- "You always tried to outsmart me, Michael, even as a child. Why? Was it the loss of your parents? My attention to the Empire? Or were you just built that way? Why were you never satisfied?"
- —Philippa Georgiou to Michael Burnham, 2257[src]
Following the death of her parents, Burnham was raised as the adopted daughter of the Terran Empire's Emperor, Philippa Georgiou. She also took interest in Georgiou's advisor, Captain Gabriel Lorca, as a father figure and as a lover. (DSC episode: "Vaulting Ambition"; DSC - Discovery - Succession comic: "Issue 1")
Burnham then became captain of the ISS Shenzhou and was sent to hunt Lorca down after his first coup attempt failed. Her shuttlecraft was destroyed during her hunt in the Cawdor system, leaving her presumed dead and Lorca escaping afterwards. However, in reality, Burnham had turned on the Emperor and sided with Lorca, for which Georgiou issued a death penalty on her. (DSC episodes: "Despite Yourself", "Vaulting Ambition")
Burnham's identity was then taken by her primary universe counterpart when Lorca used the USS Discovery's spore drive to return to his universe. She claimed she faked her death in order to capture Lorca and took command of the Shenzhou back from Danby Connor. Burnham and Lorca hoped to steal the classified intel on the USS Defiant. (DSC episode: "Despite Yourself")
|ISS Shenzhou (NCC-1227) personnel|
|Airiam • Burnham • Connor • Detmer • Gant • Januzzi • Owosekun • Weeton|
|Monarchs of the Terran Empire|
|20th century||Adolf Hitler • Pol Pot • Oswald • Jimmy Carter • Henry Starling|
|21st century||George the Second|
|22nd century||Sato I|
|23rd century||Sato II • Stephane Louvin • Philippa Georgiou • Alexander• Michael Burnham • Airiam • Sato III • Spock • Garth of Izar • John Gill • Harry Mudd • Kodos • Alex Danaher • John Cray • Androvar Drake • Tiberius the First|
- DSC episode: "Despite Yourself"
- DSC episode: "The Wolf Inside"
- DSC episode: "Vaulting Ambition"
- DSC episode: "What's Past Is Prologue"
- DSC episode: "The War Without, The War Within"
- DSC episode: "Will You Take My Hand?"