Star Trek: Discovery fans were given a surprise at WonderCon over the weekend.
The deleted scene confirmed a major fan theory about Star Trek: Discovery: that members of Section 31, the mysterious shadow organization that works on behalf of the Federation but without any oversight, were onboard the USS Discovery wearing black Starfleet badges.
The scene also introduced a new character named Leland, who recruited former Terran Emperor Phillipa Georgiou into the organization.
Section 31 officially does not exist. It specifically operates without the oversight of Starfleet command so that it is not bound to Starfleet rules and guidelines, thus allowing it to take actions that may go against a Starfleet officer’s code.
Section 31 takes its name from Article 14, Section 31 of the Starfleet Charter. That section states that “extraordinary measures” may be taken during “times of extreme threat,” interpreted by some to mean that the rules of the charter may be bent or broken in order to ensure the survival of the Federation.
Because of this, Section 31 was founded and has operated on its own terms, based on the assumption that there will always be “extreme threats” that require “extraordinary measures” to handle.
Those “extraordinary measures” are known to include assassinations, brainwashing, torture, and even genocide. This has been shown through the organization's handful of appearances in previous episodes of Star Trek television.
With Section 31 now known to be present on Star Trek: Discovery and likely to play a role in the show's second season, Star Trek fans are likely going to want to do some homework and brush up on the role Section 31 has played in the franchise so far.
Here's what you need to watch:
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 6, Episode 18
"Inquisition" is the episode where Section 31 was officially introduced into Star Trek canon.
The episode introduces Luther Sloan, played by William Sadler. At first, Sloan masquerades as an agent of Starfleet internal affairs and accuses Dr. Julian Bashir of being a spy for the Dominion.
Eventually, Sloan reveals that he is from the secretive Section 31 organization and that this entire encounter was a test of Bashir's loyalty to the Federation.
Bashir's threats to expose the existence of Section 31 fail to phase Sloan. Instead, Sloan and his people disappear, leaving Bashir and the rest of the Deep Space Nine crew to ponder the ramifications of this revelation.
Luther Sloan and Section 31 returned again in the final season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
The episode's title paraphrases the words of Cicero. It is Latin for "In times of war, the law falls silent," which speaks to the dubious legitimacy of Section 31's operations.
Dr. Julian Bashir was once again at the center of the episode. This time, rather than accusing or testing Dr. Bashir, Sloan tries to press Bashir into performing an assignment for Section 31.
The mission involves Bashir gathering intelligence and trying to force the Romulan Star Empire into a position where their continued allegiance to the alliance against the Dominion is guaranteed. As tends to be the case with matters concerning Section 31, not everything is as it seems.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 7, Episode 23
Section 31's final appearance on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is in the episode "Extreme Measures," another episode with a title that speaks directly towards the organization's nature.
In "Extreme Measures," the Deep Space Nine crew actually gets to the turn the tables on Section 31. Rather than the espionage organization forcing Bashir or another crewmember into their service, the Deep Space Nine crew baits one of their agents onto the station.
Bashir has realized that Section 31 is likely responsible for creating the disease that has been ravaging the Changeling people. He draws Luther Sloan out of hiding, traps him, and raids his mind to find the cure.
Star Trek: Enterprise brought back Section 31 in its final season and showed the organization in action in the 22nd Century.
Though the organization was never specifically referred to as "Section 31," the show's writers and producers confirmed in extratextual materials that the organization Agent Harris worked for was indeed Section 31.
"Affliction" revealed that there had been a former agent of Section 31 onboard the Enterprise NX-01 from the very beginning, and that was Lt. Malcolm Reed.
The episode involved the ship's medical officer, Dr. Phlox, being kidnapped and forced to help aid the Klingons in dealing with a potentially deadly viral outbreak.
Star Trek: Enterprise
Season 4, Episode 16
The story that began in "Affliction" continued in the next episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, titled "Divergence."
The episode includes the moment in Star Trek: Enterprise that comes closest to identifying Agent Harris' organization as Section 31 by name. Harris justifies his actions in the matters concerning Dr. Phlox's disappearance by citing the Starfleet charter Article 14, Section 31.
Malcolm Reed is forced to come clean to Archer about his former involvement with Section 31, but he swears that he stopped reporting to them before joining the Enterprise's crew and reiterates that he is loyal only to Captain Archer.
Star Trek: Enterprise
Season 4, Episode 20
Despite Malcolm Reed swearing off any further contact with Agent Harris and Section 31, he is forced to reconnect with his old organization again in "Demons," this time at the behest of Captain Archer.
"Demons" takes place a time in Star Trek history when humans, Vulcan, Tellarites, and Andorians are on the cusp of forming the Coalition of Planets, an important alliance that would serve as the precursor to the formation of the United Federation of Planets.
However, not everyone on Earth loves the idea of humanity teaming up with a bunch of aliens, and so Archer reaches out to Section 31 for more information on what's really happening planetside.
Star Trek: Enterprise
Season 4, Episode 21
Section 31's final appearance in Star Trek television, at least up until Star Trek: Discovery launched last year, was in the episode "Terra Prime."
This Star Trek: Enterprise episode continues the story begun in the previous episode, "Demons."
The Enterprise NX-01 crew becomes aware of a plot by a xenophobic human terrorist group called Terra Prime. The group will take control of the powerful verteron array on Mars to destroy Starfleet Command if all aliens do not immediately vacate the Sol system.
In order to gain the information they need to stop Terra Prime's plot, Malcolm Reed is forced again to reach out to Section 31's Agent Harris for information on Mars.
Star Trek Into Darkness can be considered extra credit for anyone trying to catch up on Section 31 history following the big Star Trek: Discovery reveal.
Star Trek Into Darkness is the second film in the Star Trek reboot series. As such it takes place in the Kelvin timeline rather than the prime timeline of Star Trek: Discovery and the other Star Trek television series.
The evolution of Starfleet in the Kelvin timeline was greatly affected by the arrival of the Narada and the subsequent destruction of the USS Kelvin. Worried about further attacks by ships as powerful as the Romulan vessel from the future, Starfleet went bigger and more military-minded in the Kelvin timeline than it did in the prime timeline.
As such, Section 31 is present and even more extreme and influential than in the prime timeline, at least as far as we know. The group plays a major role in the events of Star Trek Into Darkness.