Trek Talk: Is the Prime Directive Ethical?

Trek Talk: A new series of blog posts where I talk about Star Trek.


For those unfamiliar with Trek, the Prime Directive (or General Order One) states the following:

No starship may interfere with the normal development of any alien life or society.

Sounds great on paper, but sometimes in practice??? Not so much.

On a typical Friday night, I’m usually watching some flavor of Star Trek. The other night I got together with some friends for dinner and The Next Generation was on in the background, as you do.

The episode in question is Season 2: Episode 15 — Pen Pals, in which Data somewhat accidentally on purpose starts exchanging messages with an unknown individual in a nearby, non-spacefaring planetary system. He is intentionally ambiguous about his own identity during these radio comm links, but he realizes that by communicating with this person at all he is breaking the Prime Directive.

As the Enterprise approaches the planet, they realize it is in serious volcanic turmoil and will soon destroy itself. Oops. So now Data is emotionally involved in the situation and wants to save his friend. Ruroh. Can we see where this is going? Continue reading

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