Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Prodigy, and potentially minor spoilers for Star Trek: Section 31.
Second time lucky?
Paramount will certainly be hoping so, because this is the second time they’ve tried to get Star Trek: Section 31 off the ground! Originally envisioned as a television series, this latest announcement is something new for the Star Trek franchise: Section 31 will come directly to Paramount+ as a kind of “TV movie.” Reading between the lines, I think we can expect a lower budget than a full theatrical film, but perhaps a higher budget than would be afforded to a miniseries or a couple of episodes of a regular show.
If Section 31 proves to be a success with this format, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other Star Trek projects created in the same mould. As I said last year when discussing Short Treks, there’s a lot of potential in one-off stories – and with the sets having already been built for the likes of Picard and Strange New Worlds, there could also be a relatively low cost of entry, too.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves!
Off the back of Michelle Yeoh’s success at the Oscars and Golden Globes, her star has risen significantly. It’s a coup for Paramount to have won her back, there’s no two ways about it. Yeoh could have chosen to pursue other projects – she will have had no shortage of offers after Everything Everywhere All At Once took the world by storm – so it’s significant for both Paramount and the Star Trek franchise that she’s been convinced to come back.
With Michelle Yeoh at the helm, there’s potential for Section 31 to pick up a lot more interest and attention than it otherwise might’ve done – and that can only be a positive thing! We’ve talked before about how Star Trek needs to win over new viewers, and how the franchise needs to get new fans through the door. A project like Section 31 could be a gateway into Star Trek for legions of new viewers – at least some of whom will stick around. The potential for the franchise and the fandom to grow is significant – and growth is the only way to ensure that Star Trek will continue to be produced.
Over the past couple of years I’ve talked about Section 31 a handful of times here on the website, and my overriding thought has been this: Paramount screwed this up. By announcing the project far too early, and at a time when fans were just about to get excited for the return of Captain Pike, Section 31 was dead on arrival. And it was such a shame, because by the time the groundwork had been properly laid for the project in Discovery’s third season, it was something I’d come around to.
This revival is, let’s be honest here, driven almost entirely by Michelle Yeoh’s success and Paramount’s wish to capitalise on it. I don’t think there’s much of a creative or artistic side to it – this is a commercial decision. As was the decision to dump the original Section 31 concept into development hell. In that case, Paramount saw the appetite for a Pike spin-off and prioritised that idea ahead of Section 31. This time, the board has seen the success Michelle Yeoh has had and has pulled out all the stops to bring her back to Star Trek.
But by the time Georgiou departed Discovery in the two-part episode Terra Firma, she’d undergone a significant shift in her characterisation – and was finally ready to take the lead in Section 31. If only Paramount had announced the project at that stage instead of two years earlier!
A TV movie feels like a good compromise for a franchise that’s in danger of burning out. With Starfleet Academy having just been announced as a new series, and growing calls for a Picard spin-off, I’m not sure that another series would’ve been the right call, especially with the Star Trek franchise continuing to have different eras and timelines on the go simultaneously. A TV movie could certainly lead to something more – either in the form of a sequel or a series – if it proves to be a huge hit. But for now at least, this feels like a surprisingly good call from a corporation that has made very few of those over the last few years.
The story that Section 31 will tell is going to be kept under wraps for a long time – and we might not see it until 2025 or even 2026. It’s my hope that Section 31 won’t feel like a re-hash of some of Star Trek’s recent “the whole galaxy is in danger!!!” stories that have been prevalent in Discovery, Picard, and even Prodigy in recent years. The writers need to find a way to take advantage of the secretive organisation to tell a different kind of story – a kind of black ops/spy thriller that might best be summed up as “Star Trek does James Bond.”
Besides Michelle Yeoh, there are other Discovery alumni who could potentially join the cast – though no announcements have been made at this stage. Shazad Latif, who played Ash Tyler in Discovery’s first and second seasons, is perhaps the most likely candidate, and I’d be interested to see what might’ve become of Tyler after his run-ins with Michael Burnham and the USS Discovery!
There’s also the potential for Section 31 to cross over in some way with Strange New Worlds, with the TV movie potentially debuting the same year as that show’s third season. The end of Discovery’s second season certainly implied that Captain Pike was aware of Georgiou’s true identity, and bringing him into the story could make for the kind of team-up event that Star Trek really ought to consider doing more of. If Section 31 were to aim for a 2026 release, coinciding with the Star Trek franchise’s 60th anniversary, it could even be billed as an anniversary event.
There’s been far more of a positive reception to the announcement of Section 31 in 2023 than there was to its premature announcement more than four years ago, and that’s good news. The project feels much more solid this time around, and is almost certain to get off the ground and escape the gravitational pull of development hell. Partly that’s thanks to Michelle Yeoh’s newfound stature as an award winner – but it’s also, at least in part, thanks to the development of her character across Season 2 and especially Season 3 of Discovery. The more grounded, nuanced, and dare I say more human presentation of Georgiou toward the end of her tenure on Discovery is what has made her into the kind of antihero that fans can root for.
So I can now say I’m genuinely looking forward to Section 31… even though I have no idea when it will be set, who it might include, or what kind of story it will aim to tell! As a standalone Star Trek project it represents a genuinely different format that the franchise hasn’t really attempted before – albeit one that could, perhaps, lead to a more traditional series if it proves a runaway success.
There’s a lot more potential in Section 31 today than there was when its original announcement in early 2019 flopped and failed to get off the ground, and I think you can see that in the positive reaction both within the Star Trek fan community and outside of it. Michelle Yeoh brings a star power to Star Trek that’s unprecedented, at least in the franchise’s modern incarnation, and the effect of that should be to bring more eyes to Star Trek – and to Paramount Plus – than it’s seen in a long time. It may not be an exaggeration in the years ahead to say that Section 31 shored up Star Trek and set the stage for its future success.
Until then, I hope you’ll stay tuned here on Trekking with Dennis! As and when we get more news about Section 31, details about the cast, teasers and trailers, and the like, I’ll do my best to discuss and analyse it all. And when Section 31 is ready, you can expect a full review, too!
Star Trek: Section 31 will premiere on Paramount Plus in the United States, United Kingdom, and other countries and territories where the platform is available at an unknown future date. Further international distribution has not been announced. The Star Trek franchise – including Section 31, Discovery, and all other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Seasons 1-2, and Star Trek: Lower Decks.
Michelle Yeoh, who played the roles of Captain Georgiou and her Mirror Universe counterpart on Star Trek: Discovery, has recently won a Golden Globe award. Her role in the mind-bending multiverse adventure Everything Everywhere All At Once has also landed her an Oscar nomination, and with Yeoh’s star rising in Hollywood, some Trekkies have begun asking whether the seemingly-abandoned Star Trek series based around Section 31, in which she was set to take a leading role, might be given a second chance by Paramount. Today I thought it could be interesting to revisit the Section 31 series and reevaluate its prospects.
There’s more than one reason why the original Section 31 pitch didn’t get off the ground, and we should consider why the series has been stuck in development hell for more than four years. Firstly, we have the character of Georgiou herself. This Mirror Universe character was, at the time the series was announced, pretty one-dimensional. Thanks to a solid performance by Michelle Yeoh, she didn’t stray into the horrible pantomime-level over-acting that trips up many other Mirror Universe characters, but there really wasn’t much to indicate that this lover of murder and torture could be anything more than just a bland, one-dimensional Mirror Universe trope – at least, not as of the end of Discovery’s first season.
It took multiple appearances across Seasons 2 and 3 of Discovery, and the two-part Georgiou spotlight episode Terra Firma in particular, to begin to soften that hard Terran exterior. By the time Georgiou entered the Guardian of Forever’s portal in the 32nd Century, there was definitely potential in her character, and seeing what would come next for her had finally begun to feel like something fans might be interested in.
Had the Section 31 show been announced at that stage, rather than two years earlier, I daresay the reaction would’ve been a lot more positive. But Paramount jumped the gun and announced the series too early, the predictable result of which was a muted, underwhelmed reaction from both Trekkies and a wider audience. Without significant numbers of fans asking for the show – or even seeming to be anything more than mildly interested in it – Section 31 was, to coin a phrase, dead on arrival.
We also can’t overlook another huge factor: Captain Pike. I don’t think it’s fair to say that Anson Mount’s portrayal of Pike in Discovery’s second season was somehow fatal to the Section 31 show’s prospects, but it clearly played a part. Along with Ethan Peck as Spock and Rebecca Romijn as Una, the reception to Captain Pike in Discovery was overwhelmingly positive. In 2019, it was clear which characters fans wanted to see more of – and which they were, at best, apathetic toward.
This seemed to catch Paramount off-guard, with no plans afoot for extending Pike and Spock’s roles on Discovery. The corporation had to spend time in the aftermath of Discovery’s second season bringing these characters back, initially for a few episodes of Short Treks before Strange New Worlds was eventually greenlit. I think this speaks to a broader problem at Paramount, with the people supposedly in charge of the Star Trek franchise clearly unable to tell what will be a hit and what won’t… but maybe that’s a discussion for another time!
Regardless, when Section 31 was announced in 2019, it didn’t win a huge amount of support out of the gate. Then Discovery’s second season came along, and fans were clamouring for more Pike and Spock. Resources may have shifted to planning Strange New Worlds, and Section 31 took a back seat.
Although Terra Firma was a great story – probably the best Mirror Universe story the franchise has ever told – after Georgiou’s departure, we still didn’t really see a huge amount of interest in Section 31. Sure, some folks were talking about it, and it would crop up occasionally in online conversations, but when compared to the constant questions Paramount had been fielding about Pike and Strange New Worlds, it was hardly lighting up the board. Even the teased but still unannounced Starfleet Academy series seemed to have generated more attention.
I’m not alone in having speculated that Section 31 might’ve been quietly cancelled sometime in the last couple of years. The total lack of news from Paramount, even during events and panels where the conversation turned to future and upcoming projects, has combined with news from the project’s writers and even comments from Michelle Yeoh herself to paint a pretty clear picture of a project that isn’t going ahead. But will Yeoh’s newfound superstar status change all of that?
It would be a coup for Paramount and for the Star Trek franchise to be able to launch a series with a Golden Globe winner and – potentially, at least – an Oscar winner as its lead. By essentially piggybacking off of Michelle Yeoh’s success and status, the Section 31 series could draw in a wider audience than other Star Trek projects, and expanding the franchise beyond its existing fandom and viewer base has to be something Paramount works on in the months and years ahead. Thinking selfishly and cynically, this could be a way to achieve that objective.
But unless Paramount had the foresight to lock Michelle Yeoh into a contract back in 2019 that would still be valid, her rising star power will undoubtedly come with a growing price tag. The Section 31 series has already gotten a lot more expensive to create – and it’ll only get pricier if Yeoh wins an Oscar! But as they say, you can’t always put a price on success, and having someone of Michelle Yeoh’s calibre in a leading role would be a huge net positive for the Section 31 series.
We’ve already heard comments from Alex Kurtzman and others involved on the production side of Star Trek since Everything Everywhere All At Once started picking up Oscar buzz. These comments seem to indicate that the Section 31 show’s prospects aren’t completely bleak, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Paramount is now scrounging around trying to bring Michelle Yeoh back and to potentially revive the Section 31 series.
We’ve talked a lot about Paramount’s mishandling and mismanagement of the Star Trek franchise over the past couple of years, and I think the Section 31 series is another example of that. It was announced in early 2019 to try to reaffirm the corporation’s dedication to Star Trek and what was then still called CBS All Access, as well as to generate a bit more attention and interest in Discovery’s second season. But Paramount had had months to process the reaction to Discovery Season 1, and to see that Mirror Georgiou, while not exactly hated by fans and viewers, was not in a position at that time to carry a series.
I have to assume that the broad strokes of Georgiou’s arc had been planned out at the time of the Section 31 series’ announcement, and that giving her some much-needed character development was on the agenda. But looking in from the outside, even as a fan it was hard to see where such a flat, one-dimensional character might go. For the casual viewers who make up the bulk of any show’s audience, creating a spin-off from Discovery based around Mirror Georgiou must’ve seemed utterly incomprehensible.
Higher-ups at Paramount should have realised that they were onto a winner with Pike and Spock, and plans should have been made during production on Discovery’s second season – or immediately after when responses from test audiences were reviewed – to create the show we now know of as Strange New Worlds. Had that project been “shovel-ready” in 2019, and been announced during Discovery’s second season, I think Paramount could have netted an easy goal.
Section 31 should have been announced in December 2020, shortly after Terra Firma had aired. By that point, Georgiou was finally ready to take on the leading role in a new series, and the reaction from fans would have been significantly more positive. By jumping the gun and trying to announce it too early, Paramount did serious harm to the Section 31 show’s prospects. Whether that harm will prove fatal is now, quite frankly, entirely in the hands of Michelle Yeoh.
The Section 31 series has several things going for it, as I see it. Of course we have the wonderful Michelle Yeoh in the leading role, and that’s fantastic! But beyond just one actress, there are some genuinely great concepts. Taking the Star Trek franchise in a different direction, with a focus on espionage, would open up completely different storytelling ideas. The franchise has touched on this in the past in more ways than one, but having a series where stealth and spying are part of the foundations would be something new.
Then we have the show’s significantly darker tone. In past Star Trek stories, Section 31 was presented as a shadowy, off-the-books, black ops organisation, the kind of outfit that would do anything to protect the Federation – even violating Federation laws. The potential to tell stories where the question viewers will have to contemplate is “do the ends justify the means?” is truly a fascinating one. Star Trek has touched on this in the past, but to place this idea in focus is, again, a new idea.
The kinds of characters who might make up a Section 31 outfit also have a ton of potential to be interesting. There’s a lot of room for nuance, and also for characters with hidden pasts and deep secrets. We could even see a character from a totally unknown alien race, and have a storyline exploring why this race might choose to remain hidden. There’s a lot that the Section 31 series could do with the characters who might join Georgiou.
If the show were to return to the 23rd Century, as was implied in Terra Firma, it would be possible to cross over with Strange New Worlds. Strange New Worlds currently has a crossover event planned with Lower Decks – and I can’t wait to see it! But a crossover with another live-action Star Trek show would be fantastic, too. The 23rd Century would also allow the Section 31 series to potentially pick up characters like Ash Tyler, who was himself a Section 31 leader, and continue their arcs.
Whether any of this will happen, though… who can say? Paramount would be stupid to write off the Section 31 series at this time, and if there was some way to re-announce it shortly after the Oscars, perhaps… that could be a great idea!
I was one of the Trekkies in 2019 who felt that this series wasn’t the best idea, and while I’m happy now to admit to being completely wrong about that… Paramount has to take its share of the blame here, too. Announcing the show at a time when its lead wasn’t ready, just after Picard had been announced and with a return to the late 24th Century finally on the agenda… it was just the wrong moment. Not for the first time, I find myself saying to Paramount that serious introspection is needed and lessons must be learned. Why did no one involved in Discovery’s production realise what the reception would be like for Pike and Spock? If plans had been made for Georgiou’s development, why was this not communicated at the time? And why was the show announced weeks after Star Trek: Picard had been?
The renewed interest in Section 31 at Paramount has been spurred on by Michelle Yeoh’s success in Everything Everywhere All At Once, and I don’t think anyone would deny that. Whether that will be enough to revive the series and see it finally enter production, though… I’m not certain. While I firmly believe Paramount should move mountains to try to see it through, they no longer hold all of the cards. It’s up to Michelle Yeoh, newly-minted award winner, to decide what direction she wants to take for her career. If she chooses to stick to feature films, no one will blame her!
The Section 31 series was announced prematurely. By the time it was narratively ready, any hype and attention it could’ve gotten had long since faded, overtaken by Picard, Strange New Worlds, and others. This is Paramount’s fault, and the corporation will need to learn lessons from this episode as it moves forward. The last thing Star Trek needs is a repeat of this kind of mistake in future!
I’ll cross my fingers for positive Section 31 news this year. With Picard ending after its third season, there will be a potential opening in the Star Trek lineup… could Section 31 take that spot?
The Star Trek franchise – including all titles and properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3.
The Section 31 series is currently stuck in that nebulous zone that industry insiders refer to as “development hell.” Despite having been officially announced almost three years ago and supposedly having scripts written, at time of writing it’s been a very long time indeed since we heard anything close to official about the series.
I last took a look at the Section 31 show’s prospects back at the end of April, and since it’s been a while I think we should briefly recap why I feel increasingly sure that the project isn’t going ahead.
After a deeply underwhelming reaction to the Section 31 show’s announcement in 2019, Discovery’s second season premiered – and fans immediately fell in love with Captain Pike, Spock, and Number One. Calls for Pike to be granted his own spin-off eventually led to the development of Strange New Worlds. After Strange New Worldswas officially announced, we began to hear rumblings about the Section 31 series potentially being reworked. For a show that had supposedly been ready to go and on the verge of beginning official production for more than a year, news in 2020 that scripts were being re-written did not sound good.
Alex Kurtzman – the head of Star Trek for ViacomCBS – later dropped a significant bombshell: that there were no plans for any new Star Trek series to enter production until one of the current shows has concluded. With Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds all being worked on at that point, Kurtzman said that no other shows would enter production until at least one of those had finished its run. We later heard from the Section 31 show’s co-creators that they were “still having conversations” about the Section 31 series – which sounds an awful lot like industry speak for a project on life-support.
Back in April we heard from Michelle Yeoh – Empress Georgiou herself – on The Pod Directive, Star Trek’s official podcast. It’s important to keep in mind that The Pod Directive is an official production, not a fan-made one, because if Yeoh had been interviewed by literally any Trekkie in such a format, the question of the Section 31 show’s future would certainly have come up. It didn’t – and Yeoh could only speak in very vague terms about hoping to “one day” return to the role of Georgiou.
Months later and we still haven’t heard anything about Section 31. Shazad Latif, who played Tyler in Discovery’s first two seasons, suggested that there had been unofficial chats about the show earlier this year – but again, that hardly sounds positive. At Star Trek Day back in September, Alex Kurtzman teased that a Starfleet Academy series may be in the very early stages of being worked on, which could mean that it’ll be the next project for the Star Trek franchise. In contrast, the Section 31 series wasn’t mentioned at Star Trek Day at all.
Let’s assume for now that the combination of no official announcements and a slow trickle of bad news does in fact mean that the Section 31 show isn’t going to happen. The question is why? What might’ve caused a rethink over at ViacomCBS and convinced the corporation to invest its time and money elsewhere?
It isn’t as simple as saying “Captain Pike.” It’s true that the fan response to Pike (as well as to Spock and Number One) absolutely stole the Section 31 show’s thunder in 2019, but that can’t be the full story. It is very interesting to note, though, that the support for Captain Pike from Discovery fans and viewers seemed to catch ViacomCBS completely off-guard. Did they not realise, during production on Discovery Season 2, that they had something special on their hands with Anson Mount and Ethan Peck? If not, why not?
Perhaps it’s true that ViacomCBS was only willing to greenlight one Discovery spin-off in 2019, and if that’s the case it was patently obvious within a couple of episodes which character fans were clamouring to spend more time with – and which they weren’t. But in 2019 ViacomCBS was practically throwing its money around, working on Star Trek projects left, right, and centre. It doesn’t make sense to say that there was only enough money in the kitty for one spin-off – and if fans liked both Georgiou and Pike, why not go ahead with both projects?
The build-up to Discovery Season 2 came in the wake of the surprise announcement of Star Trek: Picard. Many Trekkies were incredibly excited to revisit the 24th Century and see the next chapter of Picard’s life, and there was a great deal of buzz and excitement surrounding Picard Season 1. As I argued at the time, a Discovery spin-off in the 23rd Century almost felt like a regressive step in comparison; many fans were excited to see the Star Trek franchise’s overall timeline move forward again for the first time in eighteen years – Section 31, being set in the 23rd Century, felt like a backwards step.
The intention behind announcing the Section 31 series prior to Discovery Season 2 was twofold: partly to drive subscribers to what was then still called CBS All Access, reminding folks that a new season of Star Trek was coming, but also to reaffirm the corporation’s commitment to Star Trek as a brand and Discovery as a series in the wake of a somewhat controversial first season. As Season 1 was rolling on, there were an increasing number of anti-Star Trek social media groups popping up, and one commonly-heard refrain in 2017, 2018, and into 2019 was that Discovery was about to be cancelled. This story, by the way, still does the rounds in those same groups in 2021, despite the show now being into its fourth season!
There was a need for ViacomCBS to try to bring in more subscribers, and there was also a need to do something to demonstrate that the corporation still had faith in Discovery and the broader Star Trek franchise. Shutting down some of the anti-Trek hate wasn’t the main reason, but it may well have been a factor in the decision-making.
So in January 2019, as Discovery’s second season drew near, we got the announcement of the Section 31 series. But rather than the positive response ViacomCBS was hoping for, reaction to the news was muted at best – and disagreeable at worst.
I was one of many Trekkies left underwhelmed by the concept of the Section 31 series at that time. Michelle Yeoh is an outstanding performer, don’t misunderstand me for a moment. But her character of Empress Georgiou was someone who was fundamentally uninteresting – at least she was as of the end of Discovery Season 1. Remember that the Section 31 show was announced before a single Season 2 episode had aired, and long before Georgiou got some much-needed character development in Season 3.
Imagine, for a moment, that the Section 31 show had been announced last December – in the days following the broadcast of Terra Firma, Part 2. How much more excited and interested might fans have been then than they were in January 2019? I think we all know the answer to that question.
The Mirror Universe and its Terran inhabitants can be fun, and even though I freely admit that the Mirror Universe is far from my favourite Star Trek setting, I can appreciate what it brings to the table. But the Mirror Universe has only ever been the kind of over-the-top pantomime fun that I can enjoy for a single episode at a time. Terrans are basically all the same: violence-loving sociopaths. They make Prime Timeline Klingons look positively tame thanks to their gratuitous use of violence and torture, and there’s never been any demonstrable room for character depth or nuance.
The best Mirror Universe character, aside from Georgiou herself, was probably Mirror Spock way back in The Original Series.Deep Space Nine tried, to its credit, to tell some different Mirror Universe stories about enslaved Terrans and a Klingon-Cardassian Alliance – but the Alliance fell into many of the same thematic and storytelling traps as the Terran Empire had.
In short, Mirror Universe characters are uninteresting at best. At worst, as we see far too often across different Star Trek shows (including Discovery) they’re pathetically ridiculous. A combination of poor scriptwriting and a one-dimensional setting encourages even great actors like Sonequa Martin-Green to ham it up and put in performances that wouldn’t be out of place in a primary school play. At the end of Discovery Season 1, there was nothing at all to indicate that Empress Georgiou wasn’t the same kind of bland, uninteresting Mirror Universe villain as characters like Intendant Kira or Mirror Kirk.
Unlike many other Terran characters, I never felt that the acting performance put in by Michelle Yeoh was over-the-top. Some Mirror Universe performances – such as Mirror Kirk in The Original Series and Mirror Burnham in Discovery – are so truly awful that I find them borderline unwatchable, as the Mirror Universe setting seems to trick even competent performers into forgetting how to act. Badly-written scripts and a setting that doesn’t lend itself to anything but pantomime don’t help, of course. But I felt, to Michelle Yeoh’s credit, that Georgiou managed to avoid falling victim to the worst tropes of the setting. Even so, that didn’t make the way the character was presented at the end of Discovery’s first season a net positive going into the announcement of the Section 31 series.
In Discovery’s first season, we saw first-hand how Georgiou ruled the Terran Empire with an iron fist. She subjugated aliens – including Saru’s people, the Kelpiens – and ensured they were second-class citizens at best, slaves at worst. She killed indiscriminately and had no qualms whatsoever about destroying entire planets or exterminating entire sentient races. Some fans (and non-fans) derisively termed Georgiou “Space Hitler” as a result. And this was the point at which ViacomCBS announced a new series with this character as its lead.
I never liked the term “Space Hitler” to attack Georgiou… but I confess that I understand why some fans felt it was an appropriate descriptor in Season 1. It encapsulates Georgiou as a dictator, as a violent sociopath, as someone willing to inflict some truly evil actions upon the galaxy, and as someone who governs a state with a pro-human, anti-alien philosophy. It’s not an expression I would use; it’s offensive, crass, and deliberately provocative. It’s also a pretty crude analogy, but I get where it came from.
Think for a moment about Georgiou’s actions in Season 1. In her first appearance, she insists that Burnham and the crew “bow to their emperor,” then proceeds to feed Kelpien meat to Burnham a couple of episodes later. After being dethroned as Emperor and brought to the Prime Universe by the crew of the USS Discovery, she teams up with Admiral Cornwell to destroy the entire Klingon homeworld. Why? Does she suddenly care about the Federation and want to see it preserved? No: she likes killing, she likes violence, and she saw an opportunity to commit genocide and just went for it.
We began to see indications in Season 2 that Georgiou had a softer side, particularly when it came to Michael Burnham. At one point in the episode The Red Angel (unfortunately the season’s worst) she wanted to cut short a dangerous assignment when Burnham’s life appeared to be in danger. But it wouldn’t be until Season 3 – and really not until midway through the season – that any significant softening of Georgiou’s hard Terran exterior would be readily apparent.
Terra Firma went a long way to changing how I felt about Georgiou – as I’m sure it did for many other fans as well. We saw nuance in her characterisation for the first time – a sense that there was more to her than just violence and psychopathy for their own sakes. She expressed empathy for the first time, being unwilling or unable to carry out some of the violent actions that her role as Empress would have required of her. The changes she attempted to make to the way that the Terran Empire was governed ultimately led to her “death” within the Guardian of Forever’s portal – and proved to the Guardian that she was deserving of a second chance. I would argue that it was this episode that also demonstrated to us as the audience that Georgiou was deserving of a second look, too.
Georgiou needed Terra Firma to really come into her own as a character – especially a character that a new series was going to focus on. It wasn’t until we saw her returned to the Terran Empire – or the Guardian’s approximation of it, at any rate – that we could appreciate how living with the Federation had changed some of her opinions and attitudes. For example, Season 1 Georgiou would happily eat Kelpien. But by the time Terra Firma rolled around she’d come to value, in her own way, Saru as a person and even as a leader.
As the audience, we needed to see all of that before we could conceivably commit to a series starring this character. In hindsight it’s easy to say that the Section 31 series was a good idea, because I have to assume that the writers and producers already had some kind of an outline in mind for this story. At the very least they’d have known Georgiou’s destination; the culmination of her arc across Discovery’s first three seasons. But none of that was apparent to us as the audience at the end of Season 1.
Had Section 31 been announced not in January 2019 but December 2020, I think we’d have seen a far more positive and excited reaction to the new show. But ViacomCBS jumped the gun, trying to boost Discovery and CBS All Access without, perhaps, fully thinking through what the show’s actual prospects were or what the reaction from Trekkies might be. It wouldn’t be the last time that the corporation would mangle its handling of the Star Trek franchise, unfortunately.
ViacomCBS’ biggest failing when it came to Discovery’s second season is, I would argue, not realising how strongly fans would feel about Pike, and how much excitement there would be within the fandom for a Pike spin-off. If they’d realised that – and with hindsight it should’ve been obvious, especially considering these shows are almost always shown to audiences at test-screenings before they premiere – then perhaps the Section 31 announcement would’ve been held back, and Strange New Worlds could’ve been announced either during or shortly after Discovery’s second season.
Because of issues with Georgiou’s characterisation, prior to Season 2 was a bad time to announce the Section 31 series. The fact that the series is based around Section 31 – an organisation that fans have often indicated that we’d like to see more of – got completely buried by the announcement that Michelle Yeoh was going to headline it. Arguments over the character of Empress Georgiou and her suitability as the star of a new show drowned out any interest in the Section 31 organisation itself. And the otherwise muted, uninterested response from Trekkies and a wider television audience compounded that, driving the first nail into what appears to be the series’ coffin.
Speaking personally, it wasn’t until we got to Terra Firma that I saw the merits of a Section 31 show with Georgiou at the helm. One of the first articles I wrote here on the website almost two years ago was about the Section 31 series – and how I was truly not interested in it at all. It took seeing Georgiou’s character arc play out, and the strong two-part episode Terra Firma in particular, before I was sold on the concept. But by then, it seems, it may well have been too late to revive the show’s declining prospects.
Star Trek’s past is littered with unresolved story elements – though most don’t involve major characters. It’s possible that Georgiou’s story will simply be left incomplete, her destination after entering the Guardian of Forever’s portal never to be shown nor explained on screen. That would be unfortunate, especially because the character we finally got to see by the latter part of Discovery’s third season is so much more nuanced and interesting to follow. Seeing Georgiou run Section 31 had finally begun to sound like a show that Trekkies were interested in… but it feels like it’s too late now. The franchise has simply moved on to other projects.
The Star Trek franchise – including all properties 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
It’s been a while since the still-untitled Star Trek: Discovery spin-off based around Section 31 was announced. In January 2019, prior to Discovery’s second season premiere, ViacomCBS first told us about the spin-off, which would star Michelle Yeoh as Terran Empress Philippa Georgiou and focus on her new career as an agent of shadowy intelligence organisation Section 31. Since then, we haven’t heard much direct news about the planned series, and some of the indirect news we’ve been hearing out of the production side of Star Trek now officially has me worried for the show’s prospects.
It’s not unfair to say that the reaction from Trekkies to the announcement of the Section 31 series was muted at best. There was excitement at the prospect of a new Star Trek series, of course, but with Star Trek: Picard already in production by this point, many fans were less interested in Georgiou and Section 31. There are a couple of reasons why I think this was the case, and before we go any further it’s not a bad idea to look at them in turn.
Firstly, Mirror Georgiou herself. Michelle Yeoh is an amazing actress, and in many ways Discovery had been lucky in its first season to land someone of her calibre. If you haven’t seen the sci fi-horror film Sunshine, in which Yeoh plays a supporting role, I highly recommend it, and that’s just one example. But the character she plays in Discovery is a Terran, and when the show was first announced it was before any character movement or development that would come later in Discovery’s run. Mirror Georgiou was about as flat and one-dimensional as Terrans get.
Unlike a number of other Star Trek actors and actresses we could mention, Michelle Yeoh’s performance as Georgiou managed to avoid the pitfalls that Mirror Universe characters can easily fall into – namely hammy, over-the-top, pantomime villain performances. While that is a positive, and a further reflection on Yeoh’s hard work and talent, the character of Mirror Georgiou doesn’t offer much room for manoeuvre, or at least didn’t at the end of Discovery’s first season. She was a typical Terran: quick to violence, petty and demeaning toward others, and unpleasant. There seemed to be little room for Mirror Georgiou to be even an antihero; basing a series around this character as a protagonist felt like a mark against it rather than a point in its favour.
Secondly there was Star Trek: Picard’s impending arrival, as already mentioned. Picard had been announced about six months earlier, and many Trekkies were incredibly excited for Star Trek’s return to the 24th Century after such a long time, as well as for the return of Captain Picard himself – and possibly other characters from that era too.
These two factors came together to see the series announced to a lukewarm reception even from Star Trek’s biggest fans and supporters. There was a sense that the show might just be unnecessary with the franchise heading back to the 24th Century and in a different direction, and at best there was mild interest, but no real hype or excitement. Discovery had made some significant investments ahead of Season 2 in anticipation of the Section 31 series, such as constructing a full bridge/operations centre set for the Section 31 starship, and it’s likely – in my opinion as an outsider, at least – that the underwhelming reception to the show’s announcement was disappointing to ViacomCBS and the creative team behind Star Trek.
Then along came Captain Pike. With the Section 31 series already on the ropes, Discovery Season 2 reintroduced fans to the classic captain from Star Trek’s first pilot episode… and we absolutely loved it! Anson Mount’s excellent portrayal of Pike led to calls for him to get his own spin-off, and even before the season finale wrapped up, Trekkies were signing petitions and doing everything they could to show ViacomCBS that there was a real appetite for more of Captain Pike.
This appeared to catch the production team rather off-guard, and it was more than a year after Discovery Season 2 was over and done with before Strange New Worlds – the highly-requested Pike spin-off – would be announced.
Coming on top of an underwhelming announcement, which was probably done in the run-up to Season 2 to drum up interest and convince more folks to subscribe to CBS All Access, Captain Pike totally stole the Section 31 show’s thunder and pulled the rug out from under whatever plans had been put into place for the new series. If there was room for one Star Trek: Discovery spin-off in ViacomCBS’ plans, it was clear which one fans were clamouring for – and which one they were not.
So the combination of a disappointing announcement and the overwhelming popularity of Captain Pike evidently saw the Section 31 series drop down the priority list. Discovery Season 3 was announced and went into production. Picard Season 1 came and went, and a second season was announced. Lower Decks Season 1 was broadcast and Season 2 entered production. Strange New Worlds was announced and entered production. Prodigy was announced and entered production. Even Discovery Season 4 entered production, and we heard nothing in all that time about Section 31.
I assumed that, with so many other Star Trek shows on the books, ViacomCBS had simply taken the sensible route by prioritising Strange New Worlds Season 1, since that’s the show fans were really excited about. The Section 31 series would surely follow, right? After all, we knew as far back as 2019 that the show was in pre-production with its stories written and potentially one full set already built.
ViacomCBS’ radio silence on the Section 31 series became apparent over the course of 2020, when several big Star Trek events came and went without any mention of the show at all. I began to wonder at that point what was happening behind the scenes, but then we learned that the series was “still being worked on,” with producers and writers collaborating via Zoom due to the pandemic, and that at least some of the scripts were being heavily edited or re-written. That did not sound like good news for a show that had been supposedly ready to go for more than a year.
The next time we heard anything connected to the Section 31 show it came from Alex Kurtzman, who’s in charge of the overall direction of Star Trek at ViacomCBS. Gone was the notion that the Section 31 series was imminent, and instead Kurtzman explained that there were no plans to produce or broadcast any new Star Trek series until at least one of the current ones – Discovery, Picard, Strange New Worlds, Lower Decks, and Prodigy – had concluded. That seemed to mean that Section 31 was officially on the back burner.
It got even worse, however, for the Section 31 series, when talk of pre-production was nixed. The show’s co-executive producers recently said that they’re still “having conversations” about the series going ahead, which is a big step down from where the show seemed to be in 2019. Those so-called “conversations” feel like a Hollywood euphemism for a show that’s dying or on life-support, and as we’ve recently seen with at least two Star Trek feature film concepts, until a project is officially greenlit and in production, things can change.
Finally we come to the comment that prompted this article. Michelle Yeoh, who plays Mirror Georgiou and who was supposed to star in the Section 31 series, was recently interviewed on The Pod Directive, which is Star Trek’s official podcast. She made absolutely no mention of the Section 31 series or any plans for appearing in it, and could only speak in pretty vague terms about how there’s potential to come back to the franchise “one day,” and even saying at one point “Who knows?” when discussing Georgiou’s future.
Those comments are ambiguous and I encourage you to listen to the full interview for the sake of context. But what was striking to me more than what Yeoh said is what she and the podcast hosts didn’t say. Remember that this is an official Star Trek podcast, so there will be a degree of “toeing the party line,” so to speak. I think it’s not unfair to say that if Yeoh had been interviewed by Trekkies outside of an official setting, the Section 31 series would have come up, especially in the context of discussions about Georgiou’s future. The fact that neither she nor the podcast hosts tried to steer the conversation in that direction is, in my opinion, rather telling.
And that’s why I’m officially worried about the Section 31 show’s future prospects. Will it ever see the light of day? Or will we remember it in years to come alongside Planet of the Titans, Phase II, and that weird Lwaxana Troi sitcom as a Star Trek show that was never produced?
I was initially not sold on Section 31 as a concept, and I’m happy to admit to that. But I’ve since come around to the idea, especially following Georgiou’s arc across the third season of Discovery, and I think she would make for an interesting and more nuanced character to follow now than she would’ve done prior to Season 2 when the show was announced. There’s potential in a darker Star Trek series, something akin to some of the episodes in the latter part of Deep Space Nine’s run, showing off some really difficult situations where there is no such thing as a “no-win scenario.” Bringing a character like Georgiou into a setting that allows for morally ambiguous choices could be an interesting and explosive mix.
It would be a real shame if the Section 31 series were cancelled at this stage. There’s a lot of potential in the series, even if it didn’t seem to have much at first. If Georgiou were to return to the 23rd Century, as seems likely following her departure from the 32nd, there would even be the possibility of linking up with Strange New Worlds for crossover stories, like we saw The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine do on a handful of occasions.
Michelle Yeoh’s recent comments – and lack of comments – about Mirror Georgiou and her future in the Star Trek franchise are the latest that have worried me, but the Section 31 series has felt like it’s been on shaky ground for a while now. The fact that no new information has been officially announced about the series in such a long time is concerning for its survival, as are other comments from people involved with its production. I will continue to keep my fingers crossed, and if we get any significant news about the Section 31 series – or any other Star Trek project – I hope you’ll join me again for more discussion.
The Star Trek franchise – including the untitled Section 31 series, Discovery, and all other properties 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.
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.
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.
The coronavirus pandemic cancelled a number of events, but one of the biggest from the point of view of ViacomCBS and the team behind Star Trek has been Comic-Con. In the past the company has used events like this – as well as Star Trek: Las Vegas, which has been postponed to the winter – to make big announcements. Star Trek participated in Comic-Con @Home – the online socially-distanced version of the event which is taking place this week.
Obviously a glorified Zoom call isn’t going to be the same as an in-person event. But overall, I think most of the participants from actors to behind-the-scenes crew did the best they could, and I don’t have any major criticisms on that front. I’m not someone who would be able to attend Comic-Con or any other similar convention due to disability, so in that sense I don’t feel I personally lost out in any way from Comic-Con going digital this year – I’d have watched recordings of the panels anyway.
In terms of news, the biggest has to be the official announcement of the animated series Star Trek: Prodigy, which looks set for a 2021 release. This kid-friendly show is being produced in collaboration with Nickelodeon, and though we knew it was in the works the title hadn’t been officially revealed. So it’s nice to know it has a name and that we can expect it on our screens within the next eighteen months or so. Many shows aimed at kids can still have a lot to offer for adults – I enjoy Phineas and Ferb, for example – so I’m not at all concerned that it’s the first Star Trek show to take this approach. I would note that Star Wars has been successful with this format with two shows – Clone Wars and Rebels – both of which had appeal outside of their target audience of kids and young people.
The second bit of news is that Star Trek: Strange New Worlds seems to be getting along well in production. They have ten “stories” that they’re working on – note that they said “stories”, not “episodes”, which may mean some are multi-episode arcs. This would fit in with the show following Discovery’s model of having anywhere between 10-15 episodes in its first season. While I still don’t think we’ll see Strange New Worlds before 2022, due to a combination of the pandemic and Star Trek’s already-crowded production and release schedules, it’s nice to know that the show is being worked on and that pre-production is continuing despite the massive disruption across the industry.
On the more technical side, I felt that the moderator of the discussion, Dominic Patten, did a good job. It won’t have been an easy task to manage a series of discussions with such a large number of participants who are all dialling in remotely, but there were no major problems that resulted and he asked interesting questions and was pleasant to listen to. There was a major technical screw-up on the part of ViacomCBS/YouTube, however, as the video was blocked at least here in the UK for quite a while when it premiered. This seems to have been done automatically by YouTube’s copyright protection algorithm, but it shouldn’t have happened – between ViacomCBS, Comic-Con, and YouTube that problem should really have been anticipated and prevented.
So now we come to no-shows. There was no international release date for Star Trek: Lower Decks, nor any discussion of any international broadcast at all. I’m incredibly disappointed by this, and at this stage now that we’re less than two weeks away from its US/Canada premiere I have to assume that it won’t be getting a simultaneous release internationally. We could speculate about why that is – perhaps ViacomCBS were charging too much for the broadcast rights, perhaps other Star Trek series haven’t performed as well on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other channels meaning those companies weren’t interested, etc. But we don’t know the real reason why yet. I’m sure Lower Decks will eventually get an international release, but as I wrote when I looked at this issue recently, in 2020 I don’t think companies can really get away with splitting up the releases of their biggest shows. Lower Decks will end up not being talked about by millions of potential viewers, and will undoubtedly end up being pirated. ViacomCBS needs to do better – there are millions of Trekkies outside of the United States who are excited to see this show, and not giving it to us is a self-inflicted wound. If Star Trek is to survive in the long term it will require a collaborative effort on the part of fans in the US and elsewhere to support it and keep it going; decisions like this one – and the lack of any news or discussion at all from the company – show a huge part of Star Trek’s audience that ViacomCBS thinks we don’t matter.
The sad thing is that Lower Decks looks like so much fun. Mike McMahan, who created the show, participated in the panel; he’s clearly a huge Star Trek fan and someone who’s very passionate about the franchise and what it represents. Lower Decks feels like it’s a show that will celebrate my favourite era of Star Trek – the mid/late 24th Century seen in the three shows and four films set in those years. I greatly enjoyed listening to McMahan speak, as well as others involved with Lower Decks. The event even showed an extended scene from the trailer which was absolutely hilarious. The show is lining up to be amazing, as I said when I looked at the trailer a few days ago – but how are people like me meant to watch it?
Also missing was any discussion of a release window for Star Trek: Discovery’s third season. I’d been expecting an announcement for this, I have to be honest. With Lower Decks running weekly from August through to early October, the earliest we could expect to see Discovery Season 3 would be the middle of October – leaving it any later would probably mean the season being split in two with a break around Christmas and New Year, which I suppose they could do as that happened during the first season. With post-production work having been ongoing since filming wrapped in February, it’s very odd to me that ViacomCBS considers the show so unfinished as to not even set a tentative release window – they couldn’t even say “coming in the autumn” or “coming in the winter”. Partly this is a result of the pandemic, which we know has been very disruptive. But partly it’s just bad planning and bad time management on ViacomCBS’ part – Discovery’s third season was nowhere near ready when the pandemic hit, which seems to suggest it was always the plan to make fans wait.
There had been rumours in the online Trekkie community that there would be an announcement of Star Trek: Discovery’s fourth season imminently. When nothing significant was discussed for Season 3 I was sure this wouldn’t happen, and I was right – no Season 4 announcement. I don’t think that the absence of an announcement is indicative of there being no fourth season at all, as I feel sure that it will be announced either alongside the release date for Season 3 or during the run-up to Season 3’s premiere; this is what ViacomCBS did for both Discovery’s third season and Picard’s second season, so it would fit the pattern. Some folks have been digging into production job listings, industry journals, and the like and found evidence that Season 4 could well be happening – it’s just a question of making an official announcement.
The still-untitled Section 31 series was nowhere to be seen during the panel. In many ways, Strange New Worlds stole the Section 31 series’ thunder from almost the first episode of Discovery’s second season. Where Section 31 had been met with a very muted response, even from many of Discovery’s biggest fans, Trekkies were clamouring for a Pike-led show. The announcement of Strange New Worlds a few weeks ago was a big deal, and Section 31 seems to have dropped down the priority list as a result. It was said to have officially entered production late last year, presumably targeting a 2021 release, but we’ve had precious little information since. I wasn’t expecting to hear much about it at this event, but that in itself says a lot!
Finally, there was no mention of a fourth Kelvin-timeline film, despite rumours swirling in the last few weeks that there are several feature film projects in consideration. Again, this wasn’t something I was necessarily expecting from this panel, but it’s worth noting the absence. Personally, I feel that the Kelvin-timeline films have probably run their course. We’re now over a decade out from the release of Star Trek in 2009, so the idea of seeing “young” Kirk and Spock in their cadet days or fresh out of the Academy has come and gone. While the alternate reality setting gives producers a lot of leeway compared to productions in the prime timeline, since Discovery’s premiere Star Trek’s producers have been more than willing to shake things up. I would still be interested to watch a fourth film in that series, but I’m not expecting one to be made at this point.
To get back to the panel discussions themselves, I felt that Discovery’s “table read” of the second-season finale was pretty dull and really seemed to be there purely to pad out the event. Most of the actors did a good job delivering their lines, but watching it on a conference call wasn’t very exciting, and the constant switching between screens and zooming in and out created a rather nauseating effect. The Picard panel was more of a friendly chat, but nothing major really came from it regarding the show’s second season – which is of course on hold at the moment due to the pandemic.
So I think that’s really all I have to say. Star Trek: Prodigy is probably the biggest announcement, but aside from a few smaller tidbits of news there wasn’t really a great deal going on. The event seems noteworthy more for what wasn’t present than what was, and while some of that is due to the pandemic situation, other important aspects – like the release of Star Trek: Lower Decks outside of the United States – are decisions taken by ViacomCBS. As enjoyable as it was to spend time with some of the cast and crew of Star Trek, my general impression of the panel is that it was underwhelming.
The Star Trek franchise – including all films and series discussed 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.
Spoiler warning: spoilers ahead for Star Trek, including both seasons of Star Trek: Discovery. If you haven’t seen Discovery yet and don’t want to see any spoilers, you’re better off reading another article and coming back when you’re caught up.
Just to get this out of the way, more Star Trek on our screens is always going to be a good thing. Even when it’s at its worst – like some of the episodes in TOS season 3, or that weird TNG clip show in season 2 – it’s still better than having no Star Trek at all. When Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled in 2005 I really felt disappointed. I wasn’t around through the dark days of the 1970s when it seemed like Star Trek was gone forever, so to me this was the first time I’d really seen it off the air. I’m not sure if you remember, but before JJ Abrams picked up the franchise for his reboot film, Star Trek really did look dead.
I also don’t like the expression “nobody asked for this”. A lot of films and series that nobody seemed to be asking for have turned out to be absolutely fantastic. And honestly, in today’s insular fan communities, a lot of what people seem to be asking for or think would be good would either turn out to be just god-awful, or at the very best a niche product that would be a commercial failure.
So with those two big caveats out of the way, I’m not really sold at the moment on the idea of a Star Trek series based around Section 31.
There are some interesting ideas within that concept, which, if properly executed, could work well. But there are some issues with the Section 31 show as currently envisioned that make me feel it might not be the best direction to take the franchise.
First is the timeframe. With Star Trek: Picard and Lower Decks returning to the late 24th Century and beyond, as well as Discovery‘s third season heading into an unknown future, I’m just not sure that the franchise needs to have three different eras on the go simultaneously. Aside from the fact that it’s convoluted to the point of being offputting for new viewers – people who CBS needs to hook in and retain if Star Trek is to survive long-term – it’s just not a good way to split up the narrative of the franchise. Personally I’ve been going back and forth on my pet theory that Discovery either doesn’t go as far into the future as was suggested last season, or that somehow its time travel narrative crosses over with Picard. It just makes more sense to me to do it that way; tying shows together when they’re set in the same universe and being produced at the same time makes a lot of sense. Look at how the Marvel films cross over with one another successfully. But that’s just one point.
The 23rd Century has been explored a lot recently, and Star Trek has been busy with prequels, reboots, and mid-quels (or whatever Discovery is) since the turn of the millennium. I don’t want to say it’s entirely devoid of storytelling potential, but Star Trek has primarily been about moving forward, looking to the future, and where it’s been arguably at its least successful from the point of view of its story is when it’s been looking back at its own history and tying itself in knots. After four seasons of Enterprise, three reboot films, and two seasons of Discovery, it’s going to be great to see Star Trek finally moving into the future again, and the Section 31 series taking place in the 23rd Century seems more than a little regressive when looking at Picard, Lower Decks, and Discovery‘s future.
The next issue is with the two main characters, or rather, the two characters returning from Discovery around whom the show is currently being built.
Ash Tyler – or Voq – has had his story fairly well explored already in his appearances in Star Trek: Discovery. Without inventing more backstory for him, it’s hard to see where he’d go and how he’ll be able to have a satisfying character arc. Having started out as a victim of Klingon manipulation, Tyler fought hard against his programming and fell in love with Discovery’s protagonist, Michael Burnham, who helped him overcome what had been done to him in what was a very interesting and inspirational rape analogy. Star Trek, for me, is at its best when it uses its sci-fi setting to tackle real-world issues, and the issue of under-reported male sexual abuse is something Ash Tyler’s story touched on perfectly. And in his second season role as an agent of Section 31, he overcame his Klingon heritage, had a child, gave up his child, and finally dealt with his feelings for Burnham – and hers for him. He’s been on a rollercoaster over the last two seasons, but what he’s been through has concluded, and while there may be lingering feelings left over from that, as a story arc it’s essentially done. Because of how much of him we’ve seen and how much he’s been through, he wouldn’t make for the best protagonist.
So that leaves the Mirror Universe version of Burnham’s old captain, Philippa Georgiou. Michelle Yeoh has been announced as the lead actress of this series, so her character would be central to the Section 31 show. But… what character is there, exactly? In terms of modern Star Trek, Mirror Georgiou is about as one-dimensional as it gets. She seems to like being evil for the sake of being evil – a 23rd Century Heinz Doofenshmirtz, perhaps, but with less backstory. No, Mirror Georgiou is the Star Trek equivalent of a villain from a bad direct-to-video kids’ film, the kind of person who wants to steal a puppy from a child or tries to shut down a sweet shop so she can bulldoze it to build an office block. She just isn’t interesting in the slightest.
I like Michelle Yeoh. As a supporting actress in Danny Boyle’s 2007 film Sunshine, she did a great job. But she’s unproven as a lead actress in a major series like this, and the character she’s set to play just isn’t one a lot of fans find interesting or relatable.
While there are positives to consider from a Section 31 series, such as exploring how the organisation changed and went entirely underground between its appearances in Discovery and Deep Space Nine, as well as the potential to see Star Trek cross over into the mystery/thriller genre, I’m just not convinced right now that it’s the right way to go.
Section 31 was announced too early. If CBS had waited to see how Discovery’s second season was received, then the obvious choice by far for a spin-off was an Anson Mount-led series, which would probably be set on the Enterprise. That would be the fan favourite choice for a 23rd Century spin-off at the moment. You can see the desire for such a series at conventions and panels, and whenever Alex Kurtzman and others are interviewed, it’s the one question that keeps coming up. Conversely, when was the last time you heard anyone asking about how the Section 31 show is progressing?
It is actually a really great time to be a Star Trek fan at the moment. There are three series scheduled to premiere in 2020 – Picard‘s first season, Discovery‘s third season, and the first season of Lower Decks which already has a second on order. And in addition, a fourth Kelvin-timeline film is in the works, and beyond that, a possible Quentin Tarantino-directed Star Trek film. More Star Trek on our screens is always going to be a good thing, and while I don’t want to say I don’t want Section 31, it’s just not at the top of my list right now. I want it to do well, and to be successful, because I want Star Trek as a franchise to succeed and carry on into the future. So while I remain more than a little cautious about approaching this new show, I wish it well and I will certainly tune in when it premieres. Perhaps in 2021?
Live Long and Prosper!
Star Trek: Discovery and all other Star Trek series and films are available in the United States on CBS All Access, and in other countries on Netflix. Star Trek: Picard premieres on CBS All Access in January 2020 and on Amazon Prime in other countries. All copyrights belong to Paramount and CBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.