The Prime Directive is

...a guiding principle of the United Federation of Planets prohibiting the protagonists from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations.

This is more about communicating with pre-warp societies.

In Star Trek: Discovery S1:E5 "Choose Your Pain", we hear:

Saru: I have much to attend to, and I could use your help with one thing.

Burnham: Of course.

Saru: Dr. Culber believes the Tardigrade is sentient. It remains in a state of cryptobiosis. We have no claim on its soul. Go save its life, Burnham. That's an order.


I'm trying to understand the ethical reasoning from a Star Trek perspective. Perhaps another directive applies.

My question is:

Does using Ripper in Star Trek: Discovery violate the prime directive?

  • I suppose this could also be Saru's own moral opinion.
    – Adamant
    Dec 11, 2017 at 23:55
  • You found a definition of the Prime Directive? You’ve done better than anyone else, then — as far as I know, it’s never actually been shown or quoted in any published Star Trek work. Dec 12, 2017 at 14:04
  • thanks - that's helpful - I've updated the question.
    – hawkeye
    Dec 13, 2017 at 11:48

1 Answer 1


It does not violate the Prime Directive, it is unethical for other reasons

Not all ethics are part of the Prime Directive, indeed having a Prime Directive implies other Directives.

The tardigrade is an individual not a society, the ethics governing its use as a component are, as stated, because it is sentient. That is "able to perceive and feel things" it is not a non-sentient machine or or a biological mechanism. The applicable current ethic which would not have vanished from human/federation thought by the 23rd century is as follows:

The philosopher Immanuel Kant said that rational human beings should be treated as an end in themselves and not as a means to something else. A logical extension of this is is that even non-rational non-human sentient life should have the right not to be treated as 'things' ie non-sentient objects.

How much any rule or ethic however noble survives wartime expediency is partly what Star Trek Discovery is exploring.

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