Star Trek: Section 31 Will Bring Back A Famous One-Off Next Gen Character

Since 2017, "Star Trek" has gone through some dramatic ups and downs. The launch of "Star Trek: Discovery" that year was a clarion call for the franchise, announcing that "Star Trek" was back on TV after a 13-year hiatus. "Discovery," however, was notoriously expensive and not widely beloved. It was soon joined on CBS All Access/Paramount+ by an overwhelming glut of "Star Trek" shows, each one set at a different period in Trek history. There was a brief moment when six Trek shows were running simultaneously.

The streaming model, however, proved to be unprofitable, and Paramount has been slowly extracting all its eggs from the Trek basket in recent years. "Discovery" is about to debut its fifth and final season, "Prodigy" will likewise end after its next year, "Short Treks" is seemingly no more, and "Picard" recently drew to a close. A planned spinoff of "Discovery," called "Section 31" mutated from a full TV series into a single TV movie, set to debut likely within the year. "Section 31" will star Michelle Yeoh as Empress Philippa Georgiou, an evil dictator kidnapped from Trek's notorious Mirror Universe where everyone is wicked. She will be placed in charge of Section 31, a super-secret "Star Trek" version of the CIA. At last report, no story or characters had been revealed, although the cast was announced to include Omari Hardwick, Kacey Rohl, Sam Richardson, Sven Ruygrok, Robert Kazinsky, Humberly Gonzalez, and James Hiroyuki Liao. 

It also hadn't been announced if "Section 31" would include any "legacy" characters culled from other "Star Trek" shows, although Variety has revealed in a recent report that at least one recognizable figure will appear. "Section 31" will evidently include Rachel Garrett, a character not seen since the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" (February 9, 1990).

Yesterday's Enterprise

"Yesterday's Enterprise" is one of the better episodes of "Next Generation." In it, a time hole opens up in front of the Enterprise-D, and the Enterprise-C — thought to have been destroyed decades ago — flies through. Instantly, however, the timeline shifts, and the Enterprise-D is suddenly a warship embroiled in a conflict that has been raging for years. It seems that the Enterprise-C, when it disappeared from its own time, left in the middle of a crucial battle, altering history and prolonging a war. The world of "Next Generation" is now altered. The moral dilemma: send the Enterprise-C back through the time hole to its certain doom and restore a peaceful timeline, or let the Enterprise-C remain, saving its crew but leaving it in a war-torn future? 

The captain of the Enterprise-C was Rachel Garrett, played by actress Tricia O'Neil. She wouldn't be seen again until Starfleet erected a statue in her honor in an episode of "Star Trek: Picard," a series set over 60 years after her death. 

For Variety, a reporter visited the set of "Section 31," and noted that Michelle Yeoh was talking to co-star Kacey Rohl and that Rohl was definitely playing a younger version of Rachel Garrett. Screenwriter Craig Sweeney noted that Rachel Garrett's presence was a mere nod to Trekkies, and not a deep-cut piece of lore that will require study. "It was always my goal to deliver an entertaining experience that is true to the universe but appeals to newcomers," he said. "I wanted a low barrier of entry so that anybody could enjoy it."

Garrett's presence, of course, will leave Trekkies' minds reeling, revealing when "Section 31" is to take place in the Trek timeline. 

When does Section 31 take place?

By the timeline of "Next Generation," Garrett was last seen commanding the Enterprise-C in 2344. 

However, by the timeline of "Star Trek: Discovery," Empress Georgiou lived at a completely different time. In the episode "Terra Firma, Part 2" (December 17, 2020), Georgiou encountered the Guardian of Forever, a living time portal that can see alternate timelines and deliver people to any point in history. At this point in "Discovery," Georgiou had become stranded in the 32nd century. The Guardian — after offering her a brief purifying sojourn back to her home dimension — offered to bring her to "a time when the Mirror Universe and the Prime Universe were aligned." 

Ignoring for the moment how strange it was to use fan-invented terms like "Mirror Universe" and "Prime Universe" in actual "Trek" dialogue, it sounded like Georgiou was being taken far back into the past. It was established in "Star Trek: Enterprise" that the Mirror Universe was already evil a century prior to the original "Star Trek." And, indeed, the opening titles for the "Enterprise" episode "In a Mirror Darkly" revealed that the warlike Mirror Universe went back to the earliest days of humanity, showing the original HMS Enterprise (commissioned in 1774) as a war vessel. 

The implication, then, is that Georgiou would be taken back to Earth's 18th century or before. 

But the appearance of a young Rachel Garrett undoes that. Expanded universe lore has her birth in the year 2300. "Section 31," by dint of that character appearing, will take place in the 2320s. That would have the show taking place about 20 years after the events of "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country," but still about 40 years before "Star Trek: The Next Generation."