In Star Trek: Discovery, Burnham seems to be blamed solely for the Klingon-Federation War. In 1x03 "Context is for Kings", one of her prison-mates blames her for her cousin's death.

Prisoner: My cousin was on the Europa when it went down. She and 8000 others are dead because of you.

Burnham: Eight thousand, one hundred and eighty-six.

Later in the episode, Lorca says that Burnham "helped start a war".

You helped start a war. Don't you wanna help me end it?

Sure, Burnham's mutiny was a crime that needed to be punished. But why is Burnham considered responsible for starting the war?

  • Her mutiny lasted all of thirty seconds before it ended, and the Shenzhou didn't do anything during that time
  • The other Klingon ships would have behaved the exact same way and started firing on the Federation, whether she had committed her mutiny or not
  • It does not appear to be general knowledge that Burnham killed T'Kuvma, given that Harry Mudd didn't know that until she told him.
  • If anything, Georgiou seems more responsible for ensuring that a full-scale war happened because she kept saying that warping out of the Binary Star system was "not an option" when it was clear there were Klingons present, and she committed war crimes by rigging the dead soldiers with explosives to disable the flagship (something I'm sure the Klingons wouldn't take quietly)

Given that things would have turned out the same whether Burnham committed mutiny or not, why is she seen as solely responsible for the war?

  • I’m unsure whether to think of this “war” as a spoiler or not.
    – Edlothiad
    Jan 14, 2018 at 20:45
  • @Edlothiad Well, the trailers seemed to make it pretty clear, even using Lorca's line. Also, I didn't say who the war was against in the title. If you have a better suggestion though, I'd be interested to hear it. Jan 14, 2018 at 20:48
  • Haven’t watched it, don’t plan on watching it, so I was just checking to make sure it hadn’t just slipped your mind. (Hence the insecurity in what to think of it as, because I don’t have the knowledge to have a strong opinion).
    – Edlothiad
    Jan 14, 2018 at 20:52
  • @Edlothiad Well, I tried to keep the title relatively spoiler free, but I would think that anybody opening the question would have to be okay with spoilers from the two-part pilot (which is what all the bullet points are from). Jan 14, 2018 at 21:08
  • 1
    I’m a stern believer against spoiler markup, and therefore am not complaining about your body, just ensuring no one later has reason to whine about your title.
    – Edlothiad
    Jan 14, 2018 at 21:28

1 Answer 1


Burnham killed a Klingon on her EVA, and because of the radiation the recording was damaged so she can't prove it was self-defense. Then she had the Shenzhou prepare to fire, which it's been shown other ships can detect. And then she killed T'Kuvma.

The problem is that the Federation side didn't realize that T'Kuvma wanted a war, didn't care who shot first, and was intentionally escalating things to get as many ships on both sides in one place as possible so when the shooting started it would be a full-scale battle instead of a minor skirmish. As far as Starfleet is aware, at least initially, Burnham pissed off the Klingons by killing one of them, pissed them off more by adopting a hostile stance in her mutiny, and then finally screwed up the one chance of maybe stopping things by failing to capture T'Kuvma instead of making him a martyr. Burnham, who also didn't realize she had been in a no-win situation, also blames herself, moreso for the death of Georgiou than anything, so she's not in a mindset to defend herself.

As for Mudd not knowing she killed T'Kuvma, it wasn't because it wasn't public knowledge, it was because he didn't know she was Burnham who, as far as the majority of the Federation is aware, is still serving a life sentence. He had no idea she was on the Discovery or any reason to think she was.

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    "the Federation side didn't realize that T'Kuvma wanted a war" - so the Federation side also had not a single recording or witness report about e.g. how Admiral Anderson talked to T'Kuvma, seemingly agreeing on a ceasefire, just to have his ship destroyed by a cloaked vessel moments later? Jan 31, 2018 at 13:44

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