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How 'Star Trek: Discovery' Lead Character Michael Burnham Was Named

Jamie Lovett

09/23/2017

Sonequa Martin-Green will become a part of Star Trek history as the franchise's first woman of color lead on Star Trek: Discovery, but some fans are hung up on her character’s name.

Martin-Green will play Commander Michael Burnham, and the traditionally male name for the female character has become a point of discussion for fans of Star Trek.

However, fans of Discovery’s co-creator Bryan Fuller should recognize it as the creator’s signature.

"We've worked on many shows with Bryan and it's a motif,” executive producer Aaron Harberts tells TV Guide. “It's his signature move to name his lead women with names that would typically be associated as male.”

Looking back on Fuller’s work, the pattern holds. Ellen Muth played George on Dead Like Me, Anna Friel played Chuck in Pushing Daisies, and Caroline Dhavernas played Jaye on Wonderfalls.

The producers of Star Trek: Discovery considered a handful of names for Martin-Green’s character before eventually landing on Michael.

"I have known of, I think, two [female] Michaels: Michael Sneed, [who] was a gossip columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Michael Steele who played the bass for The Bangles,” Harberts says. “That's a deep dive on female Michaels. And we talked about it in the entire room. It was just like, 'This is a really, really interesting name.' And, of course, an archangel is named Michael as well, and it just had a lot of potency for us."

Martin-Green seems fond of the name herself and notes that there’s an in-universe reason for the name as well.

"I appreciated the statement it makes all on its own to have this woman with this male name, just speaking of the amelioration of how we see men and women in the future," Martin-Green said. "But I also just decided for my creation and for my background and whatnot that I was named after my father. And so, we get a little bit of exploration of the father-daughter dynamic."

Star Trek: Discovery premiers September 24, 2017, on CBS All Access. You can make sure you're ready to watch Star Trek: Discovery by checking out our viewing guide, get to know the show's cast with our character guide, and familiarize yourself with the state of the Star Trek universe at the time Star Trek: Discovery takes place with our primer.

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