Yeah, I don’t agree with it. The person who made the video too easily dismissed the fact that it isn’t part of Roddenberry’s vision. Section 31 is one of the aspects that was introduced in DS9 that feeds into my utter dislike of that series. I guess you can call me a Roddenberry vision purist: If Roddenberry wouldn’t approve then it doesn’t fall into what Trek is for me, personally. Also, this theory doesn’t take into account that it’s looking like Control is how the Borg was created.
I agree with your basic point, but I disagree that it was DS9’s fault.
Section 31’s introduction was justified by Ira Steven Behr with an argument that basically boils down to, “every nation needs spies”. I don’t have a problem with that argument… and neither did Ron Moore, which was why he introduced Starfleet Intelligence back in TNG. (Over GR’s strenuous objections, I might add. Roddenberry insisted “the good guys don’t go sneaking around”, but Moore just just kept adding it to scripts until they gave up trying to stop him.)
That’s the missing piece of the puzzle, right there: the “necessary evil” was already covered by Starfleet Intelligence. So what’s left over? The unnecessary evil.
Underhanded things Starfleet Intelligence does:
- Research cloaking devices. Okay, it’s an illegal act, but seriously, all they were doing was an R&D project on a technology the Federation already understands. And it’s not like the Romulan Star Empire has any problem pushing the limits of its half of the treaty: for Prophets’ sake, they tried to invade a Federation core planet during the same series. (An incompetent act of war is still an act of war.)
- Send Miles O’Brien undercover to infiltrate the Orion Syndicate. I think we can pretty much all agree this is a good use of covert operations even if there hadn’t turned out to be a Dominion connection.
- The rest of their remit is mostly just the normal information-gathering and counterintelligence stuff that every government does.
Underhanded things Section 31 does:
- Start witch hunts and disrupt the normal operations of a major allied forward operating base, as a recruiting tactic. (“Inquisition”)
- Use an officer of an allied nation as a typhoid Mary to deliver a biological weapon with the intent of genocide. (Odo/Changeling arc)
- Frame a foreign elected official for treason, probably getting her shot, on the suspicion that she might stop liking you at some unknown point in a future that may or may not happen. (“Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”)
- Plant operatives at high levels of the civilian government of your own country. That’s suggestive of a planned coup d’etat. (“Extreme Measures”)
That is Section 31. It’s a rogue agency driven by an ultranationalist ideology. It doesn’t just not officially exist, it’s not supposed to exist. It probably began as a one-off project created in secret for a single critical mission, but when that mission was over, there was power to be had.
Deep Space Nine‘s strength was in the recognition that the Federation couldn’t possibly be politically homogeneous, and wasn’t nearly as perfect a society as early-season Picard liked to think it was. They licked food and energy scarcity, but people are still people, even if they’re better-behaved than we are. Never mind the fact that in TOS and TNG every other flag officer is corrupt, insane, or both. So there’s more than enough preexisting room for a Babylon 5-style corruption arc.
The problem is actually that later writers, probably influenced by the post-9/11 militarization of our culture, took Sloan at his word without considering that, hey! He’s a frakking spy! He lies for a living!
I and one of my writing partners have written more about this topic here: https://forum.arcgames.com/startrekonline/discussion/comment/13463833/#Comment_13463833
- This reply was modified 1 week, 1 day ago by Aaron Davis. Reason: linked the wrong post by mistake