WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Star Trek: Discovery #1
Star Trek: Discovery is a TV show filled with mysteries, but at least ONE will finally be solved in comic book form. The premiere of the TV series was aired on CBS before shifting to its digital streaming service, meaning fans everywhere got to see the first glimpse of the new Starfleet cast. But for obvious reasons, the introduction of a new kind of Klingon Empire, led by a mysterious and charismatic leader of faith, took the spotlight. Which made it all the more disappointing when that leader – named T’Kuvma – was killed in the two-episode premiere.
The hints of Klingon religion, tradition, and mythology were enticing to longtime Trek fans, who had already heard of the legendary Kahless, first true Klingon to unite an empire. But since the death of T’Kuvma, that rich history has slid to be background. So with Discovery on its midseason break, there’s no better time for IDW’s Star Trek: Discovery comic to arrive. And it’s not a tie-in, a spin-off, or a prequel of the show’s heroes.
Titled The Light of the Kahless, this series is the story of T’Kuvma. Where he came from, the sister who shaped his future… and sparked his desire to form a new Klingon Empire.
J’ula, T’Kuvma’s Sister & The Real Revolutionary
The story of The Light of Kahless is the product of Kirsten Beyer (writer on the TV series and prior Trek novels) and Mike Johnson (writer of IDW’s current Trek series), along with artists Tony Shasten and J.D. Mettler. Beginning in the childhood of T’Kuvma, the comic starts with the same bullying seen in flashbacks of Discovery‘s premiere. Chased by siblings intent on teaching T’Kuvma to be Klingon by beating him up, the boy escapes through a lethal forest – to find the derelict ship that acts as a monument to his family’s former legacy. This ship has already been seen fully restored, as the Sarcophagus, T’Kuvma’s flagship in Discovery.
The history of the ship is actually told to T’Kuvma by his sister, J’ula. It is her dream to restore the Sarcophagus – along with the other hidden descendants of their original line, the House of Girjah. The house is only one of several additions being made to the Trek canon, but the vision of the Klingon Empire it presents fits with what the show establishes. Over a millennium after Kahless – the “first true Klingon” – united his people, instilling in them the discipline and code that came to define their race… Kahless the Unforgettable has been forgotten.
House Girjah has been brought low, weak, and no longer protector of its people. That’s the disorder that J’ula has devoted years to right – beginning with the Great Ship that never even saw space travel, being completed only after House Girjah was too fallen to put it to use.
The Mission To Save a House… and The Entire Empire
J’ula’s endgame, which she openly explains to T’Kuvma (obviously recognizing that he is possessed of more honor and character than their brothers) is to complete the ship and journey to Boreth, the most sacred place in the universe to Klingons. Once there, J’ula will join countless other great Klingon leaders in learning the wisdon of the Followers of Kahless, the monks devoted to the teachings of the Klingons’ greatest philosophical and cultural hero.
At least, that’s the plan she has crafted to restore honor to House Girjah, after being disgraced and forgotten by their father, uncle, and other ancestors. Next is restoring that same honor and greatness to the empire. An empire that has forgotten what “being Klingon” truly means.
An empire which cares more about brutality and violence than actual strength – as they were introduced in Discovery. And as J’ula’s comments suggest, an empire that is significantly more prejudiced and small-minded than the humans of the same time period. It opens the door to the kind of social commentary that the TV show has, arguably, avoided so far. But if you’ve seen the show, you know J’ula’s plan didn’t go as she hoped…
J’ula’s Mission Becomes T’Kuvma’s
Although swearing to keep his sister’s dream of journeying to Boreth and learning the ways of Kahless, T’Kuvma can’t help but let the idea slip once it has become his ambition, as well. Shockingly, T’Kuvma’s uncle responds to the idea happily, thinking only of the prestige and reputation that such an education would bring to their family (thinking only of how they would be perceived by others, not how he might better their people). When T’Kuvma voices his desire to travel to Boreth with his sister and the people following them, and not alone, the truth of J’ula’s secrecy comes out. Her plan to restore honor to her family and empire must not be kept a secret because the idea itself is offensive… only because it is a female who has concocted it.
It states explicitly what has been hinted at throughout the first issue: that the descendants of House Girjah secretly living on the derelict ship, and their appearances varying from the uniform shape and color of T’Kuvma’s family is no coincidence. So it should come as no surprise to see that prejudice and cast system extend to gender, as well.
It’s here where the most intriguing aspect of the comic reveals itself, explaining why and how T’Kuvma became the ‘savior-like’ leader introduced (and killed) in Discovery‘s premiere. In hindsight, T’Kuvma’s acceptance of all exiled and low-born Klingons into his House, should they demonstrate their character, isn’t arbitrary. It’s the acceptance he learned from his sister, J’ula – herself limited by such inequality.
If that’s not enough of a hook to get you Star Trek: Discovery fans interested, T’Kuvma’s acceptance of the albino Voq as his Torchbearer and successor may also be more than it appeared. But the story of Khel, the albino admirer of J’ula, is also just beginning…
Star Trek: Discovery #1 is available now.
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