Burnham, Michael

Star Trek: Discovery
Episode: DSC 101 - Vulcan Hello, The

(Portrayed by Sonequa Martin-Green)

Sometimes, there’s no logic to the lives we lead. Case in point, Commander Michael Burnham. She was born in 2226 to human parents, but raised by the Vulcan ambassador, Sarek, and his human wife, Amanda, on Vulcan, where she studied at the Vulcan Science Academy. All her young life, she felt the pressure to be Vulcan, to prove herself to her father, though her mother often counseled her to not lose touch with her humanity.

Burnham joined Starfleet and served aboard the U.S.S. Shenzhou under Captain Philippa Georgiou. The captain became Burnham’s dear friend, surrogate mother and mentor. However, in 2256, as Captain Georgiou prepared to preemptively strike the Klingons before they could attack the Federation, Burnham incapacitated Georgiou and took command of the Shenzhou. Georgiou recovered, and Burnham was charged with mutiny, court martialed and sentenced to life in prison.

Just six months into serving her sentence, Captain Gabriel Lorca offered Burnham an unlikely second chance. He wanted, even needed, her to join him aboard the U.S.S. Discovery, as it was his mission to defeat the Klingons at any cost. She helped start the war, he reasoned, and now she could end it. Burnham – reluctantly at first – accepted Lorca’s offer, and did her part to defeat the Klingons. The journey was not without complications, as Burnham befriended the chatty, green Sylvia Tilly; romanced Ash Tyler, who turned out to have a Klingon within; struggled to make peace with her past and with Sarek; clashed with Saru; pretended to be Terran; realized she’d been duped by Lorca… or Terran Lorca; and came face to face with Georgiou…. or Terran Emperor Georgiou, in the Mirror Universe.

The Discovery crew eventually defeated the Klingons, with a shocking assist from Emperor Georgiou, whom Burnham had impulsively pulled into the Prime Universe. The Emperor also killed Terran Lorca, who’d schemed to overthrow her and wanted Burnham by his side (as Terran Burnham and Terran Lorca were apparently in a relationship). In 2257, with the war over, the Federation president fully pardoned Burnham and reinstated her as a commander.