“Captain, I must once again register my severe objections to this course of action!” Saru insists as he strides down the corridor alongside Georgiou, Burnham and Detmer. “With the scattering field in place we will be unable to contact you or beam any of your back to the ship. And we still don’t know what the object is – it could be a Tholian web trap for all we know.”
Georgiou remains relaxed. “It might also be an entirely new species, Saru, a new civilisation. Would you really like to pass up a first contact opportunity?”
“Yes, absolutely, if it means putting my captain at risk.” Saru’s gestures become more frantic, his speech more hurried. “Captain, that object may not be a ship, but it remains a complete mystery to us.”
“And that is precisely why I want to go, Mr. Saru. I never could resist a good mystery.”
“Come on, Saru”, Burnham says, “you wouldn’t want to disappoint your captain, would you? Don’t worry,” she puts her hand on Georgiou’s shoulder in reassurance, “The captain will in in safe hands.”
They enter the shuttle bay and proceed up the boarding ramp of one of the Shenzhou‘s many shuttles. Detmer heads to the helm console at the front, whilst Georgiou and Burnham are joined by two security officers in tactical armour in the shuttle’s main hold. Georgiou turns to face Saru, who stands anxiously at the foot of the ramp. “Take good care of the ship, Mr Saru. And remember – take no unprompted action without consulting me or Starfleet Command. The last thing we want is to precipitate a conflict out here.”
Saru nods, and disappears from view as the shuttle’s ramp closes up. One of the security officers hands Georgiou a phaser as Burnham proceeds forwards to the front of the shuttle.
She leans down to Detmer. “Lieutenant, once we’re inside of the scattering field the shuttle’s transporter should be able to function. I just slapped a Viridium patch on the captain’s back – that will let you keep a lock on her. As soon as anything happens, you beam her back aboard and you set off for Shenzhou, do you understand? You don’t ask questions, you don’t hesitate, you just start flying.”
“Yes, Commander,” Detmer says, “but what about the rest of you?”
“The shuttle can only beam one person at a time,” Burnham explains, “and I don’t want you transporting the wrong person accidentally. We’ll be alright. Just keep her safe.”
Detmer looks back at the flight controls. “Well, now I feel a lot more worried.”
Burnham smiles. “You’ll do fine. I picked you for this mission specifically, Lieutenant. The captain asked me to fly at first, but it’s been two years since I last flew one of these things. We need someone who actually knows what she’s doing.”
“I won’t let you down, Commander.”
“Are we ready to launch yet?” Georgiou calls from the back of the shuttle, “or do you two need a little longer to conspire?”
“Ready, captain!” Detmer responds. “Course laid in. Just give me the word.”
“Lieutenant, the word is given – engage.”
The shuttle lifts off from the deck and drifts out of the shuttle bay. Once clear of the rear doors, Detmer brings it about and heads straight for the debris field, and the distant, mysterious object.
“Michael,” Georgiou says, as they sit opposite each other, “do you know why I’m here?”
Michael raises an eyebrow. “This is a critical situation. Normally, a captain’s place would be on her bridge. But with comms down, command decisions cannot be made remotely. If there are Klingons out here, you will need to be calling the shots.”
“And if there are Klingons out here, Michael, how would you feel about that?”
“If you’re referring to my childhood trauma, then you know I have it under control. Vulcan mindfulness techniques are a powerful tool. Philippa, I have your back. And I always will.”
Georgiou lays a gentle hand on Burnham’s shoulder. “Michael, in seven years together, the most important thing I’ve learned is that I will never regret putting my faith in you.”
“You talk as though this is a parting of ways.”
Georgiou shakes her head. “Not yet. But Michael, you are reaching the point where there isn’t much more I can teach you.” She waves her hand to quiet Burnham’s protestations. “If I could keep you as my XO for another twenty years, I would, but you are capable of so much more than that. You could end up as an admiral, or an ambassador, or even a regional governor – but the first step towards any of those things is getting your own command.”
Burnham looks down at the floor, hiding her face from her mentor. “I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.”
Georgiou grips Burnham’s shoulder tightly. “You are not ready yet. But very soon you will be, and when the time comes, you can’t hesitate, you can’t second-guess yourself. Do you know what the first duty of every Starfleet officer is, Michael?”
“Of course: to the truth.”
Georgiou laughs. “Nearly. That’s the slogan, but the correct answer is that it’s to your own truth. We must always remember who we really are, Michael. Always.” She gestures out of the window to the mystery structure, steadily growing closer. “If there are Klingons out there, and they do mean us harm, we can’t allow ourselves to get drawn into their game. We’re Starfleet: we fight when we need to, but always we must seek the peaceful solution. That is our truth, and that’s my truth. I have to believe that every encounter is a step towards friendship and co-operation, even with those who call themselves our enemies.”
Burnham looks up at her captain. “My father said that ten years ago, at Khitomer.”
“Your father is a profound individual.”
An alarm sounds from the flight console, and Detmer calls back “One minute to contact, Captain. I’ve found an entrance into the structure, looks to be pressurised, too.”
Georgiou stands and smooths out her uniform. “Take us in, Lieutenant. Let’s get to the bottom of this.”
One thing that always struck me as odd was that Detmer and Burnham shared so much together, and yet never interacted. This seemed like a hugely wasted opportunity – Burnham and Saru get plenty of time to explore their relationship, but Burnham and Detmer never even have one.
Also, whilst I have criticised ‘Discovery’ for resolving so much of its plot in the form of two people stood in a room talking to each other, early on in the show there’s a powerful need to set up the world, and the relationships, that will define the narrative. So whilst a scene between two people sat in a shuttle talking about philosophy isn’t the kind of high-octane action you’d expect of a Transformers movie, it’s important for adding additional significance to the events that do follow.
Georgiou contradicts Picard here on the subject of first duties, and that’s not something you want to do lightly. But whilst broad statements work well for delinquent cadets, command-level officers need to operate with a little more nuance than that.
Burnham’s backstory, as a human raised by Vulcans, and as an orphan as a result of a Klingon raid, is all perfectly fine. But that is exactly the kind of backstory that, I feel, can be revealed in small bites, rather than all at once. Hints to it are made in this conversation, but hints are all that is needed – who is her father, exactly? What happened in her childhood that might cause her to struggle with facing Klingons? Stay tuned in to find out!
Hey, and how about that Viridium patch and all the shoulder-touching? Don’t worry, that’s just background detail, it definitely won’t turn into a plot point or anything.