Was rescuing Icheb a Prime Directive violation?

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Voyager' started by Tracy Trek, Nov 15, 2019.

  1. Tracy Trek

    Tracy Trek Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Since his people genetically engineered him as a weapon against the Borg to protect themselves.
     
  2. Santa Quark

    Santa Quark Admiral Admiral

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    I don’t see how. They already involved themselves bringing him back.
     
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  3. jmidnight_99

    jmidnight_99 Commander Red Shirt

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    Doesn't the prime directive only apply to non-warp capable cultures?
     
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  4. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I suppose technically Icheb's people could have claimed that what they did with him after Voyager returned him was an internal affair (e.g. Klingon Civil War).

    Of course, Icheb could then have requested asylum and we'd likely be in the same place we ended up in.
     
  5. Ghislaine H. B. BRAEME

    Ghislaine H. B. BRAEME Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Wasn't Icheb already a member of Voyager's crew for a litte while when the possibility of an eventual return in his family happened? If it was the case, Janeway and her crew only helped one of their members. So there was no violation of the Prime Directive. On the other hand, when she refused to deliver prisoners to the caretaker in charge of them, under the pretext they were going to be executed and that she was heartly opposed to this "cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment, Janeway committed a violation of the Prime Directive, by interfering in judicial system of a population, while the trials have been fairly conducted and the punishment for murders was the capital execution. She let her feelings overtaking her obligations as a Starfleet Captain.
     
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  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's a common misconception. The Prime Directive is a rule against imposing yourself on other cultures in ways that interfere with their freedom of choice. In the specific case of pre-contact cultures, that means not revealing yourself to them, because it would be a major disruption to their worldview and -- more importantly, though this part gets forgotten these days -- because it would create too much temptation for you to play God and try to meddle in their lives.

    But in the case of post-contact, starfaring cultures, the principle of non-interference still applies. We've seen this multiple times. In both TNG's Klingon Civil War ("Redemption") and DS9's Bajoran coup (at the start of season 2), Starfleet wasn't allowed to take sides in what was believed to be a strictly internal conflict, because that would be outside interference. It wasn't until the wars were discovered to be outside plots (by the Romulans in the former case and the Cardassians in the latter) that Starfleet was able to intervene to end the interference. In the case of Voyager, the Kazon were a warp-capable culture, but Janeway refused to let them have replicators and other advanced technology that would disrupt the local balance of power. Similarly, in "Prototype," Janeway said that helping the androids develop a way to reproduce would violate the PD -- whereas in "Counterpoint," she broke the PD by helping the persecuted telepaths escape the Devore. And in "Homestead," Tuvok said that it would violate the PD for him, a Starfleet officer, to lead the Talaxian colonists, but that it would be fine for Neelix, one of their own people, to do it. All these examples involved warp-capable cultures. The rule is, you can interact with them freely, but you don't impose your values on them or take sides in their internal conflicts. You can be a good neighbor and help where you can, but not to the point that it infringes on their freedom to choose their own path and solve their problems in their own way.

    The writers of TOS conceived the PD as a response to colonialism and cultural imperialism. It was about the principle that a powerful society shouldn't use its power coercively or without respect for the autonomy of other cultures. That applies as much to post-contact societies as pre-contact ones.
     
  7. Akiraprise

    Akiraprise Vice Admiral Moderator

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    Just re-watched this episode. Once Icheb voluntarily left the ship to rejoin his parents planet side he was no longer a member of the crew. By the book meddling by Starfleet, the Prime Directive, may have applied. In the eyes of Icheb's parents he was a weapon to be used against the Borg to save their race. This was clearly not a decision they took lightly. Why the Borg occasionally culled this planet without completely assimilating it has always been a nagging question for me.

    That being said there was no way Janeway, nor Picard, nor Sisko, nor any other Starfleet captain we regularly followed, would have ever allowed an assault against a friend and former crew member to stand. Regulations be damned.
     
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  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't buy that the PD forbids helping individuals. If someone from a post-contact society should, say, request asylum from the Federation, it's not a PD violation to grant it, because it doesn't change the culture itself, doesn't alter its political status quo or its balance of power or whatever. If they want to use one of their own as bait for the Borg, they can pick someone else besides Icheb. Saving Icheb doesn't take away the overall society's ability to do that to somebody else. Thus, the society's status quo is unchanged.

    There was a Malibu DS9 comic back in the day, written by Mike W. Barr, that had an issue much like this one. It had some escaped slaves from a Gamma Quadrant civilization requesting asylum from Sisko, with Sisko wrestling with whether it would violate the PD to grant them asylum. I felt that was interpreting the PD too strictly, because granting asylum to those individuals wouldn't materially alter the social order back on the planet they'd already escaped from.
     
  9. Kor

    Kor Admiral Admiral

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    The Prime Directive is a poorly defined and wildly inconsistent plot device that only applies when the writer of the episode/movie wants it to. In-universe, it can be explained that Starfleet Captains have some hand-wavy "broad discretionary judgment" regarding the PD, or something like that.

    I always thought the non-interference principal in the case of the Klingon Civil War was a completely separate matter from the Prime Directive, because during Picard's high-handed lectures, he tellingly did not specifically invoke the vaunted Prime Directive by name, as he was wont to do on so many other occasions.

    In this case, I think it's problematic that Janeway unilaterally interrupted a tactical operation that was being carried out by a sovereign planet in their own space against a monstrous force that everybody considers a threat. I'm not sure it has anything to do with the Prime Directive, though.

    Kor
     
  10. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    My assumption has been that 'don't contact non-warp-capable civilizations ' and 'don't get involved in internal affairs' were both pieces of the larger Prime Directive.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Why would it be, though? Non-interference is non-interference. It's not about freaking warp drive. Nobody ever mentioned warp drive as a Prime Directive parameter until TNG: "First Contact" in 1991, 24 years after the Directive was created. It's about not impeding the normal, free development of other societies. Societies don't stop developing when they start warping space.

    Besides, the principle has been referred to by multiple interchangeable names at various times -- Prime Directive, non-interference directive, General Order Number One. I've always assumed that G.O. #1 is its official legal name and "Prime Directive" is just sort of an informal description -- like how we use "Foreign Emoluments Clause" to refer to Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the US Constitution.


    Frankly, I wish the writers of TNG: "First Contact" had never put in those lines about the warp-drive requirement. Not only has it led to a lot of misunderstandings about where the PD applies, but it's a silly standard to use for defining a culture's knowledge of alien life. I think that most of the time, a civilization would get proof of alien life through telescopic observations or radio communication decades or centuries before they developed the means to warp spacetime. Or they could've been visited by aliens and been aware of life in the galaxy long before they invented their own FTL propulsion. So the writers of the episode just didn't think it through.
     
  12. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I always figured the warp drive part was because up until the aliens develop warp drive a face-to-face encounter isn't likely.

    Which kind of comes off as 'as long as we don't know about it, it doesn't count', but...there it is...
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Except with all the warp-capable civilizations whizzing around out there without Prime Directives, is that really a reasonable assumption? What's to stop the Klingons or Ferengi or Boslic or whoever from coming across a pre-warp planet and making contact with them, either for conquest or for trade? The Federation can only enforce the PD on its own people (and not even its own civilians if you believe TNG: "Angel One"), or protect pre-warp worlds within its territory. There are countless other starfarers out there who'd have no rules against making contact, so if anything it's rather implausible that there are so many uncontacted pre-warp worlds out there.

    I guess it's as I said, though -- the real reason behind the PD that tends to get ignored isn't that the natives are "too primitive to understand" alien life, but that Starfleet officers could be tempted to think their superior advancement entitles them to play God and benevolently intervene to "help" the natives, with such help likely to go badly wrong because an outsider can't understand the natives' needs or values as well as they do. So maybe the reason for the ban on contacting pre-warp worlds is to ensure a level playing field, so that temptation to feel superior isn't as strong.
     
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  14. Santa Quark

    Santa Quark Admiral Admiral

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    Warp drive is only defined as the line because once planets are warp capable they will meet other races anyway.

    If they just showed up, saw a kid being sacrificed and interfered it would violate the prime directive. But the fact that they already became involved, and they would not have had the chance to sacrifice Icheb had Voyager not brought him back, removes that issue in this case.
     
  15. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I mean, that's what I was implying with the second part of what I said. Not sure why you left that part out? But yeah, on deeper analysis the PD does seem as though to some degree it exists to make Starfleet feel better about itself rather than achieving something practical.
     
  16. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    i don't think that removes the issue in the sense that once Icheb's been returned to his own people, what they do with regards to him could now be considered an internal matter. You seem to be saying that if a bully steals a ball from kids, and I return the ball to the kids, and then they start playing with the ball in ways I don't approve of, that I can then take the ball back. It's still their ball.

    Of course, in this case the ball probably could moot the issue by requesting asylum.
     
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  17. Santa Quark

    Santa Quark Admiral Admiral

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    I’m saying, a person is not the property of their nation. Your ball is your property. Your child is a person with rights. Icheb being the same race of his world is immaterial. His experience with Voyager makes it not an internal matter.
     
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  18. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Given what the people of that world did to Icheb to begin with, I'm not sure they'd agree with your interpretation. Their POV would probably be more akin to Voyager having returned a desperately needed anti-Borg weapon to them, only to have them steal it themselves at the end of the episode. Yes, we perceive the weapon as a person, but that's only due to an accident of circumstance.
     
  19. Guy Gardener

    Guy Gardener Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    All the children were the same weapon.

    Seven must have of linked with a few of the kids, and she's infected as well.

    Innoculation.

    Unassimilatables.

    They did this on Stargate Atlantis. Innoculating people so that the Wraith couldn't eat entire planets, that the Wraith chose to frag.
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But that's too much of an oversimplification to be the strict boundary that it's portrayed to be. Like I said, there are multiple other ways a species could make first contact before developing warp drive, whether by telescopic observation and radio contact or by being visited by non-Federation space travelers. Or, heck, the Trek galaxy is littered with ruins from ancient races, so a civilization could learn about aliens by discovering their relics on their own planet or elsewhere in their star system.

    What I'm saying is that the boundary should be whether or not they've had prior contact with aliens, whether they're accustomed enough to the idea of alien life that they could take Federation contact in stride. Assuming that can be equated with the invention of warp drive is naive and simplistic.
     
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