Just re-watched Pen Pals and boy do they break the Prime Directive a lot. I was going to put this in the TNG forum but thought I'd through it wide open for a general discussion of the PD. In the episode the staff's conversation barely scratches the surface of any kind of debate regarding the merits of the Prime Directive and I though that's what could be done here, go deeper. I'm sure it's been done before but I think it's a topic that should be revisited from time to time. What exactly is the Prime Directive besides "non interference" of "less advanced species" ? What does that mean? Are there loop holes? I always figured that Kirk was brought before a Star Fleet Board of Inquiry each time he violated it and his general argument boiled down to protecting his ship and crew in addition to the culture being stagnant. The last part is important in a very '60s, Kennedyesque, Peace Corps sort of way. Anyway as Kirk remained in command Star Fleet seems to have agreed with his interpretation. However by the time of Next Gen it seems a little more strict. Or at least Picard and the crews consideration of it plays that way. If we go with Riker's and Picard's take they should have completely ignored what was happening on the little girl's planet. The rest of the crew generally agree with that interpretation but argue that it's cruel and has little merit. One of the problems we face as the audience and fans is that we don't really know that the prime directive says. We have only the surface readings that various characters give it in universe. Based on what little we know about the PD is it a good policy? Should there be exceptions and what would they be? Is it a moral or pragmatic law? Both?