You may be asking yourself what this article is about. It’s okay, you can ask yourself that question periodically. It’s code, and it’s what spies use.
As viewers, we gradually saw the truth about Garak. Underneath his playful tailor exterior were lies upon lies, and even he seemed confused by many of them. That’s okay, because he was creative enough to always come up with new ones. He was an information-gatherer, a man who had countless cover stories and could never have a normal life. No matter how friendly he seemed at times, he was almost always alone and he never got to sail off in a dinghy at the end with Ziyal (no doubt muttering, “Oh, Garak!” as the screen faded to black).
As Garak knew only too well, a large part of the spy game is lying. In the original series episode the Enterprise Incident, Kirk led the crew of the Enterprise on a covert mission into the Neutral Zone. Was he mad?! That’s what Spock said! Their real goal was for them to infiltrate a Romulan ship, for Spock to tell the Romulan Commander a pack of lies (whilst she makes goo-goo eyes at him), and to have Kirk steal a cloaking device. They succeeded in their spy mission, and their actions could be passed off as a smooth bit of one-upmanship against an enemy force. Also, Kirk and Spock would return in The Man With The Golden Paradise Syndrome. Well, sort of…
We saw a Klingon spy in the Next Generation episode The Drumhead, and he was more Maxwell Smart than Illya Kuryakin. We saw Romulan spies from the Tal Shiar operate in several Next Generation and Deep Space Nine episodes too, although since the Romulans always seem to be sneaky by nature, their spy community seems even sneakier. It seems like there are spies everywhere and on every side. Tuvok was a Starfleet spy within the Maquis. Tom Paris became a spy against the Kazon. Well, if the same tactic keeps working for Captain Janeway, then so be it.
Spies aren’t necessarily evil, they just do the job that they’re told to do, regardless of whatever side they’re on. It’s the gathering of information and the sowing of dissent or confusion wherever possible, although I dread to imagine one trying to infiltrate the Tamarians from Darmok. The minute they said “Darmok and Jalad at the spaceport, their identities concealed. Safe’s open, documents purloined,” they’d be rumbled. Worse, we can only imagine what the Tamarian legal process must be like, and their court stenographers must have a field day.But it’s okay to spy, sort of, depending on the side you’re on. When our heroes do it, we trust them. Partly because we trust that our favourite characters are good, inherently noble despite the cloak-and-dagger routines that they sometimes get up to… and partly because we don’t question the source of the orders. Like the people at the drive-thru at a fast food restaurant. The Federation is a mostly truthful place that makes sense to us. However, in recent years we’ve learned of a group that are above the law. A network of spies and covert operatives who will defend the Federation by any means necessary, even from itself:
Due to some sneaky continuity leaps and a some retconning bounds, it turns out these slippery spies have been causing havoc all through the timeline, even when we didn’t realise it. We liked Admiral Cartwright when we first saw him in the movies, but before we knew it he was in on a sneaky scheme to derail the Khitomer peace treaty along with some dodgy Klingons and a guy who looked a bit like Odo. According to the database, he was a part of Section 31. Their unrecorded fingerprints are all over the Federation and Starfleet.They’ve even managed to make their presence known in the new alternate timeline, where Klingons look like heavy metal headbangers and tribbles look like a mangy hairball that a lion coughed up. While Khan may have been defrosted early in their timeline, the most disturbing thing there was how nutty Colonel Green follower John Paxton was suddenly a top brass Starfleet Admiral called Marcus, who also happened to be running a massive Section 31 operation. He even managed to put together a ship twice as big as the Enterprise.
Okay, we knew that Section 31 had some clout, but how did nobody notice this? They may have built this ship in a secret location, but where did they get the resources to build it? Didn’t customs notice the thousands of supply ships that must have been heading out there to drop off the raw materials? They must be better at covert operations than we first thought. Marcus didn’t just fit the Section 31 routine of protecting the Federation (okay, technically from his own initial plan which backfired) , but he also fulfilled the first rule of being promoted to the admiralty, which is to be madder than an ice cream toaster on steroids.
So maybe that’s the sort of person that Section 31 recruits. They’re not spies, they’re just a bunch of crazy people! As Scotty pointed out, Starfleet used to be about exploration, but they want it to be a military operation. In which case, the correct term for these guys should be Section 8…
(Top secret codebreaker: http://www.ptable.com/)