Spock’s presence in Star Trek: Discovery season 2 could shed light on one of his pivotal actions when he was Science Officer aboard the Starship Enterprise under Captain James T. Kirk: the Vulcan committed mutiny, just like his foster sister Michael Burnham. It’s possible Burnham’s life-altering choice in season 1 of Star Trek: Discovery plants the seed for Spock to do the same in the Star Trek: The Original Series episodes “The Menagerie, Parts 1 and 2”- and he learns the dos and don’ts of mutiny from Michael’s mistakes.
Star Trek: Discovery is set roughly a decade before the events of the inaugural Star Trek series. In the two-part series premiere, “The Vulcan Hello” and “The Battle at the Binary Stars,” the rise of the Klingon threat prompts Commander Michael Burnham to commit mutiny. Burnham disobeys her orders and fires on the Klingons, instigating the Klingon War that would devastate the Alpha Quadrant and permanently change the course of her life. Though the Federation ultimately achieved an armistice with the Klingons, many thousands died during the year-long Klingon War. Burnham ultimately found redemption, but she continues to deal with the ramifications of her actions.
One of the intriguing aspects of Star Trek: Discovery is that Burnham grew up in the same household as Spock. Ambassador Sarek adopted Michael as his ward and raised her alongside his half-Vulcan/half-human son. Their relationship soured due to undisclosed reasons (possibly because Spock developed feelings for his foster sister) before Burnham left Vulcan to join Starfleet; Spock would follow suit and also join Starfleet. At this point in Star Trek history, Spock is First Officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise under the command of Captain Christopher Pike. Though the Enterprise was exploring the galaxy on its five-year mission and missed fighting in the Klingon War, Spock was surely aware of the mistakes Michael made. It’s logical to surmise that the Vulcan learned from Michael’s mutiny and didn’t repeat her grave mistakes when he also decided to commit mutiny in The Original Series.
- This Page: Spock and Michael Burnham’s Mutinies
- Page 2: What This Means For Spock In Star Trek: Discovery Season 2
Spock Committed Mutiny In The Original Star Trek
Spock committed mutiny in The Original Series‘ first season two-parter “The Menagerie” (which contains footage from Star Trek‘s original pilot “The Cage”). When Captain Pike was seriously injured by exposure to delta-rays, which left him permanently in a wheelchair and unable to speak, Spock betrayed Kirk and hijacked the Starship Enterprise. His goal was to deliver Pike to Talos IV, a planet they visited in 2254 (3 years before Star Trek: Discovery season 2’s events). Starfleet is forbidden to visit Talos IV under penalty of death because the Talosians are illusion-casting beings who kidnap aliens for their zoo; however, the Talosians were actually engineering events to bring Pike to them so they could offer the gravely injured captain, whom they respect and admire, a chance to live as he once did in a permanent illusion.
When Kirk caught up to his First Officer, he led a court-martial of Spock for mutiny as the Vulcan slowly unraveled his plan with the help of the Talosians. Ultimately, when Kirk learned the truth that Spock hijacked the Enterprise to save his former Captain, the Vulcan was absolved of all wrongdoing: Starfleet brings no charges to Spock, rescinds the death penalty, and allows Pike to live among the Talosians. With the new context offered by Star Trek Discovery, Spock actually became Starfleet’s second mutineer in “The Menagerie”, but he never suffered punishment for his actions, unlike his foster sister Michael Burnham.
Spock’s Foster Sister Michael Burnham Was Starfleet’s First Mutineer
Michael Burnham bears the ignoble status as the first mutineer in Starfleet. She not only disobeyed the direct orders of her Captain Philippa Georgiou, Burnham actually attacked her commanding officer, temporarily disabling her with a Vulcan nerve pinch. In the course of the Battle at the Binary Stars, Georgiou was killed by the Klingons and their starship the U.S.S. Shenzhou was lost. Burnham survived and was court-martialed; she was stripped of her rank and sentenced to life in prison but was given a chance to redeem herself when Captain Gabriel Lorca brought her aboard the U.S.S. Discovery.
In the first six months of Klingon War, 8,000 people were already dead as a result of Michael’s mutiny and that number would sharply rise before it was all over. Star Trek: Discovery‘s entire first season depicts Michael Burnham’s long road to redemption, a journey Spock never had to undertake when he followed in Michael’s footsteps in The Original Series.
The Difference Between Spock and Michael Burnham’s Mutinies
It’s ironic that both of Sarek’s children are mutineers but, in typical Spock fashion, the Vulcan not only learned from his foster sister’s mutiny, he actually managed to improve on it. In “The Menagerie”, Spock may have stolen the Enterprise, lied to Captain Kirk and his crew, and he even attacked and disabled Starfleet technicians on a Starbase in order to beam Pike aboard his ship, but he suffered no ramifications for it. No one died during Spock’s mutiny and once the entire gambit was revealed as an act of mercy, Starfleet and Kirk instantly forgave Spock for conspiring with the Talosians – who were known enemies of the Federation – and allowed Pike to live out the remainder of his life on Talos IV. What’s more, once it was stricken from the record books, Spock got away scot-free and his mutiny was never mentioned again.
Afterwards, Kirk never raised the subject of Spock betraying Starfleet or even teased his emotionless best friend about “that one time you stole the Enterprise”; in fact, Spock would commit similar acts later in The Original Series, such as in “Amok Time” when he hijacked the Enterprise again to deliver him to Vulcan while he was gripped in the temporary madness of Pon Farr. All’s well that ends well for Spock when he mutinies and, as time went on, disobeying orders to save the Earth even becomes something of a calling card for Kirk’s entire Enterprise crew.
By contrast, Michael Burnham suffered personally and professionally from the ramifications of her mutiny. As in the case of Spock trying to save Pike, Burnham betrayed Georgiou because she truly believed she was trying to save the Alpha Quadrant from the Klingons. Instead, she instigated the war that led to mass destruction and thousands of deaths. The entire arc of Star Trek: Discovery season 1 revolved around Michael’s attempt to redeem herself and, even though she does save the Federation and has her rank restored, her status as Starfleet’s first mutineer will always hang like a black cloud over her head.
Unlike Spock, Michael is permanently scarred and defined by her mutiny. Despite all being forgiven, in “Brother”, the season 2 premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, Burnham is visibly rankled when Pike pointedly mentions the Klingon War that she started. Burnham was raised on Vulcan and tries to replicate Spock’s cool Vulcan reserve, but she always carries the deep sorrow over the harm she caused and it permeates her being. Michael may never get past the infamy of being Starfleet’s first mutineer no matter how hard she tries while, unfairly, Spock is never judged by his similar actions.
What This Means For Spock In Star Trek: Discovery Season 2
As a prequel series, Star Trek: Discovery season 2 looks primed to take advantage of its opportunity to provide a great deal of context to Spock. This is an era of his life that fans have only seen fleeting glimpses of; at this time period, Spock is younger, rawer, and the Vulcan will be coming to grips with the emotions of his human side. The Spock portrayed by Leonard Nimoy that fans know best is the cool, unflappable, fully-formed Vulcan; the Spock as portrayed by Ethan Peck on Star Trek: Discovery is still learning and is wrestling with his private demons (nightmares perhaps caused by the red signals tied to the entity called the Red Angel which have plagued Spock since he was a child).
Along with adding depth to Spock’s loyalty to Captain Pike, Star Trek: Discovery will also explore Spock’s problematic relationship to Michael. Seeing Spock in this era should provide fascinating insight into the building blocks that turned the Vulcan into the remarkable character who will one day sacrifice his own life to save Captain Kirk from the wrath of Khan in Star Trek II and, in turn, inspire such loyalty from his Enterprise crewmates that they all committed mutiny in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock to bring their favorite Vulcan back when he’s reborn on the Genesis planet.
Ironically, many of Kirk’s Enterprise’s most famous missions involve disregarding Starfleet’s orders and taking matters into their own hands to save the galaxy. These are lessons Spock himself logically must have learned from his foster sister on Star Trek: Discovery, along with the wisdom not to repeat the mistakes Michael Burnham made.
Star Trek: Discovery streams Thursdays @ 8:30pm on CBS All-Access and internationally the next day on Netflix.