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This question mentions General Order 24, which supposedly allows a Starfleet Captain to order the destruction of all life on a planet. Looking at the linked Memory Alpha page, that appears to be based primarily on the TOS episode "A Taste of Armageddon" though it also mentions "Whom Gods Destroy".

But here's the thing: does General Order 24 actually exist? It seems rather out of character for Starfleet, even in the days of the original series; I always assumed that Kirk was bluffing and Scotty was playing along.

I don't remember much about "Whom Gods Destroy" and there's nothing in the Wiki page that obviously suggests any connection to the putative General Order 24, so I'm thinking that might just have been an assumption on the part of whoever wrote that particular article.


NB: I'm looking for direct-from-original-canon evidence, e.g., if there's a quote from Whom Gods Destroy which explicitly mentions General Order 24, that would be sufficient to prove that it exists. Conversely, if the screenplay for "A Taste" has stage directions along the lines of "Scotty looks puzzled" that would pretty much confirm that it doesn't. Or a quote from one of the writers or directors would do.

I'm not going to be too picky, mind you, I just ask that you don't quote Memory Alpha back at me when it is Memory Alpha's accuracy that I'm questioning. :-)

  • It is directly identified in Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours - the almost canon prequel book to Star Trek Discovery – NKCampbell Dec 8 '17 at 1:08
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    ANAN: Unless you immediately start transportation of all personnel aboard your ship to the surface, the hostages will be killed. You have thirty minutes. I mean it, Captain. KIRK: All that it means is that I won't be around for the destruction. You heard me give General Order Twenty Four. That means in two hours the Enterprise will destroy Eminiar Seven. - A Taste of Armageddon – Valorum Dec 8 '17 at 1:20
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    KIRK: And tried to destroy Antos Four. SPOCK: Why? GARTH: Well, I could say because they were actively hostile to the Federation. - Whom Gods Destroy – Valorum Dec 8 '17 at 1:22
  • The mentions of General Order 24 in "A Taste of Armageddon" do not mention justifications and do not say General Order 24 is limited to planets inhabited by intelligent life or to planets with culturally contaminated societies. If Memory Alpha says that they are making stuff up. – M. A. Golding Dec 13 '17 at 7:01
  • @M.A.Golding, I've just double-checked the linked question and it looks like that idea wasn't from Memory Alpha. Instead, it came from here which appears to be a fan-fiction site written in the style of a reference site. I'll edit accordingly. – Harry Johnston Dec 13 '17 at 8:22
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According to memory and the Star Trek Transcripts site: in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" Kirk gives a similar order.

After Mitchell escapes from the facility on Delta Vega, Dr. Piper revives Kirk.

PIPER: It hit me, too, whatever it was. Kelso is dead, strangled. At least Spock's alive.

KIRK: Doctor Dehner?

PIPER: She went with Mitchell.

KIRK: Don't give him a pill until after I'm gone. It's my fault Mitchell got as far as he did. Did you see their direction?

PIPER: Yes, there was some morning light. They were headed across the valley, to the left of the pointed peaks. There's flatlands beyond.

KIRK: When Mister Spock recovers, you'll both transport up immediately to the Enterprise.

PIPER: But Captain

KIRK: If you have not received a signal from me within twelve hours, you'll proceed at maximum warp to the nearest Earth base with my recommendation that this entire planet be subjected to a lethal concentration of neutron radiation. No protest on this, Mark. That's an order.

Nobody knows how much life is on Delta Vega, which Kirk does call desolate on stardate 1313.1. But the oxygen in the breathable atmosphere would almost certainly be created by plants, lots of plants in more lush regions of the planet.

The effects of this recommendation, if carried out, would have been similar to that of General Order 24.

On Eminiar 7 in "A Taste of Armageddon":

KIRK: I'm not interested in discussing our differences. You don't seem to realise the risk you're taking. We don't make war with computers and herd the casualties into suicide stations. We make the real thing, Councilman. I could destroy this planet.

Later:

ANAN: Open a channel to the Enterprise. You give me no choice, Captain. We are not bandits, but you force us to act as bandits.

SCOTT [OC]: This is the USS Enterprise.

KIRK: Scotty, General Order Twenty Four. Two hours! In two hours!

ANAN: Enterprise, this is Anan Seven, First Councilman of the High Council of Eminiar.

[Bridge]

ANAN [OC]: We hold your Captain, his party, your Ambassador and his party prisoners.

[Council Room]

ANAN: Unless you immediately start transportation of all personnel aboard your ship to the surface, the hostages will be killed. You have thirty minutes. I mean it, Captain.

KIRK: All that it means is that I won't be around for the destruction. You heard me give General Order Twenty Four. That means in two hours the Enterprise will destroy Eminiar Seven.

Later:

[Bridge]

SCOTT: Open a channel, Lieutenant. This is the commander of the USS Enterprise.

[Council Room]

SCOTT [OC]: All cities and installations on Eminiar Seven have been located, identified, and fed into our fire-control system. In one hour and forty five minutes

[Bridge]

SCOTT: The entire inhabited surface of your planet will be destroyed

[Council Room]

SCOTT: You have that long to surrender your hostages.

Later:

KIRK: Kirk to Enterprise. Come in, Scotty.

SCOTT [OC]: Aye, Captain, are you all right?

KIRK: Everything's secure here. Maintain position. If everything goes according to plan, you can beam us up in ten minutes. If you don't hear from us, carry out General Order Twenty Four on schedule.

SCOTT [OC]: Aye, aye, Captain. Is there anything else we can do?

If Kirk tells Scott to carry out General Order 24 on Schedule, that means that Scott is not already carrying it out by bluffing. Therefore General Order 24 should be real. But if General Order 24 is to bluff, what Kirk says could be part of the Bluff and not real orders to Scott. Arrgh.

And later, after Anana and Ambassador Fox leave the room:

KIRK: Kirk to Enterprise. Scotty?

SCOTT [OC]: Scott here, Captain.

KIRK: Cancel implementation of General Order Twenty Four. Alert transporter room. We're ready to beam up.

The dialog of Kirk and Spock proves that "general order 24" exists, although whether it is a Starfleet general order to devastate a planet or a code to fool enemies with a bluff is uncertain.

In "Errand of Mercy" Kirk tells the Organians Starfleet has the right__:

AYELBORNE: To wage war, Captain? To kill millions of innocent people? To destroy life on a planetary scale? Is that what you're defending?

IRK: Well, no one wants war. But there are proper channels. People have a right to handle their own affairs. Eventually, we would have

AYELBORNE: Oh, eventually you will have peace, but only after millions of people have died. It is true that in the future, you and the Klingons will become fast friends. You will work together.

Neither Kirk or Kor denies Ayelborne's claim that millions would die and life would be destroyed in a planetary scale if the Organians didn't step in to stop the war.

In "Bread and Circuses" Proconsul Claudius Marcus on planet 4 of star system 862 has learned a lot about the Federation from Captain Merik of the SS Beagle.

CLAUDIUS: But on the other hand, why even bother to send your men down? From what I understand, your vessel could lay waste to the entire surface of the world. Oh, but there's that Prime Directive in the way again. Can't interfere.

http://www.chakoteya.net/StarTrek/episodes.htm 1

So it seems to be rather common knowledge in the Federation that a starship can devastate the entire surface of a planet in times of war with other space traveling realms or other situations where the Prime Directive doesn't apply.

So did Kirk and Scott think that the situation of Eminiar 7 justified possibly devastating the entire planet, which would mean that General Order 24 was a real Starfleet order to do so under certain justifying circumstances, or was General Order 24 some bluff that Kirk had arranged to use in emergencies?

There are many other discussion of General Order 24.

https://www.trekbbs.com/threads/a-question-about-the-episode-a-taste-of-armageddon.289387/ 2

https://www.trekbbs.com/threads/general-order-24-were-kir-kand-scotty-bluffing.224323/ 3

https://www.trekbbs.com/threads/does-general-order-24-exist-in-tng.240136 4

Is Starfleet Order 24 feasible? 5

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    I don't think your first example is particularly relevant, since there is no intelligent life on the planet other than those under Federation jurisdiction. But it does sound as though I'm misremembering Armageddon. +1, though I won't accept just yet - I'll see if I can find time to rewatch it this weekend. :-) – Harry Johnston Dec 8 '17 at 3:25
  • rewatching Armageddon is a good idea since the transcript might possibly be flawed - though the episode might be cut. I think that "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is relevant since it shows they would devastate a planet with no native intelligent life, while "Errand of Mercy" is relevant because it shows they would devastate a planet with native intelligent life during war. So the question is does the situation in "Armageddon" justify planetary devastation or not. – M. A. Golding Dec 8 '17 at 5:50
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    Of course, if we believe the Wrath of Kahn to be an accurate portrayal of crew behaviors, we know that Kirk can conjure up a bluff and layered deception on a whim and his crew will seamlessly divine the intentions, and vice versa. So it's plausible that is all this order 24 business is: a spontaneous bluff/deception which they would only ever reveal the reality of to the few they deem trustworthy. – zibadawa timmy Dec 8 '17 at 6:59
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    Kirk has a habit of elaborate bluffs - See the knowing gaze the bridge crew give each other when Kirk announces the use of their Corbomite Device in The Deadly Years – VBartilucci May 16 '18 at 15:21
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Note that in "A Taste of Armageddon", when Scotty threatens to destroy the planet, Uhura acts shocked, even though she was there when the instructions for "General Order 24" were received from Kirk. If she had been shocked when the instruction was received, that would make sense, since presumably she would know what they meant. But she was only shocked when the threat was issued, which to me means it was a bluff, and she was not in on it.

However, I do see a need for a real "General Order 24". Take the TOS episode "Operation -- Annihilate!" where parasites were controlling the minds of people on entire planets, and forcing those people to help spread the parasites to other planets. Fortunately, all it took was some UV light to kill the parasites and leave the people unharmed. But suppose there was no such solution? Wouldn't they have had to consider wiping out infected planets to save the rest?

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    I find the argument in your first paragraph weak; there's no reason to presume she knows what "General Order 24" is. Scotty is both a couple of ranks higher than Uhura and further up in the ship's command structure. It's entirely possible there are orders and protocols she is not privy to the details of. – T.J.L. Oct 23 '18 at 12:50
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    Especially given that she's a communications officer and thus not generally in the business of genocide. – Ummdustry Oct 23 '18 at 15:48
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    @Ummdustry and chief engineer is? – Basya Oct 28 '19 at 8:40
  • @basya No matter who's ordering the genocide, they're ultimately going to need the chief engineers help to carry it out. – Ummdustry Nov 4 '19 at 0:00

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