In season two episode 15 data finds out a planet would be destroyed unless the enterprise intervenes. But doing so will violate the prime directive.

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    This is more philosophical than Star Trek-specific, lol. You're better off generalizing this question into an abstract form and ask it in the philosophy-or-something SE Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 2:25
  • But people in the future are going to make Star Trek a religion. Then there are going to be people who go into space (or stay on earth) and base their decisions on the prime directive. They're going to let other people civilizations die rather than break the sacred rule. Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 6:13
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    1) Go to philosophy.stackexchange.com 2) Join community 3) Ask a question 4) In the description, quote the Prime Directive of Star Trek and list its tenets, then ask "Is it ethical to let an entire civilization die rather than violate the prime directive?" 5) Submit. Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 6:58
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    Your question strictly belongs in the philosophical school of ethics and morality. My only direct contribution would be this quote: "Do we bend the rules in service to a greater good? And if we do, what does it say of us?" - Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, Mentor of the Levantine Brotherhood of Assassins and Grand Master of the Order of Assassins. Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 7:02

1 Answer 1


It depends on how you consider "ethical" vs "moral"

The intent behind the Prime Directive is to allow civilisations to grow unimpeded from external influence. The strict interpretation is while they may observe, the course of the civilisation must be the same as if the Federation was not present.

To follow the Prime Directive based on that premise, then the Enterprise should not have saved the planet, irrespective of whether or not they could do so without being discovered. The follow on effect is, what other civilisations may now be impacted a thousand years hence, because this one exists when it otherwise shouldn't have?

You can run that around in logic circles for as long as you like, but I think the Federation has a duty to save civilisations where they can, ensuring that the natural development is not diverted from how it would have been if the natural disaster had not taken place.

So while ethically, the right thing to do is to let civilisations die, morally, the Enterprise did the right thing.

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    +1 for pointing out that the Prime Directive is just one of several directives in a whole complex system of ethics.
    – user867
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 6:57

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