In Descent Part I, Admiral Nechayev arrives on the Enterprise and says the following to Picard (emphasis added):

NECHAYEV: As I understand, it you found a single Borg at a crash site ...and eventually found a way to send it back to the Borg with a programme that would have destroyed the entire collective once and for all... Now I want to make it clear that if you have a similar opportunity in the future, an opportunity to destroy the Borg, you are under orders to take advantage of it.

According to Memory Alpha, genocide is defined as:

a deliberate, systematic destruction of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.

While the Borg are made up of thousands of species and therefore have no race, ethnicity or religion to speak of, it is easy to see that they are a nation unto themselves.

Given this, did Nechayev order that Picard should commit genocide?

Follow up: One of the tenets of the Prime Directive is not:

Taking actions to generally affect a society's overall development

If the Admiral DID order genocide, was it a legal order in light of the Prime Directive and considering that killing the entire species would obviously affect it's development?

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    1. Obviously. The question is whether it was the right thing to do in light of the thousands of species that the Borg intend to destroy. 2. The Prime Directive does not apply to civilizations more technologically advanced than the Federation.
    – Adamant
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 3:50
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    According to Picard's moral compass, yes. That is exactly the reason he decided not to go through with it. I'm sure many more Federation citizens besides Nechayev would disagree with his choice. Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 4:26
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    @Adamant - The Prime directive has two parts; 1) Not contacting civilisations that are pre-warp and 2) Not interfering with non-Federation species.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 10:08
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    @colmde I disagree. Firing on a suspect in the commission of a crime is one thing. Hunting down and killing his entire terror cell, coworkers, family and friends is another thing altogether. A borg cube has a crew compliment of up to 130,000 drones. Only two cubes ever presented a real danger to the Federation. This means that literally trillions of borg would die for the actions of a tiny fraction of their race
    – geewhiz
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 14:01
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    Are the Borg a nation, species, or even a population? They exist as a collective separately embodied single consciousness... more like an (insanely intelligent) individual than a population. Upshot: perhaps the admiral ordered Picard to commit murder.
    – Lexible
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 16:33

1 Answer 1


Admiral Nechayev ordered a Genocide, but did not violate the Prime Directive.

As is also noted in Memory Alpha, the Prime Directive has various exceptions, including:

  • Societies already in diplomatic negotiations with the Federation.

  • Already contaminated cultures where the Federation could potentially "repair" the contamination.

  • Distress calls targeted directly at Federation Vessels.

  • Societies that hail or attack a Federation vessel.

The Borg had already attacked Federation vessels, exempting them from the Prime Directive.

BUT: Although this exemption might justify the order in the eyes of Starfleet command, it does not exempt the commanding officer (or Starfleet itself) from the ethical dilemma of Genocide. This debate is best illustrated in the TNG episode "I, Borg" (S05E23), where the crew debates the morality of using an individualized Borg as a delivery system for a virus (essentially a biological weapon for the Borg).

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