Section 31 Series Showrunners Talk Creative Freedom And Sci-Fi Influences

As we reported yesterday, ViacomCBS is already thinking ahead towards the next phase of the Star Trek Universe on Paramount+, with multiple shows in consideration. The only known project in this category is the Section 31 series starring Michelle Yeoh, which was announced to be in development in 2019. Now the showrunners of that project are talking more about Section 31 in Discovery and beyond.

Showrunners talk Section 31 possibilities

Wednesday’s big Paramount+ event focused on the five Trek shows currently in production (Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds). But executive producer Alex Kurtzman and Paramount+ EVP Julie McNamara confirmed that they are already talking about the next phase of the Star Trek Universe. And according to Variety, both Kurtzman and McNamara confirmed there are still ongoing  “conversations” about the Section 31 project.

Even though the Section 31 show hasn’t been ordered as a series, a writers’ room was put together, headed up by Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt, who have been with Star Trek: Discovery since season one. Last August Kurtzman talked up the writers, saying they have “been doing an amazing job building the show,” adding ” I think people are going to be very surprised about the world that it occupies.”

In a joint interview with Gravity City Magazine, the writing duo talked a little bit more about Section 31. When asked if they have any “dream projects,” Bo Yeon Kim pointed to the Section 31 show:

[F]or the most part, Star Trek is an accumulation of everything we love, and working on Section 31, we get to do a lot on that show. There’s not a lot we can’t do on Section 31 that we’d be dying to do somewhere else.

If you’re looking for more clues via their influences, both Boey and Erika talked about Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica. Kim said their long-term goal for life after Trek would be “to create something like Battlestar.” In fact, she said, “Battlestar is what made me want to write television.” Lippoldt also pointed to another show Ronald D. Moore was involved in, saying: “I was a huge Deep Space Nine fan… It was really Deep Space Nine that got me into the Star Trek world.”

While being influenced by Battlestar and Deep Space Nine could indicate a penchant for the darker side of sci-fi, a good fit with Emperor Georgiou and the notorious Section 31 organization, the pair also cited Stargate SG-1, a show with a much lighter tone, as a “huge influence.” And back when the Section 31 show was first announced to be in development Boey emphasized that they are not looking to do something that moves away from Star Trek optimism.

Emperor Georgiou gets recruited into Section 31 in Discovery season one bonus scene

Yeoh’s return wasn’t always tied to Section 31

The Section 31 storyline was introduced to Star Trek: Discovery in a bonus scene released after season one wrapped up, in which former Terran Emperor Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) was recruited into the notorious organization. In the same interview with Gravity, the writers revealed that unlike her Mirror Universe storyline, the Section 31 element was not something they’d planned for from the start. According to Lippoldt:

The Mirror Universe was always baked into the concept in different ways. It changed as we went, but it was always going to be part of the show, whereas Section 31 is something that came about later in the process… Very early on when it was decided that Georgiou was going to die at the end of the second episode, and we always knew we wanted to use the Mirror Universe to bring her back because two episodes was not enough for Michele Yeoh and we needed her more. So that was very intentional, that we would use the parallel universe concept to bring a version of Georgiou back.

… [I]t was at the end of Season One that we decided we were going to make [Section 31] a focus of Season Two. And, as you know, Section 31 does offer so much story opportunity that, in thinking of Season Two and what can be a major thrust for the season arc, and realizing the potential of Section 31 and that we were really going to focus on that. But that was later on in the process.

The black badges used by Section 31 were actually first seen (but never explained) onboard the USS Discovery in episode 3 of Star Trek: Discovery. However, the writers confirmed at the time they actually weren’t thinking of them as Section 31. Bo Yeon Kim told Gravity, “That was a bit of a retrofit, actually, later on.”

Section 31 badge first scene in the third episode of Discovery

Yeoh remained with Star Trek: Discovery through season three of the show, which included two episodes featuring a return to the Mirror Universe. Her season three storyline and exit from the 32nd century was designed to set up the Section 31 show. For now, the series remains in development, with all indications that Paramount+ is likely not going to introduce any new Star Trek shows until one of the current five shows they have in production (most likely Star Trek: Picard) wraps up.

Michelle Yeoh as Georgiou in “Terra Firma, Part 1”

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Brilliant conceptual thinking and writing about they brought in both Section 31 and The Guardian of Forever into DSC these past two seasons.

Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt — if you are reading this, thank for this outstanding addition to the Star Trek story. And I can’t wait to see where you go next once you get around the the Section 31 series.

Last edited 5 months ago by Methusalah

I like Section 31, especially how it was done in DS9 and ENT (actually more so on Enterprise). And I thought Yeoh was great as Georgiou! But a Space Hitler Section 31 show just doesn’t grab me. And after watching them on season 2, even less so.

THAT said, if they can put it in a different time period, post-Picard and give them a different direction like time travel or even a multi-universe type of show, then it may be a really good thing to do. But there seems to be a reason why so many fans moan every time it comes up and probably why it was pushed back for who knows how long?

Last edited 5 months ago by Tiger2

Agreed and reading between the lines of these announcements and statements, I feel like they may be rethinking the concept of the show. They still want to include Michelle Yeoh of course but maybe they can do it in a different way. It could be something like a Star Trek version of Timecop with Georgiou.

A Star Trek Timecop show would be a LOT of fun! I would love to see something like that, S31 or not! I just love time travel stories in general and Star Trek has done some of the best. Every show from TOS to ENT has had some really fun time travel episodes. Same for all the movies.

As for the show being delayed, I don’t think it’s a big mystery. They probably planned to do it all along until they saw people’s reaction to it while at the same time saw the huge traction the idea of a Pike show was happening and that basically replaced the S31 show. I do feel bad for the show runners because it must suck to have it pull out of the rug like that, but either way they will probably stay on Discovery until if and when a S31 show happens one day.

With both Marvel and DC venturing into the multiverse (with Doctor Strange and Flash film), with different alternate reality versions of big characters, I think it’s possible we get a multiverse Trek show. Seems to be the new trend.

A Section 31/Timeship series starring Captain Braxton, who recruits Georgiou from history, to intercede in multiverse shenanigans could be fun. Could cross over the Kelvin timeline, the Mirror Universe, do an animated episode that reveals TAS as a separate cartoon reality… revisit the Yesterday’s Enterprise “pocket” universe, that sort of thing.

It could be used to bring back dead characters like Kirk (give Shatner that long eluded return), Yar, and anyone willing.

Maybe it could embrace the more goofy “out there” aspects of Trek, while still being a drama, which would fit Georgiou’s character better if you ask me. If they want to do an overarching story, make it like Quantum Leap or even S1 Enterprise where they are chasing a universe-hopping villain, which would allow it to still have an episodic format. Each week a different time period and reality.

Yup some sort of TimeCop S31 show would definitely be cool. That said, it seems like it is years away from premiering, so who knows what they will come up with.

All I can say is if the showrunners are inspired by BSG, DS9 and SG1, then I can’t wait to see what they come up with!!

I felt as if they were trying to set up Georgeau to be less space Hitler in her exit.

Absolutely.

First we learned that, for all her snark and impatience, she actually truly values and admires the Prime Universe Federation.

More she recognized at a deep level that the Terran Empire was doomed and no incremental change could save it. She knows that the Empire’s precepts and values are untenable.

She saw in the Prime Universe how traumatic experiences not withstanding Michael and the crew of Discovery could be part of a “luminous” future in an interstellar society that endured a millennium.

She recognized that MU Michael could only learn through pain and punishment, and there was no way to influence her through love and attachment.

She also saw that the Terran Empire was so devoid of personal trust that any efforts towards a more inclusive society that would cooperate with other species would only be a vulnerability that would lead to insurrection.

I think that they’ve set up Georgiou to be a kind of “true believer” in the Federation while being from outside it and willing to do whatever it takes to preserve it in any era.

I just finished watching S3 and I must say you summed up her evolution perfectly. I only wish the guardian had let her see more of the mirror universe future.

MU spock came to same conclusion in that original ep.

The Section 31 tidbits on ENT were okay but they didn’t really make sense. If Section 31 has its name from Section 31 of the UFP charter, so how can there be a Section 31 years before the foundation of the Federation? Has this ever been answered?

From USPEA/Starfleet I guess, in a way Starfleet came before the Federation based on ENT.
I actually like to think Zephram Cochrane ran Starfleet as a private institution out of Montana while the politicians go their act together (like of a Elon Musk SpaceX situation). I think that would be a fun prequal show.
I see there being a Charter that brought this private ‘Starfleet’ into a ”United Earth Space Probe Agency” and how it would be directed.
Also like to think he moved to Alpha Centuari when he found out it was a Matriarchal society short on men LOL. He then was personally invested in that trade deal to move resources to help a post WW3 Earth recover and came to love AC. Also I don’t see him as enjoying taking his cues from the bureaucrats that he just left.

Last edited 5 months ago by Cmd.Bremmon

Garth, Section 31 came from the Starfleet charter, not the Federation charter. ;)

The first episode we see them in, they made it clear they existed in Starfleet before the Federation and had been operating since the 22nd century. You can watch these clips:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ec1XyWT20oA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn5RCftFB8w

So they align perfectly into their original canon. They been operating since Starfleet started!

Last edited 5 months ago by Tiger2

I always liked Section 31 as well, if the Federation is such a utopia then why does it have this shadowy clandestine organization that’s above the law and operates where the ends justify the means?

Wow we finally agree on something lol! And yes that is the question.

Michelle Yeoh, I am in!!! Hope they can use the Guardian of Forever good and have Paul Guilfoyle (from CSI) as a regular. I think the temporal wars seem to be something to explore and I’m good with multiple universes and outcomes that they can really play with everything.
My only fear is time travel generally.. well, is horrid when it doesn’t maintain a full circle (i.e. whatever you did in the past, already happened) otherwise you get why doesn’t Picard go back and save the ENT-D? Save his family? Stop WW2 etc?
By basically taking it out of the universe and into alternate realities, well, nothing really matters and no timeline is THE timeline so they can have a lot of fun exploring that.

This is already a parallel universe. All Star Trek is set in a universe that is different from the one we live in. Like any fictional universe actually… We live in an alternate timeline where Khan never born and the example are many. The universe where our heroes are moving is a universe where Gene Roddenberry did not make Star Trek.

Section 31 employing time travel on a regular basis would make that show interesting to say the least. I’m still waiting for a Time Tunnel / Legends of Tomorrow kind of Trek show that does time travel on a regular basis. They could use this show to “explain” various continuity errors on the other shows… The main timeline can still be kept but minor changes could be induced by Section 31 operative screwing up the details…

Yes, that’s what’s good about accepting thousand of alternate universes. You can’t save them all, all aren’t supposed to end up the same anyway – you end up having to pick and choose your battles. The war is raged from some hyperverse or something. I can get behind that.
Time travel only works when you do the above OR you agree you have one timeline but what you do in the future travelling back in time already happened in the past (but you really have to have good solid writing which, let’s face it, this ain’t for the writing team at Paramount these days LOL).
Otherwise you logically are left wondering why they don’t just go back in time and fix everything again and again which is lame, lame, lame.

Last edited 5 months ago by Cmd.Bremmon

I’ve had many problems with the writing of Emperor Georgiou and the shoddy lazy character work done to get the audience to make the leap that the redeemed woman of those last two episodes was the product of smart, deliberate, character building over time. They dropped the ball on that and it was almost an insult to see the crew hugging her and toasting her memory fondly after weeks of the character amounting to just Michelle Yeoh coming in for a quick cameo to say something mean and sarcastic or punch someone.

That said, they’ve still brought her character to a place where she can serve as a conflicted rule breaker who still wants to do right in the end, not unlike Seven of Nine in some ways. Probably still needs a straight man sidekick to keep her grounded, perhaps that could be a returning character from a legacy show. But in any event, she’s no longer a bad kind of character to form a show around, in theory, and it is still Michelle Freakin’ Yeoh. Cautiously optimistic.

Oh yeah, and it speaks volumes as to where the show’s writers think Star Trek’s moral vision should be. Here is a character that was in almost every way an unrepentant mass murderer, but because she had some snappy quips she taught you a lot about self esteem?
Michelle Yeoh is a treasure, so I understand the desire to keep her on board, but empress Georgiou was a terrible character, that showed how clearly the people making Discovery have no interest in anything beyond surfaces.

I didn’t like Emperor Georgiou. I didn’t like the way she was used when she came back to the prime universe. I didn’t like the stupid use they put the alleged Guardian of Forever to. I don’t like the very idea of doing a “Section 31” show.

However, thanks to the sheer talent of Michelle Yeoh — who the show finally figured out how to use properly in her last couple of episodes — I am way closer to thinking I’d enjoy a series led by her than I’d have thought possible before that.

Neither did I. And as the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as a lily-white “Khan” shows, merely picking an accomplished actor means nothing if the actor is wrong for the part.

The admission that “we both wanted to kill off Georgiou in ‘Battle of the Binary Stars’ *and* bring her back” speaks volumes. Terrible move. We don’t need to keep going to the mirror universe well, and a season and a half of a petulant, literally hissing comic book villain was absurd.

If they like Michelle Yeoh so much, they shouldn’t have killed off Captain Georgiou. Simple.

Agreed. It’s a huge missed opportunity, and another piece of evidence of how compromised this entire era of Trek was from the beginning.

Michelle Yeoh turns 59 in August. She’ll be doing some of those stunts on a walker by the time they get around to it. Screw the logic of trying to pander to the foreign markets! Dump the flawed idea of Section 31 (and Yeoh with it). Just give us ST: Strange New Worlds (with great stories) and it’ll sell!

One, Patrick Stewart is 80 and leading a Star Trek show. Two, Michelle Yeoh is one of the fittest people on the planet. She does butt crunches during interviews just so she doesn’t waste the chance to work out!

Ian, Patrick Stewart doesn’t do ANY fight scenes. None. You can have an 80 year old in that kind of role. To be blunt, Yeoh’s character doesn’t deserve her own show, popular or not. The idea of a time travelling agency in Trek is interesting, but NOT with her in the lead.

I don’t care about the appeal of the character, that’s separate, even though there are grounds to debate suitability there for sure. But it’s the call out of Yeoh’s age as being an issue. I am still struggling to understand why that is relevant. We’ve seen everyone from Jackie Chan to Liam Neeson to Linda Hamilton, Harrison Ford and Sean Connery commit convincingly to action roles well into their 60s and even 70s. Michelle Yeoh is incredibly athletic at 58 and can pull off anything they ask of her, but there is no reason why she HAS to be asked to be an action hero all the time if she leads a new series, exactly as Patrick Stewart is acting his age in Picard.

Also, I don’t particularly like the suggestion that giving a popular Asian actor the leading role in a tv series is pandering to the Asian market. That’s such a reductive thing to say about a woman who has worked damned hard to be one of the world’s most reknowned East Asian actors, and is in high demand by A-list directors. We need this kind of exposure for Asian artists in the US, I think it is well-overdue and is no more pandering to anyone than the casting of Avery Brooks or Kate Mulgrew.

Ian, I know it’s all subjective, but I just don’t think Yeoh is a very good actor. That’s the bottom line. Couldn’t they find someone with better “acting chops” to head up a series?

Ah. Well, as you say, it’s subjective. But my only caution is one that has been talked about on these boards before: that there is a difference between being miscast and being a bad actor. Typical English language delivery of sarcasm, snark and technobabble are not natural fits for a Malaysian born native-Chinese speaking actor. So not everything she was asked to do was a good fit for her. But Star Trek has NEVER cast a regular or even semi-regular actor who didn’t have an American or UK accent, even when the character was French, Latina, Asian or alien! Not once in 50 years. Discovery changed that with Yeoh. That’s an important step forward for diversity – not everyone looks alike on Star Trek, and now not every has to sound alike either.

She’s a BAFTA nominee who has been cast in diverse roles by top directors such as Cameron, Boyle, Lee, Besson, Marshall, Feig and Woo, most of them not even for her martial arts prowess. And IMO she did very very well by the MU episodes she was front and center for in season 3. Those were emblematic of what an actor of her caliber should be used for, and those portend well for how a series built around her could work.

Well you’re the one…The one who thinks she’s not a good actor. Like you said, it subjective. So the answer to “couldn’t they find someone”. They think they did. And many think they did too.

Hey, guys, I have no quarrel with your well-reasoned arguments. To each their own. I’m glad we can have a reasonable dialogue regarding the matter.

There are plenty of Oscar-winners who have given performances I can’t stand. Everyone’s taste is different!

That’s what keeps it interesting, Ian!

“they are already talking about the next phase of the Star Trek Universe”

Will it star LeVar Burton and Michelle Forbes?

Michelle is a go

Michelle Forbes is awesome. Ro Laren was one of the few awesome things out of TNG (along with the Borg and the Bajorians).
Someone give her a ship on the frontier!

Last edited 5 months ago by Cmd.Bremmon

I feel for Kim and Lippoldt. The go / no go on this series has to have been tough on morale.

They were given the showrunner title and seemed clearly on track to launch production last year.

Somewhere along the way a third co-showrunner was added, but we don’t hear mention of him now. So, have no idea if he’s still involved in development.

On the other hand, I’m glad to hear that ViacomCBS is pacing the roll out of Trek series and thinking about what other content will keep that audience on Paramount+. It seems that CBS had been rushing the new Star Trek series into production before they were cooked. Less rushing will not only make better series, but also enable each series to better fit it’s target niche.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m now cautiously optimistic that when this series eventually launches, it will be really good.

I do think that they’ve brought Georgiou along and laid the foundation for her to commit with credibility to keeping the Prime Universe Federation safe and enduring.

At the same time, the final scene with the Guardian of Forever was done in a way to give great flexibility for the setting of the new series with Michelle Yeoh so that it can carve out its own original storyline in the Trek multiverse.

A section 31 show would be outstanding. Another avenue to explore in Trek history. Lets find out more of this, you only get to see so little of it each time it airs. ENT and DS9 had more doings but still very little in the way of details. Then to have Michelle Yeoh heading that up is icing on the cake! If she could only appear at the Vegas Khan this year (or any year) would be a huge draw.

The Vegas Khan? Is this a real thing? Or just a neat pun on your part? A Khanvention would be an awesome event. Okay, there seems to have been a biker/rocker convention of that name… But it might still be a great name for a Trek convention…

If they ever bring back Khan, please, please let it be Zahn McClarnon… ZAHHN!

The dark side of SciFi has its merrits but it doesn’t really fit with the vision of Star Trek of being a bright, enlightened and hopeful outlook into the future.

NuBSG is a great show, but honestly, this should never be the template for a Trek show. Just like The Expanse (which is also a good show), NuBSG is way too dark, grim and cynical for a series set in this universe (if it doesn’t take place in the Mirrorverse).

They tried a lot to move early DSC closer to that sinister realms of sci fi and that experiment didn’t really work out. The show has improved a lot by slowly freeing itself from that concept and I see absolutely no reason to go back there.

DS9 and PIC are probably the darkest Trek shows yet. I liked DS9 a lot back then but it felt inferior to both TNG and VOY for the lack of adventure and its superfluous darkness. Trek doesn’t need that at all… I’d rather have an Orville style starship show with bright colors and optimism…

It probably doesn’t fit with the zeitgeist which is strange… back in the day there was a Cold War going on, civil wars and genocide all around the globe, economic depression etc… And yet people embraced the optimistic utopia that was Star Trek as counterprogramming…

Last edited 5 months ago by Garth Lorca

TOS had a final frontier with humans facing limitations and consequences. I think writers these days have this nonsensical view that having to work for things and face hardships is dystopian – I would argue that having people come together to face and overcome hardships is actually good/utopian. I’d take that utopia over free everything and nothing left to learn that we play holodeck all day to face some challenges any day of the week.

Last edited 5 months ago by Cmd.Bremmon

And this is the schism in the fandom. How do you feel about DS9. You tell how you feel about DS9 and I can predict with extreme accuracy how how feel about all other aspects of Trek. ( I saw the comment about Orville coming from a mile away.) I am on the side that thinks DS9 is superior to everything else.

Liked Ds9

Voy was inferior to both TNG and DS9.
It refused to engage with its premise and relied on the re set to dismiss major changes to characters.
The other shows never shierked from acknowledging change.

Ironically I think a show about Section 31 could bring out the optimism of Star Trek better than any of the other Star Trek projects being made these days. By portraying the people who have to work outside of that enlightened public face of Starfleet you can actually tells stories about the humanism and hopefulness that has made Star Trek such an iconic series (of series).
What’s it like to have to forgo those principles? To sacrifice one’s morals for the sake of something greater. John Le Carré wrote about how thrilling it is to break those rules, but also how empty it can make one.That’s the stuff I think a Section 31 show can be about.

Not that I’m particularly hopeful that the people making the show are particularly interested in, or capable of writing about in a way that isn’t filler between action scenes.

I want to see Michelle Yeoh kick Kirk’s butt. Make it so.

Chris Pine Kirk, or 90 year old Shatner Kirk?

There are on going conversations about a fourth Kelvinverse movie, too. I think. It doesn’t mean it’ll ever actually happen, though P+ does have an incentive to penetrate foreign markets…

I just can’t see them debuting a $100 million+ movie on a streaming service. It’s clearly not part of their strategy – they could have used Coming 2 America, A Quiet Place 2 or Top Gun: Maverick as day and date exclusives like HBO Max is doing with the WB slate, but chose to sell to higher bidders or hold out for theatrical release. Spending that kind of money on a season of a show or a mini series makes way more sense for Paramount+. I think they will make another Kelvin film, it’s the safest bet, it just has to be cheaper and smarter (by smarter I hope that means more cerebral, but definitely means thinking more carefully about what set pieces are important to spend funny money on).

If the showrunners are inspired by BSG, DS9 and SG1, then I can’t wait to see what they come up with!!

Cloak n dagger there is a lot of material in a show like that. Lol. Yhe fed and sf not having spy agents and agencies is unrealisticly silliness. War and peace is won by getting the best intel.