An observation of the Prime Directive conversation in "Pen Pals"

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by Ragitsu, Nov 17, 2021.

  1. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
    Well, it doesn't even have to be as extreme as Blink of an Eye. Simply contacting new species, whether warp capable or aware of the interstellar community or not, alters/influences them. Any interaction with people at all is a form of interference. If you were truly non-interfering, you'd be isolationists. Heck, there's a point to be made that even just observation can potentially have affect. So own it a little bit, & avoid or mitigate the negative effects wherever possible or necessary imho

    The hard directive itself seems to only serve dramatic device, when we need to say "ordinarily we wouldn't be getting involved in this, but..." It's a way to add weight to a scenario, by implying taboo to their actions.
     
  2. dupersuper

    dupersuper Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2020
    I'm fine with not getting involved in the internal affairs of worlds without warp travel/knowledge of alien life, but not (as sneakily as possible) saving them from extinction level events is absurd. What contamination do they think they could bring to a culture that would be more damaging than the end of all life on the planet?
     
  3. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2011
    Location:
    astral plane
    Literary science fiction has examples when breaking the rule that the Prime Directive represents can be extremely hazardous to your health, even when the species in question is threatened with extinction if you don't intervene on their behalf. The Mote in God's Eye by Niven and Pournelle comes to mind [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mote_in_God's_Eye].

    Star Trek never really imagined aliens, at least those from our own dimension, to be fundamentally incompatible with humanity, certainly not to the degree postulated in works like Mote.
     
  4. BillJ

    BillJ Former Democrat Premium Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2001
    Location:
    Covington, Ky. USA
    The difference being those carrying out a war have an actual choice to make about whether or not they want to save their civilization/species.
     
  5. Orphalesion

    Orphalesion Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2014
    I mean I also gotta say that the way the Prime Directive was handled on TNG sometimes seemed less than ideal. Almost as if some writers had just been told it's a policy of non-interference and then took that idea to the extreme without really thinking about it.
    Like in Symbiosis where Picard literally chose the worst option available, that would lead to the most chaos, death and destruction, and reeked of interference anyway. Or the Hunted, where they left a planet to sink into civil war rather than stay and mediate.
    Makes you kinda wonder what Picard would have done if it had been the Enterprise D that would have come across the planet in A Taste of Armageddon...
    hmmm...now that I think of it, considering that quite a few episodes in Season 1 were supposed to be "updated" versions of TOS episodes...was Symbiosis the TNG take on A Taste of Armageddon?
     
    cgervasi likes this.
  6. Ragitsu

    Ragitsu Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2021
    I do not imagine I am far off when I say the original intention of the Prime Directive was to provide a bulwark against intentional colonialist/militaristic motives and unsavory unintended consequences; to me, that principle is a-okay. When the writers started making otherwise moral people behave like rigid adherents for procedure in order to foment drama...yeah.
     
  7. Orphalesion

    Orphalesion Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2014
    Yeah agreed. That's what I meant that I imagine the writers just took the idea to the extreme without thinking about it.
     
  8. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
    Hey, I'm all for maximum levels of non-interference, ignoring wars, regional disputes and maybe even territorial aggressors like the Cardassians & what they were doing to Bajor. Most of that stuff ought to be steered clear of imho, if your true purpose out there is benevolent. Being charitable or helpful is not the same as being champion for every injustice you come across. Being the latter is likely not the most sustainable model for explorers

    I'm for maximum non-interference right up until the point of naturally occurring extinction events, or say global catastrophes that lead to mass scale famine, disease or some otherwise epic life loss situation, but it would have to be truly species endangering things. A pandemic like our own current one? I don't think a group like Starfleet ought to want to risk polluting a culture for that. It's tragic, & might even be preventable by their science/tech, & kind of cold to turn their back on, but some of that stuff they might need to be avoided for both their own interests as well as preventing them corrupting a culture's development

    Which raises an interesting question. What if the global crisis isn't natural? like our own climate change? If a species is doomed to extinction because they destroyed their own habitat, then they fairly well chose extinction didn't they?
     
  9. Ragitsu

    Ragitsu Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2021
    We can start delving into what the word "natural" truly means. A beaver's dam is natural, yes, but what of a log cabin? How about a two-story brick house? An ultra-modern skyscraper?
     
    danellis likes this.
  10. Orphalesion

    Orphalesion Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2014
    Except we as a species do not "choose" extinction by climate change. It's a few assholes in power who choose it for everyone out of greed and general horribleness.
    So no, they probably didn't collectively choose extinction and shouldn't be treated as such.
     
  11. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2007
    So let's not say natural then. Let's say beyond their control & without their contribution? I'd think most of us would agree that those kinds of extinction events might be worthy of intercedence, & the opposite ones begin a much grayer area, the vast majority of which you'd likely be wiser to avoid
    That's a debatable point though. Those few assholes are in power as part of the species' development. Pretty much everything shitty in a culture's development is likely brought about by some few assholes calling the shots. Winnowing through that to determine what aid you ought to render & to whom is problematic at best
     
  12. Ragitsu

    Ragitsu Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2021
    A skit from the late comedian George Carlin comes to mind.

     
    Mojochi likes this.
  13. JaxsBrokenHeart

    JaxsBrokenHeart Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    May 20, 2011
    There were a couple of issues with the handling of the PD in the later Trek shows that let to general problems. Chief among them was the tendency to treat it as an almost holy command to be rigidly followed, rather than a guiding principle to be applicable at the appropriate circumstances. Riker's silliness about a divine plan is sadly an unintentional foreshadowing of how dogmatic the adherence to the Prime Directive would eventually get.

    Secondly, it ran headlong in to the typical writing conventions of dramatic television and often proved incompatible with them. Outright extinction/death is a natural potential consequence in terms of a story's stakes and made complete sense in being utilized for plots. The thing is, if that's the outcome if the crew fails, then the hand wringing and philosophical laments about what they've done/will do in interfering can lose a great deal of impact because a lot of the audience is going to view even a flawed survival of the aliens of the week as inherently better than their annihilation. Hence, this attempt at nuanced examination can fall flat.

    Finally, a lot of the shows after TOS seemed uninterested or unable to make episodes that actually demonstrated the real downside of Prime Directive violation. If Pen Pals had been about not a world at risk due to geologic instability, but about a region on a planet going through the equivalent of the Blitz thanks to a planetary war? Then suddenly the reticence about interfering makes a great deal more sense given the context, with maybe even the episode citing examples of Starfleet/Federation rescues exacerbating specific conflicts because the revelation of their existence changed everything for the worse.

    Basically the scale of interfering and not interfering desperately needed to be balanced, and very often wasn't (with blanket statements akin to "you don't know what the consequences will be" not really holding up as a compelling argument much of the time).
     
    Phoenix219 likes this.
  14. Orphalesion

    Orphalesion Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2014
    I just think an advanced civilization after the fashion of the UFP should be capable not to judge the many by the actions of a few.
     
  15. suarezguy

    suarezguy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2008
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM, USA
    I don't think Kirk's solution in that episode was particularly beneficial, appropriate, even really reasonable though the writers try to force you to approve of it, at least by contrast, by having the others threaten Kirk and the Enterprise before he forces his changes.
     
  16. suarezguy

    suarezguy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2008
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM, USA
    Janeway, particularly post-season 2, seemed to have a much less restrictive interpretation of the Prime Directive.

    They could have done more/better with that.
     
    Ragitsu likes this.
  17. at Quark's

    at Quark's Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2012
    I'm not so sure about that it's just due to those 'assholes' you describe. Humans are just generally myopic. For many people, if they can choose between a few benefits now, and problems 50 years down the road, or not reaping those benefits now and avoiding those problems half a century away, most will choose the first option. Even today, many people will not choose the 'climate friendly' option if it costs them thousands of additional dollars a year, or a significant step back in life comforts, even if they well can afford to. I view the 'assholes' you describe as just the manifestation of that same behaviour at the upper end of the power & wealth spectrum.
     
    suarezguy likes this.
  18. Orphalesion

    Orphalesion Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2014
    Of course the issue is deeper than I made it out to be. But just as one example of what I mean; during the oil crisis in the seventies there was actually a lot of advancement towards electric cars...all of which was scrapped or shoved into some dusty cabinet by those in charge the moment they could make money of trading gasoline again.

    There are a lot more problems that build the basis for environmental degradation and climate change, but that's still far from some nonsense about humanity "choosing extinction by climate change"
    Plus letting a species die because they don't have the know-how or capabilities to prevent their extinction is, in my opinion, kinda like letting a toddler starve because they can't open the lids on the tins of toddler food.
     
    Ragitsu likes this.
  19. at Quark's

    at Quark's Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2012
    Regrettable, but I think only a minority of people in that position would actually have might the 'right' decision. After all, you're most probably asked to choose between a noble ideal and avoiding cutting into your own financial and future career prospects (because those people in charge also have to account for the decisions they make, even if it is only to the board of shareholders, and they generally want profits to go up, not down).


    I agree with that. Somone who started smoking 40 years ago didn't choose to die of lung cancer today. He might not even have known he ran that risk before he became addicted.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2021
  20. Ragitsu

    Ragitsu Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2021
    Deference to authority figures also applies to titans of industry and it cuts both ways: if a corporate bigwig says "Electric is bad.", then a certain percentage of the population will be dead set against electric vehicles because the chief with the most furs has declared it thus.