Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, and for other iterations of the franchise.
Two years on from its announcement, we don’t know very much about the upcoming Section 31 series. It doesn’t even have an official title – we all assume it will be some variant of Star Trek: Section 31, but even that much has never been confirmed. Both Strange New Worlds and Prodigy were announced after the Section 31 series but have been given titles and have even seen major announcements.
Perhaps the lack of news is caused, in part, by main character Philippa Georgiou (the Mirror Universe version) being part of Star Trek: Discovery’s third season. There may have been a desire to avoid spoiling her storyline and ultimate fate, which is commendable – if true! However, there have also been rumours – which we must look at with a healthy dose of scepticism – that seem to suggest the scripts have undergone re-writes which may have contributed to the delay.
It’s been a while since I looked at the Section 31 series in any depth – though I have touched on it on a number of occasions in relation to Discovery – and despite the lack of anything concrete, now seems as good a time as any, so what I thought I’d do is put together a nice internet-friendly list and go over a few options for the series and what it could include.
Number 1: Some James Bond-style action.
You don’t make a series based around Starfleet’s answer to MI6 and not use it to tell some great action stories… do you? Spies work in the shadows, but no one wants to see Georgiou and her new crew sat behind desks listening in on subspace messages like a futuristic NSA. We want to see them out in the field, on dangerous black-ops assignments, making full use of their licenses to kill.
Section 31 is supposed to be the no-holds-barred last line of defence for the Federation, so action should be on the agenda. We could see them sabotaging spaceships, assassinating rogue planetary leaders, and chasing supervillains halfway across the universe. It should be sufficiently over-the-top, too, or we’ll be left wondering why Starfleet security couldn’t handle things!
Number 2: Enter the Picard time period.
When Georgiou stepped into the Guardian of Forever’s portal in the Discovery third season episode Terra Firma, Part II, her destination was not clear. The Guardian merely said that he was sending her to a time period where the Mirror and Prime universes were closely aligned. Many have assumed that her destination is the 23rd Century – and everything we’ve heard so far suggests the series takes place then. But what if that isn’t the plan?
When I wrote up a shortlist of possible time periods during Discovery’s third season I suggested that, rather than the 23rd Century as predicted, Georgiou may instead arrive at the beginning of the 25th, the era in which Picard is set. This would connect all three eras that Star Trek currently has on the go (at least in live-action). Georgiou would be the one character who has spent time with Pike – soon to be of Strange New Worlds – as well as Burnham in the 32nd Century and potentially Picard – or someone else we met in that series.
Finding some way to tie the disparate parts of Star Trek together is a challenge facing the current creative team. At the moment, every ongoing Star Trek project occupies a different place in the timeline, with precious little binding them together beyond a brand name and some general themes. It’s not that I’m concerned about this as a creative decision – as a Trekkie I quite like seeing different eras and settings. But from the point of view of Star Trek’s general audience this starts to look convoluted to the point of being offputting. The franchise needs those casual viewers in order to remain profitable and successful, so simplifying the timeline would be one of my top priorities.
At the very least, I would hope that the Section 31 series doesn’t end up in a distinct time period of its own!
Number 3: A great supporting cast.
Michelle Yeoh is a fine actress, but she can’t carry the series all by herself. Georgiou will need people around her, especially if she finds herself once again caught in a new time period.
These characters can’t all be morally ambiguous, butt-kicking super-spies either. Georgiou already fills that kind of role, so we’ll need to see some diversity in the personalities she works with. Each will also need a distinct role in the organisation – and here we leave the basic Star Trek formula behind. Even if the series is set aboard a single ship, the usual crew roster of a captain, doctor, scientist, and engineer won’t really fit with the kind of stories the Section 31 show could and should be telling.
Instead we’ll need to see roles closer to those in a series like Agents of SHIELD or the aforementioned Bond films – mission specialists, weapon and gadget experts, hackers/technology experts, as well as scientists, spies, and a commander to tie the team together. Georgiou may be the commander – but she could still have a superior to answer to; the overall head of Section 31.
There could be roles of that nature for half a dozen characters or more, and like Picard did, the show could expand beyond Starfleet to pick up a wide array of unique and interesting people.
Number 4: Moral ambiguity.
You’ve heard of the internet’s favourite philosophical question: the “trolley problem.” Would you be willing to actively kill one person to save the lives of several? Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few – even if that means murdering the few? These are the kinds of questions Section 31 has the answer to – and it’s a solid “yes.”
In Deep Space Nine, Section 31 poisoned the Founders of the Dominion with a virus that they were unable to cure, potentially committing genocide against the changelings in pursuit of ending the destructive Dominion War. Whether it’s a season-long story arc or a single episode, I want to come away from the Section 31 show at least once wondering if the ends justified the means.
These people are not Starfleet – and they cannot let such things as Federation morality, the laws of war, or anything else get in the way of their objectives.
Number 5: A mix of standalone stories with a season-long arc.
One thing that Discovery really managed to do well in Season 3 was blending standalone stories with its season-long plotlines. Strange New Worlds has promised something similar, and it would be great if the Section 31 show was likewise a mix. Picard showed that telling a single story across one season can be a lot of fun… but it also showed how that story has to really stick the landing to avoid feeling disappointing. A blend of episodic and serialised storytelling seems to be the direction of travel for Star Trek at the moment, and that’s probably for the best.
For example, we could see season-long character arcs which develop Georgiou and some of her fellow Section 31 operatives, while telling a handful of smaller one- or two-episode stories depicting some of their missions. There could be ongoing stories – like Discovery’s Burn or the search for the Federation – but allowing each episode (or at least some episodes) to stand on their own.
Number 6: A fun new starship design.
Lower Decks gave us the California-class USS Cerritos. Picard gave us La Sirena. Discovery gave us the Crossfield-class USS Discovery. Along the way we’ve seen a few other neat starship designs, and in many ways the ship itself is a major part of any Star Trek show. Thus whatever ship the Section 31 folks use will need to look awesome.
The design used for the Section 31 ship in Discovery Season 2 may come back – I did note in Season 2 that a whole set had been built for that ship’s multi-level operations centre, so perhaps we can infer from that that we’ll see Georgiou on a similar vessel. There’s scope to redesign the craft, however, especially if the Section 31 series doesn’t return to the 23rd Century.
Though Star Trek has done one series set aboard a space station, the nature of Section 31 suggests the possibility of black ops missions all across the galaxy – and for that they’ll need a ship. Modern Star Trek has done well with ship designs, in my opinion, and I’m hopeful for another great one this time around.
Number 7: Why did Georgiou not warn Section 31 about the Burn?
If Section 31 don’t care about the Prime Directive, surely they don’t care about its temporal equivalent either. It’s obvious that Georgiou won’t and can’t warn Section 31 about the impending Burn – but I think seeing her wrangle with that decision would be interesting.
Georgiou has a unique relationship with Michael Burnham, and her reasoning for never mentioning the Burn to anyone in this pre-Burn era may be simple: to avoid contaminating or changing the timeline Michael is currently living in. Doing so could have serious repercussions, and perhaps we’ll see her learn about that and come to the conclusion that she doesn’t want to put Michael in danger.
Or it could simply be that Georgiou does not care about the impending future devastation of the Federation!
Number 8: If returning to the 23rd Century, reunite with Captain Pike.
As mentioned above, the time period in which the Section 31 series will be set has not yet been confirmed. In some ways, the 23rd Century does not fit the Guardian of Forever’s statement that he was sending Georgiou to a time when the Mirror and Prime universes were in alignment – we know from what we’ve seen of the Mirror Universe in this era that it is very different! However, returning her to the 23rd Century would cure the fatal technobabble illness she was suffering from in Discovery, so it remains a likely option.
If she returns, I’d love to see her surprise Captain Pike. As far as Pike knows, she has forever left the 23rd Century, so it would be a shock to see her return! She could convey a message from Saru and Burnham to him, if she felt like it, but she could also be on a secret Section 31 mission where she needs the help of Pike, Spock, and the Enterprise – connecting the Section 31 show to Strange New Worlds.
Number 9: A time-loop storyline involving Kovich.
Why did Kovich – the ambiguous character played by David Cronenberg in Discovery’s third season – not warn Georgiou about the ailment she was about to experience? Why did he take a personal interest in debriefing her? Whether Kovich is a Section 31 operative or not, he’s clearly a high-ranking Federation official with a high security clearance. Georgiou may have been able to send a message to him by preserving it in Section 31.
This would explain some of Kovich’s actions in Discovery – such as why he didn’t tell Georgiou her health was about to suffer. He may have received the message from her at just the right moment, explaining exactly what he needed to do to ensure she would be sent back in time by the Guardian of Forever. If he’s working for Section 31 himself this would make more sense, but even if not it would be an interesting time-loop story.
Number 10: Bridge the gap between Discovery and Deep Space Nine.
Section 31 in Deep Space Nine was so deep underground that even Starfleet captains like Benjamin Sisko were not aware of its existence. All records of the organisation – which was relatively out in the open in the Discovery era – seem to have been purged, and memory of the organisation forgotten even by Starfleet. How did this happen? And why? That’s something the Section 31 series could explain.
I don’t think we need to go all-out on this one story point. It would be enough to show the organisation disappearing and heading underground, perhaps forcing senior Starfleet admirals to make its existence classified. We don’t need a repeat of Enterprise’s Klingon augment virus, perhaps showing Section 31 using Men In Black-style memory erasers on everyone who ever encountered them! Assuming the Section 31 series is set in this time period, at least paying lip service to the fact that the organisation has been depicted very differently in the past would be sufficient.
So that’s it. A short wishlist, or collection of ideas that the untitled Section 31 series could adopt.
It may be a while before we see Georgiou and the Section 31 show. Discovery Season 4 is currently filming, with Picard and Strange New Worlds both set to start filming sometime soon too. While there’s nothing to stop multiple shows being produced simultaneously, with the pandemic proving disruptive and with the two animated shows also being worked on, Section 31 may simply be at the back of the queue. I doubt we’ll see it premiere this year – but who knows, I’ve been wrong about such things before!
Speaking of being wrong – this entire list may be. I don’t claim to have any “insider information,” and as we’re so far away from seeing anything at all from the Section 31 show it may be futile to wish and speculate about what may be included. As always, I encourage you to be sceptical of anyone making such a claim, and also to keep in mind that no fan theory or wish is worth getting upset or worked up over.
With Georgiou having departed Discovery, the stage is set for the Section 31 series. Despite not being particularly excited about it at first, I think there’s potential here to tell some interesting – and perhaps quite different – stories set in the Star Trek universe. I’m interested to see what the franchise can do with a Bond-esque spy thriller.
The untitled Section 31 series currently has no broadcast date scheduled. However, it will almost certainly premiere on Paramount+ in the United States, Australia, and other countries and territories where the service is available. Further international distribution has not been announced. The Star Trek franchise – including the Section 31 series, Discovery, and all other titles mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.