The Klingons have arrived in force, and war breaks out.
Tropes in this episode include:
- Abandon Ship: Both Europa and Shenzhou end up launching lifepods: Europa during the moments before her destruction, and Shenzhou after the battle leaves her a broken wreck.
- Aliens Speaking English: T'Kuvma speaks perfect (if a bit slow) English when speaking to anyone from The Federation.Anderson: Attention, Klingon leader. I am Admiral Brett Anderson. I speak with the authority of the entire Federation when I propose a cease-fire so that we might resolve this conflict with no further bloodshed.
Voq: (in Klingonese) Do you wish to respond, my lord? (T'Kuvma nods) Begin transmission.
T'Kuvma: (in English) Admiral, I am T'Kuvma. I am pleased you are here. We have been waiting for someone worthy of our attention. Your offer of a cease-fire is accepted.
Anderson: Good, because if we're fighting, we're not talking.
T'Kuvma: Prepare to receive my envoy.
Anderson: We'll get ready for your arrival.
- Artistic License Gun Safety: A justified example. When they are about to board a hostile ship, Georgiou and Burnham draw their weapons and prepare to transport in a shooting stance. This of course means they are pointing their phasers directly at Saru, who is working the transporter control panel. This is already a long-established Trek-specific bit of firearms technique, given that the transporter lets them beam directly into the middle of an enemy ship.
- Attack Its Weak Point: During the battle, one Klingon warship takes a torpedo to the neck, breaking it in half. The Sarcophagus suffers a similar fate, courtesy of the booby-trapped corpse that gets tractored in.
- Batman Gambit: T'Kuvma wants to rally the Klingon Empire, using the Federation as an existential threat for them to fight against. While the Shenzhou does not offer a fleet of two dozen Klingon warships any challenge to be worth fighting against, the fleet of Federation starships which promptly arrives to try and deter the Klingons from attacking proves exactly what T'Kuvma was hoping for.
- Benevolent A.I.: Burnham is able to talk the ship's computer into letting her out of the brig for a 43% chance to save her life, as opposed to not doing so and allowing her to die for certain.
- Big Damn Heroes: The Shenzhou is about to smash into an asteroid when it's saved by the sudden arrival of the Europa, which tractors it and pulls it to safety.
- Big "NO!": Burnham, when Saru beams her off the Sarcophagus before she can recover Georgiou's body.
- Catch-22 Dilemma: Burnham points out to the ship's computer that while it won't let her out of confinement because she's not in immediate danger and and that dropping the forcefield would expose her to vacuum, thus violating its ethical directives, not letting her out will result in her inevitable death in a few minutes which also conflicts with its ethical directives.
- The Cavalry: The Shenzhou finds herself facing off against two dozen Klingon warships. Soon after, a fleet of Starfleet ships comes out of warp to provide backup, and a brief standoff ensues. The official YouTube clip of this scene is even titled 'The Cavalry Arrives.' Subverted, in that T'Kuvma's plan depends on Starfleet sending a large enough force for the Klingons to consider a worthy foe to fight against.
- Circling Monologue: Captain Georgiou circles Burnham while berating her for The Mutiny.
- Combat Breakdown:
- The large fleet battle ends with a pair of Starfleet officers fighting hand-to-hand with a pair of Klingon warriors, both of their ships disabled. Georgiou is killed by T'Kuvma, who in turn is killed by Burnham.
- During the space battle itself, we see Shenzhou, with a hole blown through her saucer, limping past a disabled Klingon warship as she takes single shots with one of her phasers, where earlier Shenzhou was taking on three Klingon Birds of Prey with rapid-fire phaser fire in all directions.
- Combat Pragmatist:
- T'Kuvma accepts the Admiral's cease-fire then immediately has a cloaked ship ram his vessel during the lull. All the Klingons then resume their attack, leaving the remaining Federation ships in tatters. On the other side, Georgiou has no problem attaching a photon torpedo warhead to a Klingon corpse being collected for burial rites. Both of these would be considered war crimes by modern standards. (Though as far as Georgiou is concerned, it could be a case of "Screw the Rules, They Broke Them First!")
- When Voq grabs Burnham's head from behind, she escapes by going for his eyes.
- Continuity Nod:
- T'Kuvma refers to the Battle of Donatu V as the last time the Klingon Empire fought the Federation. That battle and its inconclusive outcome was first mentioned by Spock in the TOS episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" as as having taken place 23 years prior, which would put it 11 years before this episode.
- One of the representatives that answer T'Kuvma's call is from the House of D'Ghor, who were the antagonists in the DS9 episode "The House of Quark". She also wears the most conspicuous bling, appropriate for the house that has materialism as its hat.
- Kol (of the House of Kor) being a complete ass when it comes to Klingons he deemed insufficiently socially worthy fits with the information revealed in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that Kor, of the same house, was a conservative classist who believed a soldier born to a very minor house out in the boonies should not be allowed to become an officer.
- Court-Martialed: Burnham, after committing mutiny in the previous episode. She pleads guilty and is sent to prison.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The space battle begins with the Klingons outnumbering Starfleet better than 2:1. When Admiral Anderson proposes a ceasefire, the Klingons accept, then immediately lay into the Federation starships, complete with a second wave of Klingon warships warping in to take down the surviving Starfleet ships.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Because of their previous connection, Sarek is able to telepathically communicate with Burnham all the way from Vulcan, but it takes a great deal of effort and he can't maintain it for very long.
- Disconnected by Death: Admiral Anderson and Captain Georgiou are in the middle of a conversation when Europa is rammed by a cloaked ship. The last thing transmitted to Shenzhou is Anderson's confused reaction to the initial collision, although we see that in the following moments, Europa is still able to launch lifepods and trigger a self-destruct sequence to take out the attacking ship, indicating that someone was still in effective command.Anderson: Let's end this, so we can get--what was that? (looks around in confusion before his holo-image disappears)
- Don't Create a Martyr: Burnham insists that they need to capture T'Kuvma alive to blunt his attempted reunification of the Klingon Empire. Alive, he's a failure. Dead, he's a symbol they'll never stop fighting for. She ends up killing him anyway when he stabs Georgiou.
- Dragon Ascendant: T'Kuvma dies and Voq swears to finish uniting the Great Houses.
- Due to the Dead:
- T'Kuvma orders all the bodies of dead Klingons to be recovered from the battlefield for proper funeral rites. Georgiou capitalizes on this by using the transporter to attach an armed Photon Torpedo warhead to a Klingon corpse.
- Burnham tries to save Georgiou's body, but is beamed back before she can get close enough to allow the transporter to grab them both.
- Explosive Instrumentation: When The Bridge of the Shenzhou takes a glancing hit, Connor's panel explodes in his face and knocks him to the floor, leaving him burned and barely conscious.
- Failure Is the Only Option: The crew of the Shenzhou was doomed to start a war no matter what they did. Doing nothing (as happened) resulted in the Klingons attacking first. Attacking first, as Burnham urged, even had it been fortunate and incapacitated T'Kuvma's ship (no guarantee, as his ship seemed to come out of the battle that did happen essentially unharmed) would have left them at the mercy of the other cloaked ship, which would have continued the battle and inevitably caused the arriving Klingons and Federation forces to enter the fight as they arrived. The only hope of changing the outcome would have been to turn and run before summoning help, and that would have only delayed the inevitable as T'Kuvma would have set up a confrontation with someone else somewhere else. Not to mention the two nearby Federation outposts that would be left vulnerable if Shenzhou had withdrawn.
- Handshake Refusal: Georgiou offers Burnham a handshake upon her arrival on the Shenzhou, which she doesn't return.Georgiou: Hello, Michael. Welcome to the USS Shenzhou, and congratulations on your recent commencement.
Burnham: Respect is earned, as is friendliness.
Sarek: Yet diplomatic niceties must be observed.
- Heroic BSoD: Burnham clearly suffered one with the post-battle realization that she sacrificed her career for nothing, as even had she managed to fire on T'Kuvma's ship war would still have been the likely outcome, and that her suggestion on a last desperate gambit to try and shorten it only resulted in her captain and friend's death and the creation of an enemy martyr.
- Heroic Sacrifice: First Georgiou and then Burnham volunteer to pilot a workbee carrying photon warheads to T'Kuvma's ship and detonate them. Thanks to T'Kuvma, an alternative presents itself.
- I Come in Peace: Implied to be the Federation's Catchphrase. The Klingons consider it to be an insidious lie and treat it as a Berserk Button.
- I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder:Connor: Why are we fighting? We're Starfleet. We're explorers, not soldiers.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Georgiou is stabbed through the chest by T'Kuvma.
- Long-Lasting Last Words: Despite being shot with a phaser set on "kill", T'Kuvma lasts just long enough to have a final converstion with his Torchbearer.T'Kuvma: (in Klingonese) Whom do we seek?
Voq: (in Klingonese) Kahless.
T'Kuvma: How do we find him?
T'Kuvma: Give us light to see.
T'Kuvma: Will he hide from us always?
- The Main Characters Do Everything: Following the fine tradition of Starfleet captains not giving a shit about Starfleet regulations, Georgiou decides that the dangerous task of boarding a Klingon ship and taking a hostage should be handled by the Shenzhou's captain and first officer, instead of giving the job to the security officers seen in the previous episode or even taking anyone else with them as backup.
- A Justified Trope to some degree, since the Shenzhou was stated in flashback to have obsolete transporters that drew too much power. With the Shenzhou's battle damage, it's plausible that they simply couldn't have beamed over more than two people.
- This was partly deconstructed by having the captain killed at the end of the mission.
- Multicultural Alien Planet: Unlike previous portrayals of the Klingons where they all wore identical costumes despite belonging to different Houses, the members of the other Houses who communicate with T'Kuvma are wearing different outfits, and their ships are of different designs and sizes, very much unlike previous Star Trek series where every polity tends to use ships of the same few designs.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Burnham spends much of the episode in a funk after the attempted mutiny last episode. At her court-martial, she freely admits that she epically screwed up.
- Mythology Gag: Just before Europa is destroyed, Saru reports that Shenzhou's shields are at 47 percent.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: By Burnham's own analysis, killing T'Kuvma would only make things worse, as it would turn him into a martyr that the Klingon Empire can rally around. She ends up killing him herself when he stabs Georgiou.
- Noodle Incident: Georgiou says something enigmatic about having seen loss. Care to share, Philippa?
- Not Worth Killing:
- Once Shenzhou is disabled, the Klingon warship that was attacking them disengages. It's not clear if it was so they could concentrate on the still battle-worthy Starfleet ships, or because Shenzhou was drifting on a collision course with a nearby asteroid.
- Once the Starfleet ships are destroyed, crippled, or driven off, the Klingons disengage, with most of the ships leaving while T'Kuvma works to collect the dead. His intent is for the survivors to carry word of the Klingon victory.
- Ramming Always Works: T'Kuvma has one of his cloaked ships ram the Europa using a large, ventral-mounted fin, bypassing the issue of not being able to use weapons under cloak. The Klingon vessel is undamaged, while the Europa is on its way to being cut in half before it deliberately detonates its warp core to destroy the Klingons.
- Reality Ensues:
- Burnham attacked her ship's captain and tried to take over the ship. Even if she was right, she still attempted mutiny and is sent to the brig accordingly. She's later convicted at court martial, even though events proved that the Klingons were always going to attack. She was still guilty of all charges (and even pleads guilty to them, making no attempt to defend herself).
- Burnham and Georgiou's plan to capture T'Kuvma with no backup whatsoever fails, and Georgiou dies.
- Although the battle is over and the ship survived, the Shenzhou is so badly damaged that the crew has to Abandon Ship.
- Shown Their Work:
- The computer accurately notes that while exposure to vacuum won't immediately kill Burnham, it will render her unconscious in under 12 seconds.
- In most cases, starships can't fire their weapons or raise shields while cloaked. T'Kuvma gets around this by having one of his cloaked vessels ram the Europa.
- Space Is Cold: There is frost crystallizing on Burnham's face during her short space drift.
- Spare a Messenger: Once the few Federation ships remaining on the battlefield are incapable of fighting, T'Kuvma ends the battle and has the other surviving Klingon ships return to Qo'noS, his own ship staying only to recover the bodies of the Klingon dead. He wants the Starfleet survivors to go home as witnesses to the return of the Klingons to greatness.T'Kuvma: Members of the Federation, what you call your most remote borders I call too close to Klingon territory. You only live now to serve as witnesses of Klingon supremacy, to be my herald. We do not desire to know you. But you will know our great houses, standing as one under Kahless, reborn in me...T'Kuvma!
- Take a Third Option: Burnham points out a way for the ship's computer to satisfy its ethical requirements and give her a chance to live even though the computer is stuck between its orders not to let her out and its ethical requirements to protect her life.
- Taking You with Me: The Europa deliberately blows its warp core to take out the Klingon ship that rammed it.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: Connor gets blown into space through a hull breach. A similar fate befalls one Red Shirt on The Bridge.
- Waif-Fu: Despite physically being a lot smaller than T'Kuvma—and Klingons being canonically stronger than humans to begin with—Georgiou manages to put up a surprisingly effective fight when they go hand-to-hand.
- We Have Become Complacent: The very argument that T'Kuvma makes to his fellow Klingons.