Star Trek: Discovery's Section 31 owns a memory extractor - a weapon identical to the Klingons' mind scanner in The Original Series. Is it the same device and how did the United Federation of Planets' secret black ops agency come to possess it?
Section 31 was introduced in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine but has become a popular concept utilized throughout Star Trek canon, including the 22nd-century-set prequel series, Star Trek: Enterprise, and even J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness, which is set in the alternate Kelvin timeline. On Star Trek: Discovery, Section 31 is overseen by Control and led by Captain Leland, who recruited the Terran Emperor Philippa Georgiou and former Klingon Torchbearer Ash Tyler as agents. Section 31 was ordered to work with Captain Pike and the U.S.S. Discovery to find the fugitive Spock, who has knowledge about the mysterious Red Angel.
The not-so-secret Section 31 agency also has advanced technology the rest of Starfleet doesn't possess, which makes it a forerunner to the technology seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In Star Trek: Discovery season 2, episode 7, "Light and Shadows", Section 31's arsenal was revealed to include a memory extractor - a weapon the Klingons boasted about having.
Section 31 Has A Memory Extractor
In Star Trek: Discovery's "Light and Shadows", Michael Burnham found the missing Spock on Vulcan and, at Ambassador Sarek's urging, she brought her adoptive brother to Section 31 for medical help. Spock is psychologically damaged by seeing the Red Angel, but Leland assured Burnham Section 31 would get Spock the help he needs. However, Leland is operating under his own secret agenda, which Georgiou is keenly aware of, and she knows what Section 31 really intends for Spock.
Georgiou told Michael that Section 31 has a memory extractor they planned to use on Spock to glean whatever information he has about the Red Angel. The emperor warned Michael that the memory extractor "would tear Spock's mind apart", especially in his fragile state. Georgiou, then, engineered a ruse so that Michael and Spock could escape Section 31's starship.
The Klingons Had A Mind Scanner In The Original Series
Section 31's memory extractor sounds identical to the Klingons' Mind Scanner. In "Errand of Mercy", the Klingons' first-ever appearance in Star Trek, Captain Kirk and Spock were taken prisoner on the planet Organia by Commander Kor, who didn't believe their cover story that they were an Organian and a Vulcan trader, respectively, and threatened to use the mind scanner on them both.
Though fans never actually saw the mind scanner (or Section 31's version of it), Kor spoke of its fearsome capabilities. According to the Klingon warlord, the device was a "truth finder" which was "somewhat drastic but very efficient." The mind scanner could reach into a subject's mind and record every bit of thought and knowledge within. When used at the highest setting, the mind scanner could be "a mind-sifter or a mind ripper", permanently emptying the subject's mind and rendering him a "vegetable".
The Klingons used the Mind Scanner on Spock, who possessed sufficient mental discipline to resist even the Force Four setting. However, this was an older Spock in his prime; the Spock in Star Trek: Discovery, which Section 31 wanted to use their memory extractor on, was psychologically damaged. Spock couldn't have resisted its effects and would be turned into a vegetable.
How Did Section 31 Get A Memory Extractor?
The memory extractor isn't a device that would be approved of by the Federation, but that doesn't stop the insidious Section 31 from owning such tech. The question is, where did Section 31 get it from? The obvious culprit would be the surgically-altered Ash Tyler, who is also Voq. Tyler's paramour L'Rell, the current Chancellor of the Klingon Empire, is from the House Mo'Kai, known as "the deceivers" who use espionage tactics - this could be where the Mind Scanner originated from.
Tyler possibly brought the knowledge of how to build the mind scanner to Section 31, hence their memory extractor. Alternately, Section 31 could have invented the memory extractor and Tyler could have later given the tech to L'Rell so that the Klingons would have the mind scanner during Kirk's era - and the rest of Starfleet would never be aware. This is just another example of how dangerous Section 31 ultimately is on Star Trek: Discovery.
Star Trek: Discovery streams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and the next day internationally on Netflix.