'Star Trek: Discovery' Reveals How the Federation-Klingon War Really Started

The first season of Star Trek: Discovery was largely dedicated to telling the story of the Federation-Klingon war. The final issue of “Light of Kahless,” the first Star Trek: Discovery comic book story, reveals that not everything at the fateful Battle at the Binary Stars was quite as it seemed.

Spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery #4 follow.

The very first episode of Star Trek: Discovery, “The Vulcan Hello,” set the stage for the Federation-Klingon War. The USS Shenzhou was investigating some anomalous signals from one of the Federation’s interstellar communications relays. Commander Michael Burnham investigated and unexpectedly made contact with Klingons, specifically the Torchbearer who had been sent to light the Beacon of Kahless. Burnham inadvertently killed the Torchbearer, Rejac, escalating the tension between the Federation and the Klingons aboard T’Kuvma’s Ship of the Dead.

The Shenzhou called for reinforcements from Starfleet, further escalating matters. T’Kuvma chose Voq as the new Torchbearer and sent him to light the Beacon. Once lit, the Beacon called fourth 24 more Klingon ships, one for each of the great houses of the Klingon High Council. The High Council was compelled to answer the Beacon’s call by prophecy and lore, which stated that Kahless, the great hero of Klingon culture, left the beacon behind to reunite the Empire.

However, it turns out that this was not actually the Beacon of Kahless - if the true Beacon even exists - but a false Beacon created by Khel, one of T’Kuvma’s followers.

“Light of Kahless” reveals that T’Kuvma and his followers discovered a Federation relay. T’Kuvma realized that he could use the specter of Starfleet as a threat to unite the divided Klingon Empire under a single banner. He brought the relay back to Qo’noS and showed it to the council, but they were unmoved by his warnings. T’Kuvma did manage to broker a deal: if he could find the Beacon of Khaless, the high council would answer its call. With that and a few new followers - including Voq and L’Rell - T’Kuvma and his house left Qo’noS. T’Kuvma would never return.

Khel, one of T’Kuvma’s earliest and most devoted followers, was dying. Knowing this and knowing that the chances of T’Kuvma ever finding the Beacon of Khaless were slim, should the legendary artifact even exist, he secretly built the false Beacon and convinced T’Kuvma that he himself was the Light of Kahless and to use the phony Beacon to unify the Empire.

And so T’Kuvma orchestrated the confrontation with the USS Shenzhou, called the High Council with Khel's Beacon, ignited the Battle at the Binary Star, and set the Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire at war. In a sense, the entire war was based on a lie.

It should be noted that Star Trek: Discovery comics’ place in the universe's canon is not 100 percent certain. Like most other Star Trek fiction outside of television and film, it is mostly considered canon until something more canon contradicts it. Discovery’s tie-in comics and novels enjoy a certain elevation since their creation is being coordinated with the Star Trek: Discovery writers room and the writers on the show are aware of the stories told and consider it background material that can inform future episodes. Kirsten Beyer, a member of the Discovery writers room, is a key figure in coordinating tie-in material and co-wrote “Light of Kahless.”

What do you think of this new twist in Star Trek: Discovery's story? Let us know in the comments!


Star Trek: Discovery #4 is now on sale. The collected Star Trek: Discovery - Light of Kahless arrives in stores in September.

The first season of Star Trek: Discovery is available to stream in its entirety on CBS All Access in the United States, through CraveTV in Canada, and through Netflix in other international markets. Star Trek: Discovery Season Two is now filming in Toronto.