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What Is Section 31? Star Trek's Secret Organization Explained

Star Trek: Discovery recently introduced Empress L'Rell and Ash Tyler to a mysterious new Federation group - Section 31 - but what is this covert group? It seems the Mirror Universe's Philippa Georgiou has fallen in with this clandestine organization and has been monitoring affairs in Klingon space to ensure the Klingons don't become a threat to the Federation once again.

Section 31 were clearly well-resourced, with Georgiou able to monitor the Empress directly and launch a surprise attack when she believed L'Rell's life was in danger. It's interesting to note that the former Empress left it till the very last second before she chose to intervene, suggesting that Section 31 would prefer to watch from the shadows rather than act openly. When she did step in, though, Georgiou proved well enough equipped to take down crack Klingon warriors.

Related: Star Trek: Discovery Explains Why Spock Kept Michael Burnham A Secret

Soon she'd spirited Tyler and his baby away on a Section 31 starship, one that was presumably stealthy enough to fly around the Klingon Throneworld of Qo'noS without being detected. Georgiou made an unconventional pitch to encourage Ash to sign up, hinting that the entire crew consists of "freaks" whose backgrounds are just as confused and complex as her own and Ash Tyler's. It's clear Section 31 will play an important part in Star Trek: Discovery season 2, and beyond. But who are they, and what is their agenda?

What Is Section 31 In Star Trek?

Officially, Section 31 doesn't exist. Unofficially, it's a clandestine organisation dedicated to protecting the interests of the Federation through unscrupulous means, and can be compared to the Romulan Tal Shiar or the Cardassian Obsidian Order. The name comes from the original Starfleet Charter - Article 14, Section 31 - which allows for extraordinary measures to be taken in times of extreme threat.

Even the existence of Section 31 is a closely-guarded secret, although their officers can be identified by their unique black Starfleet badges. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Section 31 is that they appear to have absolutely no oversight at all. As far as Starfleet is concerned, they simply don't exist, although funds must be diverted to them somehow. Section 31 has a license to kill, and are able to take any action they deem necessary for the safety of the Federation.

Related: Star Trek: Discovery Reveals Early Version Of Geordi's Next Generation VISOR

Section 31 believe they serve an essential purpose. Their goal is galactic peace, but they believe that comes with constant vigilance and a moral cost. In a bonus scene for the Star Trek: Discovery season 1 finale, one Section 31 operative was already boasting that they were far more resourceful than the Federation itself. By the time of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, they had agents working for them at every level of Starfleet.

Section 31's History In Star Trek TV And Movies

The average viewer may find Section 31's very existence to be something of a surprise, but in truth they've been an established part of the Star Trek lore for decades. They were introduced in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where they attempted to recruit Doctor Julian Bashir. Bashir was horrified at the lack of accountability, and initially turned them down, but was persuaded to work with them by Sisko and Odo - who aimed to expose and destroy Section 31. They proved to be a dangerous unscrupulous force, infecting Odo with an artificially-created virus in the hopes he would get it to the Founders and end the conflict with the Dominion. They were also secretly working in the shadows to neutralize what they believed to be an impending Romulan threat; as far as Section 31 was concerned, the Dominion War would give Romulus a chance to regain power and galactic influence, and that warlike race had to be contained.

Section 31 was obliquely alluded to in Star Trek: Enterprise, revealing that they existed even at the beginning of the Federation. There, they facilitated Phlox's forcible transportation to a Klingon colony in order to find a cure for a virus. Although the name "Section 31" was never used, the Charter was referenced, and in interviews the cast confirmed they believed this to be the secretive organisation. Section 31 later helped the crew of the Enterprise expose the Human terrorist group Terra Prime, a xenophobic organisation who threatened the integrity of the nascent Federation.

Related: Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 New Cast & Character Guide

And a version of Section 31 has even appeared on the big screen, in the alternate reality J.J. Abrams films. In Star Trek Into Darkness, Section 31 was headed by Admiral Alexander Marcus, and they were responsible for awakening Khan Noonien Singh from cryostasis. They attempted to work with Singh and his Augments, but he betrayed them, and soon they were in a state of open war. Marcus attempted to cover this up, but was outwitted by James T. Kirk. Kirk openly spoke out against Section 31's agenda at a public memorial service, setting himself against them. Of course, the films are currently set in a different timeline to the rest of the Star Trek franchise, so this shouldn't be massively relevant. Still, there's no reason to believe the Section 31 of Star Trek: Discovery isn't every bit as ruthless and resourceful as the group Kirk faced off against.

Page 2 of 2: The Future Of Section 31 In Star Trek Discovery And Beyond

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