In Star Trek Discovery S1:E2 - Battle At the Binary Star, we see the crew abandon a Star Fleet vessel, leaving it behind in Klingon Territory.

One would assume the procedure in this situation was to set the ship to self-destruct.

Indeed, the following commentator writes:

Why didn't the USS Shenzhou use it's self-destruct, rather than leave an active dilithium chamber for the Klingons to steal?

My question is: Why didn’t Shenzhou use its self-destruct after the crew abandoned it in Klingon space?

  • 2
    It was more important to rescue the captain's telescope.
    – Gaultheria
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 21:20
  • It's a great question and there has not yet been any on-screen answer. Saru's inexperience could be cited, but there were other Star Fleet vessels still in the area, any one of whose captains could have said, "Hey, don't forget to scuttle the ship!" It may be that someone decided the ship could have been salvaged, and then nobody had the time to actually go back and get it! But so far, nothing has been said on screen to support any explanation other than narrative requirements! Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 22:10
  • Thanks @MichaelScottShappe - could you expand that into an answer?
    – hawkeye
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 7:58
  • If you like, yes. I feel a little odd doing so, however, because it's yet another in my long line of, "This question cannot be canonically answered" responses :-D Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 16:38
  • Most likely the self-destruct system was offline :) Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 20:09

2 Answers 2


Right now, we have no on-screen, canonical answer to the question. And yet, it does seem to be a bit of a glaring problem. Under the circumstances, we're forced to speculate:

At the point where the decision had to be made to abandon Shenzhou, Saru would have been in charge. As we've already seen, even six months later aboard Discovery, where he is actually posted as First Officer, Saru is actually quite inexperienced with command, and command decisions. His instincts and his training-to-date would have focused heavily on the survival of his herd (that is, the crew), and not on the tactical question of leaving behind a potentially useful asset for the enemy to scavenge.

Even so, however, Shenzhou was not alone when it was abandoned. There were still several Federation starships in the area, at least one of which was presumably involved in rescuing the crew. One of those captains probably ought to have thought, "Hey, we really ought to scuttle the ship. Seems a shame, but we should."

On the other hand, it's possible that the ranking CO, whomever it was, thought that Shenzhou was potentially salvageable. They might have expected Star Fleet to immediately send in a team to bring the hulk of Shenzhou home, expecting them to rebuild and refit her and get her back in the fight. If so, Star Fleet appears to have either decided it was not worth the effort, or simply not had anyone to send. Once the war began, it appears that it heated up very quickly. Star Fleet may simply have been too stretched, and then figured it was already too late. If Kol had not decided to leave T'Kuvma's ship and followers stranded, or VoQ not been so fanatic about not using Shenzhou to get his own ship running again, Shenzhou would have been salvaged by the Klingons months before.

  • Maybe they just (misguidedly) trust the Shenzou's security protocols, and they think the chance of salvage at any time in the future justifies not destroying it? I.e. maybe they evaluate the risk of usefulness to the Klingon's as trivially small? Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 17:05
  • I think it's worth keeping in mind that Star Fleet appears to have been entirely blindsided. We don't really know what Star Fleet intelligence may have known, yet, but certainly nobody thought to warn Georgiou that her routine repair run was likely to become the cause celebre for a war. Everyone can be forgiven, I think, for doing things that don't make sense in hindsight. Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 17:48
  • Arguably, the advent of war can be an incentive to not blow up a ship willy nilly, as war usually comes with resource scarcity. Especially given Voq's initial refusal to even consider using Starfleet technology in the face of otherwise dying, a salvage by Starfleet may have been considered relatively viable if no one but the Klingons knows where the Shenzhou is.
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 16:44

I think it is because the ship is too servely damaged that thrre are no self-destruct secquence aviliable. I don't think it is something that can be "forgotted" because it is that is written in the protocol, and everyone single bridge crew knows that. However, this cannot explain why they just setup their photon torpedo to explode in their own ship, like what they done to the ship of death.

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