Dec 10, 2018

The Prime Directive

9 comments

Spoiler for Latest Discovery short take episode.

 

How is the prime Directive used in Star Trek? As a writers tool to manufacture drama, lol. I can't think of an instance where it stopped anyone from doing anything. If anyone has an example of prime Directive being followed please share.

 

As for the last Discovery short take. If the Kelprians (?) Had seen ships only, using transporter might be a violation. The species take Saru's people aren't in Federation, so prime Directive doesn't apply to them. The idea that the federation is the galaxy's morality police is both unexplored in trek and a very disturbing idea. Flying telling everyone what is or isn't allowed sure seems culturally respectful, not really. It is a great way to make conflict however.

Dec 10, 2018

We're going to have to do a special episode just about the Prime Directive someday. I've never bought into it -- I don't understand what the benefit is to anyone involved. If the Federation has the ability to cure cancer and provide technology that solves the problem of resource scarcity is it moral to withhold that in order to protect the potential recipients' culture? How does the Federation even define "culture" in this context? This has always struck me as similar to claiming that the reason I won't help solve the problem of homeless veterans is because they have a unique culture and I don't want to interfere with its development -- a position I don't think anyone would find morally just. I'm not sure the Federation really acts as the galaxy's morality police. In fact, I think the Prime Directive is set up to precisely to prevent the Federation from acting in that capacity (even if we see our captains breaking the Prime Directive without consequence ALL THE TIME). Otherwise, the Federation would intervene here to protect the Kelpiens from being enslaved (or eaten?) and would likewise put an end to the Orion slave trade. I don't know if we have any instances of the Federation facing the choice of preventing a third party from perpetrating a genocide, but my sense is that the Federation would let it happen -- that the Federation would have sat out the Second World War and the Kosovo War. Indeed, the Federation strikes me as Calvin Coolidge's utopia -- all Federation citizens are rich, and while the Federation looks around for new opportunities to incorporate other like-minded societies into its cultural and economic world and actively colonizes uninhabited planets, it is otherwise isolationist regarding the imperial powers or any other civilization that has different cultural practices.

Dec 11, 2018

It's the lack of consequence that makes the Prime Directive toothless. As a general policy to keep some random freighter captain from setting up their own religion on a planet it seems to be at least a start. Stargate SG1 did a better job tackling some of these issues over it's long run.

Dec 11, 2018

@Daniel Falch Haha, yes, that's a fair assessment -- I wasn't at all thinking about private individuals, but of course the Nazi Planet episode of TOS is exactly about this. (And also that Firefly episode: "Captain, when do we get to go the planet where I'm a hero?). I share your general frustration with the toothlessness of the Prime Directive, but I think it's just a symptom of Star Trek being about a small band of adventurers and not about the government that funds them. We still don't even know how the Federation President is chosen, who is on the Federation Council and what it does, etc. This is all frustrating, but of course trying to find answers to these questions in a fifty-year canon with hundreds of different creators is part of the fun.

 

And Stargate is something we need to do over on Patreon -- I can't believe it wasn't even on my radar when we made our plans for the first Discovery hiatus.

Dec 12, 2018

@Glenn I think the lack of consequence is mainly because Star Trek has been episodic television. I also believe they missed opportunities to explore these topics.

 

The lack of background on the Federation is my main complaint when someone references Trek as a desirable future. We have no idea what an average persons day is like.

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Dec 20, 2018

Janeway ends up having it turned on her in Prime Factors, which I always found interesting. Is there anywhere the PD is spelled out (by show writers or Rodenberry etc)? I do not remember. It always seems to be "more of a guideline" (yes, for writing purposes). Perhaps Lt. Georgiou's argument to SF for retrieving Saru was similar to Kirk in Return of the Archons in that because of this harvest agreement, the Kelpians are not a "living and growing' culture (as they are not. The entire basis of the arrangement appears to be to keep the "balance", code word IMO for "status quo").

Dec 22, 2018

I don't think they've ever really spelled it out, and even if they have somewhere it isn't "on screen" and therefore can itself be violated by writers since it wouldn't be canonical. I agree with your assessment that the Prime Directive shouldn't really apply because the Kelpien culture is already being interfered with by other space aliens. But I'd love to see that holophone call Lt. Georgiou made to Starfleet! I'd forgotten about Prime Factors. I think we'll have to try to cover that episode in 2019.

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