For as interesting as her rise to Captain on Star Trek: Discovery has been, Michael Burnham is the weakest written female Captain in Star Trek history.
In Star Trek’s over 50 year history, we’ve had a number of female Starfleet Captains, and most of them have benefitted from a writing staff who cared deeply to make them strong characters. Even during the 90s, when women like Jeri Ryan were mostly objectified and used as sex symbols to get viewership numbers up, the female Captains were generally treated differently.
Going all the way back to The Next Generation episode, “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, we’re introduced to Rachel Garrett, Captain of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-C). As her story goes, she responded to a distress call from a Klingon Outpost at Narendra III, who were under attack by a squadron of Romulan Warbirds during a time when the Federation and the Klingon Empire weren’t exactly as friendly as they later would come to be.
Even after being sucked into a temporal rift which sends her ship 22 years into the future, she understands her place in time and decides to return to her proper time in hopes to better the future. But it’s her call to duty and dedication to the Federation’s morals to attempt to give aid when requested, that her and her crew’s ultimate deaths are viewed as honorable by the Klingons, which sows the seeds for the eventual Khitomer Accords peace treaty between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire. We may not have known her for long, but what we do know of her are her extreme heroics in the face of adversity.