Today is Star Trek: Discovery star Sonequa Martin-Green’s birthday. She’s my hero and did an amazing job bringing the complex and compelling character of Michael Burnham to life. Martin-Green, late of The Walking Dead, is an uber-talented actress. A tough yet fragile, loyal yet independent human orphan raised by a Vulcan and human (Spock’s father and mother, no less), Michael is one of the most intriguing new characters introduced to the franchise. So, what better way to say “Happy Birthday” than to list my season-one Top Ten Mighty Michael Moments.
Michael may’ve ended up court-martialed, but that’s not the most memorable Michael Moment in “Battle of the Binary Stars.” Her introduction to Captain Philippa Georgiou on board the U.S.S. Shenzhou by Sarek in a flashback gives us a glimpse of pre-Klingon War Michael. The affection she and Sarek have for one another and the fascination with Georgiou that later blossoms into full-on hero worship is fun to watch. It is a credit to Martin-Green’s acting chops that clearly Michael communicates fear, disappointment, excitement, and a desire to please Sarek with just her eyes. We don’t actually get much of this Michael after this point, but I hope there’ll be more of that to come, at least in flashbacks.
Michael’s final goodbye to Tyler in “Will You Take My Hand?” was bittersweet, but nicely done and a humorous homage to the multitude of similar scenes we’ve seen from male regulars on Trek series. I mean, they always choose the service over the girl, so of course, Michael should do the same. For those of us with a romantic nature, sure, we’d love to see Michael with a great guy someday, but at the same time, I love the fact that she’s now free to play the field, unencumbered by Vulcan restrictions or a steady boyfriend.
I couldn’t help grinning when Michael rockets towards the Klingon sarcophagus ship in her spacesuit in “The Vulcan Hello.” What a rush. We saw something like that in Star Trek (2009) when Kirk, Sulu, and Red Shirt Olsen space jumped to disable the Romulan drill. You’ve got to know that for young Black girls with geeky sci-fi tastes, it was everything to get to Michael doing that. It reminded me of Mirror Universe Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series being all badass with her knife in her boot.
Any time Michael kicked someone’s butt, it was awesome, but it was hella satisfying to see her take the Klingon Kol down in “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum.” He was just so annoying and not a good Klingon leader anyway. And can we just all give a standing O for Michael’s hand-to-hand combat skills? In “Context Is for Kings,” she has no problem taking on lunchroom bullies, and in “Despite Yourself,” she took down Mirror Connor permanently. Yeah, she’s tough as nails.
Michael learns to dance, gets her first kiss, and saves the good ship and crew in the process, so “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” is one big Mighty Michael Moment. It was a break for those of us who were tired of seeing Michael in a constant angst-driven funk. Set at a rare downtime party for the crew, Michael is recruited by Stamets, the only person able to see that Discovery is caught in a time loop created by the nefarious Harry Mudd. The pseudo-father/daughter dance lesson between Michael and Stamets which gives her the “birds and bees talk” is touching. Her subsequent dance with Tyler and her first kiss give me girly goosebumps even now.
Michael and Sarek’s relationship is one of the best things about Discovery, but there are two cool moments between them that stand out for me. The first was in “Lethe”, when Michael discovers through a mind-meld that Sarek chose Spock over her for the Vulcan Science Academy, something he’s kept secret. She’s blamed herself all these years for failing him by not getting in. He refuses to talk about it when she confronts him, but Michael says, “We’ll have this conversation one day… Father.” It’s the first time she calls him that and it was a fitting way to show her, for the first time, calling the shots in their relationship. It was a rite of passage -- a child maturing to adulthood -- and it opened another door for the viewers to the inner “Life of Mike.”
The other Michael/Sarek moment is the resolution of that conflict. In the season finale, “Will You Take My Hand?,” Sarek tells Michael that she has been recommissioned, then goes on to say how proud he is of his daughter, which is the first time he refers to her that way. This is a touching counterpoint to her “father’ scene. I hope we see many more scenes between these two, as they have such realistic daddy/daughter chemistry.
Three words: Michael eats Kelpien. OK, more words. In “Vaulting Ambition,” Emperor Georgiou has a lovely family dinner with her adopted daughter Michael. Michael chows down on the meal until Georgiou offers her some yummy threat ganglia from her plate. It’s apparently, a delicacy. This moment simply rocks. Not the fact that a poor Kelpien was being consumed, but Michael’s obvious struggle to overcome her gag reflex was priceless. I felt for her. I had the same reaction when my parents made me eat liver.
“Killing Georgiou” was another Mighty Michael Moment. OK, Michael didn’t actually kill her, but the thing is, when she brought Emperor Georgiou over to the Prime Universe in a fit of emotion at the end of “What's Past Is Prologue,” clearly the hero-worship thing was out of control. But in the season finale, “Will You Take My Hand?,” Michael course-corrected by accepting that Emperor Georgiou was “her Philippa,” in essence, letting her Philippa die. When Michael lets Emperor Georgiou go and tells her to be good, the emperor asks, “Or you’ll come after me?” This is a perfect end (?) to their short-lived relationship.
No surprise, the best Mighty Michael Moment of the season was Michael’s speech to Starfleet. It was everything, especially when you realize that her voiceover for the entire episode is part of that speech. The words, “We Are Starfleet” repeated throughout acted almost as an assurance that all would be well not only for the Discovery, but for the series Star Trek: Discovery. Her voice: calm, confident, strong, and youthful, was a great way to end a long, dark run that was, for all intents and purposes, a season-long origin story. Seeing her flanked by the crew with their medals was invigorating and made me anxious to start a new mission with this new crew.
I can’t wait for next season and many more Mighty Michael Moments.
This article was originally published on March 21, 2018.
Originally from the Midwest, DaVette See lives in Inglewood, CA. She’s a sci-fi fan, a movie geek, an OG Trekkie, and a Browncoat. She has a BA in English and Theater, and a Law degree. An actress, director, and writer, she owns Running Lady Studios and is the producer/star of the web-based talk show, Afro Bites! She is wife to Rob, daughter to Martha, and mom to seven (yes seven) cats. When not covered in fur, she’s a West Coast correspondent and occasional movie reviewer for Black Girl Nerds. Follow DaVette on Twitter and IG @mariavah.
Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4 are currently streaming exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., the U.K., Switzerland, South Korea, Latin America, Germany, France, Italy, Australia, and Austria. Seasons 2 and 3 are also available on the Pluto TV Star Trek channel in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media's CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave. Star Trek: Discovery is distributed by Paramount Global Content Distribution.
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