In the Star Trek: Discovery Episode S01E05 Choose Your Pain we see

Michael Burnham release the tardigrade.
The tardigrade has been an integral component of the system that enabled the USS Discovery to achieve faster-than-warp speeds.

In the same episode,

Admiral Cornwell orders the Captain to share the technology enabling their travel speed, implying that the tardigrade technology is vital.

My question is:

Why is Michael allowed to release the tardigrade?

  • I'm not sure that she was allowed to do it, at least not by the captain. Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 9:40
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    Saru was still acting Captain at the time, so technically she was following a direct order. Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 11:14
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    General Order #2 says that a Starfleet officer may not use unnecessary force against any member of a sentient race. Since Culber found evidence that the Tardigrade is sentient, they'd be breaking GO #2 by experimenting on it against its will, especially given that said experiments were killing it. I don't believe it's why Saru gave the order, but it's worth considering. Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 11:19

1 Answer 1


At the time of this writing, it is unclear that Saru, in his role as acting captain, had informed the chain of command of his decision to order Burnham to release the tardigrade. There are, however, arguments to support this decision.

  • The tardigrade was no longer the only means to achieve long range jumps via the spore drive. An injection of the tardigrade's DNA into Stamet's blood stream allowed him to fill in for the creature.
  • The tardigrade was possibly sentient, and definitely in distress. Beyond the ethical considerations of using such a creature in a manner which threatened its life, this made the creature unreliable in its role as an essential component of a mission critical system.
  • The tardigrade was poorly understood, and had displayed a considerable threat. When under attack, it made quick work of a Klingon boarding party and a Starfleet officer. Keeping it on board presented an ongoing risk.
  • Note that it is likely that this wouldn't happen had the actual captain been there, since he is much more ruthless. Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 15:47
  • What was keeping it on the ship in the first place?
    – Mazura
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 16:09
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    @Mazura You could ask.
    – Politank-Z
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 16:11
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    It also seemed that the tardigrade was pretty much "used up", and of no further use to the Discovery. Burnham and Tilly appeared to be giving a sort of "last rite", suggesting that they believed it was beyond recovery. It only seemed to recover after it was released. It could be said that it feigned death to escape exploitation, or its treatment by Discovery truly placed it in moral peril. Either way, it was unlikely the Discovery or Starfleet could gain any further benefit from it.
    – Anthony X
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 15:29

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