.

Except for the fact that Starfleet sanctioned genocide in the first place. But let’s move past that.


Doomed to Repeat

This is an article from 1999. This was written about Osama Bin Laden nearly two years before the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Here is a key excerpt:

“Three years ago, [Hampton-el] was convicted of planning a series of massive explosions in Manhattan and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Hampton-el was described by prosecutors as a skilled bomb-maker. It was hardly surprising. In Afghanistan he fought with the Hezb-i-Islami group of mujahideen, whose training and weaponry were mainly supplied by the CIA.

He was not alone. American officials estimate that, from 1985 to 1992, 12,500 foreigners were trained in bomb-making, sabotage and urban guerrilla warfare in Afghan camps the CIA helped to set up.”

That CIA involvement was part of ‘Operation Cyclone’, a CIA project under President Carter and later President Reagan to supply aid, weapons, equipment and training to religious militants (mujahideen) who were engaged in fighting the USSR and the communist government of Afghanistan. The USSR’s defeat in Afghanistan led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent end of the cold war.

It also fed directly into the acceleration of Islamic extremist advancement in and around the Middle East. Weapons meant for the mujahideen were instead sold on the Pakistani black market. Guerilla training camps were quite easily repurposed into terrorist training camps – guerillas and terrorists having often employed similar tactics and strategies. Cyclone ended the Cold War and arguably began, or at least prologued, the War on Terror.

The United States has always had a troubled history with regime change. From the Iran-Contra affair, a conspiracy to secretly fund the terrorist group known as the Contras in Nicaragua via weapons sales to Iran, to the failed attempt to overthrow Castro with the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the United States’ attempts to force regime change in foreign nations, either covertly or overtly, has almost invariably landed the U.S. on the wrong side of history.

(Here’s a starting point for a little further reading.)

Not just the U.S., mind. Fans of ‘The Crown’ ought to be familiar with the Suez Crisis, but Britain has a long and shameful history to its foreign policy, often times in concert with the United States, but frequently in its own right. In fact, almost every Western nation has a troubled history in its relations with foreign powers.


A Brighter Future

With all of that history behind us, what do the writers have our so-called heroes choose as their heroic, principled solution to a war in space?

They hand a weapon of mass destruction to a religious extremist, and install her as a dictator over her own people.

I’ll repeat myself from earlier in this article:

… L’Rell is a torturer. She even claims that as her profession. I dunno, maybe she uses the word “interrogator” but she definitely tortures people. She also definitely rapes people – she admitted herself that she sexually abused Ash during his captivity, either before or after he was transmuted with Voq’s essence.

Speaking of, she also subjected Ash, against his will, to a grotesque series of experimental medical procedures that literally imbued him, forcefully, with the suppressed consciousness of another sentient being.

Oh, and she eats people.

And they hand her a planet killer.

Sure, it may kill her own planet. But that’s the lives of billions of people, placed in the hands of someone who could easily have been based on one of the most evil people ever known in human history.

What happens if there’s a revolutionary counterculture on Qo’Nos? What happens if, following a costly war with an embarrassing end, Klingon culture takes a radical shift towards democracy and social progression? Would L’Rell have any incentive to permit such an event? Who would be willing to challenge her, to risk the entire Klingon Empire? And if they could challenge her successfully – doesn’t that mean that the plan has failed?

Back when thunderstorms and earthquakes were the most powerful events on Earth, we submitted ourselves to the Gods, in whose hands we believed our fates were held. Then, the first atom bombs dropped, and we realised that the old Gods were dead.

cornwellsevere

What followed was fifty years of paranoia, deceit and hate-mongering. Yes, in that time we had civil rights, Apollo, the Space Shuttle, and even the beginnings of the Information Age. But we also had McCarthyism, missile crises, proxy wars, the Vietnam War, and nuclear proliferation. That sheer, existential terror gave rise to Stalin, Kim Il Sung, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Milošević, Pinochet.

On Qo’Nos, L’Rell now holds the power of life and death over an entire planet. She is the new God Emperor. What sort of world will Qo’Nos become? How will its people react to their new situation, hostages on their own world, held captive by this new monster? This torturing, raping, cannibalising monster, who wields the power of absolute destruction over an entire civilisation.

And she was given that power by our heroes.

Our Heroes, who were honoured and decorated not only by their fellows, but by their creators, the writers and producers who decided that the ultimate message, the ultimate lesson, of this series of Star Trek, would be that genocide is wrong, but only if it’s your finger on the button.

As I previously mentioned: yes, this was absolutely the preferable alternative to direct and immediate genocide by Starfleet’s hand. But the fact that these were the only two options is because the writers of the show deliberately set up the scenario that way. It’s the no-win scenario, sure, but it’s the no-win scenario within an entirely artificial environment.

The principal reason that things have gotten to such an extreme point is because the Discovery returns to the Prime Universe after skipping nine months accidentally. There is no cause-and-effect here; there’s no reason for the ship to have skipped that much time, except that the writers needed to squeeze a genocidal story line into two episodes. They wrote themselves into this corner, and produced this ultimate, horrible solution, this violent and corrupting path down which Our Heroes must walk.

medals

So many references are made this episode to principles, to morals and ethics that make us who we are, that define us. Which means that this solution is what defines Starfleet: imposing autocracy on our enemies, under threat of extinction, so that we can preserve our own way of life.

Those are the morals that ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is trying to teach us. That we need not consider the consequences of our actions beyond their immediate effect. That we need not concern ourselves with the well-being of our enemies so long as we get to go home and pick up our medals.

That, so long as you can make a nice speech at the end, you don’t need to worry too much about the mess you made in getting there.

That the ends justify the means.