Published Jul 14, 2020
From Emperor to Agent: The Journey of Philippa Georgiou
The author of Die Standing explores the multifaceted star of his newest novel.
By John Jackson Miller
While Philippa Georgiou has only been a part of the Star Trek Universe for a short time, she’s already led two lives. But in a very real sense, it’s three!
In writing Star Trek: Discovery – Die Standing, my new original novel out on July 14 from Gallery Books, I’ve gotten to spend time with each incarnation of the character: intrepid captain, ruthless emperor, and refugee-turned-spy. Yet, they all have one thing in common: Michelle Yeoh portrays them with determination, wiliness, and a wry sense of humor that makes her adventures fun to follow.
When we first met Georgiou in Discovery, it’s as captain of the Shenzhou—mentor to Michael Burnham and a thoughtful, contemplative officer in the model of Jean-Luc Picard and Kathryn Janeway. Her one time colleague Christopher Pike (star of my Discovery novel from last year, The Enterprise War) later tells us on screen that she had every regulation memorized by her second week at Starfleet Academy.
But within the bounds of what’s allowed, she’s willing to be inventive in order to do the right thing. That’s a fact showcased in her first scene in the series, when she and Burnham use a very low-tech method for alerting their orbiting starship to their presence, protecting the Prime Directive in the process.
While we didn’t know her for very long, Captain Georgiou appeared again in a Short Treks episode, as well as in previous novels Desperate Hours and Drastic Measures. Die Standing, which I wrote in coordination with Kirsten Beyer of the Discovery writer’s room, opens even earlier in the character’s Starfleet career, with her serving aboard Archimedes as a young lieutenant. And once again, she’s forced to figure out a way to work toward a goal, while staying within the rules.
By comparison, Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius — better known as the emperor of the Terran Empire — is bound by no rules at all. Instead, she makes the rules, and isn’t shy about enforcing her will — brutally, if need be. We meet her in the Mirror Universe episodes of Discovery Season One, at the height of her reign; Die Standing first encounters her somewhat before that. A lot of things are different in her world’s history, but one thing isn’t: the dying words of another emperor, Vespasian. “An emperor ought to die standing,” the ancient Roman said, and Emperor Georgiou certainly would have, had Burnham not spirited her away from her regime’s destruction.
It was an impulsive act, perhaps motivated by Burnham’s assumption that Georgiou was fundamentally the same person as her mentor. But the emperor is not the captain, as she shows in Season One—and as we see in the next phase of Mirror Georgiou’s life: secret agent. Its leader, Leland, recruits her, reasoning that anyone with instincts to not only survive, but thrive in the Terran Empire would be a sure asset in the shadowy organization’s work.
There’s just one hitch. No matter whose badge she wears, Emperor Georgiou works for nobody and no one, save herself. And that’s what Die Standing details: Section 31’s discovery, too late, that a person who only half-jokingly gives her past job description as “apex predator” is a poor team player, to put it mildly. All attempts to indoctrinate her fail miserably. Indeed, nothing about Section 31’s work interests her at all, until a Trill enters her life. No, not Leland, who was disguised as one when he recruited the emperor; rather, it’s the most famous Trill of all: Dax.
But this Dax is no diplomat, no Starfleet officer. Deep Space Nine fans may remember that Emony Dax was a 23rd century Olympic gymnast. An unlikely person to cross paths with Section 31, you might think — until Emony encounters something so dangerous and so deadly that she comes to their attention. Something that the former emperor already knows from her own universe — when she sought it, unsuccessfully, to make her all-powerful. Now, she’s got another chance. It might even give “Agent Georgiou” the chance to remake her empire again, in the Prime Universe!
There are many more surprises in Die Standing, including several that connect to the Original Series—but the most important thing about it is that it’s a fast-paced interstellar odyssey that addresses the main questions in Emperor Georgiou’s life: What does it mean to lose a universe? And why wouldn’t you just take over the one next door?
Everyone involved — including audiobook narrator January LaVoy — has worked to create a work that’s a critical connection between the stages of Georgiou’s life, while at the same time being a whole lot of fun. Fans of the emperor’s biting wit will have plenty to enjoy. I certainly enjoyed writing her!
Listen to An Excerpt From Star Trek: Discovery - Die Standing
Star Trek: Discovery – Die Standing releases in paperback, audiobook, and electronic format on July 14 from Gallery Books.
John Jackson Miller (he/him) is a New York Times bestselling author of novels and graphic novels. His 2019 release, Star Trek: Discovery – The Enterprise War was recently nominated for the Scribe Award for best speculative fiction tie-in novel. His other Trek works include the Prey trilogy and the Star Trek: The Next Generation – Takedown. His website is http://www.farawaypress.com, and he is at @jjmfaraway on Twitter.
Star Trek: Discovery streams on Paramount+ in the United States, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and on Netflix in 190 countries.