During Episode 3 of Star Trek: Discovery most characters indicate that the Battle at the Binary Stars itself and the subsequent

death toll in the war with the Klingons was the fault of Michael Burnham.

Later in the episode the character herself indicated that it was her fault that the battle occurred.

But in the episode featuring the battle, it looked more as if the battle would have ensued regardless of that character’s actions. So I'm a bit confused as to why they say it was this characters fault.

It could be argued that the war itself was indeed her fault, as she killed T'Kuvma instead of capturing him as planned, after the Klingon killed Captain Georgiou.

But as for the battle itself I was thoroughly confused.

  • 1
    @hawkeye Adding the character tag really makes the careful title ("this character" to avoid spoilers) seem pointless :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 10:08
  • @Randal'Thor I was just gonna say the same :D Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 12:24

6 Answers 6


From the perspective of the humans involved, it appears to be Burnham's fault. They don't know, can't know that the Klingons would have attacked anyway and were hoping to start a war. In fact, her mutinous actions might have actually averted the war if the Klingon ship had been destroyed.

From the human's perspective she impaired the captain's ability to resolve the situation and ultimately got her killed. She killed two Klingons (one accidentally), one of which was T'Kuvma who became a martyr.

This is compounded by Burnham's unwillingness to defend her actions and determination to accept her punishment. She seems to believe that she is at fault.

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    hmmm still though the captains orders were followed the whole time until the battle started (everyone on board saw that), thus her mutineer would have made no difference even from the humans perspective or am I wrong?
    – Thomas
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 21:45
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    You are not wrong exactly. As I said, incapacitating the captain clearly didn't help her resolve the situation. As first officer she was negligent in her duty to support and advise the captain at a critical time.
    – user
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 21:47
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    All of these things are true, which is why I upvoted; but ultimately, I think the real mismatch comes down to the first two episodes being after-thoughts. I believe that Ep 3 was where the story was originally supposed to start, and we would have learned the rest only through reference and flashback. Someone decided we needed to SEE it and we got E1&2. Evidence includes the fact that the series originally had a 13 ep order, than got two more episodes; and that the writing quality on E1&2 feels rushed! Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 23:42
  • is there any other evidence for your statement @MichaelScottShappe? It's an interesting idea - but just using episode order count doesn't necessarily prove production reasoning.
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 17:39
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    She did order weapons to go hot, which was noticed by the Klingons (and them noticing was noticed by the Shenzhou crew). For all we know everyone treats Michael's order to arm weapons as a provocation that set Klingons off, causing the battle.
    – Petersaber
    Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 18:08

There's five reasons intertwined to explain the perception that she's responsible.

  1. She has a personal reason to hate Klingons.

  2. She killed a Klingon first. Without the Federation side knowing what the Klingons thought about it, she could be blamed for instigating the initial standoff to begin with, as the video proof that she acted in self-defense was explicitly stated to have not been recovered.

  3. She mutinied. That's the problem Starfleet officially has with her, but it's the thing that makes her well-known.

  4. She killed the Klingon leader on the scene, in the process getting Georgiou killed, and creating the unifying martyr Burnham herself had worried about.

  5. The Federation and Starfleet were unaware that nothing would have prevented T'Kuvma from instigating a battle.

Officially, her charges revolved around the mutiny, not the initial killing or Georgiou's death, but that gets wrapped into the perception she's responsible for the whole thing. Federation civilians would blame her for starting the whole mess. Starfleet personnel, with more context, blame her for being their first mutineer. Her former crewmates blame her for the captain's death. And everyone blames her for killing T'Kuvma.

So you've got someone known to have a reason to hate Klingons, who was the first to kill a Klingon, who advocated attacking the Klingons without provocation, who attempted mutiny in order to carry out that attack, who was with her captain when the latter was killed attempting a plan Burnham came up with, and who killed the leader whose death the Klingons rallied around, and they don't know that the Klingons would have attacked even if Burnham hadn't done all those things. Of course people would consider her responsible. And since Burnham doesn't know the last fact either, that she had been in a no-win situation where there would be no good outcome, she'd hold herself responsible as well.

  • 1
    somehow the no win reminds me of kobayashi maru ^^. ironically though is that if she had succeeded in her attack plans....the whole battle prolly wouldnt have happened.
    – Thomas
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 16:22
  • I think 5 is not quite supported by the text of the show. The characters have already concluded that the communications buoy was likely sabotaged. The Feds were lured there. It might not have been crazy to think that firing first would deter the Klingon, or satisfy their honor or whatever, but once the beacon goes off, it's clear that it was always the plan from the beginning for there to have been a big fight. In retrospect, the Federation retreating might have been the only thing that might have diffused the situation. The other Klingons might have all lost interest and gone home.
    – swbarnes2
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 21:27
  • T'Kuvma wanted a war. If it hadn't taken place there, it would have happened somewhere else where he could force Starfleet to make a stand. It was explicitly mentioned that Starfleet didn't retreat in the first place because there were Federation planets nearby, and all he would have had to do was show up there to force the issue. And they don't know about the legend behind the beacon. For all they knew, it was a weird distress signal. As for the buoy, again, they don't have proof the Klingons did it. Remember, this is talking about why people think she's responsible, not objective truth. Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 2:36

This point also bothering me to no end during the watching, so I tried to found reason for it.
The main reasons i came to was :


The federation needed a scapegoat. Someone they could blame for the war.
The fact that everyone seems to have heard of the 'mutineer' by her name (and knowing the fact it's a woman named Michael, which was confirmed as exceptional in 1.03) goes in this direction.
This means that Burnham’s story was wide spread.
It can't be accounted for by rumor only, especially when considering the military have a default secrecy obligation.
The fact she pleaded guilty did not help her situation, but even if she had pleaded innocent or tried to explain her view, it would have had little effect. She would not have been able to explain herself to the public. Only the official version would have been broadcast.

Survivors write the history

The only person who ultimately understood Burnham and could have defended her was the Captain. And the Captain is dead. The only person that could tell how the captain died is the one who have killed her. The only people that could tell the extent of the mutiny were the ones who let it happen, with a lot of compliance...
I can admit Burnham surrendered herself. But most likely you can thank the rest of the crew for the 'official' summary of the events.

  • For the exceptional part.....its worse than that. According to eps 1.3 she is the FIRST federation mutineer.
    – Thomas
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 11:39
  • 1
    Thank you to remind me this part, effectively... Yet I'm dubious about the fact she is the FIRST mutineer ever. The first public one, yes. The first to kill her captain, yes. But the first one to mutine ever. I don't believe it.
    – dna
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 13:33

From the point of view of the Federation the following happened by her own debriefing:

  • She went and landed in an artifact just on the edge of Federation space, encountered and killed a Klingon.
  • She mutinied preventing her capitan to continue with diplomacy to defuse the situation.
  • She loaded and aimed weapons at the Klingon vessel, an action that can be detected by most vessels on Star Trek canon. Shortly after that the Klingon attacked.
  • She boarded the Klingon vessel and killed the main commander out of rage for the death of her capitan, even though she knew that would make a martir.

From the point of view of the federation is very difficult not to correlate that into “your actions initiated a war”. In fact, without knowing the Klingons intended to attack no matter what (something only known by the viewers) it’s the logical conclusion.

  • How did her mutiny prevent the captain continuing with diplomacy? And the Klingons attacked shortly after Georgiou spoke to them (diplomatically). Which was shortly after all the Starfleet ships turned up. Which was quite some time after Michael’s actions. Commented Aug 17, 2019 at 8:14

You can't say Burnham killed T'Kuvma out of rage at Georgiou's death - she'd already shot and killed him before seeing that he'd stabbed Georgiou with his Bat'leth - his body falls to the ground and THEN Burnham sees Georgiou is dead. T'Kuvma's considerably taller and bulkier than Georgiou and his body is blocking hers from Michael's view.

Also Bunrham's mutiny doesn't prevent the Captain's attempts at diplomacy. It does impair that attempt - but it doesn't wholly prevent it.


The most important evidence is that a Vulcan believes it is Michael Burnham's fault. That means it has passed the test of logic and critical thinking. Michael Burnham blaming herself cannot be attributed to guilty feeling. She is exceptionally smart, she was a first-hand witness to all events, she has all the facts, and she has weighed the evidence.

Scapegoat theory does not work. This would require Burnham to lie at her court-martial. She could not have lied at her court-martial (again, she is Vulcan). Also, scapegoating is just not the way Starfleet operates at this time in history (with the possible exception of AI-controlled Section 31).

Other than this, she has been tried fairly and convicted. That is a pretty good reason to blame someone.

To me, this is the reason why she is blamed for the Battle of the Binary Stars.

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