I was reading the Prime Directive article article on Memory Alpha and came upon an entry having to do with the Deep Space Nine episode "Tacking Into the Wind". In this episode, Worf (a Starfleet officer) single-handedly affects a regime change in the Klingon Empire, of which he is a citizen. The Memory Alpha article seems to list this as a potential Prime Directive violation, but I'm not so sure.

Now, if Captain Sisko were to travel to Qo'noS and depose Gowron, then I don't think there's any question that it would be considered a violation of the Prime Directive. However, is there any indication that a Starfleet officer who is a citizen of a civilization that becomes involved in the internal matters of their civilization is in violation of the Prime Directive? Is Worf in violation of the Prime Directive when he removes Chancellor Gowron from power? Or, as a Klingon citizen, would he have the right to participate in Klingon matters as he deems appropriate?

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    Possible duplicate of Who is bound to the Prime Directive?
    – NKCampbell
    May 3, 2017 at 19:19
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    Aren't all these examples members of the culture in question?
    – Radhil
    May 3, 2017 at 19:20
  • @NKCampbell: I don't see how that question is a duplicate, or contains an answer that addresses what I've asked.
    – Ellesedil
    May 3, 2017 at 19:22
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    I'm going to vote to leave open, because the other question is "Who in the universe is bound to follow it?" and this question is more a subset of "In which circumstances must they follow it?" but I think this one would be improved by specifically asking about "Was Worf's killing of Gowron a violation of the Prime Directive?"
    – user31178
    May 3, 2017 at 20:11
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    Gowron's death wasn't the only time Worf killed somebody and affected who would become the next Klingon leader. The first time was when he killed Duras in the episode, Reunion, which led to Gowron becoming chancellor.
    – RichS
    May 3, 2017 at 21:54

4 Answers 4


No, the Prime Directive does not apply to this case.

The Prime Directive prohibits Starfleet personnel from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations. This law applies to civilizations below a certain threshold of technological, scientific and cultural development. The purpose is to prevent starship crews from using their superior technology to impose their own values or ideals on them.

The Klingon Empire is on par with Federation technology, so the Prime Directive does not apply to it even though it is not a Federation member. Worf as a citizen of the Klingon Empire is allowed to participate in Klingon culture in ways that other Starfleet officers could not. Klingon culture allows people to challenge leaders to a fight to the death. No other Starfleet officer (to my best knowledge) could get away with killing Gowron because no other is Klingon.

Federation laws about murder, assassination, and the like don't apply here because the Klingons will see this as an internal dispute not governed by Federation laws. That goes for the Prime Directive as well.

In summary, he is not violating the Prime Directive because any of these reasons would apply.

  1. The Klingon Empire is already at a sufficient technological level.
  2. He is a Klingon citizen and may participate in its laws affecting how Klingons choose leaders. (Just as French citizens may vote to choose the next president of France, but non-French citizens may not.)
  3. Federation laws don't apply to internal disputes within other civilizations.
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    The Bajorans have a sufficient level of technological and cultural development? I mean, they've already made contact with aliens and they seem perfectly familiar with warp tech and the like. Granted the Cardassians may have "interfered" and uplifted them prior to Star Fleet's taking over DS9, but the Cardassians are not part of the Federation and therefore not subject to the PD.
    – Steve-O
    May 3, 2017 at 20:47
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    @Ellesedil I would say Worf is allowed because he is a Klingon citizen. Picard was specifically requested by a dying Klingon chancellor, K'mpec, to participate in choosing the next Klingon chancellor. Hardly interference if the leader of the Klingons requests his specific help in a specific duty.
    – RichS
    May 3, 2017 at 21:11
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    @Ellesedil You wrote: "your answer ignores all of these things and simply focuses on the Klingon's perspective." Your question does not ask about when Sisko affected the Romulans, so why would you expect somebody to mention that? Your question only asks about when Worf killed Gowron. Don't expect people to answer a different question than what you asked.
    – RichS
    May 3, 2017 at 22:46
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    @Ellesedil A few people have said that the Prime Directive applies to higher technology cultures as well. If that's the case, somebody needs to present some evidence. I've seen all the Star Trek shows and movies at least once, and I don't remember that being implied.
    – DCShannon
    May 3, 2017 at 23:27
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    @DCShannon: The Prime Directive prevents interference with other cultures. Full stop. This does appear to be something Gene Roddenbury changed during TNG compared to TOS. But there are examples.
    – Ellesedil
    May 4, 2017 at 0:26

It might have been a violation of the Prime Directive, but it may have been waived/disregarded in this situation

We know from several (especially TNG) episodes that the Prime Directive includes a general non-interference policy. Therefore, Starfleet cannot interfere in internal affairs of other (even warp-capable) civilizations. We do not know how does the Prime Directive deals with dual-citizenship of its officers, as this varies from episode to episode.

Being formally a violation or not, Worf was under orders to interfere:

WORF: It would not be the first time that a Klingon Chancellor put his own interests ahead of the greater good.

SISKO: Something has to be done.

WORF: Agreed. And I do have a solution. But it will not be easy.

SISKO: Do whatever it takes, Mister Worf. Those Klingon ships out there are the only thing between us and the Breen. Gowron is risking the safety of the entire Alpha Quadrant and he has to stop.

WORF: Understood.

Although it was not an explicit order to kill Gowron, it can be assumed, especially after the events of In the Pale Moonlight, that Worf was given a free hand in this matter. He tried to persuade Martok to challenge Gowron, and even tried to talk to Gowron during the meeting. As there was no one to challenge him or to change his mind, he has taken the matter in his own hands. He challenged Gowron as a Klingon, and not as a Starfleet officer (which has been recognized at least by Gowron and himself).

GOWRON: I should have known better than to trust you again. If you were a true Klingon, I would kill you where you stand. Fortunately for you, that child's uniform shields you from your rightful fate. (Worf takes off his comm. badge.)

WORF: What I say now, I say as a member of the House of Martok, not a Starfleet officer. You have dishonoured yourself and the Empire and you are not worthy to lead the Council.

GOWRON: There can be only one answer to that. (Gowron throws his cloak on the table, and the pair take bat'leths from the wall displays.)

We do not have any knowledge or reprimands or other punishment that was given to Worf after these events, and if they were, I believe they would have been referenced in the next episodes, as it was an important matter. Therefore, I believe that Starfleet has not considered it a violation of the Prime Directive.

  • Yeah, I'm kind of cautious of Sisko's dialog in that scene. Worf has clearly already considered the problem, has a solution, and appears willing to implement it. Sisko doesn't really need to order him to do anything, but Sisko may need to tell Worf that he's not going to get in the way before Worf acts. Honestly, I kind of hate Sisko's dialog there.
    – Ellesedil
    May 4, 2017 at 16:59

Worf is a Klingon citizen. He was born on the Klingon homeworld. His family was (at one point) highly honored in the empire, with his brother serving on the High Council. He never renounced his citizenship. Though he was stripped of his status in the empire after refusing to fight the Dominion, his citizenship was not revoked. And after rescuing General Martok, Worf was accepted by Martok into his house. Considering all this, his actions as such would not violate the Prime Directive. The Federation recognizes and respects the unique political and cultural traditions of their member races. And Klingons aren't even a member race, so they would have even less jurisdiction in this case. He was acting as a Klingon in an internal Klingon matter.

  • I won't agree. There are real-world situations where a dual-citizen of countries A and B will not be allowed by the A's law to, for example, serve in B's army and can be prosecuted for that even it was perfectly legal in B. Of course, it will be only effective if he ever comes back to A's jurisdiction. Therefore, without proper sources, we cannot assume that Worf can do whatever he wants on his Klingon password and then come back to Federation. Note that there is Federation/Starfleet and Bajoran jurisdiction over the station, unless Klingon meeting room was exterritorial ;) May 5, 2017 at 6:25
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    True, but there is precedence for this situation. He was responsible for installing Gowron in the first place, killing Duras. He was acting under orders to prevent Gowron from wasting more resources by speaking out against Gowron's plan. Gowron initiated the challenge (unofficially by saying "if you weren't wearing that uniform..."), and Worf accepted it. And the Klingon meeting room would probably have been treated the same as an embassy, either permanently as a Klingon installation, or temporarily due to the presence of the chancellor of the Klingon empire.
    – Jonathan
    May 9, 2017 at 18:58

we can't know, because we do not have the text of the prime directive, nor is the prime directive consistently depicted within or across star trek series.

the argument that worf is acting as a klingon citizen seems intuitively compelling, but with no actual law to evaluate his actions by, we can't truly know that.

the strongest indication that he has not violated the prime directive is that, surely someone would have mentioned it if he had. it's meant to be rather a big deal.

but the show simply does not give us the information to make a conclusive in-universe call.

  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – fez
    Mar 3 at 8:14
  • @fez i very obviously cant cite this sort of a negative. what do you want me to do, post a transcript of every single episode and the full text of every canon material and say, "as you can see here, we are never provided with the precise wording of the prime directive"? most of the rest of my answer is variations of material in other answers provided, which nobody else seems to find controversial. nobody would reasonably dispute that worf is a klingon citizen, or that he is not punished for his actions in this episode.
    – Esther
    Mar 4 at 9:04
  • I left that comment from review because you’ve written “nor is the prime directive consistently depicted”, and so including a few quotes from a few different episodes proving this would benefit and improve your answer
    – fez
    Mar 4 at 10:10

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