The first trailer for Star: Trek Discovery made a big deal of lead character Michael Burnham’s enigmatic connection to the Vulcans—and specifically Spock’s father, Sarek. But it turns out that Burnham’s links to the iconic Star Trek race are a little bit different to what we expected.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about her character—who, as we saw in the trailer, starts the series as the long-time First Officer of the U.S.S. Shenzhou, captained by Phillipa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh)—Sonequa Martin-Green revealed that while Burnham does have very close ties to the Vulcans, it’s not because, as many expected (including us!),Burnham is part-Vulcan.
She is in fact 100 percent human, and instead has a deep relationship with Sarek because she’s actually the first-ever human to have gone to both the Vulcan Learning Center as a child, and the esteemed Vulcan Science Academy as an adult. So that shot in the trailer of a young Burnham clad in Vulcan robes and a Vulcan haircut while being told she’s incapable of speaking the language because her “tongue is too human” was actually because she’s simply a human in Vulcan clothing.
Martin-Green even went on to imply that it’s not just Sarek we’ll be seeing in these connections to her past—Amanda Grayson, Spock’s human mother, might appear too:
I have the Vulcan conflict in my life from Sarek and Amanda so there’s always going to be that inner conflict with me. But I think it’s relatable because we all have some kind of inner conflict going on—who we are versus who we present ourselves to be. There’s a lot to be discovered.
As strange as it is after that decidedly sneaky moment in the trailer, it makes more sense for Burnham to just be a human. After all, using her past on Vulcan as a window into trying to find a place for herself between two very different worlds still makes sense without it having to literally be because of her heritage. That’s a trope that Star Trek has tackled multiple times before, from B’Elanna Torres on Voyager to, well, Spock himself. While the themes of inner conflict and figuring out who you are as a person aren’t unique, at least Burnham’s backstory will provide an alternative way to dealing with them in comparison to ground Star Trek has already trod upon in the past.
Star Trek: Discovery is set to begin September 24.