DIS: S1 – E1: The Vulcan Hello

A lot is riding on this first episode of a new brand of Star Trek. The Vulcan Hello is a loaded term and could be interpreted in many ways. The stakes were high for this series, especially after the Kelvin films ruffled so many feathers.

Star Trek: Discovery occurs in the “prime” timeline, which is the same timeline occupied by Picard, Sisko, and Janeway. The adventures of the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery happen in the years before James T. Kirk’s five-year mission begins with his Enterprise.

This show would be the first Trek show to have an African-American female lead in the starring role, Sonequa Martin-Green. That is a pretty big deal.

STARDATE: 1207.3

Perhaps to show everyone watching that this show would be unlike any Trek has seen before, the episode begins with a dire warning from a Klingon named T’Kuvma (played by Chris Obi). He said that if we don’t reunify the 24 ruling Klingon houses, then the humans and the Federation would come “assimilate” their species.

NOTE: I can see how jarring this “new” Klingon look must have been to longtime Trek fans. The Klingons have been a staple in Trek storytelling since the beginning of The Original Series, and the way they look has been the same since 1979’s The Motion Picture. They wore incredibly ornate costumes, with spider web patterns, hooks, spikes, jewels, and more.

The leader of the new-look Klingons, T’Kuvma, played by Chris Obi. Courtesy of CBS
The leader of the new-look Klingons, T’Kuvma, played by Chris Obi. Courtesy of CBS

These Klingons look more similar to those featured in Star Trek Into Darkness, which “John Harrison” battled on Kronos… I mean Q’onoS. I guess that not all humans look alike. We come in different shapes and colors too. Perhaps we’re seeing a different side of what a Klingon could look like.

I just wonder how they will explain the Klingons from TOS with these, almost reptilian Klingons.

Anyhow, T’Kuvma said (in his native tongue) that they all needed to unite under the banner of Kahless, who is like the Klingon Gandhi. Except Kahless was not about anything “non-violent.”

T’Kuvma’s message said that they would light the torches of Klingon unity and beware those who say they “come in peace.”

The scene cuts to one where we see First Officer Commander Michael Burnham (Martin-Green) walking on a desert planet with her captain, Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh).

The duo walked toward a well, which they must figure out how to fix so the native species, the Crepusculans, will not all die in the drought.

NOTE: They walked in a rocky corridor under a mass off egg sacks clinging to the walls of the gorge. It’s nice to see that right from the start; this new Trek is encountering creatures who are not humanoid.

A Crepusculan. Courtesy of CBS
A Crepusculan. Courtesy of CBS

Georgiou fired her phaser rifle into the well, and after a few moments, the water exploded from it like a geyser. But after they finished, they couldn’t beam back to their ship, the U.S.S. Shenzhou due to interference from an oncoming storm.

Realizing this, Georgiou took Burnham on a meandering walk. Eventually creating the pattern of the Starfleet delta in the sand. Awwww… then the Shenzhou was able to find them. As they beamed aboard, we got to hear the original Alexander Courage Trek theme…

Before that, Georgiou told Burnham that she wanted her to consider taking up her own command. Burnham served as the ship’s xenoanthropologist and Number One for Georgiou.

After Burnham and Georgiou got back aboard the U.S.S. Shenzhou, Burnham described their mission, which was to check out damage to an interstellar relay. Starfleet personnel are seen working outside of the ship in small pods called “workerbees,” which have robotic arms protruding from their sides. This is very reminiscent of the craft in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The ship and the damaged relay are near a binary star system — a solar system with two suns. The science officer, Mr. Saru (Doug Jones), said that he thought the damage to the relay did not look natural. Saru belongs to a new Trek species, the Kelpian, who can sense danger and death.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham. Courtesy of CBS
Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham. Courtesy of CBS

NOTE: In case you’re wondering, the Shenzhou is named after a spacecraft from our universe, which was launched in 1999 and carried Chinese astronauts to space in 2003. The word “shenzhou” means “divine land,” which is another name for China.

Saru, according to the playful exchanges between him, Georgiou, and Burnham, does not usually find agreement with his superior officers. But this time, he was correct. The sensors onboard the Shenzhou detected something, which they could not wholly focus on.

They found an object about 150 meters long in a “sensor dead zone.” Georgiou decided to use her old-fashioned optical telescope to try to get a view of the object. Saru thought the object, which was using a “scattering field” to disrupt their sensors, was lurking. Burnham suggested that she take a thruster pack to the object and learn what it was.

Saru argued against this, saying they ought to leave the object alone, but Burnham countered, saying that they needed to explore what they saw.

“We’ve come all this way, captain,” said Burnham. “It would be… irresponsible to leave whatever that is unknown.”

Georgiou agreed to let Burnham go, but only for 19 minutes. The radiation from the binary stars would cook Burnham, and her DNA would begin to unravel.

Doug Jones as Saru. Courtesy of CBS
Doug Jones as Saru. Courtesy of CBS

NOTE: Burnham’s suit was really cool looking. Probably the greatest looking space suit in Trek history. The only real competition was what Worf and Hawk wore in Star Trek: First Contact. Burnham was able to fly as Spock did in The Motion Picture without the extra booster.

This scene is reminiscent of the space-flight scene with Kirk and Khan in Into Darkness, and just as dangerous. Her suit did most of the work, navigating her through the asteroid field.

Burnham flew over the object, which looked like a spacecraft, which had been carved stone and metal alloy. When she finally landed on the craft, a Klingon in an incredibly ornate suit appeared, holding a bat’ leth. Her suit confirmed that it was a Klingon due to the icons on the suit. It attacked, and she pushed into it, causing the bat’ leth to pierce its armor. Burnham flew away from the ship, out of control.

The crew aboard the Shenzhou worked to try to beam Burnham back to the ship, but her signal was too weak.

On the Klingon ship, the warrior who Burnham killed was hailed as a “torchbearer” on their “Sacred Beacon.” They wrapped him like an Egyptian mummy and placed him in a torpedo/sarcophagus.  

T’Kuvma said this guy was the first to die to preserve the Klingon way of life. As they raised the torpedo out of the ship, the Klingons all gave the Death Cry (as seen in the TNG episode “Heart of Glory”). The torpedo joined hundreds of others on the exterior of the Klingon ship.

Meanwhile, we rejoin Burnham, dreaming about life back on Vulcan and her dad, Sarek. Yes! Burnham is the adopted daughter of Sarek and Amanda Grayson (Spock’s parents). Burnham dreamed about the time she was a little human in Vulcan’s learning pits (as seen on Star Trek 2009). The Vulcan computer asked young Burnham various questions involving the Klingons, including the number of their royal houses (24) and the site of their most recent raid.

Sarek as portrayed by James Frain. Courtesy of CBS
Sarek as portrayed by James Frain. Courtesy of CBS

Burnham stared off and could not answer the computer’s questions about the Human / Vulcan science outpost of Doctari Alpha and how Klingons destroyed it. Sarek (James Frain) walked up after she shut down the program out of frustration.

“When emotions bring us ghosts from the past, only logic can root us in the present,” said Sarek.

Burnham asked if she should learn Vulcan so that she could be quicker with her answers. Sarek said that her tongue was not the problem; it was her human heart.

She woke suddenly to find herself in a rehab chamber aboard the Shenzhou. She was covered with scabs, apparently from the radiation. She stood up before her “anti-proton” treatment was complete. The medical guy chased her down the hall, pleading with her to go back and complete the procedure. She walked into a turbolift.

She arrived on the bridge and told Georgiou that there were Klingons on the ship. Georgiou said that no one had seen Klingons in almost a hundred years. Saru noted that Burnham arrived on the bridge in an “irradiated state” and she also had a concussion.

“When emotions bring us ghosts from the past, only logic can root us in the present,” said Sarek.

Georgiou called for red alert and asked Burnham to explain what happened. Burnham explained but said there might be more. Saru wanted to withdraw, but Georgiou said that was not an option since they were in Federation space. Burnham wanted Georgiou to target the Klingons with “phase cannons.” Georgiou agreed.

As soon as they did, an enormous Klingon ship decloaked. Saru’s ganglia rose (which is the Kelpian version of a cat’s hair standing up). Georgiou told Burnham to go back to sickbay and ordered that Starfleet Command be notified.

NOTE: It was nice to see the Klingon ship and the Shenzhou facing each other without being on the same plane. This means that when two ships approach each other in space, they can come together from any number of angles. Most depictions of this “meeting” in space (on Star Trek and most other shows and films) have the spacecraft meeting as if they were both on the same plane (like water). A small but appreciated update.

The ships face each other. Courtesy of CBS
The ships face each other. Courtesy of CBS

The Klingons watched from their ship and debated, which would replace the dead guy as the next torchbearer. A pale-skinned runt named Voq (Shazad Latif) asked to be the new torchbearer. T’Kuvma said “no” because Voq was the “son of none,” but eventually saw something in Voq. T’Kuvma made Voq the new torchbearer.

When Burnham returned to the bridge, Saru told her that the Klingon ship’s hull was covered with pods (the coffins). He tried to talk Burnham into persuading Georgiou to leave. Burnham said that was not possible.

Saru explained that his species was raised to be the prey and to be hunted. His people, he said, had one special gift — to sense the coming of death. Saru told her that he sensed death coming at that moment.

Georgiou contacted Starfleet Command for guidance. Admiral Brett Anderson (Terry Serpico) admonished Burnham for disturbing the Klingons.

NOTE: The effect used for the admiral Georgiou was chatting with was not unlike the holograms Star Wars has been using since 1977.  

Burnham interrupted the conversation to tell the admiral that she thought, due to the Klingon’s nature, that they would eventually start a battle. Anderson scoffed at Burnham, telling her that she was the last one who ought to judge others’ race. He said that the U.S.S. Europa and other Federation ships were on the way and that Georgiou should do nothing “absent provocation.”

After the call ended, the Klingon ship created a massive display of light, over one million lumens per square meter. Burnham said it was a signal-emitter, and it created an audio wave as well. Burnham ran back to her quarters so she could contact Sarek.

“They said ‘hello’ in a language the Klingons understood,” said Burnham. “Violence brought respect. Respect brought peace.”

She explained the situation. Sarek said that this could be something that a Klingon leader could use to rally people to his side and unite the Empire. Burnham asked how the Vulcans achieved diplomatic relations with the Klingons long ago.

Burnham went back to the bridge and told Georgiou that they must fire on the Klingons. When Georgiou disagreed, Burnham explained that for over a hundred years, the Vulcans fired on Klingon ships when they first encountered.

“They said ‘hello’ in a language the Klingons understood,” said Burnham. “Violence brought respect. Respect brought peace.”

“Captain, we have to give the Klingons a Vulcan hello,” she said.

When Georgiou refused to fire, Burnham argued loudly in front of the bridge officers. Georgiou ordered Burnham to her ready room.

“How dare you challenge me?” said Georgiou. Burnham said the crew was ready for battle.

“Battle is not simulations,” said Georgiou. “It’s blood and screams and funerals.”

Michelle Yeoh as Captain Georgiou, ordering Burnham to stand down. Courtesy of CBS
Michelle Yeoh as Captain Georgiou, ordering Burnham to ”stand down.” Courtesy of CBS

Burnham continued to argue, but Georgiou told her to stand down. Georgiou got close, Burnham used a Vulcan neck pinch to knock out the captain.

NOTE: When I saw this, I said to myself, “Michael why are you so stupid? Don’t do this!” But she did…

Burnham went back on the bridge and relieved Saru, saying that the captain was relaying information to Starfleet Command. Burnham ordered torpedoes to be readied. Saru questioned every command that Burnham issued.

“This is mutiny!” Saru said to Burnham.

The moment Burnham ordered the ship to fire phasers at the Klingons, Georgiou emerged from the ready room with a phaser. She aimed at Burnham and ordered her to ‘stand down.’

Just then, the light from the Klingon ship went out, and a whole bunch of enemy ships warped onto the scene…


Geez, what a cliffhanger! It looks like Burnham might have been right after all about those nasty Klingons. But no one would listen to her until it was too late. Guess we’ll find out what happens next episode — the Battle at the Binary Stars.

Overall, you must be impressed by the way the show looks. It is a fantastic vision of Star Trek. The gadgets, the ships, and uniforms are incredible. From the displays to the doors, everything is just magnificent. You can see the $8 million per episode that CBS spent went to good use.

But I can certainly understand why some fans are mad. As beautiful as Sonequa Martin-Green is, her character is hard to love. The leading character of Discovery is often robotic, unfeeling, and more Vulcan than human. To top it off, she took out her own captain and tried to fire on an unfriendly race. This is a significant departure from previous Star Trek lead characters. Let’s compare what happened in the other first episodes for the leading role:

  • The Original Series: Kirk figured out that there was a salt vampire on his ship, and he saved the crew.
  • The Next Generation: Picard argued for the life of humanity against an omnipotent being.
  • Deep Space Nine: Sisko assembled his new crew and put the new starbase back together, learned that he had some cosmic role to play … while raising a son.

Those are just the first three series. The creators of Discovery dealt Burnham with a bad hand from the start.

Oh, and did you notice that the show did not end with a resolution? It’s serialized, sort of like Deep Space Nine. But DS9 got away with that type of storytelling because TNG and Voyager were doing the self-contained episodes at the same time DS9 was on the air.

For 50 years, Trek had been a show where the problem was solved in 48 minutes (except on DS9). Discovery did it differently, and some fans didn’t like it. I am fine with different, quite frankly. There was a reason that Trek is still relevant 53 years after the first season aired. It’s because it has changed and evolved. This is just the next step.

RATING: 4 out of 5


Directed by David Semel
Story by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman
Teleplay by Bryan Fuller and Akiva Goldsman
Created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman

Producers: Geoffrey Hemwall, April Nocifora, Aaron Baiers, Jill Danton
Consulting Producers: Nicholas Meyer, Craig Sweeny
Co-Executive Producers: Jesse Alexander, Aron Eli Coleite, Joe Menosky, Olatunde Osunsanmi
Executive Producers: Bryan Fuller, David Semel, Eugene Roddenberry, Trevor Roth, Akiva Goldsman, Heather Kadin, Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, Alex Kurtzman

Based upon “Star Trek,” created by Gene Roddenberry

Casting by … Margery Simkin, CSA, Orly Sitowitz, CSA
Music and theme by … Jeff Russo
Costume Designer … Gersha Phillips
Visual Effects Supervisor … Jason Zimmerman
Edited by … Jon Dudkowski, ACE
Production Designer … Mark Worthington
Director of Photography … Guillermo Navarro, ASC


Sonequa Martin-Green
Doug Jones
Shazad Latif
Anthony Rapp
Mary Wiseman


Jason Isaacs

Special Guest Star

Michelle Yeoh

Associate Producer … Dana N. Wilson

Guest Starring

Mary Chieffo
James Frain
Chris Obi
Maulik Pancholy
Terry Serpico
Sam Vartholomeos


Young Michael Burnham … Arista Arhin
Keyla Detmer … Emily Coutts
Torchbearer / Rejac … Justin Howell
Voq … Javid Iqbal
Kamran Grant … Ali Momen
Crepuscula … Bonnie Morgan
Or’Eq … David Benjamin Tomlinson
Shenshou Computer … Tasia Valenza
Britch Weeton … Chris Violette
Troy Januzzi … Romaine Waite

Executive Story Editors … Bo Yeon Kim, Erika Lippoldt
Staff Writers … Kirsten Beyer, Kemp Powers
Production Manager … David Till
First Assistant Directors … Libby Hodgson, Beau Ferris
Second Assistant Director … Rita Colucci

Canada Casting by … Lisa Parasyn, CSA and Jon Comerford, CSA

Original Star Trek theme by Alexander Courage

Set Decorator … Peter P. Nicolakakos
Property Masters … Mario Moreira, Jim Murray
Script Supervisor … Marta Borowski
A Camera Operator … Tony Guerin
B Camera Operator … Sean Sealy
Supervising Art Directors … Matt Middleton, Greg Chown, Jean-Andre Carriere, Stephen Stanley
First Assistant Graphics … Andy Tsang
Motion Graphics … Timothy Peel
First Assistant Art Director … Natasha Peschlow

First Assistant Art Directors … Chris Bretecher, Guinevere Cheung, Hayley Isaacs, Alexandra Juzkiw, John Kim, Matt Morgan, Dan Norton, Emilie Poulin, Itsuko Kurono, Michael Stanek, Simon Guilbault, Stephanie Chris, Christopher Ouimet, Corinna Porsia

Casting Associate … Emily Cook
Canadian Casting Assistants … Sara Dang, Lisa Demeo, Emily Johnson
Studio Manager … Robert Jones
Location Production Assistants … Chris Vargas, Fermin Balado

Costume Supervisor … Karen Lee
Assistant Costume Designers … Kimberly Catton, Megan Oppenheimer, Damion Saliani
Lead Character Designer … Neville Page
Department Head Hair … Ryan Reed
Department Head Make-Up … Colin Penman
Make-Up Effects Department Heads … Glenn Hetrick, James MacKinnon

Prosthetic Makeup Special Effects and Specialty Armor designed and created by:
Glenn Hetrick and Neville Page’s Alchemy Studios

Production Accountants … Debbie Van Dusen, Kitty Spiropoulos
First Assistant Accountants … Dawn Howat, Vess Stoeva
Second Assistant Accountants … Rebecca Pearson, Shane Pollard, Vanna Roopchand, Mark Bilas
Payroll Accountants … Melanie Foley

Lighting Design by … Franco Tata
First Company Grip … Robert Daprato
1st Assistant A Camera … Barrett Axford
1st Assistant B Camera … Brian White
2nd Assistant A Camera … Christina Louie
2nd Assistant B Camera … Craig Jewell
Digital Imaging Technician … Rob Stronghill

Assistant Production Manager … Kosta Orfanidis
Third Assistant Directors … Ross Vivian, Brooke Fifield
Production Coordinator … Janet Gayford
Script Coordinator … Melissa Goldstein
First Assistant Production Coordinator … Nicole Lane
Second Assistant Production Coordinator … Derrick O’Toole
Office Production Assistants … Tom Fitzpatrick, Laura Miles, Michaela Peker

Additional Production Design by … Todd Cherniawsky
Second Assistant Art Director … Hyebin Yoon
Playback Supervisor … Mark Lewandowski
Storyboard Artist … Rob McCallum
Concept Artists … Goran Delic, Bartol Rendulic
Art Department Coordinator … Katie Brock
Sound Mixer … Ao Loo
Boom Operator … Sean Armstrong

Stunt Coordinator … Rick Forsayeth
Special Effects Coordinator … Darcy Callaghan
Special Effects Key … Sophie Vertigan
Lead Dressers … Kevin Haeberlin, Greg Langham
Contact Lens Supervisor … Mandy Ketcheson
Transportation Coordinator … Jazz Helie
Construction Coordinator … Ross Fraser
Head Carpenter … Travis Israel Staley
Transportation Captain … Michael Corazza
Transportation Co-Captain … Grant Volkers

VFX Supervisor … Ante Dekovic
VFX Producer … Aleksandra Kochoska
VFX Production Manager … Helen Jen
VFX Lead Artist … Charles Collyer
Senior VFX Coordinator … David Takemura
VFX Coordinators … Ayana Reid, Julie Rothfarb
Assistant Editor … Matthew Kovach
VFX Editors … Jonathan Angus, Glenn Cote
VFX Assistant Editor … Greg Minihan
Post Production Coordinator … Ruben Michael Molina
Post Production Assistant … Ryan Miles

Researcher … Anthony Maranville
Assistants to the Writers … Tyler Dinucci, Brandon Schultz, Christopher Silvestri
Dialect Coach … Rea Nolan
Additional Dialect Coach … Jeffrey Simlett
Klingon Translator … Robyn Stewart
On Set Caterers … Gourmet Catering

Assistants to A. Kurtzman … Julian Gross, Robyn Johnson
Assistant to G. Berg & A. Harberts … Chris Danby
Assistant to H. Kadin … Kathryn Alsman
Assistant to A. Goldsman … Chloe Gebacz
Assistant to C. Sweeny … Kaycee Felton-Lui
Assistant to D. Semel … Chelsea Dowling
Executive Assistant Toronto … Emma Sampson

LA Unit

Unit Production Manager … Joe Lotito
First Assistant Director … Susan M. Elmore
Second Assistant Director … Marcia Woske
LA Stunt Coordinator … Joel Kramer
LA Art Director … William Budge
LA Production Coordinator … Andrew McCulloch
LA Construction Coordinator … Eddie Esparza
LA Lead Crane Tech … Philip Hallford
LA Chief Lighting Technician … David Lee
LA Hair Department Head … Darrell Redleaf-Fielder
LA Make Up Department Head … Karen Iverson

Jordan Unit

Jordan Producers … Elan Dassani, Rajeev Dassani, Kosta Orfanidis
Jordan Unit Producer … Issam M. Husseini
Jordan Production Coordinator … Tala Olabi
Jordan Script Supervisor … Haya Kattan
Jordan Chief Lighting Technician … Hosni Al Baqa
Jordan Art Director … Sami Keilani

Post Production Sound Services Provided by
Skywalker Sound, A Lucasfilm Ltd. Company, Marin County, California
Sound Designer … Christopher Scarabosio

Sound Services by … Warner Bros. Post Production Creative Services
Sound Supervisor … Jon Mete
Sound Designer … Tim Farrell
Re-Recording Mixers … Alexander Gruzdev, Brad Sherman
Music Editor … Matt Decker
Dailies Services by … Bling Digital
Post Production Services by … Chainsaw
Chainsaw Supervising Producer … Byron Smith
Chainsaw Online Editor … Chad Cole
Color Timing by … Company 3
Company 3 Final Colorist … Stefan Sonnenfeld
Editing Systems … Hula Post

Camera and Lenses by … Sim Digital
Main Title Design by … Prologue
Visual Effects by … Pixomondo, Crafty Apes, Spin VFX



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