Star Trek: Discovery: Captain Georgiou's Grisly Fate Explained

Michelle Yeoh as Captain Phillippa Georgiou on Star Trek Discovery

Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery, Season 1, Episode 4.

It's probably fair to say that no one expected Michelle Yeoh's tenure on Star Trek: Discovery to end this way.

No, not her untimely death. Everybody dies; it's inevitable. Unfortunate and sad, for sure. But death is part of life, and there are precious few fictional stories where it doesn't play some part. Aside from that, the producers of Star Trek: Discovery have stated that they're treating the show like other big-budget, prestige format show, and one way in which we see it that way is that no character (aside from Michael Burnham, probably) is ever safe. Anyone can die at any time.

So it didn't come as a terrible shock that she died, especially when Yeoh was listed in the opening credits as a "special guest star." What did come as a shock was what happened after her death, which viewers only learned about in the fourth episode, "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry."

Let's rewind for a little context. The two-part series premiere ended, as you already know, with Captain Georgiou's death at the hands of T'Kuvma. The would-be Klingon messiah stabbed her through the heart with his bat'leth — the traditional bladed weapon of a Klingon warrior. Despite her stated intention to capture T'Kuvma and use him as a bargaining chip in the war, Michael Burnham, Georgiou's first officer, snapped when she saw her beloved captain die, and killed T'Kuvma in the heat of the moment.

Michelle Yeoh and Sonequa Martin-Green on Star Trek Discovery

Burnham desperately tried to bring Georgiou's body back with her when she was transported back to the Shinzhou, but was unable to because the transporter couldn't lock onto the captain's life signs. Burnham was forced to leave the body behind and return to her ship alone, disgraced by her earlier attempted mutiny. But that's another story.

In "The Butcher's Knife...," Discovery showed what became of T'Kuvma's Sarcophagus Ship in the six months following the events that began the war. The ship was horribly damaged during the battle, and the rest of the Klingon Empire, for reasons unknown, simply left it there at the binary stars where the battle took place. Kol, T'Kuvma's torchbearer and successor, tried to carry on in his place, raiding and looting other derelict ships left behind from the battle in order to repair their ship.

But it was slow, painstaking work. The ship was repaired, yes, but without support and other resources from the Klingon people, Kol and his crew members began to starve to death. Which led to the rather startling revelation about Georgiou's body.

The Klingons ate her. From the icky way it was described (Kol himself "picked the meat from her smooth skull," apparently), it sounds like they consumed everything but her bones.

That might just be the most horrific fate ever to befall a known Star Trek officer. Aside from being patently disgusting, it's also the ultimate form of disrespect. Defiling your enemy's dead by eating them seems... dishonorable. And if Star Trek fans know anything about Klingons, it's how highly they value honor.

On the one hand, you have to hand it to Discovery's producers and storytellers for having the gumption to go there. As gruesome and vile an act as cannibalism is (or maybe "sapiovorism?"), Star Trek fans have known for generations that Klingons are a race of brutal warriors with tribal-like practices. If we're being realistic, Klingons have probably engaged in this kind of thing from their earliest appearances on the original Star Trek. It's just never been talked about openly this way before.

Captain Georgiou in the Shenzhou transporter room

But it's still a shocker — and a casually-referenced one, at that. At least she was already dead when they ate her. The alternative is too grisly to dwell on.

So why did they do it? Two things factored into the Klingons eating the fallen captain's body, and we've already mentioned both of them.

One, they were starving. They had nothing to eat, no resources to grow or cook new food, and no reason to believe any kind of help was coming to their aid. Desperate times call for desperate measures. They really had no choice.

And two, they're Klingons. Their culture is, by definition, very alien to ours, so perhaps consuming the enemy's dead is a common practice among Klingons. As mentioned before, it doesn't seem like the most honorable thing to do, but keep in mind that Star Trek: Discovery is set at a time when the Klingon Empire as we know it does not exist. These Klingons are different than the ones viewers have seen in the future — and not just the much-debated prosthetic changes made to their design. The entire Klingon race is split into 24 powerful families. Their legendary savior Kahless is long dead and many have forgotten his teachings. (T'Kuvma thought of himself as Kahless' second coming.) So honor may not be at the top of the Klingon to-do list these days.

So there you have it. Georgiou's time on the show ended by her becoming food for her enemies. Some fans were holding out hope for an improbable return by Captain Philippa Georgiou, likely thanks to Michelle Yeoh's winningly warm-but-steely portrayal of her. But barring cloning or some other crazy scifi premise, the good captain is not only dead, but most certainly gone, as well.

It's a fate that stings all the more because Georgiou was one of the most likeable characters on the show.

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