Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Picard Season 1, and for other iterations of the franchise.
At the end of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Mirror Georgiou surprised me – and a lot of other viewers as well – by remaining aboard the USS Discovery as it headed into the future. Michelle Yeoh, who plays the character, had been announced as the lead in a new spin-off series based on the shadowy organisation Section 31 in the run-up to Season 2’s broadcast, and it was assumed that the new series would take place in the 23rd Century. Georgiou’s departure into the future seemed to complicate that!
Part of that story has since been resolved, and we now know that Georgiou will not be remaining in the 32nd Century with Burnham and the rest of Discovery’s crew. The Guardian of Forever sent Georgiou to an unknown destination in the episode Terra Firma, Part 2. Georgiou’s destination was left ambiguous, deliberately so. And in my Discovery Season 3 theories post after Terra Firma, Part 2 was broadcast I speculated about a few possible time periods that she could find herself in on the other side of the Guardian’s portal. This time I’m going to expand on that a little, looking at the possibilities of different time periods, as well as the possible pros and cons of each from both an in-universe and production perspective.
Before we get into the different time periods, it’s worth considering the Section 31 show’s status. Despite being announced in early 2019, before Discovery Season 2 was broadcast, the show has yet to enter production. Comments from Alex Kurtzman and particularly the two lead writers/producers (Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt) seem to suggest that the show’s fate is not certain, and recent news about Star Trek projects through at least the first half of 2022 explicitly excluded the Section 31 series. It seems as though it won’t be entering production any time soon, perhaps not until Discovery, Picard, or Strange New Worlds have concluded their runs.
I must admit that this news doesn’t leave me feeling great. The Section 31 series already took a back seat to Strange New Worlds – fans were clamouring for more of Anson Mount and Ethan Peck as Pike and Spock after Discovery Season 2, and that definitely stole the Section 31 show’s thunder. Fans just weren’t as excited about Mirror Georgiou and Section 31 as they were for Pike, and as a result we’ve seen Strange New Worlds greenlit and enter production before Section 31, even though it was announced later.
I was one of the fans who wasn’t particularly excited for Section 31 during Discovery Season 2. But I have since come around to the idea of this show, and I feel that – if properly executed – it could be a truly interesting and different part of a growing Star Trek franchise. A James Bond-esque spy thriller, which is what the series seems to want to be, holds a lot of appeal, and may even succeed at bringing in new viewers beyond Star Trek’s usual crowd. That’s all to the good!
So despite my initial reaction, I’m now firmly in the camp that’s looking forward to Section 31 – and I hope it does manage to enter production before too long! With that out of the way, let’s start to consider just when in the Star Trek timeline the series could be taking place. My usual caveat applies: I have no “insider information.” This is guesswork from a fan, and a chance to spend a bit more time with Star Trek. Nothing more.
To briefly recap, Discovery Season 3 took the crew – including Mirror Georgiou – to the 32nd Century. For technobabble reasons, crossing over from a parallel universe and travelling forward in time caused Georgiou to become terminally ill, suffering as a result of her molecules being pulled in two directions. In order to save her life, Burnham and the AI aboard Discovery took Georgiou to an isolated planet in the Gamma Quadrant, which was later revealed to be the new home of the Guardian of Forever. After putting Georgiou through a test in which she appeared to revisit the Mirror Universe, the Guardian allowed her to use the portal to travel backwards through time.
The one thing we need to pay closest attention to is what the Guardian said of Georgiou’s destination. He didn’t specify in any real way where or when he was sending her, instead opting to ambiguously tell her that he was sending her “to a time when the Mirror Universe and the Prime Universe were still aligned.” That does not necessarily mean the 23rd Century, and it’s largely because of this line that we can theorise about Georgiou’s destination!
Without further ado, let’s look at my list of possible destinations for Georgiou, and thus the possible settings for the Section 31 series.
Number 1: The 23rd Century
Despite everything else I’m going to say on this list, the 23rd Century has to be the most likely destination for Georgiou. From the production side of things, this is what we were told when the show was announced, and it would allow for possible crossovers with Strange New Worlds and any future series or films set in this time period. And from an in-universe point of view, the only way to cure Georgiou’s technobabble illness was either to return her to her own time period – the 23rd Century – or to the Mirror Universe. None of the other time periods on this list would, as far as we know, cure her condition.
However, the Guardian of Forever’s statement, quoted above, seems to rule out the 23rd Century. As we’ve seen in both The Original Series and Discovery, by the 23rd Century the two universes were very much not in alignment. The Federation and the Terran Empire are about as far apart as it’s possible to be, and Discovery even implied that there are genetic differences between Terrans and humans.
Returning to the 23rd Century could see Georgiou reunite with Ash Tyler, the head of Section 31 as of the end of Discovery Season 2. Tyler could have an interesting role to play in the new series, and the clash of personalities between him and Georgiou – as well as a potential for them to bond over their mutual love for Burnham – could see some truly interesting and perhaps even emotional character moments.
If Georgiou does arrive in the 23rd Century, one of the big storylines would surely be the disappearance of Section 31, explaining how it went from being an open secret in Discovery’s era to something entirely underground by the time of Deep Space Nine 120 years later. Ash Tyler may have started that process – and it could even be something we see hinted at in Strange New Worlds if he makes an appearance there – but Georgiou could be the driving force behind cloaking Section 31 in secrecy – and may even kill off Starfleet officers who are aware of the organisation’s existence.
The Guardian of Forever’s line may count against it, but I believe that the 23rd Century remains Georgiou’s most likely destination. She may arrive within days, or even hours, of her departure, or she may not arrive until several years later. The latter may be more likely, but either way the potential for crossovers with Strange New Worlds exists and is enticing.
In addition to seeing the organisation disappear and move into the shadows, Section 31 stories set in the 23rd Century could bring back races and factions we got to know in Discovery and The Original Series. We could explore in more detail the relationship between the Federation and the Romulans in this era, for example, which would tie in with Star Trek: Picard‘s Romulan focus. Or we could see how Section 31 reacted to Pike and Kirk’s missions of exploration.
Number 2: The Mirror Universe
As noted above, there are two known ways to cure Georgiou’s technobabble illness: return her to her own time period, or return her to her native universe. Perhaps the Guardian of Forever was so impressed by Georgiou’s attempts to reform the Terran Empire (depicted in Terra Firma, Part 1 and Terra Firma, Part 2) that he chose to send her back there to continue that work – even though he said he wouldn’t!
This raises its own question of when Georgiou will arrive – will it be in the Mirror Universe’s 23rd Century, or will she arrive at some other time? If the Section 31 show goes down the Mirror Universe route it would already be a pretty significant curveball, so I would assume she would return to the 23rd Century rather than complicating matters further by having her arrive in a different time period.
So let’s assume this theory is right and Georgiou arrives back “home” in the Mirror Universe. What would that mean for the show – it’s supposed to be based on Section 31, not the Mirror Universe! There could be a Mirror version of Section 31, perhaps one which acts in a different way to the Section 31 of the Prime Timeline. Georgiou may even establish such an organisation to further her attempts at reforming the Terran Empire.
In the timeline of the Mirror Universe shown in Deep Space Nine, reforms put in place by Spock led to the collapse of the Terran Empire, and the Mirror Universe by the 24th Century came to be dominated by a Klingon-Cardassian alliance. Perhaps the tragedy of the Section 31 series will be that the reforms Georgiou tries to put into place will ultimately lead to Terrans being enslaved and subjugated.
I’m not sure that this would be the best way to go, even though on the surface it appears to be something different. The Mirror Universe, as I’ve said on more than one occasion, can be okay to visit for one-off stories, but the over-the-top violent nature of the setting tends to mean Mirror Universe characters are boring and pretty one-dimensional, all enjoying gratuitous violence for its own sake. The Mirror Universe also descends far too easily into pantomime, with hammy, over-the-top performances even from otherwise good actors.
The role of Section 31 in the Mirror Universe is not clear either, and it doesn’t seem like something the Terran Empire would necessarily need. If they’re already successful as a dominant, authoritarian state with a huge military, an organisation like Section 31 just seems like overkill! Not to mention that, thanks to Terran morality, there’d be no reason for such an organisation to be clandestine. It could be out in the open, just another branch of the Terran military. In short, while a Mirror Universe series may seem interesting to some fans, I don’t think this would be the right way to do it. It would be too much of a twist on the series we’re expecting to see, and it would be limited in its scope.
Number 3: The 25th Century
Specifically I’m thinking that Georgiou could arrive at the very beginning of the 25th Century. Why? Well, basically the entire reason for this hangs on the production side of things! The dawn of the 25th Century is when Star Trek: Picard is set. Having Georgiou arrive at this time would potentially allow for the Section 31 show to cross over with Picard. Even if that didn’t happen, it would expand the 25th Century setting, perhaps laying the groundwork for more shows and films in this era.
Out of all of the possible destinations for Georgiou, this one has the least going for it from an in-universe point of view. There’s nothing we know of to suggest that the Mirror and Prime Universes are in some kind of alignment by this time, nor would sending her here cure her technobabble condition. In fact, if she did arrive here she should arguably still be suffering from it. It would be a contrivance, one set up specifically to allow Georgiou to cross over and appear in Picard – or other future Star Trek projects which also occupy this place in the timeline.
I mentioned Deep Space Nine’s Mirror Universe episodes above, and in theory we could see a connection to those episodes if the dawn of the 25th Century is when the Section 31 show is set. If the Terran Rebellion depicted in Deep Space Nine was a success, the Terrans we met in that show seemed far less aggressive and domineering than their 23rd Century counterparts. Perhaps we could learn that they didn’t simply re-establish the Terran Empire and created a more enlightened democratic society in its place.
However, there are two issues with this. The first is that in Discovery Season 3, Kovich at least implied that some form of Terran Empire or Terran-centric society existed after the 24th Century. Kovich appeared to be an expert on Terrans, and while he did say that the Terran Empire had collapsed “centuries” before the 32nd Century, he didn’t say exactly how long ago that happened. The second point comes from the production side of things: how many viewers will be familiar with those five episodes of Deep Space Nine? Us Trekkies will be, of course, but most casual viewers of the series won’t remember them, and thus there isn’t any real benefit to tying Georgiou and the Section 31 show to Deep Space Nine in a big way.
Number 4: The 21st Century
Could the Section 31 series be the first ever Star Trek show to be set in the present day?! Well, no. But maybe!
Here’s why I think it could at least be possible that a mid-to-late 21st Century setting is on the cards. The Guardian of Forever’s statement, quoted above, says that Georgiou is being sent to a time when the Mirror and Prime Universes were aligned. In Star Trek’s timeline, the earliest point of divergence that we know of came in the year 2063, during first contact between humans and Vulcans.
In the Prime Timeline, first contact went smoothly and led to an alliance between Earth and Vulcan that eventually evolved into the Federation. In the Mirror Universe, Zefram Cochrane led a mob that massacred the arriving Vulcans. In fairly short order, Terra had conquered Vulcan and the Terran Empire was born. We can’t be certain that this is absolutely the earliest point of divergence, but it’s the earliest we can be sure of.
Using this logic, the 21st Century is the best fit for the Guardian’s statement, as it can be argued that prior to first contact, the Mirror and Prime Universes were in total alignment. Sending Georgiou to the mid-21st Century – perhaps the 2050s or 2060s – would thus cure her of her technobabble illness, which was the whole point of sending her back in time.
While this is certainly a good fit (we can argue about “best fit” till we’re blue in the face!) for the Guardian of Forever’s statement, what would it mean for the Section 31 show? If Georgiou arrived in the 2050s or 2060s, she’d be on Earth either during or shortly after the Third World War. This event has been referenced a few times in Star Trek but never really explored, and we could learn more about the factions involved, as well as more about the impact first contact had on humanity.
However, for a Star Trek show, I think a 21st Century, pre-first contact setting would be a severe limitation. Instead of Georgiou trekking across the galaxy kicking butt, she’d be limited to Earth and the solar system, with adversaries being humans and perhaps the occasional Vulcan. That limitation would be difficult, and as we’ve never seen a Star Trek show set so early in the timeline, there would be unique challenges to overcome.
However, on the flip side it could be interesting to learn that Georgiou – the former Terran Empress – was instrumental in the creation of the Federation. By laying the groundwork for Section 31, perhaps even creating the organisation itself, Georgiou could keep humanity safe in its crucial early days as a spacefaring people. Georgiou could be seen not just as the leader of Section 31, but as its first ever leader, laying down the ground rules for how Section 31 will operate, and its objective of defending the Federation at all costs.
Number 5: The 27th Century
In the Discovery Season 3 episode Die Trying, Kovich gave us a bit more information about the Mirror Universe. Specifically, he explained that the “distance” between the two parallel realities had been slowly growing, meaning that by the 32nd Century it was no longer possible to cross between them as it had once been. The last crossover before the 32nd Century came “five hundred years” earlier – which would put it sometime in the 27th Century.
Does this mean that it fits with the Guardian of Forever’s statement about the two universes being “aligned?” I don’t think so, and it’s a stretch to make that argument. However, as the 27th Century was (indirectly) referenced only a few episodes before Georgiou’s departure, I think we have to consider it as a possibility for her ultimate destination. If it wasn’t in play at all, why bring it up? Maybe it’s just a red herring; a throwaway line I’m too focused on! But maybe there’s more to it than that.
What do we know about the 27th Century? The answer is “very little.” It was referenced in The Next Generation Season 3 episode Captain’s Holiday, when a powerful weapon created in this period was sent back in time. Time travel had been definitively invented by this time, and the Federation used it in some capacity. Otherwise, all we can be sure of is that the Federation existed in this era.
Having an almost-blank slate like this is what a lot of creators and producers want! So in that sense, it would be a great setting for a new Star Trek series, just as the 32nd Century was for Discovery Season 3. However, unless there’s a bigger plan to bring more Star Trek projects to this time period, it would isolate the Section 31 show, separating it by hundreds of years in both directions from everything else in the franchise. I’m not sure that would be a positive thing.
So that’s it. We’ve looked at five possibilities for the Section 31 show’s setting, largely based on a single ambiguous line from Terra Firma, Part 2!
At this stage, if I had to place a bet with my own money I’d have to say that the 23rd Century is most likely to be the right choice. The others all have drawbacks, and while all five have the potential to tell different and interesting stories, the plan all along seems to have been for the Section 31 series to use a 23rd Century setting. The reason for all of this speculation, of course, is that we didn’t see for ourselves where – or when – Georgiou ended up after she stepped through the Guardian of Forever’s portal!
I’m still hopeful that the positive reception received by Star Trek: Picard will lead to more projects occupying its 25th Century setting in future, and if that’s the case then bringing the Section 31 series to that time period would make a lot of sense. As I’ve said on a number of occasions, when Star Trek was at the pinnacle of its success in the 1990s, the shows and films being produced all shared the same setting and time period, something which modern Star Trek has opted to disregard. From the point of view of casual fans and viewers, this unquestionably makes the Star Trek franchise harder to follow, so consolidating as many projects as possible into a single time period makes a lot of sense.
However, if Strange New Worlds proves to be the success that ViacomCBS – and many fans – are hoping for, returning to the 23rd Century with the Section 31 series would still accomplish that goal. There could be crossover episodes between the two series, and future projects – like the potential Ceti Alpha V miniseries – could also be incorporated into a broad, interconnected set of shows.
I remain hopeful that the Section 31 series will make it. Though it seems as if production may be months or even years away right now, the show remains in contention over at ViacomCBS, and would certainly take Star Trek to different thematic places. As I said when I wrote up a wishlist of things I’d like to see included, a spy thriller has the potential to tell some fascinating stories, and perhaps some that are morally ambiguous. I see the future cast of Section 31 – including Georgiou – as antiheroes; a team kind of like the DC Comics villains in the film Suicide Squad, doing bad things to bad people in the name of keeping others safe.
I hope you’ll stay tuned for any and all future Section 31 news! If we hear any major announcements, casting information, or see a trailer, I’ll do my best to cover it here on the website. There’s a huge amount of Star Trek on the horizon, and Section 31 could be a significant part of that. Time will tell what will ultimately happen, but I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed!
Stay up to date with my Section 31 articles on my dedicated Section 31 page. 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. Some stock photos courtesy of pixabay. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.