Every Star Trek series has a tendency to preach the Starfleet bible to its audience. And in today’s episode, we take a look at General Order 1 or the Prime Directive and how it’s viewed and/ or followed in Star Trek The Original Series and ask ourselves, does this make sense?
1. The Prime Directive VS The Original Series
What exactly is the Prime Directive? Well, put simply it’s the United Federation of Planets highest law. The Prime Directive, also known as Starfleet General Order 1 or the Non-Interference Directive, is the embodiment of one of Starfleet’s most important ethical principles: noninterference with other cultures and civilizations. At its core was the philosophical concept that personnel should refrain from interfering in the natural, development of societies, even if such interference was well-intentioned. The Prime Directive was viewed as so fundamental to Starfleet that Starfleet officers swore to uphold the Prime Directive, even at the cost of their own life or the lives of their crew.
So now that you have a basic understanding of what the Prime Directive is, let’s take a quick look at some of the episodes where it was blatantly violated without any repercussions.
Kirk and crew violated the Prime Directive by destroying the computer “god” that has been controlling their society for a very long time. True that morally Kirk destroying Landru makes sense, but it is a complete violation of the Prime Directive. Now it could be argued that in some episodes it’s stated that the Prime Directive can only be applied to developing cultures, but then the question is who is Kirk to decide that. In fact, it’s highly suspect that with 1 quick tricorder scan anyone could tell if a society was developing or not. In these cases shouldn’t there be a Scientific Ship sent out to make a long-term study to answer that question?
Another Episode where Kirk and Crew destroy a societies property. In this episode, 2 neighbouring planets were at war with each other for centuries, but instead of fighting that war in a conventional sense, they fought it with computers, sending causalities to death chambers to prevent destructive war from the beginning. So Kirk risks an actual real war breaking out on this society in a direct violation of the Prime Directive. I mean what was he thinking? What if Vendikaar decided to send real bombs immediately, then what would he do? Would he drag the Federation into that war?
With war breaking out with the Klingons, the Enterprise is sent to Organia to open negotiations with the Organian people to use their planet as an outpost for the Federation. I guess when in war the Prime Directive simply does not apply because as far as Kirk and Spock could tell this society was a pre-warp civilization, a HUGE no-no with the non-interference directive. Yet they beam down and share knowledge that that sort of society should not have access to at all. This episode also points out the flaw in letting a Captain decide that a society is not developing as it turns out, even though they’re sure of this societies pre-warp status, Kirk and Spock are wrong. The Organians are actually a society far more developed and advanced than his own.
Again Another let’s destroy this societies god episode. On a seemingly Eden like planet, Gama Trianguli 6, Kirk and crew discover a machine that has been controlling the society that developed there. What right did Kirk have to decide to expel those people from the paradise they were living in? Shouldn’t they have eventually decided to rebel on their own if that’s what their natural development would have warranted?
Another pre-warp society is contacted to acquire their resources. In exchange for their help, that society would get medicines and supplies, except the Klingons show up and also what the planets resources. The problem here isn’t actually the contact with the pre-warp society, since it’s implied contact had been made years before, and since we don’t know when that contact was, we don’t know if the prime directive was in effect then. But the problem with this episode is that Kirk, Spock and McCoy interfere with this societies laws and customs. But instead of obeying those laws, they run off into the hills and wait for the Enterprise to beam down a heavily armed landing party to effectively assume control over the planet’s laws until Kirk is ready to leave. This is a huge violation of the Prime Directive.
In this episode, the violation of the Prime Directive is 2 fold. First, both Kirk and McCoy tell the hill people of native society who they really are, Kirk having done it years before. Something explicitly forbidden by the Prime Directive. Second Kirk’s plan to help this society is to give them weapons equal to the ones that the Klingons had given to the city-dwelling other side. Does this seem like a reasonable way to fix the problem? In Piece of The Action, we find out that supposedly the Prime Directive can be suspended when attempting to fix a society where the damage had already been done. SO why not just blockade the star system and remove ALL the weapons that the Klingons had given the city dwellers? it’s not like the weapons were actually being made by them, in fact, it was the Klingons who made all the weapons and just gave them to them. In that way, the societies natural development would be restored with minimal causalities and minimal contamination. But no instead we’ll start a war on this planet and leave the native societies to deal with it.
Starfleet Command orders Kirk and Spock into Romulan Space to steal one of their cloaking devices. Do I even have to point out all the violations here of the Prime Directive, or even just all the violations of the law in general? What was Starfleet thinking? They violated Romulan Space and stole their property, risking war. Do you think Starfleet would be happy if the Romulans did the reverse?
In this episode, the Enterprise is sent to acquire the mineral Zenite on the planet Ardana in order to combat a biological plague that was ravaging Merak 2. And once again Kirk puts himself and the federation right in the middle of a budding civil war. The Prime Directive is specifically designed to prevent this type of interference, yet Kirk happily violates it to further his goal of getting the Zenite. Again morally you can understand his position, but legally you can’t. Kirk should have just beamed up to ship and waited for the planetary government to deal with the situation and hopefully get the mineral he needed. But instead, he kidnaps a planetary ruler and puts that ruler’s life at risk. Does this seem legal?
As I said before, these are just a few examples of times when Kirk and Crew violated Starfleet’s most important law, others include For The World Is Hollow and I have Touched The Sky and the Paradise Syndrome, yet surprisingly there are no legal repercussions for anyone. In fact, it could be said that Starfleet both praised and supported their actions since at the end of the 5-year mission Kirk was promoted to an Admiral and the command crew of the ship all seem to also have gotten promotions.
So all though morally we can understand why Kirk would do the things he did, Legally the law should not have supported it. Think of it this way, say you’re a police officer and you get a call to a shooting where 2 of your friends have been shot to death. Then later, after you arrive back at the police station to begin the investigation searching for the shooter that you personally know but that had fled, that same shooter walks into the station unarmed to surrender, do you think you then have the right to kill the suspect? The answer obviously is no, though if that police officer had, you could understand why he did what he did, it just wouldn’t make it legally right.
“The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules; it is a philosophy… and a very correct one. History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous.“
And that’s the situations we have time and time again with Starfleet and the Prime Directive. They force feed that law to anyone that will listen, but when it comes to actually abiding by it, they try to find loopholes to disobey it or blatantly just ignore it to further their own goals. Does this REALLY seem like a hero society? Or does it appear that Starfleet is much darker then it likes to pretend to be?
Thank you for watching Part 2 of Law and Order UFP. I hope you enjoyed it. And if you did or have another view you’d like to express leave a comment below but don’t forget to like and subscribe. Thanks for watching, live long and prosper!
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