“Battle at the Binary Stars” is the second episode in Star Trek: Discovery. It premiered right after “The Vulcan Hello,” if you didn’t check out my recap for “The Vulcan Hello” you should do that first!
We open up “Battle at the Binary Stars” with First Officer Michael Burnham flashing back to when she was first brought aboard the Shenzhou. Sarek her mentor, leaves her with Captian Georgiou as the two get better acquainted. In the turbo-lift that’s where their relationship truly begins.
By placing the flashback at the beginning of the episode we’re seeing the dual personalities of both Captian Georgiou and First Officer Burnham. This comes on full display in the middle of a mutiny against Captain Philippa Georgiou when we’re brought to the present moment. This opening is unlike any other that we’ve seen in the past. And there’s a bit of the problem with this scene in general. Though it’s a powerful scene, it makes no sense to me.
First Officer Michael Burnham has been raised by Vulcans, you would expect a bit more control over her emotions. She’s been serving on the USS Shenzhou for seven years, you would have assumed by then, the captain would have a bit more trust in her first officer. The idea isn’t complete here. I’m not sure if the writers knew where they wanted to launch Burnham and when.
Once we get back from the flashback, a debate rages within the Klingons. Burnham notices there are 24 ships that have dropped out of warp, the same as the number of Klingon Houses. Thinking of her subspace conversation with Sarek in the previous episode, Burnham surmises there is an attempt to unify the Empire. Captian Georgiou once again orders her relieved of command and sends her to the brig.
We then are taken to the Klingons. T’Kuvma calls for the other houses to come under his banner and unify as one. He points to the federation mixing Vulcan, Tellarite, Andorian, and Humans as proof of their threat. The fear of a growing power is a pretty common fear in international politics so it makes sense to see it on the interstellar level.
At this point, a group of Star Fleet vessels drops out of warp. Captian Georgiou takes the opportunity given by the drop in communications jam to hail the lead Klingon vessel. In her message, she reminds them that they are in Federation territory, but welcome them by saying the Federation comes in peace. T’Kuvma calls Georgiou’s message a lie, claiming that the Federation will erode their individuality.
A bold claim I might say, and one that reminds me of what the Borg literally wanted to do throughout their appearances in the franchise. Taking T’Kuvma’s claim to heart, the Klingons open fire against the Federation group. The Battle at the Binary Stars begins.
Now, the major star of this episode was the battle itself. Never before and with such attention to detail have we been treated with the ship to ship combat of this high caliber. The special effects weren’t overplayed, though the echoes of the Kelvin Timeline could still be felt here and there. During the run of Deep Space Nine, and Voyager there had been strides in how space combat would be seen in the franchise. Both shows did an excellent job at pushing forward that aspect of the Trek universe; Discovery clearly benefited from it.
As the battle rages Connor, the helmsman on the bridge is injured. He tells Captian Georgiou that he can continue to fulfill his duties. But he is clearly suffering from head trauma and is ordered to sickbay. During this time Connor attempts to make his way to sickbay, but due to his head trauma stumbles into the brig. That’s when we got the best scene out of the entire episode. Burnham pleas with him for an update and he tells her:
“We’re Starfleet, were explorers not soldiers.”
That moment was the moment that made the episode for me. Because it’s the central struggle within Star Trek for as long as the franchise has been around. And it’s one that is reflected upon our own nature as we today try to figure out which direction we want to take mankind. Out of everything this was the most powerful point.
However, the episode doesn’t end there. Suddenly an explosion rocks the Shenzhou and Burnham is knocked out. Connor himself is shot out into the vacuum of space to his death. Next, we see Burnham waking up while the Shenzhou computer is calling out the massive damage and hull breaches throughout the ship. Burnham is notified that the forcefields in place are going to fail soon by the computer. All around her all that is left of the brig is her single cell.
Saru reports to the Captain the damage on the ship indicating there was a major breach on Deck 9, the brig. Assuming the worst, they continue on during the ensuing battle. However, it doesn’t go well for the Shenzhou. Engines fail, and the Shenzhou finds itself at the mercy of the system’s gravity. Right before impacting against a large asteroid the USS Europa locks on its tracker beam saving the Shenzhou.
Taking command of the situation, Admiral Anderson opens a channel and speaks with Georgiou. Using a 3d hologram of himself to do so, he turns his attention to the Klingon ships and puts forth a ceasefire. Here I got nervous. It’s obvious that Star Fleet didn’t heed the lessons from the Vulcans when dealing with the Klingons or the knowledge wasn’t given the proper attention it deserved.
T’Kuvam responds to Admiral Aderson by stating he was just waiting for someone worthy of his attention, then offers to send an envoy. It is all a deceit as T’Kuvam’s cloaked ship rams right into the USS Europa. The USS Europa activates it self-destruct in an attempt to take out T’Kuvam when it becomes clear all hope is lost. This was a great touch since Kinglons were first given cloaking technology by the Romulans in exchange for their schematics of their Birds of Prey.
The Battle at the Binary Stars is soon over. T’Kuvma uses this battle as proof of his rightful place as leader. He tells the other House Leaders to return to Qo’nos and tell the other Klingon leaders that the empire now fights as one again. Now its led by T’Kuvma the Unforgettable. The rest of the Klingon ships warp away leaving only T’Kuvam’s flagship behind collecting their dead.
Burnham now is able to make it out of the brig and rejoins her crew on the bridge. The Captain and First Officer know that their situation is in dire straits. Saru at this point suggests sneaking a torpedo on the Klingon ship using a transport craft in order to avoid their sensors. Burnham now says that if they kill T’Kuvam, they risk turning him into a symbol for the Klingons. It’s better to capture and dishonor him. In turn, this would discredit his attempts to unify the empire.
Then the crew notices that the Klingons are picking up their dead. A new plan is now hatched by Capitan Georgiou.
In the next scene, we see T’kuvam presiding over a ceremony for the dead of the battle. The torpedo warhead is now transported on a dead Klingon as it’s being pulled into the flagship where it explodes causing major damage. Both Captian Georgiou and First Officer Burnham transport aboard T’kuvam’s ship to secure their prisoner. On the enemy ship, they are attacked by T’Kuvma and another Klingon Voq.
During the fighting, Captian Georgiou is fatally stabbed and Burnham, in turn, fires at T’Kuvma. She hits him directly in the chest. Before Burnham is able to reach Captian Georgiou’s body she’s transported back aboard the Shenzhou. T’Kuvam, in turn, dies in Voq’s arms.
In the final scene of the episode, we watch Burnham in front of a military tribunal. Many chargers are thrown on her. Mutiny, assaulting a superior officer, and more. She says that everything she did was to protect the Federation from war. Unmoved the figures in the darkroom strip her of all her rank and sentence her to life in prison for crimes.
“Battle at the Binary Stars” has both hits and misses. Where it misses is related mostly to their lack at expanding Trek and trying new things. It’s just not there. They should be attempting to explore new themes and situations. This is more of what we need. We don’t want the franchise to go stale by copying the J.J. Abrams movies. Using the same formulas can hurt the lore in the long run. Where this episode hits is with the dialog. Though the Klingons are drawn out a bit, you’re more immersed. Connor’s line shortly before his demise sums up the central struggle the Federation should be facing this season.
The best part was it was summed up quickly by a non-major character. The feelings of the rest of the crew are highlighted in this. Sometimes we forget that these ships are supposed to carry hundreds of personnel. That scene in the brig was a hard reminder of that.
Star Trek: Discovery came out of the gate running, but it stumbled. Though it may have stumbled it got back up and is now running again. We have to remember that not every series started out strongly. I can point to the first two seasons of Deep Space Nine as a painful reminder. I look forward to watching Discovery this season. I still wished we didn’t have to pay for another streaming service, but I will because Discovery has surpassed my expectations. I hope that as the season progresses that they pull away from the J.J. Abrams model of Star Trek.
Tell me what you below! Are you happy with the first two episodes? What was good, and what was bad?