(written from a Production point of view)
Face to face with Klingon vessels, the USS Shenzhou prepares for the possibility of war if negotiations fail. Amidst the turmoil, Burnham looks back to her Vulcan upbringing for guidance. 
In a flashback to 2249, Commander Michael Burnham and Sarek beam aboard the USS Shenzhou for the first time. Captain Philippa Georgiou is enthusiastically welcoming Burnham, but her enthusiasm is returned with cold Vulcan rhetoric.
Act One Edit
Aboard his command vessel, T'Kuvma persuades the leaders of the various Houses of the Klingon Empire (appearing in holographic transmissions on his bridge) that he can lead them to victory over the Federation. The leaders are initially dismissive until they see the rest of the Federation fleet arrive.
With several Starfleet reinforcements having arrived, Georgiou tries to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict started by her now-former first officer, but the Klingons attack anyway. The Shenzhou is severely damaged, including the location of the brig, leaving Burnham trapped as half the deck is blown away and only a force field between her and open space.
Act Two Edit
Burnham is still kept alive via the brig's force fields. She drops to the floor and, surprisingly, finds herself in a mind meld with Sarek, enabled by his katra inside her. She apprises him of the situation and seeks his counsel. He ends up encouraging her that she is not doomed.
During the battle, the bridge is impacted with almost instant force fields turning on. Shields and impulse drive come off-line. Oddly, the pursuing warship moves off, but the ship is now under the influence of the stars' gravity. Just before hitting an asteroid, it is saved by the newly-arrived USS Europa via its tractor beam.
Admiral Brett Anderson's hologram appears on the bridge and Georgiou reports. He decides to try to broker peace with the Klingons. T'Kuvma does introduce himself and agrees to a cease-fire, however, soon the Europa is rammed by a Klingon vessel under cloak. As life pods flee the ship, Saru aboard the Shenzhou reports that the Europa is deliberately breaching their antimatter containment field to destroy the attacker. Both ships blow apart.
Act Three Edit
T'Kuvma encourages the other leaders to go back to Qo'noS, united against the Federation. To Starfleet's surprise, all ships leave except for T'Kuvma's. He sends a message to the Federation that they're superior and lets them live to relay that message to their people.
Meanwhile, Burnham uses ethical logic to persuade the computer controlling the brig security systems to allow her to escape across the vacuum between her and the nearest intact compartment by opening a hole in the force field and venting air from it to propel her across. Fortunately, it works.
On the bridge, Saru comes up with a plan to hit the ship with a transport carrying a photon torpedo which they can't fire. However, they can't set the transport on autopilot either. The captain says she will drive it herself.
As T'Kuvma orders the gathering of his ship's dead from the surrounding space, much of the Starfleet flotilla is destroyed or damaged. Georgiou is determined to kill T'Kuvma and avenge the deaths of her fellow officers. Burnham then makes it back to the bridge and convinces her to capture rather than kill, which would make T'Kuvma a martyr. The captain briefly notes she is disappointed with Burnham, as she hoped Burnham would be more loyal. Burnham counters that she, in fact, valued the crew over Starfleet principles. Burnham offers to drive the warheads herself, but then they both see the dead Klingons being retrieved. The captain decides to act and calls Saru to get ready.
Act Four Edit
As T'Kuvma mourns the dead, the Starfleet crew devise a scheme to penetrate the enemy ship's shielding by sending one of the floating Klingon corpses armed with a photon torpedo warhead to penetrate the ship's hull. Saru beams them onto the Klingon dead as they are tractored up. It works, and the ship suffers a huge explosion.
Burnham and Georgiou beam aboard T'Kuvma's ship to capture him, phasers drawn. A struggle between Burnham and Voq ensues when they encounter him. Burnham struggles with Voq as Georgiou fends off T'Kuvma, however, Georgiou is eventually stabbed. Burnham fends off Voq, but not in time. She shoots T'Kuvma, killing him, and then tries to recover her captain's body, but Saru can't lock onto her, so only Burnham is beamed back to the Shenzhou.
Voq vows to his leader's corpse that his legacy will be carried forward. Aboard the Shenzhou, the order is given for all hands to abandon ship. Dozens of escape pods launch from the doomed vessel.
Back on Earth, days later, Burnham stands before a Starfleet board of court martial and pleads guilty to charges of mutiny, assaulting a fellow officer, and precipitating war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Offering no defense of her actions and mourning the death of her lifelong dream to serve in Starfleet and command a starship, she is sentenced to be stripped of all rank and honors and imprisoned for life.
Memorable quotes Edit
"Members of the Federation, what you call your most remote borders, I call too close to Klingon territory. You only live now to serve as witnesses of Klingon supremacy, to be my herald. We do not desire to know you. But you will know our great houses, standing as one under Kahless, reborn in me, T'Kuvma."
- - T'Kuvma's message to the remaining Starfleet vessels
"Why are we fighting? We're Starfleet. We're explorers, not soldiers."
- - Danby Connor
"When you first came on board, seven years ago, I worried your Vulcan training might someday trump your Humanity. Do you know why Sarek asked me to take you on? I was a Human who had seen a life of loss, but still chose hope. What an ego I had... thinking I could pick away the shell the Vulcans had put around you. I was so sure I could do it, even convinced that you were ready for the captain's chair. To think I knew you so little. "
- - Philippa Georgiou, to Michael Burnham, on why she took Burham as a member of her crew
- - Michael Burnham, to Philippa Georgiou, on her mutiny
"All warfare is based on deception. When you are able to attack, you must seem unable."
"Sun Tzu. I recognize the quote. But I fear we are deceiving no one. We are most definitely unable to attack."
"We have no weapons, no warp, no countermove at all. The Klingons have us."
- - Philippa Georgiou and Saru
"From my youth on Vulcan, I was raised to believe that service was my purpose. And I carried that conviction to Starfleet. I dreamed of a day when I would command my own vessel, and further the noble objectives of this great institution. That dream is over. The only ship I know in ruins, my crew gone, my captain – my friend – dead. I wanted to protect them from war... from the enemy. And now we are at war... and I am the enemy."
- - Michael Burnham, after she pleads guilty to her crimes
"(In Klingonese) Whom do we seek?"
"How do we find him?"
"Give us light to see."
"Will he hide from us always?"
- - T'Kuvma's and Voq's final moments before T'Kuvma's death
Background information Edit
- According to Aaron Harberts in After Trek: "Episode 1", this episode and the previous one, "The Vulcan Hello", form a two-part "prologue" of sorts, with the third episode, "Context Is for Kings", being the "pilot". However, Star Trek author Christopher L. Bennett pointed out that neither episode is technically a pilot.  Bo Yeon Kim noted, "It felt like a two-parter because it was, because we wanted to set the show and set the scene for the season." 
Story and script Edit
- The conclusion of this episode was influential to the DIS writing staff while writing this entire episode (as well as "The Vulcan Hello"). "We wanted to build that relationship between Burnham and Georgiou so we could then yank it away," Aaron Harberts explained. (After Trek: "Episode 1")
- Setting up the war between the Federation and the Klingons was another goal in the writing of this installment. "Episode two was really supposed to be showing the audience what kind of show Discovery really is [….] It was very important that episode two really focused on just exactly what Michael kicked off," Aaron Harberts related. ("Star Trek: Discovery – The Voyage of Season One", DIS Season 1 DVD & Blu-ray special features)
- When David Mack was asked to start work on writing the first DIS tie-in novel to be published (which ultimately became Mack's novel Desperate Hours), this installment was still in very early development. Mack commented, "They had not settled on what the pilot episode was going to be."  Although Michael Burnham's formative years on Vulcan and the bombing of the Vulcan Learning Center were initially to have been featured in the novel, the writing staff of DIS decided that they wanted to keep these ideas for the TV series. "They also weren't a hundred percent sure where they wanted them to go yet," recalled Mack. This was while Bryan Fuller, who ultimately received an on-screen credit for writing this episode's story, was still involved in conceiving the series. 
- Early script drafts included very few character names or descriptions for the Shenzhou bridge crew. None of the preliminary concept drafts of the script were shown to author David Mack, though he did see production drafts of the teleplay once they had been approved by the studio and were being prepared for production. Even the first three or four drafts of those had many of the Shenzhou's bridge officers still unnamed; although Philippa Georgiou, Michael Burnham, and Saru were already named, the rest of the officers were referred to merely by their duty station. Recalled Mack, "I thought, 'Wow. Okay. In the TV show, to a certain degree, you can get away with that.'" However, because he had been assigned to pen the first DIS tie-in novel (the aforementioned Desperate Hours), Mack, with Kirsten Beyer's permission, invented a couple of those character names, which ended up being used in the actual episode too, as well as backstories for the characters, writing these up as a series of biographies. Influences on this work included production materials and the casting process.  Names Mack invented that were used in the episode include "Keyla Detmer", "Kamran Gant", and "Troy Januzzi". 
- Despite being credited, Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets), Mary Wiseman (Sylvia Tilly), and Jason Isaacs (Gabriel Lorca) do not appear in this episode. Despite this, Jason Isaacs was given the episode's script while he was originally considering whether to appear in the series. 
- Shazad Latif (Ash Tyler) appears only as the Klingon Voq, and is credited as "Javid Iqbal".
- Michelle Yeoh (Philippa Georgiou) is credited as special guest star.
- The cast members playing the Shenzhou bridge crew were supplied with the bios that David Mack had written about their roles. This enabled the actors to base their performances on whatever details they chose from those he had devised for each of their characters. 
- T'Kuvma actor Chris Obi was so thrilled to have a fight scene with martial arts expert Michelle Yeoh in this episode that he kept yelling, "I kicked Michelle Yeoh's ass!" on set. (After Trek: "Episode 1")
Production and editing Edit
- A lot of this episode was changed in editing. Thus, Director Hanelle M. Culpepper remarked that it turned out to be "so different" from how it was originally shot. 
- The production crew filmed an ultimately deleted extension of a scene which, in the final version of the episode, begins a montage initially showing T'Kuvma light his bat'leth on fire aboard his ship. The removed footage involved him then saying something to L'Rell and next walking past her, carrying the lit bat'leth with him. (After Trek: "Episode 1")
- Other changes in post-production included a scene which David Mack had written into his novel Desperate Hours, faithfully matching his version of the scene with how it had been written in the episode's final draft script. As that scene turned out in the final version of the episode, it was extremely different from the scripted version. "They cut an entire character, they cut half of a scene," Mack noted. 
- Another scene that was cut from this episode involved the young T'Kuvma aboard the Sarcophagus, while it was stuck on the sand on Qo'noS. In the scene, the young T'Kuvma raised himself from the ground onboard the craft while invoking to Kahless that he would raise the "hallowed ship of [his] ancestors" to the stars, with all the living and all the dead aboard it, and would reunite the Great Houses, for which he would forever be revered. The camera then pulled back from the Sarcophagus, dissolving to the face of the adult T'Kuvma. Addressing him as "my lord", L'Rell, standing next to him, told T'Kuvma that the Federation ships were hiding or scattered in pieces. This footage is included in the special features of the DIS Season 1 DVD and Blu-ray.
Visual effects Edit
- Many of the elements included in a shot of Burnham isolated in the Shenzhou's brig, with the hull immediately around her cell having been blasted away, were actually CGI. After Sonequa Martin-Green was filmed standing on a brig set piece on a green-screen stage (with a boom mic about a meter from her and backdropped by the green screen), the forcefield surrounding the cell and the elements of the hull were digitally added. ("Creating Space", DIS Season 1 DVD & Blu-ray special features)
- This episode picks up the plot from the end of the previous episode, "The Vulcan Hello", with the USS Shenzhou confronted by the arrival of a Klingon fleet and Captain Georgiou determined to end Burnham's mutiny.
- The flashbacks in this episode serve as a prelude to the first episode of the series, "The Vulcan Hello".
- This episode establishes that, even as early as 2249, the Shenzhou was a relatively old Starfleet vessel.
- Like Shinzon in Star Trek Nemesis, T'Kuvma is shown in flashback as a child enduring difficult societal circumstances in a rundown industrial environment (this time, a ship, rather than underground mines on Remus). Like Spock Prime in TAS: "Yesteryear" and the alternate reality Spock in the film Star Trek, T'Kuvma is depicted as being bullied in his childhood.
- In Klingonese, Voq repeatedly refers to T'Kuvma as "my lord," matching how Kruge is addressed in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and how L'Rell refers to T'Kuvma in "The Vulcan Hello".
- The House of D'Ghor was first mentioned in DS9: "The House of Quark".
- T'Kuvma mentions that the last time the Klingons clashed with the Federation was years ago at Donatu V; this was previously mentioned in TOS: "The Trouble with Tribbles", in which it was said that the skirmish there was "inconclusive." That episode also established that the skirmish at Donatu V occurred in the year 2245, eleven years before the Battle of the Binary Stars.
- T'Kuvma additionally mentions "Humans, Vulcans, Tellarites, and filthy Andorians." These four races are the founding species of the Federation, as first established in ENT: "Zero Hour".
- Many of the Starfleet ship names in this episode have origins either in reality or previous Star Trek productions. The USS Shran may be a nod to Commander Thy'lek Shran from Star Trek: Enterprise. The USS T'Plana-Hath may have been named after T'Plana-Hath, the matron of Vulcan philosophy mentioned in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and ENT: "The Forge", or the Vulcan starship featured in Star Trek: First Contact. The USS Kerala was presumably named after the Kerala state of India, where the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology is located. The USS Sioux was named after British singer Siouxsie Sioux.  The USS Ride was named after 20th-century astronaut Sally Ride.  The USS Earhart was presumably named after 20th-century aviator Amelia Earhart. The USS Edison may have been named after famous inventor Thomas Edison or Balthazar Edison, one of the first Federation Starfleet captains, established in Star Trek Beyond. The USS Yeager was presumably named after 20th-century test pilot Chuck Yeager.
- The attack on the Vulcan Learning Center depicted in flashback here was later established, in subsequent first season episode "Lethe", to have been committed by Vulcan logic extremists.
- Whereas Sarek melded with Michael Burnham in her childhood, he never melded with Spock, as was established in TNG: "Unification II".
- The psychic contact experienced between Michael Burnham and Sarek is similar to the psychic bond experienced between Charles Tucker and T'Pol, although in this case is explained by part of Sarek's katra being with Burnham.
- Altering a photon torpedo warhead to score a decisive hit on a Klingon warship capable of cloaking was previously accomplished in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
- The idea of a Starfleet captain, the commanding officer of a Starfleet ship, venturing aboard an enemy's vessel in a shuttlecraft was not only discussed here but also done in the film Star Trek, in that case with Captain Robau traveling to the Romulan mining vessel Narada.
- Burnham being beamed away from Captain Georgiou – a mother figure in her life (as attested by the actors' comments) – while she dies echoes how, also in the film Star Trek, Spock is beamed away from his mother, Amanda Grayson, just as she dies. Both Burnham and Spock, who normally keep their emotions in check, are unable to save their loved one and are emotionally affected by the loss thereafter.
- The Klingon prayer spoken by Voq and T'Kuvma was also used in a later episode, "Despite Yourself", where L'Rell attempts to use it to awaken Voq's memories.
Reception and aftermath Edit
- After Trek "Episode 1" discusses the making of, and events in, this episode.
- This was the first episode of Discovery to air exclusively on the CBS All Access platform in the United States. It was released immediately after the broadcast of "The Vulcan Hello" on CBS. 
- This episode aired on Space in Canada after the previous episode aired on CTV.
- This episode is rated TV-14, even though the series as a whole is rated TV-MA.
- After Trek host Matt Mira approved of the fight near the end of this episode. "The fight scene was great to watch," he said. "You had two Klingons, you had two badass Starfleet women. It was epic." (After Trek: "Episode 1")
- Star Trek author Keith R.A. DeCandido gave this episode (and the previous one) a glowingly positive review. "I gotta say, it's nice to see a Starfleet officer commit an act of mutiny and actually suffer for it," he commented. "I also was highly amused by Burnham whipping out that old Trek standby of out-logic-ing a computer, in this case escaping the damaged brig before the force field died, only unlike when Kirk did it, Burnham's logic actually made sense [....] I particularly like the flashbacks to her arrival on the Shenzhou, where she's so very Vulcan (it reminds one favorably of Michael Dorn playing Worf as so very Klingon)." DeCandido also cited Georgiou's hand-to-hand combat scene as another highlight of the episode. Conversely, however, he was of the opinion that "the telepathic phone call would've worked better as another flashback" and that Burnham having access to the Shenzhou's main computer while in the brig "makes no sense." 
- Picking up on one of DeCandido's points, Christopher L. Bennett agreed, "It was cool that we got to see Michelle Yeoh get to do some martial arts, although either she's slowed down somewhat with age or she was holding back because her character wasn't a martial artist." He also nitpicked the scene in which Burnham is exposed to the vacuum of space, Bennett remarking, "Her skin shouldn't have iced over because, contrary to popular belief, vacuum is an insulator, so you lose heat considerably more slowly in vacuum than in atmosphere."  
- David Mack didn't find out about the radical post-production alterations to this installment until he saw the episode (along with "The Vulcan Hello" and "Context Is for Kings") at a private screening. The changes astounded him. 
Production history Edit
- 17 March 2017: A day of filming 
- 17 September 2017: Title publicly revealed 
- 19 September 2017: Premiere screening at the Cinerama Dome at Hollywood's Arclight Theater
- 24 September 2017: Premiere airdate on CBS All Access
- 25 September 2017: International release date (outside Canada and the USA)
Video and DVD releases Edit
Links and references Edit
- Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
- Doug Jones as Saru
- Shazad Latif as Ash Tyler
- Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets
- Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly
Special guest star Edit
Guest starring Edit
- Mary Chieffo as L'Rell
- James Frain as Sarek
- Kenneth Mitchell as Kol
- Chris Obi as T'Kuvma
- Terry Serpico as Brett Anderson
- Sam Vartholomeos as Danby Connor
- Arista Arhin as Young Michael Burnham
- Emily Coutts as Keyla Detmer
- Javid Iqbal as Voq
- Ali Momen as Kamran Gant
- Clare McConnell as Dennas
- Thamela Mpumlwana as Young T'Kuvma
- Damon Runyan as Ujilli
- Tasia Valenza as Computer Voice
- Chris Violette as Britch Weeton
- Romaine Waite as Troy Januzzi
Uncredited co-stars Edit
- Jimmy Chimarios as Blue skinned Shenzhou crewmember
- Paulina Miel as Shenzhou female bridge officer
- Unknown performers as
2249; analogy; analysis; Andorians; antimatter containment; au; autopilot; battlefield; battle stations; Beacon of Kahless; Black Fleet; blast door; bone; brig; brig emergency evacuation protocol; bulkhead; captain's chair; casualty; cease fire; chain of command; children; choice; coincidence; collision; comrade; confidence; containment field; coordinates; corridor; damage alert; damage report; death; debris; debris ring; deception; defendant; depressurization; dereliction of duty; doctrine; Donatu V; dream; ego; emergency force field; enemy; entombment; environment; envoy; ethical protocol; evasive maneuvers; first contact; flesh; friend; gravitational field; Great House; hand; head; heading; holo-communicator; honor; hope; House of D'Ghor; House of Mo'Kai; hull breach; Humans; imprisonment; impulse engine; individuality; Kahless; katra; Klingon; Klingon High Council; Klingon language; knowledge; lateral vector transporter; light year; martyr; massacre; memory; messiah; meter; mind; minute; mutiny; negotiation; officer; pattern buffer; peace; phaser pulse rifle; playground; photon torpedo; photon warhead; plea; pride; prisoner; prisoner of war; proximity alert; Qo'noS; quote; Rejac; respect; respiratory distress; reverse thruster; self-destruct; self-esteem; sentence; sentimentality; shame; shipmate; shock; sleep; soldier; space; star; Sto-vo-kor; subspace frequency 1142; suicide run; Sun Tzu; suffocation; suicide mission; symbol; table; Tellarites; thought; T'Kuvma's father; tractor beam; training; vacuum; Var'Hama candle; Vulcan; Vulcans; Vulcan Expeditionary Group; Vulcan Learning Center; mind meld; Vulcan Science Academy; ward; warrior; word
Starship references Edit
BortaS bir-class; Bstlh-class; Cardenas-class; Clarke, USS; command vessel; D7-class; Dana, USS; DaSpu'-class; Earhart, USS; Edison, USS; Engle-class; escape pod; Europa, USS; flagship; Hoover-class; Kerala, USS; Klingon cleave ship; Magee-class; Malachowski-class; Nimitz-class; Ride, USS; Sarcophagus; Shenzhou, USS; Shepard-class; Shran, USS; Sioux, USS; T'Plana-Hath, USS; Walker-class; worker bee; Yeager, USS
- "Battle at the Binary Stars" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Battle at the Binary Stars" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Discovering Discovery Live" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
- "Battle at the Binary Stars" at Wikipedia
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