ionscifi's picture
Strange New Directive
Posted By:

While we were relieved that Strange New Worlds' pilot episode felt like a return to real Star Trek, it may have been short-lived.

The second is an improvement in that Uhura gets over her pilot episode fangirl giddiness but unfortunately we see The Prime Directive retconned and also some weak writing.

Increasing phaser frequency to cause resonance and shatter shields?

If shields could be so easily taken down, it would be a useless technology.

Queue eye-rolling.

Also Pike's "crazy space monks" quip sounded more like it was channeling The Orville's Ed Mercer than a duly respectful Starfleet captain on the bridge.

The Prime Directive

Any Trekkie could tell you that the Prime Directive is an article of near absolute prohibition against interference by Starfleet in the affairs of other civilizations.

A contentious and often revisited aspect is how it applies to pre-warp civilizations under threat of extinction.

It applies.

In the TNG seventh season episode "Homeward", it is said that Starfleet had allowed 60 races to die out rather than interfere with their fate. However, in the episodes "Homeward" and "Pen Pals", the crew debates the Prime Directive and the saving of civilizations.

But in this episode, it doesn't.

Pike: The Federation doesn't interfere in the development of species, but we also don't just let them die.

A comet - which may or may not be more than just a comet - is on a collision course with an inhabited, pre-warp planet.

Other Star Trek episodes and films have shown us characters violating the Prime Directive to save civilizations in similar circumstances, but the point of those stories is to demonstrate that they are violations.

With this being a prequel there is the possibility that the Prime Directive - which the previous episode established is still going by General Order One - hasn't been applied to the extinction scenario yet.

But in the context of a multi-billion dollar franchise desperately trying to re-affirm its identity after two series which alienated the fan base, you can't drop a deviant thread like this into an episode and assume that fans will stick around to see it properly resolved in a later one.

Especially with a weekly release format.

Discovery suffered from similar problems and rather than being resolved in following episodes the deviations just kept piling up.

Did Anyone Else Notice?

Indeed they did but with varying takes.

Trek News:

We’re not saying we wouldn’t want to save the people of Persephone III, but isn’t it a bit strange Pike or any of his crew never considered that they shouldn’t interfere with the planet’s destruction because of the Prime Directive?

Pike has a line of dialogue that made me cheer out loud: “The Federation doesn’t interfere in the development of species, but we also don’t just let them die.” That is a gleeful spit in the eye to previous incarnations of Trek that thought that letting the heroes of Starfleet condemn entire planets to death and not help people in trouble is the sort of thing Trek should ever be doing.

By the way, even though episodes of Next Generation like “Homeward” established that in the 24th century the Prime Directive would disallow interfering to save civilization from a natural disaster even without their knowledge, that wasn’t necessarily the case in the 23rd century. In fact, it was only in the previous episode that Starfleet renamed General Order One as “The Prime Directive,” which will apparently evolve over time.

Also in the previous episode, Spock made a point of Starfleet having inherited Vulcan's first contact procedures, i.e. they were neither new nor untested.

What do we think is right?

Let's Get Logical

Applying present day legal and moral standards, failure to prevent an individual's death if you have the power do so generally constitutes either murder or manslaughter.

By that standard, Starfleet should intercede to save threatened pre-warp civilizations.

Though actions which unintentionally and indirectly result in the death of others can also constitute manslaughter, if that risk could reasonably have been forseen.

In Star Trek: Voyager episode Dragon's Teeth, Seven violates Starfleet protocols and awakens an alien in cryostasis from an unknown culture.

Janeway: Seven, what are you doing?

Seven: I've activated the reanimation sequence. He may be able to provide us with answers.

Tuvok: We don't know anything about this species. They could be hostile.

Seven: Most humanoid cultures are.

Janeway: Remind me to reacquaint you with away mission protocols.

This culture wasn't pre-warp so the Prime Directive doesn't prohibit his awakening but as it happens, this culture had been and would again become a plague on the quadrant.

Seven: By awakening Gedrin, I initiated a chain of events that nearly led to our destruction. I wanted to help revive a civilisation, not start a war.

Janeway: You thought you were acting out of compassion. I might have done the same thing. But that doesn't make it right, Seven. The repercussions of this could be catastrophic.

Seven: Their technology is nine centuries out of date. Their plans for conquest are irrelevant.

Janeway: They're a resourceful species, determined. They'll adapt. I doubt we've seen the last of them.

The implication is that the referenced but not detailed Starfleet protocols for this scenario might include learning everything about the people in stasis before making a decision about their revival.

And not reviving them if they're deemed to constitute a risk to others.

Starfleet can't predict what pre-warp civilizations will become or commit to monitoring and policing every one which they save.

They are also a major military power committed to strict non-interference and we may not be able to predict the cost of slackening this standard.

So we agree with the pre-STN Prime Directive.

Whether STN is showing us a less evolved Prime Directive or simply rewriting canon remains to be seen, but either way we think STN is swimming in dangerous waters.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is available on Paramount+ with new episodes releasing weekly.

[ Main Image: Star Trek Strange New Worlds. Credit: ]

References Star Trek: Voyager - S06E07 Dragon's Teeth. (viewed May 15, 2022)

DeCandido, Keith R.A. (May 12, 2022). “We’ve got a planet to save before breakfast” — Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: “Children of the Comet”.

Hadyniak, Kyle (May 12, 2022). Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 2 “Children Of The Comet” Review: Welcome Aboard, Cadet Uhura. Trek News.

Memory Alpha. Prime Directive. (viewed May 15, 2022)

Pascale, Anthony (May 12, 2022). Recap/Review: ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Sets The Right Course In “Children Of The Comet”.

TV Show Transcripts (May 12, 2022). Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - S01E02 Children of the Comet

Wikipedia. Prime Directive. (viewed May 15, 2022)