(covers information from several alternate timelines)
This page contains information regarding Star Trek: Discovery, and thus may contain spoilers.
Section 31 was the name of an officially-nonexistent and autonomous clandestine organization which claimed to protect the security interests of United Earth and, later, the United Federation of Planets. One member described his goal as galactic peace, all the while complaining that most people lived in denial of how dangerous the universe was. He believed that peace required vigilance and a moral cost. (DIS: "Will You Take My Hand?", bonus scene)
Section 31 was also somewhat comparable to the Romulan Tal Shiar or Cardassian Obsidian Order – unlike these other organizations, however, Section 31's very existence was a deeply buried secret, known only to a handful of people beyond its own membership. (DS9: "Inquisition")
Perhaps Section 31's darkest aspect was that, while it had existed since the beginning of Starfleet, it was autonomous, having operated for over two centuries with no oversight or accountability whatsoever, even free to kill those it deemed a threat to Federation interests at its own discretion. (DS9: "When It Rains...") Some high-ranking Starfleet admirals and intelligence personnel at times seemed to be vaguely aware that Section 31 existed, though giving them only very broad objectives. (DS9: "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges") At other times, Section 31 appeared to be an outright puppet master to Starfleet, directing the actions and even overall political policies of the Federation itself. (DS9: "Extreme Measures")
22nd century Edit
The organization's title came from the original Starfleet Charter, Article 14, Section 31, which allowed for extraordinary measures to be taken in times of extreme threat. (ENT: "Divergence") At some point before 2151, a young Ensign Malcolm Reed was recruited by Section 31 through former Starfleet Security officer Harris. By the time Reed was posted to Enterprise NX-01, he was no longer actively involved in covert operations.
However, in late 2154, when Reed was investigating the kidnapping of Doctor Phlox, he was contacted by Harris again. Harris' organization had entered into a secret agreement with Klingon Fleet Admiral Krell, in which Harris facilitated Phlox's forcible transportation to a Klingon colony to help in finding a cure for the Klingon augment virus in exchange for a mutually beneficial alliance.
Harris ordered Reed to slow down Enterprise's investigation until Phlox could develop a cure. Reed complied, but his tampering was discovered by Captain Jonathan Archer and Commander T'Pol, and Reed was thrown in Enterprise's brig. (ENT: "Affliction")
T'Pol reconstructed Reed's communication logs and discovered that he had been in contact with Harris. When confronted with this information, Reed confessed that he had been following Harris' orders. Captain Archer was very hurt by this revelation at first. Later, however, Captain Archer told Malcolm that he knew how loyal Malcolm was to the ship and to the captain personally and empathized with him about the extreme difficulty of the quandary he had faced by having his loyalties divided. Later, Archer had Reed put him in contact with Harris, and Harris told Archer that if Phlox was successful, the Klingon Empire would stabilize, an outcome that would be quite favorable for Starfleet. Archer remained suspicious of Harris' motives. After the plague was cured, Harris contacted Reed again, but Reed rebuffed him, declaring that he only answered to one commanding officer: Jonathan Archer. (ENT: "Divergence")
In 2155, Harris agreed to provide intelligence on the Earth-based Human terrorist group Terra Prime to the Enterprise crew when it was discovered that Terra Prime was attempting to disrupt the creation of the Coalition of Planets and to drive all non-Humans out of the Sol system. Harris implied to Reed that this information would come at a price, to be exacted at a later time. (ENT: "Demons", "Terra Prime")
23rd century Edit
After the Federation-Klingon War in the 2250s, an operative traveled to Qo'noS disguised as a Trill in order to recruit the former Terran emperor, Philippa Georgiou. He described his goal as galactic peace, and complained that most people were in denial of how dangerous the universe still was despite the Klingon cease fire. (DIS: "Will You Take My Hand?", bonus scene)
Alternate reality Edit
Following the destruction of Vulcan and a subsequent attack that the Narada committed against Earth in 2258, Section 31 began exploring more direct means of defense, particularly against the Klingon Empire. Exploring unknown regions of space, they discovered the SS Botany Bay, with Augments still in cryostasis.
Marcus woke up Khan Noonien Singh, and recruited him into the organization under the pseudonym "John Harrison", using his intellect to develop advanced weapons systems. With another seventy-two Augments still in stasis and under Section 31's control, Khan cooperated on a project to build a Dreadnought-class vessel, the USS Vengeance, at the Io Facility near Jupiter. He also designed advanced long-range torpedoes, which he attempted to smuggle his crew in, but his plan was discovered and he was forced to flee.
Assuming Marcus made good on his threat to his crew, Khan plotted revenge and blackmailed Thomas Harewood into bombing the Archive, before attacking Starfleet Headquarters and then fleeing to Qo'noS with a portable transwarp beaming device he salvaged from the London base.
Marcus attempted to cover-up the conspiracy, while still using the events to his advantage by assigning the USS Enterprise to fire the long-range torpedoes on Harrison's location with the Augments still inside. The flagship's warp core was sabotaged, stranding it at the Neutral Zone, where Klingon patrols would come and attack, giving the Federation a reason to go to war with the Klingons. James T. Kirk prevented this when he opted to arrest Khan instead of executing him – learning the truth – and returned to Earth to expose the admiral's cooperation with a war criminal.
Marcus attempted to destroy the Enterprise with the Vengeance, but sabotage by Montgomery Scott and a boarding party of Kirk and Khan further foiled Section 31's machinations. Khan killed the admiral and then crashed the Vengeance into Starfleet Headquarters, presumably killing all the Section 31 personnel aboard. A year later, Kirk spoke out against Section 31's agenda at a memorial service for those killed by their attempts to harness Khan's mind. (Star Trek Into Darkness)
24th century Edit
In 2374, Section 31 attempted to recruit the chief medical officer of space station Deep Space 9, Doctor Julian Bashir, after putting him through psychological testing on the holodeck of a ship to which he had been abducted. Subjecting Bashir to an elaborate deception designed to test his loyalty to the Federation, Section 31 operative Luther Sloan presented himself to Bashir as the Deputy Director of Starfleet Internal Affairs, and placed Bashir in a scenario wherein it appeared that he had defected to the Dominion. Eventually, Sloan became convinced of Bashir's loyalty and, citing his genetically engineered background and fascination with spy stories, offered him a position within Section 31.
Bashir, appalled at the thought of an organization that was not accountable to anyone and regularly violated the very principles and core values upon which the Federation had been founded, declined Sloan's offer, although Section 31 continued to regard him as a potential asset. After the agency returned him to Deep Space 9, Bashir alerted the station's senior staff – including his commanding officer, Captain Benjamin Sisko, and Bajoran Militia officers Major Kira Nerys and Constable Odo – of Section 31's existence and its attempt to recruit him. Sisko advised Bashir to accept Section 31's offer to join them, should they ask again, so that Bashir could spy on the organization for Sisko. (DS9: "Inquisition")
In mid-2375, Sloan resurfaced and assigned Bashir to diagnose the health of Koval, Chairman of the Tal Shiar, during an upcoming conference on Romulus. In the course of his efforts to expose Section 31, Bashir discovered that he had actually been manipulated by Sloan into convincing Romulan Senator Kimara Cretak to access Koval's personal database, on suspicions that Section 31 planned to assassinate Koval. This gave Koval sufficient evidence to have Cretak arrested and charged with treason, which assured his own seat on the powerful Continuing Committee. Bashir learned that Koval was an agent of Section 31 after discovering Starfleet Admiral William Ross' complicity in the scheme.
It seemed Section 31 had been planning for what it regarded as a likely war with the Romulan Star Empire following the Dominion War. The agency projected that the Dominion was likely to end up confined to the Gamma Quadrant with the Cardassian Union occupied and left in shambles, and the Klingon Empire left to spend at least ten years rebuilding from the damage left by the Klingon-Cardassian War, the Federation-Klingon War of 2372 to 2373, and the Dominion War itself. Section 31 regarded Cretak as a potential threat to the Federation in the post-war Alpha Quadrant, as her primary loyalties were to the Star Empire's interests, while Koval could be counted on to influence Romulus in the Federation's favor.
Admiral Ross attempted to defend his actions to Bashir by stating that the high cost of the war justified the extreme measures being taken, but Bashir refused to concede that the ends justified the means. Ross responded by dismissing Bashir from his office and forbidding him from repeating and otherwise acknowledging their conversation. (DS9: "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges")
Later that year, while researching the morphogenic virus which was ravaging the Great Link and Odo, Bashir discovered that Section 31 had actually engineered the disease and deliberately infected Odo during a visit to Starfleet Medical three years previously, in a preemptive attempt to neutralize the threat posed by the Founders and the Dominion. Despite the risk that a cure for the disease might reach the Changelings and thus not only strengthen them but also continue the genocidal war they had initiated, Bashir decided to still pursue the matter and find a cure to help Odo. He lured Sloan to Deep Space 9 with false claims of having developed a cure. Sloan, who was committed to the cause of protecting Federation and Starfleet interests at all costs, committed suicide in an attempt to prevent the cure from being discovered, nearly killing Bashir and Chief Miles O'Brien in the process. Unable to revive him, Bashir and O'Brien used a multitronic engrammatic interpreter to link their minds to Sloan's, in order to finally retrieve the information before Sloan's brain injuries rendered him brain dead. (DS9: "When It Rains...", "Tacking Into the Wind", "Extreme Measures")
After the cure was discovered, the Federation Council decided against sharing it with the Founders, an act which Odo likened to abetting genocide. The cure was later given to the Female Changeling by Odo as a condition for surrendering her forces and ending the war. These events ruined the organization's plan to eradicate the Founders. The Changeling's surrender ended the war and allowed the Founders to live. Odo eventually returned to the Great Link to distribute the cure to the rest of the Founders, saving his people. (DS9: "The Dogs of War", "What You Leave Behind")
Organization and tactics Edit
Luther Sloan, a high-ranking member of Section 31, claimed that the organization dealt with threats to the Federation that others did not even realize existed and that jeopardized the Federation's very survival. Section 31's actions were autonomous and its existence was neither acknowledged nor denied by Starfleet Command or the Federation Council. Those found guilty of posing a security threat to the Federation were dealt with quietly, as Sloan once explained.
Section 31 was not accountable to anyone; it did not submit reports to anyone or ask approval for specific operations. As such, Julian Bashir described it as having granted itself the powers of "judge, jury, and executioner." (DS9: "Inquisition") Under Section 31 credo, to save lives, the ends always justified the means, and its operatives were not afraid to bend the rules if the situation warranted it. Odo once compared Section 31 to the Cardassian Union's Obsidian Order or the Romulan Star Empire's Tal Shiar. When Sloan thought Bashir was a traitor, he extensively tested his hypothesis. When Bashir passed all of his tests, Sloan let him go despite Bashir's vocal objection to Section 31's existence, and Section 31 took no action to stop Bashir from telling his friends everything he had learned. By contrast, both the Obsidian Order and the Tal Shiar have shown a willingness to kill anyone even suspected of being a threat, and to them threats include citizens with opposition views and people who know too much.
Section 31 had no known physical headquarters or base of operations. A select few were chosen to carry widespread knowledge of their activities. Recruitment of new agents had to be done in secret. One method that Section 31 used to accomplish this involved kidnapping potential agents and testing their loyalty. Section 31's recruitment policy did not allow agents to officially retire from duty, and agents who had long since moved on from the agency could be called upon at any time to carry out a mission. (ENT: "Divergence"; DS9: "Inquisition", "Extreme Measures")
Known agents Edit
- See: Section 31 personnel
Background information Edit
Section 31 was created by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Executive Producer Ira Steven Behr, and resulted from his desire to look into the darker aspects of the utopia created by Gene Roddenberry. Behr was inspired by a line of dialogue he had written in "The Maquis, Part II" where Commander Sisko remarks that "It's easy to be a saint in paradise." Behr remarked, "Why is Earth a paradise in the twenty-fourth century? Well, maybe it's because there's someone watching over it and doing the nasty stuff that no one wants to think about. Of course it's a very complicated issue. Extremely complicated. And those kinds of covert operations usually are wrong!" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 551) Behr further commented, "We need to dig deeper and find out what, indeed, life is like in the twenty-fourth century. Is it this paradise, or are there, as Harold Pinter said, 'Weasels under the coffee table.'" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion) According to Ronald D. Moore, the writing staff had "extended discussions" about the backstory of Section 31, with much debate about how long the organization was to have existed. (AOL chat, 1998)
On the Internet, the concept of Section 31 was criticized by some fans who saw it as undermining Gene Roddenberry's vision. Following the broadcast of DS9 Season 6 entry "Inquisition", David Weddle said about how the viewers reacted to Section 31, "There were many that were screaming for our heads over that show, (saying) that it betrayed everything that Star Trek stands for, and the value system that Gene Roddenberry promoted. Others said that of course the Federation would have to have an organization like this. Fans would get into these long ethical and political arguments, really struggling with issues like that, which was great to see." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 56) In response to such criticisms, Ronald D. Moore commented, "The idea that there's a rogue element within the Federation doing dark deeds outside the normal chain of command is certainly a provocative one, I'll grant you, but does it really throw into question 'on a fundamental level...the principaled Federation we have known...'? Not yet it doesn't...It's a little early to declare the death of the UFP, folks." (AOL chat, 1998)
Costume Designer Bob Blackman noted that the uniforms worn by Section 31 agents were chosen for their fascist overtones. "We design a lot of Gestapo / S.S / Naziesque outfits for our villains. And when they're really the ultimate, like the Section 31 people, we immediately go that way to make them look like storm troopers, because that's an imagery that works best, not only for the viewers, but for the producers. For 'Inquisition,' Ira asked for dark black, severe, hostile looking garments. Well, that's black leather." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 553)
In the interim between seasons six and seven of DS9, the show's writing staff determined that bringing Section 31 back in the seventh and final season, delivering on an implicit promise to make the organization return, was an important goal. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 67) "We'd had that idea since the end of 'Inquisition'," Ira Behr noted. "We wanted to bring them back." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 661)
Section 31 was originally to have featured in seventh season DS9 installment "Chrysalis". The group was included in an early version of the story that also involved Julian Bashir and genetically engineered characters Jack, Patrick, Lauren, and Sarina being sent on a mission together, and posing as Starfleet officers. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 613)
The return of Section 31 had to wait until a time when Sloan actor William Sadler was available to appear on DS9. The very deliberate idea of bringing the organization back to the series eventually led to the writing of season seven entry "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 661)
While "When It Rains..." was in development, the revelation that Section 31 was responsible for the morphogenic virus ravaging the Founders was seen as too inconsequential by René Echevarria, who co-wrote the episode's story as well as scripting the installment. He, as a result, decided to establish that the organization had also infected Odo with the same virus. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 73) The episode's first draft script suggested that, in addition to Sloan, one of multiple doctors who had conducted a series of scans on Odo at Starfleet Medical (in the timeframe of "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost") had been working for Section 31 and had infected Odo with the virus in order to pass it onto the Founders, though the script didn't disclose which medic it had been. In the original version of "Extreme Measures", however, it was established that Section 31 had recruited Dr. Mora Pol to create the virus, intending to inflict the Founders but not Odo. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 692) Echevarria and Ronald D. Moore believed, while writing "The Dogs of War", that news of Section 31's involvement in the virus had to be learned by Odo in that episode. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 32, Nos. 4/5, p. 81)
Actor Jeffrey Combs enjoyed the appearances of Section 31 on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In retrospect, he said about the organization, "I loved it. It gave everything a real flair." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 17, p. 20)
Prior to Section 31's appearance in Enterprise, Series Co-Creator and Executive Producer Rick Berman professed, "I doubt we'll see them on Enterprise." (Star Trek Monthly issue 101, p. 18) While the organization seen in that series was never explicitly referred to as "Section 31", production staff have confirmed that it was intended to be the same organization seen on Deep Space Nine. (ENT Season 4 DVD "Terra Prime" audio commentary) Harris wears a leather uniform similar to the one worn by Sloan two hundred years later, and refers Captain Archer to "Article 14, Section 31" of the Starfleet Charter. This is consistent with Sloan's comment that Section 31 was created as part of the "original" Starfleet charter, but not with Bashir's statement that Section 31 has managed to stay hidden for "over three hundred years" in "Tacking Into the Wind". Ronald D. Moore, who wrote the DS9 episode, considered Bashir's figure a mistake and stated that it should have been only around two hundred. The figure was later corrected. (AOL chat, 1999)
All of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine DVDs feature several "Easter eggs" known as "Section 31 hidden files."
Novels published by Pocket Books posit that Section 31 was involved in the theft of the Romulan cloaking device by the USS Enterprise, (TOS: "The Enterprise Incident") the development of the Omega molecule and the subsequent destruction of subspace in the Lantaru sector caused by a disastrous test of the molecule, (VOY: "The Omega Directive") and spying upon Federation civilian attorney Samuel T. Cogley. (TOS: "Court Martial") The fact that Starfleet Admiral Cartwright was established to be a Section 31 agent in the Star Trek: Section 31 novel Cloak suggests the possibility that the Khitomer conspiracy was, from the Federation end, a Section 31 operation.
Encounters with Section 31 have been documented in the novel series Star Trek: Section 31. These stories were largely designed around, and serve to explain or provide background to, certain canon events. In the novels, it is additionally revealed that Section 31:
- placed an agent aboard the USS Voyager before it was transported to the Delta Quadrant in 2371 (see VOY: "Scientific Method")
- attempted to recruit USS Enterprise-E conn officer Lieutenant Hawk (see Star Trek: First Contact)
- was responsible for Admiral Dougherty's mission to forcibly and illegally relocate the Ba'ku (see Star Trek: Insurrection)
- continues to regard Julian Bashir as an asset
- attempted to kill the former Borg drone Seven of Nine
Section 31 is also revealed to be responsible for allowing the Dominion to engage in an infamous massacre of Federation civilians during the war, as part of an attempt to recruit a potential agent, Ethan Locken.
Section 31 has also appeared in the Star Trek: A Time to... series. In A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal by David Mack, it is revealed that Section 31 has a hand in a coup d'etat organized against the President of the United Federation of Planets, Min Zife, whom they assassinate.
After the events of the Section 31 novel Cloak, Captain Kirk briefed Starfleet Captains Phil Waterson and Nick Silver and Commodores Aaron Stone and José Mendez on his discoveries and suspicions about Section 31. The five men went on to form the "Kirk Cabal", a secret group designed to oppose Section 31 whenever it was involved in any known activity. The Kirk Cabal was still active as of 2376, when Elias Vaughn recruited Julian Bashir into its ranks.
In the novel Hollow Men, Tomas Roeder, a Section 31 agent, learns of the Changeling disease and attempts to leak the information to the Dominion. Roeder failed in his objective and Elim Garak was forced to kill him.
In The Good That Men Do, by Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin, Section 31 recruited Commander Charles Tucker III to enter Romulan territory. Also according to The Good That Men Do, the existence and activities of Section 31 were exposed to the general public by the early 25th century and its agents were eventually brought to justice for their crimes. The public release of Section 31's files and records ended over 300 years of the bureau's illegal and unsanctioned black-ops and infiltration programs.
It is implied in Elusive Salvation that the name of Section 31 may stem from section 31 of floor B(asement) 14 in the Pentagon, which in 1996 housed a secretive unit of the US military dedicated to tracking alien threats.
In Star Trek: Starfleet Command III, in a mission in the Romulan campaign, the player is inspecting the damage to the Unity One starbase. While listening to the Federation-Klingon Alliance broadcasts, one Starfleet officer suggests, "Why don't you ask Section 31?" as to how Starfleet could know if the Unity One scans could detect cloaked Romulan vessels.
In the MMO game Star Trek Online, Section 31 continues to exist well into 2410, and despite some transparency among the upper echelons of Starfleet, much of Section 31's operations remain unknown to the majority of the general public. Section 31 tests player characters on a mission in a fashion similar to that of Dr. Julian Bashir. A Section 31 agent also enlists the player's aid in several other missions. When Devidians start haunting the Klingon Neutral Zone, Section 31 assists the player in stopping them.
In a couple of IDW Publishing comics, Section 31 had Captain Kirk test Starfleet's new cloaking device in a Star Trek: Year Four - The Enterprise Experiment story, which followed the events seen in TOS: "The Enterprise Incident". Section 31 also had an operative aboard the Enterprise in Star Trek: Mission's End.
In the Star Trek: Ongoing comic series set in the alternate reality, Section 31 attempted to recruit Hikaru Sulu, whose sister Yuki (β) was already a member; were revealed to be responsible for Landru; supported a rebellion on a Klingon-backed planet by supplying Robert April's alternate reality counterpart with Starfleet technology; and following Alexander Marcus' death, convinced the Romulan Empire to begin a war with the Klingons, taking the pressure off the Federation after Khan's attack.
Original featured revision (23523) • Diff to current • Last featured revision (1385641) • Diff to current • Blurb