In which Burnham rattles some spoons, goes on the hunt, and faces the consequences.
So a bunch of Klingons have just warped in to answer the Light of Kahless, which we’ve determined is either subspace-active as well or they were all just really close by. The fleet includes some chassis designs that we’ve never seen before – it would be pretty nifty if they turn out to have some critical weakness that explains their being dropped from the force. In any case, Georgiou has stopped Michael Burnham from executing the Vulcan Hello, so we flash back to seven years prior.
Georgiou is familiar with Sarek, but is meeting Burnham for the first time, and she’s very Vulcan. Sarek’s human fetish must have made him the logical choice to mentor Burnham, and he’s of course familiar with diplomatic illogicalities as social lubricant. We also find out that the Shenzhou is an older ship using largely outdated technology, and not a state-of-the-art ship. It’s a distinguisher from every other series except DS9, where they were dealing with alien technology most of the time. Despite their differences in attitude, Burnham and Georgiou are both top-of-the-line officers, though, so there’s at least some respect there.
Back in the present, they’ve counted 24 new Klingon ships, one for each of the Klingon Noble Houses. I wonder if we’ll see any lineages we recognize play a central role, or if they’ll prefer to blaze new ground. Burnham successfully reads the situation, but the mutiny attempt is probably going to poison her analysis at this point.
The Klingon leader is T’Kuvma, and he is absent from the main chamber when all the Klingon house leaders comm in. He’s left that to the albino Torchbearer, at least for first impressions. This may be so that he can make a dramatic entrance and shame them with a version of ‘ask not what your country can do for you’ speech. Of course, T’Kuvma has no status in the shards of the Empire, which is why he had to take this alternate path. We get a little of his past – the ship Light of Kahless belonged to his father and was wrecked until he reclaimed it, slowly and painfully. And apparently, T’Kuvma invented, or at least imported, the cloaking device. Even still, his call for unity isn’t received by all, but he seems to be getting traction with this talk of purity in the face of mongrelized race-mixing. And the timing is pretty much perfect for him again – Starfleet reinforcements show up to underscore his portents of a threat.
Once the rest of the fleet shows up, the Klingons are suddenly interested in talking, or at least in listening. Sadly, T’Kuvma has already primed the pump, and warned them against ‘we come in peace,’ and they open fire, minus the one dude who peaced out.
Of course back then Starfleet still had the Explodey Consoles. They haven’t fixed that design in like two hundred years. The fight seems heavy, and Starfleet is outnumbered, but has fleet tactics. In the brig, Burnham tries to query the computer for a status report, but Starfleet has finally implemented role-based permissions and as a crewmember in the brig, all permissions are denied by default. I wonder what happened to that institutional knowledge between here and Next Generation.
One of the crewmen, Connor, is on his way to sick bay with burns and probably a concussion, but winds up in the brig. It looks like he’s going to release Burnham, but instead the brig gets hit and only the force field wall saves her. Guess we didn’t need to learn his name. She gets knocked out and dreams of the Klingon massacre of her family. During that time, Sarek saved her by mind melding her out of a coma. When she wakes up, the Shenzhou is in pretty rough shape, and I’m not entirely sure how that force field compensated. On the bridge, they’re aware that the brig was hit, and that standard operating procedure would divert power from compromised decks to reinforce the rest of the ship. That probably includes force fields. Another problem here is that we just found out the transporters are especially energy-inefficient, so rescue is going to be especially difficult.
Apparently, Sarek’s mind-meld with Burnham as a child left a bit of his Katra in her. It’s apparently actually him there, not just a memory echo she’s conversing with. He gives her a Vulcan pep-talk and gets her on her feet again. The Shenzhougets hit again, and the Klingons take a bite out of the bridge, knocking out most of their power and leaving them only with emergency force fields. With thrusters and shields out, they’re sucked into the binary stars and the surrounding asteroid field, but rescued at the last moment by the Europa, Admiral Brett Anderson commanding. He tries to reopen dialogue, and succeeds.
T’Kuvma offers to send an envoy, but then immediately starts throwing the jamming proto-cloak around, which does weird things to the holographic communicator system and the tractor beam. And apparently it’s not just an electronic counter-measure after all. T’Kuvma has cloaked and rammed the Europa bodily. It had a ramming prow. Utterly wrecked, the Europa blows its antimatter core to take out the ship. Since it can cloak, though, it’s worth noting that there doesn’t seem to be quite enough debris after the blast to account for their ramming ship.
Klingons don’t really qualify Victory as Phyrric or not. T’Kuvma has declared his appelation as The Unforgettable, and the Klingons leave the Federation fleet in ruins, so that they can take the story back that the Klingon Empire exists and is taking back some breathing room.
Burnham now has to get out of the brig by reasoning with the computer and spinning a scenario by which she can survive the trip across vacuum to the corridor. This does a lot to establish the capabilities of the computer – it can reason and extrapolate direct consequences, but not extrapolate or suggest tertiary actions. In a lot of ways, this is similar to the Go problem wherein the absolute freedom of choice can be paralytic for a computer. And I don’t even want to speculate on how hard it’s going to be to get to what resembles creativity in the real world from just having barely cracked Go. That’s why Noonien Soong was such a genius.
Now, even though they’ve been promised passage back home to deliver the message Georiou is considering how to counterattack. With Anderson dead, the Federation may not start fights but they will attempt to finish them. The current plan is to put a photon torpedo onto a construction ship and fly it to the Klingon ship. T’Kuvma is still hanging around to retrieve all the Klingon corpses and put them on his ship, so they’ll be here for a while. For this, Georgiou will not order anyone else to take her place, and will go herself. Burnham makes it to the bridge in time to dissuade her from martyring T’Kuvma, and try to capture him instead. Of course, now they’re back to recriminations, and in time to see the Klingons start tractoring in the dead. This means that nobody has to sacrifice themselves – they can just beam a bomb into a corpse or something.
As T’Kuvma preps his fallen soldiers (by hand, himself, he’s a true believer) Georgiou and Soru do the same with a torpedo warhead. They apparently can’t beam it inside him, but they stick it to his chest as he gets tractored into the Light of Kahless and blow apart the neck of the warbird. With the Klinons crippled, Georgiou and Burnham beam in with their weapons already drawn and armed. When did Starfleet lose this institutional knowledge, too?
Of course, they still beam into the open and have about zero seconds to aim and fire. Loaded gun goes first, though. Once the sounds of fired phasers are out, it becomes a big melee fight. Burnham takes out the Torchbearer’s eye and T’Kuvma takes out Georgiou’s heart, then gets a shot in the back. The Captain is dead and Soru beams Burnham out before she can even grab Georgiou’s body. They can’t lock on without life signs. T’Kuvma is dead, Georgiou is dead, the Shenzhou is dead, and Burnham is in court-martial, and sentenced to loss of rank and life in prison.