WARNING: This article contains spoilers for this week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery, “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For the Lamb’s Cry,” which premiered Sunday on CBS All Access.
Undoubtedly among the most surprising moments of Star Trek: Discovery‘s two-part premiere was the death of Captain Philippa Georgiou, stabbed through the chest by a Klingon during the Battle of the Binary Stars. But while actress Michelle Yeoh returned in Sunday’s episode, “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For the Lamb’s Cry,” if only as a hologram, it’s made clear the commander of the U.S.S. Shenzou didn’t escape death — or rest in peace.
In the latest episode, the fourth of the franchise’s television revival, Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham is shocked to receive aboard the U.S.S. Discovery a shipment containing the last will and testament of Captain Georgiou, the friend and mentor against whom she committed mutiny. She immediately shoves the package, unopened, beneath her bunk before being drawn into the events that propel the episode’s plot. However, the shipment and its contents continue to haunt her, the container pinging like a futuristic version of “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
So, then, it’s only fitting that when Burnham does open the container, she’s confronted by a ghost-like hologram message from Georgiou, speaking to her from beyond the grave to offer advice, eternal friendship, and a family heirloom. It’s an emotional moment, for both Burnham and the audience, but it’s not the true confirmation of Georgiou’s death.
No, that comes earlier in the episode, when we return to the Klingons for the first time since Discovery‘s premiere. The sarcophagus ship that made such an impact in those episodes — it’s the enormous vessel with a cloaking device, and coffins attached to its hull — has been adrift for the past six months in the debris field of the Battle of the Binary Stars. Disabled in its confrontation with the Shenzou, the ship and its crew were abandoned and (mostly) forgotten by the mighty Klingon houses that answered its call and then waged war against the United Federation of Planets.
While Burnham was punished for mutiny, and, in effect, her role in sparking the war, these Klingons have been sentenced to a prison of their own. Their resources dwindling, and unwilling to scavenge the Shenzou for the parts they need to repair their engines, the crew members are faced with the likelihood that the sarcophagus ship will become their shared coffin.
But why won’t the Klingons use the abandoned Shenzou for their own purposes? The outcast Kol (played by Kenneth Mitchell) insists to do so would be to commit blasphemy against their former leader turned messiah T’Kuvma, who was killed by one of the Shenzou‘s officers. That’s when his battle deck commander L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) points out the flaw in Kol’s moral stance, in the process revealing what ultimately became of Georgiou.
“You had no such outrage when we ate its captain,” L’Rell says of the Shenzou. “I saw you smile when you picked the meat from her smooth skull. ”
It’s a chilling revelation, perhaps made even more unnerving by its almost-casual use to make a point in an argument. Nevertheless, it confirms that Captain Philippa Georgiou is indeed dead, her body used to feed a starving Klingon crew. No 23rd-century medical technology is going to bring her back from that.
Starring Sonequa Martin-Green as Lt. Commander Michael Burnham, Star Trek: Discovery airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT in the United States on CBS All Access, in Canada on Space and in most other countries on Netflix.
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