What Is Star Trek’s Section 31?

Star Trek's Section 31 is a secret agency that protects the United Federation of Planets, while arguably representing everything the Federation loathes.

By Michileen Martin | Published

If you were to ask the very first member of Star Trek’s Section 31 we meet, Luther Sloan (William Sadler), what the nature of the organization is, he’d likely call it something along the lines of “a necessary evil.” Founded even before the United Federation of Planets, Section 31 is a clandestine organization supposedly working for the Federation’s benefit. Once counting itself an official arm of Starfleet Intelligence, at some undetermined point before the Dominion War Section 31 goes rogue and becomes answerable to no one.

When did Section 31 First Appear?

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William Sadler as Luther Sloan in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

One of the most far-reaching pieces of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s legacy has proven to be the introduction of Section 31 in the Season 6 episode “Inquisition.” William Sadler (The Shawshank Redemption) guest stars as Luther Sloan, who at first poses as a member of Starfleet Intelligence who suspects Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) of being a secret sleeper agent for the Dominion. Once he’s convinced of Bashir’s innocence he offers the doctor a spot in Section 31, and Bashir soon learns Sloan never intends to take “no” for an answer.

In the seventh and final season, Sloan returns in an operation targeting the Federations new allies, the Romulans. In the last few episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Section 31 becomes integral after it’s learned the organization used Odo (Rene Auberjonois) to introduce a deadly disease to the Dominion’s Founders.

What’s Section 31’s Earliest Canonical Appearance?

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Eric Pierpoint on Star Trek: Enterprise

The answer to when Star Trek canonically introduced the earliest Section 31 character depends on how you see membership in Section 31. Taking place in the 22nd century, Star Trek: Enterprise is canonically the earliest series in the franchise, whose titular ship included armory officer Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating). By the events of Enterprise, Reed no longer considers himself a member of Section 31, but he would later be informed that when you join Section 31, it’s for life.

Reed’s old mentor Harris (Eric Pierpoint) is introduced in Star Trek: Enterprise‘s fourth and final season, when he contacts Reed to insist the officer delay Enterprise’s mission to rescue Phlox (John Billingsley), so the doctor can keep doing what Section 31 wants him to do for the Klingons. He returns later in the season and helps out the heroes by giving them intel on the terrorist group Terra Prime.

Is Section 31 in New Trek?

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Shazad Latif in Star Trek: Discovery

Since the TV franchise revival beginning with Star Trek: Discovery, Section 31 has had a stronger presence in the series than ever before. The antagonist of Discovery‘s second season is Control, an A.I. developed by Section 31 that goes rogue and attempts to destroy all life in the galaxy. Both the former Terran Emperor Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and former Discovery officer Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) are recruited into Section 31.

Even the animated comedy series Star Trek: Lower Decks is bringing Section 31 into the narrative in a big way. William Boimler–the transporter double of Ensign Brad Boimler (voiced by Jack Quaid)–recently joined the group. Likewise there were some big hints that the cybernetic Ensign Samanthan Rutherford (voiced by Eugene Cordero) could be a Section 31 sleeper agent.

What’s going on with the Star Trek: Section 31 Series?

Michelle Yeoh
Michelle Yeoh in Star Trek: Discovery

Back in 2020 a Star Trek series focusing on Section 31 was announced, with Michelle Yeoh’s Emperor Philippa Georgiou in the lead role and presumably Shazad Latif reprising his role as Ash Tyler. Yeoh has since described the show as “Mission: Impossible meets Guardians of the Galaxy in space.”

But fans are understandably concerned. Other projects announced around the same time like Strange New Worlds and Prodigy have since materialized with little or no movement on Star Trek’s Section 31 series.

Michelle Yeoh insists the project is still alive and well, but at the same time–as evidence by her IMDb page–the Everything Everywhere All at Once star’s schedule keeps filling up. Along with James Cameron’s Avatar sequels and Amazon Prime’s The Electric State, Yeoh recently added Kenneth Branagh’s upcoming Hercule Poirot sequel A Haunting in Venice to her list of upcoming projects.

Who Is In Section 31?

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William Sadler in “Inquisition”

Luther Sloan (William Sadler)

The very first member Star Trek introduced in Section 31 was Luther Sloan in Deep Space Nine. He does not survive the series, however. Rather than reveal his secrets in the final season episode “Extreme Measures,” Sloan takes his own life.

Bashir and Chief O’Brien (Colm Meaney) cleverly orchestrate a way to lure Sloan to DS9, and once there they attempt to use Romulan mind probes to get the cure to the virus that’s killing Odo. Sloan triggers a lethal implant embedded in his brain, hoping to die before the Starfleet officers can get the cure from him. Bashir and O’Brien are able to virtually enter his mind and obtain the cure, but the rest of Sloan’s secrets die with him.

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Alexander Siddig and John Fleck in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”

Koval (John Fleck)

In “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges,” Julian Bashir believes he’s been recruited by Sloan in a plot against the Romulan Koval (John Fleck), and only goes along with it in the hopes of exposing the secret. But in Star Trek, Section 31 is at least a few steps ahead of even a super genius like Bashir and it turns out Koval is, in fact, a double agent working for Section 31. The whole thing is part of a complex plot to take down the Federation-unfriendly Romulan Senator Cretak (Adrienne Barbeau).

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Alexander Siddig and William Saddler in “Inquisition”

Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig)

If you were to ask Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s Julian Bashir, the doctor never is or was a member of Section 31. But when he comes calling to recruit the good doctor in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges,” Sloan clearly disagrees. Whether or not he’s part of the group is open to interpretation.

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Dominic Keating and Eric Pierpoint in Star Trek: Enterprise

Harris (Eric Pierpoint) and Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating)

As far as the Enterprise era of Star Trek is concerned, Harris and Malcolm Reed are the only named Section 31 members. There were no doubt plenty of others, not to mention those who cooperated with them, but we don’t yet have their names.

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Sonja Sohn and Kenric Green in Star Trek: Discovery

Gabrielle (Sonja Sohn) and Mike Burnham (Kenric Green)

Gabrielle and Mike Burnham — the parents of Discovery‘s future Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) — were Section 31 operatives secretly working on a time travel project while posing as astrophysicists. Mike is killed by marauding Klingons and Gabrielle was believed murdered as well, until years later when it was discovered she had survived by using the time travel suit the couple had been working on, the Red Angel, to escape. Gabrielle would eventually find her way to the 31st century where she became a member of the mostly Romulan order, the Qowat Milat.

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Alan van Sprang in Star Trek: Discovery

Leland (Alan van Sprang)

On Star Trek, Section 31 operatives rarely become outright bad guys, but the high ranking Leland (whose last name we never learn) is something of an exception. While he’s never a particularly sympathetic character, it isn’t until he’s murdered by the rogue A.I. Control and used as its meat puppet that he becomes the manifestation of Discovery Season 2’s Big Bad.

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Michelle Yeoh in Star Trek: Discovery

Emperor Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh)

Emperor Philippa Georgiou has no interest in leaving her universe for the less brutal Prime one, but Michael Burnham takes that choice out of her hands in Discovery‘s inaugural season. Of all the places the former dictator could find a home in Star Trek, Section 31 offers an outlet for Mirror Universe refugee’s more flexible morals. She returns to the titular ship in Season 2 of Discovery and follows them into 31st century.

In Season 3, Georgiou leaves the crew behind, transported by the Guardian of Forever to a time and place thus far unknown. Presumably, she’s wherever and whenever the Section 31 show is set.

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Shazad Latif in Star Trek: Discovery

Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif)

Much like Philippa Georgiou, Star Trek’s Ash Tyler was recruited by Section 31 after he became something of a refugee. Not accepted as a Klingon (it’s complicated), Tyler’s death is faked and he joins the covert group in Season 2 of Discovery. With Leland and most of Section 31’s leadership dead–and Georgiou in the 31st century–Tyler is made permanent head of Section 31 at the end of the season.

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William Boimler on Star Trek: Lower Decks

Ensign William Boimler (voiced by Jack Quaid)

During his brief stint on the USS Titan in Season 2 of Lower Decks, Ensign Brad Boimler gets his own transporter double, just as Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) did in The Next Generation. The double, William Boimler, stays on the Titan when Brad returns to the Cerritos and in Season 3’s “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus” Brad learns of his double’s unexpected death. However, in the closing moments of the Star Trek episode, we learn William’s “death” was a ruse orchestrated to recruit him into Section 31.