The prime directive

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by safarial, Jun 27, 2008.

  1. pookha

    pookha Admiral Admiral

    Dec 26, 2002
    Actually, it applied to everyone in ST as well, unless the non-interference directive is different from the PD otherwise Ardana, a UFP member, wouldn't have been able to have their stratified society. Certainly, UFP membership requirements are different in TNG than ST.[/quote]

    how i saw ardana was the most of the federation brass were not aware of just how much of a caste system existed.
    remember at first the cloud dwellers tried to hide this.

    it very well could be that something underhanded had gone on to hide just how bad things were for the miners due to the importance of what they mined.
  2. RobertScorpio

    RobertScorpio Pariah

    Jan 25, 2008
    San Diego
    Since it is broken by Kirk many times, Picard on a few occasions (Pen Pals), and those two only represent 2 starfleet ship crews, I think we can assume that most of the other Captains (Omega Glory, Bread and Circus, John Gill,) don't follow it by the letter either...about as meaty as tomato soup

  3. cooleddie74

    cooleddie74 Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Apr 25, 2001
    The Warped Sector of the Demented Quadrant
    One of those laws and rules that is trumpeted as inviolable and paramount, but when violated under the "right" circumstances allowed to slide so long as the officer doing so has a good reputation and some pull in the halls of influence and authority.
  4. hofner

    hofner Commodore Commodore

    May 8, 2003
    Charlotte, NC
    It's not so much a thing of Kirk 'getting away' with violating the non-interference directive but rather it's his job to do so if he thinks it's necessary. I thought Star Trek or TOS at least was based on the premise that starship captains have a lot of authority because when they make decisions they can't always check with their supereiors first.

    As far as I know, Kirk is acting as an arm of the Federation when in his judgement he feels he must break the directive and Starfleet has entrusted him with that authority. They expect him to act if it's warranted. If they feel he made the wrong decision they can always do something like remove him from command or even court martial him.

  5. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    That's how I've come to view it as well, although perhaps from a different angle: it't not really a means of enforcing a UFP non-interference policy as such, but a means of preventing starship captains from enforcing their personal policies. The Federation Council isn't really all that worried about whether the development of the Capellan society will proceed in a manner approved by the Humane Society. It's worried about what James T. Kirk might do in UFP's name, perhaps dictating policy for the Council. If Kirk serves UFP interests well, then the few times he takes drastic action will not matter. But if Kirk does something badly at odds with Council interests, there exists this handy regulation by which Kirk can be thrown to Elba II and pumped full of compliance drugs.

    Starfleet frontline forces must be allowed to work by "guidelines" rather than rigid operating instructions. But those guidelines have to be at least as powerful as military law in order to be effective, and the way the Prime Directive is construed is a good way to do that.

    As for the issue of whether TOS and TNG directives differ, it's in some ways a futile argument. TOS was never self-consistent enough to offer a single, unambiguous description of the PD or its applicability, nor did it explore a sufficient number of scenarios to tell for sure whether 23rd century people would have reacted differently from 24th century ones.

    Since TOS offers plenty of examples where the Feds show restraint when facing primitives or inferiors, but also examples where they tread softly with folks like Klingons, it's not all that different from TNG in practice. Rather, we can argue whether the TOS heroes showed restraint out of sheer pragmatism but the TNG ones because there was a directive about it, mainly because TOS didn't bother to namedrop the Prime Directive in such instances while TNG frequently did.

    But back to the point suggested by hofner: when Kirk is seen "breaking the PD", that is, interfering where he perhaps shouldn't, about half the times he is acting under direct orders. If his superiors have told him to interfere with Capellans or Organians or Melkots, and he complies, the PD actually seems to be doing its real job admirably: Kirk is on a short leash. It's only in cases like "The Apple" or "Return of the Archons" where Kirk acts on his own that we might suspect Kirk is doing something "wrong" - but if the Council approves of it afterwards, then probably the PD was doing a good job again.

    What we know for certain is that the exact wording of the PD must be verbose as hell, with all sorts of sub-clausules and appendices. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find that there was a provision for just plain ignoring all the interference limitations when either the superiors so command or the captain deems the summary waiving as compatible with current UFP policy.

    Timo Saloniemi
  6. Philo

    Philo Commodore Commodore

    Nov 23, 2005
    Excellent interpretation, Timo. Not only is it extremely realistic within the fictional world (I love the political and bureaucratic complexity) but it also has the virtue of being able to work very well as a storytelling device.