Is Star Trek: Discovery's Main Character Spock's Sister?

  • Science Fiction
The USS Discovery NCC-1031.
The USS Discovery NCC-1031. CBS All Access

We know Star Trek: Discovery has a lot to do with the Federation of Planet’s early encounters with the Klingon Empire, but still know very little about the pivotal character in this diplomatic fray, Discovery’s lead character, First Officer Michael Burnham. Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays Burnham, shared more about her character with Entertainment Weekly, including the unusual parentage that makes Burnham a child of two worlds, like Worf of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

In the first trailer for Star Trek: Discovery, we see a bit of the relationship between Burnham and Sarek, Vulcan ambassador to Earth and father to Spock. Sarek appears to have been a mentor figure to Burnham since childhood. We even see Sarek telling a young Burnham, “you will never learn Vulcan, your tongue is too human.” This lead to a reasonable conclusion: Martin-Green is playing a half-Vulcan character, just like Spock.

But the truth is a little weirder than that. Burnham is fully human: the first human to enroll in both the Vulcan Learning Center and the Vulcan Science Academy. How and why is unknown, but Burnham is a character caught between two worlds.

“I have the Vulcan conflict in my life from Sarek and Amanda so there’s always going to be that inner conflict with me. But I think it’s relatable because we all have some kind of inner conflict going on — who we are versus who we present ourselves to be. There’s a lot to be discovered,” Martin-Green said to EW.

Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery.
Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery. CBS All Access

The Amanda she mentions is Spock’s human mother, Amanda Grayson. This makes her connection to Spock’s family much more than a mentor relationship with Sarek. Did Sarek and Amanda raise Burnham? Is she Spock’s adoptive sister?

Whether or not Michael Burnham turns out to be a big sister figure to Spock (in the Discovery time period, Spock would have just begun serving aboard the Enterprise under Captain Christopher Pike), her struggles with her background are likely to be similar to Spock’s own battle to reconcile his Vulcan and human halves.

But there’s another character with a background even more similar to Michael Burnham’s: Worf.

Worf, son of Mogh, is for much of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a Klingon deeply conflicted about his culture and past. Raised on Earth by Russian parents, Worf fights desperately for acceptance in a Klingon culture that sees him as an outsider. Unlike other Klingons, who take their attachment to their culture and history for granted, Worf has to fight for every inch of acceptance.

Burnham’s situation is similar, if a tad inverted. It sounds as if her struggle is two-fold. She’s fought for acceptance in Vulcan society her whole life and has now returned to command a predominantly human crew, only to experience new culture shocks. Having fought for her Vulcan-ness, she must rediscover her humanity.

The echoes of Spock and Worf found in what we know of Michael Burnham reveal just why it will be Sonequa Martin-Green’s character at the center of Star Trek: Discovery’s human-Klingon conflict.

“I’m the first officer on the U.S.S. Shenzhou that is captained by Captain Philippa Georgiou, who is played by the amazing Michelle Yeoh,” Martin-Green told EW. “I have an inner war and it’s a journey of self discovery and finding out what it means to be alive, to be human, to be a Starfleet officer, what it means to be a hero.”

Star Trek: Discovery premieres Sept. 24 at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.

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