Star Trek: Discovery cherry-picked several tantalizing pieces of Star Trek canon to include in its first season, not the least of which was an appropriately sneaky introduction of Starfleet black ops unit Section 31, which previously appeared in both the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Enterprise series.
Fans first speculated about Section 31’s presence after Starfleet officers wearing black comm badges popped up on Star Trek: Discovery in the third episode. Their suspicions were confirmed when CBS released a deleted scene from the Season 1 finale that featured Mirror Universe Emperor Georgiou being recruited into the clandestine group.
In this EXCLUSIVE BONUS SCENE from the season 1 finale of #StarTrekDiscovery, Mirror Georgiou receives a surprise invitation from Leland (@alanvansprang) to join a mysterious organization. *Spoiler Warning* Season 1 now streaming: https://t.co/KoUK3vJfGz pic.twitter.com/BVymEYr6Up
— Star Trek: Discovery (@startrekcbs) March 24, 2018
Let’s jump into the history of Section 31 and how it can impact the second season of Discovery.
Section 31’s Evolution
According to the Star Trek timeline, Section 31’s been around since the formation of Starfleet in the 22nd century, but the agency first cropped up in the 24th century during the sixth season of DS9. Showrunner Ira Steven Behr created the concept as a way to answer for how Starfleet had managed to survive surrounded by unscrupulous enemies for centuries while at the same time keeping their own noses very, very clean. He reasoned Section 31 had been in the background since the very beginning, committing assassinations, coups, and other dirty dealings when necessary so Starfleet and the Federation could maintain a plausibly altruistic image.
Some fans objected to how cynical the idea of Section 31 was, and regardless of whether or not you agree, it’s impossible to deny Section 31 was a very dark a concept. They were behind the morphogenic virus that nearly wipes out the Changelings in the seventh season of DS9. If Bashir and O’Brien hadn’t managed to extract the cure from operative Luther Sloan, the Federation would’ve been party to genocide. And while we have no way of knowing if producers actually bowed to the criticism of Section 31 on DS9, they played much, much nicer during its Enterprise arcs.
In Enterprise, while Section 31 still operated with an autonomy and subterfuge that defied Starfleet principles, they just weren’t as brutal. They helped the Klingon Empire cure a plague that had the potential to destabilize the race, and also assisted Malcolm Reed in thwarting the Terra Prime movement that sought to destroy the United Federation of Planets before it could get off the ground. By all accounts, Section 31 started off using its powers for good. This is more speculation than canon, but it seems like the agency took a turn for the worse somewhere between the 22nd century and the 24th. And maybe that was because they recruited a former Mirror Universe supreme leader?
The Georgiou Effect
In Emperor Georgiou’s native universe, genocide, assassinations, and even cannibalism were all acceptable strategic options. Her brutal nature and general immorality would probably help her secure a position of influence within the agency, and once there, it’s doubtful she’d use that influence to make anyone nicer. If we see Georgiou in Season 2 of Discovery, she could easily be running Section 31, sending them down a path that leads to the unscrupulous agency we see 100 years later in Deep Space Nine.
Star Trek: Discovery will return in early 2019.