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Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old January 21 2014, 04:56 PM   #1
Warped9
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PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

This was raised in another forum, but since Kirk is often the one bashed with this I thought it could work as discussion here.

In TOS Kirk states that a starship Captain vows to sacrifice himself and even his ship and crew rather than violate the Prime Directive.

The PD as originally stated in TOS was made to seem very cut-and-dry, but as we saw there were obviously exceptions and grey areas. In many cases it probably isn't necessary to sacrifice oneself or one's crew and ship.

It would be interesting to contemplate a scenario where it actually was necessary.

In "The Apple" or "Bread And Circuses" or "Return Of The Archons" should Kirk have sacrificed himself and crew and ship (setting aside the series would then be over)?

In "The Apple" and "Return Of The Archons" the ship was under attack by a computer and not a society. The vast majority of the inhabitants likely never knew they were there (assuming there were other tribes around the planet). In "Return Of The Archons" there was even an underground working against Landru and Kirk basically helped them make it happen (while saving his ship). In Bread And Circuses" the Proconsul already knew of their existence because of Merrick, but the vast majority of the population had no inkling of what was going on.

In TNG's "Who Watches The Watchers?" should Picard have sacrificed Troi and the rest?

There's another way to look at this, depending on the degree and nature of interference, I suppose. What if ancient humans had actually been visited by alien star travellers? Would that be classified as interference? If it happened then they were likely remembered as gods of ancient mythology. And if so how has that hindered or affected us?

Today we are actively seeking signs of extraterrestrial life and intelligence. What would it mean if it were revealed to us? A lot would depend on any ensuing interaction (if any). If they actively interacted with us to the extent of drastically affecting/altering our civilization that would be quite different than if they behaved in a more remote and hands off approach. How might we react if we asked for knowledge of advanced science and technology and yet they refused?

The PD raises all kinds of questions.
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Old January 21 2014, 05:11 PM   #2
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Re: PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

Planets are pretty big. A small group of folks sees a star ship, so what? Why should any one else believe it, or even care? Contamination? Sociology isn't biology. Those folks seeing a star ship are no more contaminated than whites are by a black eating in the same restaurant. The idea of the PD as a means to prevent the economic and military imperialism of Earth's past is a fine idea, but the idea that meeting folks is some contagion that is harmful is ludicrous.
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Old January 21 2014, 05:54 PM   #3
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Re: PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

It's the technology/sociology pacing that I think they are concerned about maintaining more than anything else. The idea is that a civilization left to its own devices will either see social development that matches or outpaces its technological development so that it uses those technological developments responsibly (enough) or it will destroy itself. If an alien civilization interferes and introduces more advanced tech than they are socially ready for, there is a strong chance that they will use it irresponsibly either to wipe themselves out, or, to become galactic a-holes.

The idea that the Klingons are actually a medieval-level civilization that had Starfleet-level tech introduced to them by another civilization that enslaved them (which is itself a socially misguided use of the tech, and probably an indicator that, much as child abusers were often abused, themselves, when they were children, this sort of problem propagates itself - the Hurq or whatever they were called were probably also introduced to the tech too early by some other spacefaring race) probably played strongly into the decision to create and enforce the PD.

People think the PD is harsh, and in some cases it is, but I can see a way it could be worse: what if the Federation monitored cultures that weren't ready for contact, analyzed their social development, and sent black ops teams to them to eliminate technologies (and tracelessly abduct/eliminate their developers in "accidents") that they determined that the world wasn't socially ready for? Imagine their people being 'disappeared' whenever they tried to develop powder weapons, or nuclear weapons, or fast food distribution!
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Old January 21 2014, 06:07 PM   #4
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Re: PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

Gov Kodos wrote: View Post
Planets are pretty big. A small group of folks sees a star ship, so what? Why should any one else believe it, or even care? Contamination? Sociology isn't biology. Those folks seeing a star ship are no more contaminated than whites are by a black eating in the same restaurant. The idea of the PD as a means to prevent the economic and military imperialism of Earth's past is a fine idea, but the idea that meeting folks is some contagion that is harmful is ludicrous.
If the PD had been framed that way it would make more sense.

In "The Apple" Kirk and company might likely become little different than the gods of our own ancient mythology. The natives were already superstititious and were worshiping an inanimate object, Val. They would have learned had to plant and forage and survive much as ancient humans did.

In "Bread And Circuses" Merrick revealed who he and his crew were to the Proconsul, but there's little evidence it went much further beyond that. The few Preatorian guards that saw Kirk and company dematerialize could probably have been ordered to keep silent or even killed to keep them silent.

In "The Omega Glory" it was Tracey who revealed who they were and introduced the advanced tech of phasers.He can claim he was trying to protect the Komms, but the real reason was he wanted to survive to learn the secret of the inhabitants longevity and he didn't care who or how many he had to kill.

In "A Private Little War" the Klingons have already interfered in the native population and Kirk used the imperfect least worst of all choices to try to restore the status quo.

In "A Taste Of Armageddon" the Eminians are an advanced culture with spaceflight capability and well aware of life in the galaxy who take aggressive action against Kirk's landing party and the Enterprise. The real blame for anything Kirk does really lays on the shoulders of the Federation Council, Starfleet Command and Ambassador Robert Fox. Nothing in this situation warranted Kirk sacrificing himself and his crew.


And so what circumstance could warrant an absolute sacrifice?
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Old January 21 2014, 06:24 PM   #5
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Re: PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

Wasn't it Merrick in "Bread and Circuses" who explained the PD that way?
Kirk clearly puts ship and crew first.
In most PD eps where Kirk clearly intervenes, isn't there a ship-in-danger variable that weakens the moral dilemma? I wish there weren't, frankly, but I know the dramatist ptb back then thought you needed that artificial (we KNOW the E will be safe and sound at the end of 48 minutes of show) device.
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Old January 21 2014, 06:44 PM   #6
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Re: PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

The Enterprise wasn't really much at risk in "A Taste Of Armageddon" and at no risk at all in "Bread And Circuses" or "A Private Little War" or "Spock's Brain" or "For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky." The 1701D wasn't at risk in "Who Watches The Watchers?" or "Pen Pals."

plynch wrote: View Post
Wasn't it Merrick in "Bread and Circuses" who explained the PD that way?
The Proconsul mentions Merrick explained it to him, but Kirk states it earlier in a log entry I believe.
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Old January 21 2014, 09:29 PM   #7
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Re: PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

I can't think of any situation where starfaring people (complete with starship) dealing with a technologically-inferior, planet-bound (or even limited spaceflight capable) civilization could ever require sacrificing ship and crew. Just leave.
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Old January 21 2014, 09:54 PM   #8
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Re: PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

It took me a minute, but I have a scenario:

Borg nanites or space madness (some force that causes crewpeople to lose control of themselves - doesn't really matter what) have caused the command crew to lose control of the ship while in orbit around a stone age world that they were doing a routine 10 year checkup on. Damage inflicted by the affected crew has caused transporters and engine control to go offline. Command crew has sealed themselves in on the bridge, but don't know how much longer that will remain the case. One shuttle has already launched with affected crew onboard, headed for the planet, and the captain had to order its destruction. More may launch soon, or, if they lose control of the bridge, the whole ship may end up crash landing.

Nothing for it but to send a message to Starfleet letting them know what has happened if you can, and then use the antimatter annihilation self-destruct.
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Old January 21 2014, 10:01 PM   #9
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Re: PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

Could we be reading this wrong? We're assuming sacrifice means death (of the Captain and crew) and destruction (loss of the ship).

But if a Captain and his crew willingly violated the Prime Directive in terms of going out of their way to alter the development of a society then if prosecuted it would certainly mean they sacrificed their careers and their ship.

The Proconsul believes death is what the PD means, but maybe he has it wrong and Kirk, Spock and the rest (including Merrick) just let him go on believing it.

Or perhaps we could have a lifeboat situation. A planetary native captures a starship Captain and orders him (on threat of death) to use his advanced means to destroy an enemy. In that scenario it's conceivable a Starfleet officer might sacrifice themselves. This, of course, is an extreme situation, but perhaps we get a glimpse of it in "Bread And Circuses." The Proconsul demanded Kirk surrender his entire crew or he and his party would be put to death. Kirk refuses and it really does look like they're done for until Scotty's intervention grants them a chance for escape.
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Old January 21 2014, 10:45 PM   #10
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Re: PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

@ Warped9

"A star captain's most solemn oath is that he will give his life, even his entire crew, rather than violate the Prime Directive." (Kirk in "The Omega Glory")

I think that was pretty straightforward with little room to double-guess.

@ USS Triumphant

Interesting and believable scenario, however it has a touch of "everything is lost anyway so we can sacrifice our lives more easily".


What I found interesting in "Bread and Circuses" is that Scotty got a clear order but found an interesting way to do something about the situation without violating the PD:

SCOTT: But they have used the code term Condition Green, which means they're in trouble. But it also prohibits my taking any action. (ends log entry) Mister Chekov, pinpoint power source locations. Type, power, load factors, and how much our beams will have to pull to overload them.

Something else I have somehow always interpreted as one of the few excuses to ignore the PD is Spock's observation of the Organians in "Errand of Mercy". While it appears that the PD is not an issue at times of war, I nevertheless couldn't help to feel that Spock's report was having a relief character (along the lines "Damn it, we have to violate the PD but fortunately find out that we aren't doing any damage"):

SPOCK: Captain, our information on these people and their culture was not correct. This is not a primitive society making progress toward mechanisation. They are totally stagnant. There is no evidence of any progress as far back as my tricorder can register.
KIRK: That doesn't seem likely.
SPOCK: Nevertheless, it is true. For tens of thousands of years, there has been absolutely no advancement, no significant change in their physical environment. This is a laboratory specimen of an arrested culture.

If Spock provided all or some of the exceptions where not to apply the Prime Directive, I'd guess there are more TOS examples that qualify than usually assumed.

To partially answer those good questions at the end of Warped9's opening post, I'd say a lot would depend on any aliens' experience with a history like ours, i.e. are we still making (ethical) progress or have we become ourselves an "arrested culture"...?

Bob
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Old January 21 2014, 11:46 PM   #11
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Re: PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

Robert Comsol wrote: View Post

Something else I have somehow always interpreted as one of the few excuses to ignore the PD is Spock's observation of the Organians in "Errand of Mercy". While it appears that the PD is not an issue at times of war, I nevertheless couldn't help to feel that Spock's report was having a relief character (along the lines "Damn it, we have to violate the PD but fortunately find out that we aren't doing any damage"):

SPOCK: Captain, our information on these people and their culture was not correct. This is not a primitive society making progress toward mechanisation. They are totally stagnant. There is no evidence of any progress as far back as my tricorder can register.
KIRK: That doesn't seem likely.
SPOCK: Nevertheless, it is true. For tens of thousands of years, there has been absolutely no advancement, no significant change in their physical environment. This is a laboratory specimen of an arrested culture.

If Spock provided all or some of the exceptions where not to apply the Prime Directive, I'd guess there are more TOS examples that qualify than usually assumed.

To partially answer those good questions at the end of Warped9's opening post, I'd say a lot would depend on any aliens' experience with a history like ours, i.e. are we still making (ethical) progress or have we become ourselves an "arrested culture"...?
Also mentioned in "The Return of the Archons".

SPOCK: Captain, our Prime Directive of non-interference.
KIRK: That refers to a living, growing culture. Do you think this one is?
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Old January 21 2014, 11:46 PM   #12
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Re: PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

Robert Comsol wrote: View Post
@ USS Triumphant

Interesting and believable scenario, however it has a touch of "everything is lost anyway so we can sacrifice our lives more easily".
True, but Jonas Grumby said he couldn't think of ANY situation that would require it. So I will take the "Interesting and believable scenario" part of what you said as a mission accomplished.
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Old January 22 2014, 03:54 AM   #13
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Re: PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

Warped9 wrote: View Post
The Enterprise wasn't really much at risk in "A Taste Of Armageddon" and at no risk at all in "Bread And Circuses" or "A Private Little War" or "Spock's Brain" or "For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky." The 1701D wasn't at risk in "Who Watches The Watchers?" or "Pen Pals."

plynch wrote: View Post
Wasn't it Merrick in "Bread and Circuses" who explained the PD that way?
The Proconsul mentions Merrick explained it to him, but Kirk states it earlier in a log entry I believe.
What was the Proconsul's deal anyway?
Why did he want Kirk's crew to beam down? He knew Starfleet weren't going to do anything to the planet or his rule because of the PD. All Kirk would want is to get the rest of Merrick's men, any equipment and Merrick himself and dispose of Merrick's ship.
The Proconsul didn't even seem that fond of Merrick so giving him up wasn't that much of a hardship. The Proconsul didn't even seem to want Starfleet technology.
I can only think the Proconsul just wanted to see Kirk and Merrick squirm. To show what a big and powerful man he was.
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Old January 22 2014, 04:35 AM   #14
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Re: PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

The Proconsul seemed to believe that if he kept the Enterprise crew from leaving and reporting back to Starfleet and the Federation he was minimizing or eliminating word of his world's existence. But secretly he might simply have been afraid (not that he'd show it) of what Starfleet might do with knowledge of his planet's existence and how Merrick and Kirk's personnel had been treated. I'd hazard a guess that the Proconsul was projecting his own likely reaction (one of retaliation) onto Starfleet and the Federation. He didn't seem to realize that Starfleet would probably be a lot more interested in the planet if a class one ship like the Enterprise disappeared in that area.

Yeah, and he could well have been trying to prove how big and tough he was and simply hadn't counted on Kirk's (and Spock's and McCoy's) resolve. He thought Merrick was a typical Earthman and ship commander and figured Kirk could be just as easily pushed around.

There was always something rather sleazy about the Proconsul. Wouldn't have surprised me to learn he'd been watching Kirk's liaison with the slave Drusilla.
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Old January 22 2014, 05:21 AM   #15
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Re: PD: a captain vows to sacrifice his ship and crew rather...

Warped9 wrote: View Post
The Enterprise wasn't really much at risk in "A Taste Of Armageddon"
That's actually fundamentally incorrect. If Scott had followed orders and lowered the shields, the Enterprise would almost certainly have been utterly destroyed. Being attacked by disruptor fire capable of doing that and being given orders that make the ship vulnerable to such an attack, that constitutes significant risk.

I assume what you mean is that the Enterprise outmatched Eminian technology, which is true. It's also true that avoiding the area would have eliminated the risk altogether.

However, the Enterprise's mission to Eminiar was to find out why thousands of lives had been lost in the sector (quadrant [sic]) and stop it by diplomacy, in order to protect the much less capable ships expected to wander into the sector in the future and to ignore whatever code seven-ten keep-away signs were posted by the Eminians.

For whatever reason, not all ships were keeping away, despite the knowledge that ships were being lost there. Since the idea was to set up a port, it might be reasonable to suppose that Eminiar was in the middle of long space lanes. Ships in trouble might be forced to attempt to make port there, despite the risk.
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