In the novel as well as the TV show, the Donnager is self-destructed after being successfully boarded by enemy marines. Even taking into account the later development, the attacker seemed to commit a rather large force. During the combat, several attacking ships were destroyed and lots of enemy marines (the Donnager was full of them) died in the final explosion. Especially the boarding operation seems rather pointless when the captured ship will probably self-destruct anyway.

Was there ever any explanation for this attack and especially the boarding?

  • 4
    They had to get the protagonists out there somehow...
    – Helmar
    Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 23:03

5 Answers 5


First of all, the boarding operations might seem pointless when the Donnager will probably self-destruct anyway, but as Holden muses in Chapter 15:

Boarding a ship was one of the riskiest maneuvers in naval combat. It was basically a race between the boarders rushing to the engine room and the collective will of those who had their fingers on the self-destruct button. After even one look at Captain Yao, Holden could have told them who'd lose that race.

Still. Someone had thought it was worth the risk.

So, assuming Holden is right, the boarders knew that the most likely outcome was that the Donnager would self-destruct, but that they could also possibly take the ship.

You mention

the later development

Just so it's clear what we're talking about, I assume you mean this development:

The plan is to destabilize the solar system by creating all-out war between all major factions through a series of false flag operations. It began with the destruction of the Earth-owned but Belt-staffed ship Canterbury (which of course also supplied the Belt with life-critical resources), which appeared to have been done by Mars. Mars is by far technologically superior to Earth and the Belt/OPA.

So, if the boarders take control of the Donnager, they control a Martian ship and can continue with their initial plan which begun with the Canterbury: Blaming Mars.

If they don't, and the Donnager self-destructs, they know that Mars will probably blame the Belt/OPA for both incidents, which is what happens.

Either way, they achieved their goal.

  • 1
    good interpretation
    – Cherubel
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 14:08

Well the Donnager is not just the lead ship in her class and the flagship of the MCRN it is also the most advanced warship of the time. Capturing that ship would put the boarding party in control of MRCN's flagship. It would be impossible at the time for Mars to claim the ship was stolen. Mars was already in the cross hairs for what happened to the Canterbury. Any action by the Donnager under the boarder's control would likely be to attack the belt or Earth. Mars would be the aggressor and the UN's actions would simply be self defense. Anything could be done to Mars as the belt and Earth now have a common foe. Maybe UN marine board the Donnager and capture it bringing Martian animals to justice. Either way a war is started and its not done by the UN.


The Donnager boarding still seems very pointless. The biggest benefit is getting access to the best martian technology had to offer, incorporating it as such. If they did comandeer the ship and attempted to use it in false flag operations, the martain government would disavow it to the extreme. Being open and honest about the situation, it seems reasonable that earth and mars could work together to track it down. Where could the Donnager go to repair from the battle with both governments looking for it? Either way, this happening is an unrealistic expectation.

In what world do you expect the proud, stoic martians to not self-destruct rather than cede control? None. Thus, commiting a majority of your fleet to either lose in battle or die in the self-destruct seems outrageously incompetent, in best case actually uniting Earth and Mars against the shadowy, extremely well equiped pirates.

I feel like the scenario is a leftover from the pen and paper game the story started as. Just some friends having fun, critical anylization far in the back seat.


The Donnager attack was pointless. A dead end. The forces financed by Mio are mercenaries who work for money yes? They are not people who die for a cause like defending your home world (Earth, Mars, Belters). It does add theater to the show but is a dead end. Why take on a large battle ship and lose several of your state of the art stealth ships and many hundreds of mercenaries? It also brought the stealth ships out of the dark and made it clear there was a fourth power in the solar system. I have not read the books but all I can figure out is the Donnager attack added theater to the TV series.


Ah....the Donnager had been to Phebe and observed the destruction. Maybe they had found a stray promolecule (after all the stealth ship transporting it got infected somehow by a stray molecule). Possibly Mao and the Martins working with him decided destroying it was worth the cost to assure the molecule was only in their hands. My best guess.

  • I’m not sure how this addresses the question here of why the Donnager was boarded. If you have an answer to that could you edit this to be clearer?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 21:32
  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. You should read help on answering to learn how to write a good answer. It seems you're suggesting a hypothesis (destruction was intentional) but you should provide evidence in-universe for that scenario.
    – DavidW
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 21:33

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