In season 2, episode 6 "The Sound of Thunder",

Discovery visits Saru's home planet and directly interferes with the balance of power on the planet. Two sentient species evolved on the planet - Saru's species (the Kelpians) and the Ba'ul. It was revealed that Saru's species undergo an evolution process which renders them extremely violent. In the past, the Ba'ul were almost entirely wiped out by this evolution.
To save their own species, the Ba'ul set up a religion ("the great balance") which allowed the Kelpians to live full, rich lives until they reached the point that they evolve into the apex predator at which point they were euthanized. Previously on the show, it is revealed that Saru can run at ridiculously fast speeds. In this episode it is revealed that Kelpians have extreme physical strength and the ability to fire lethal projectiles at their victims. Saru has been acting with extreme rage and irrationality since he found out the truth about their evolution. General order one prevents starfleet from making contact with non-warp capable species.

So how are the federation justified in

Totally, radically and permanently adjusting the entire delicate political balance established on Kaminar, leaving the Ba'ul basically defenseless against their more primative and physically superior predators?

It strikes me that:

If Saru was a Ba'ul and Discovery visited Kaminar, Discovery would not have intervened for fear of wiping out an entire sentient species by their actions. Indeed the Kelpians were saved by Deus Ex Red Angel. How did Saru and Pike avoid court-martial for the near destruction of the Kelpian species, and the potentially violent upheaval in the society of the Ba'ul and Kelpians? How did their actions not go against every single value that the Federation holds dear? Were there any other similar incidents on other starships that caused such a dramatic social upheaval that were not initiated in defense of a crew member?

  • 1
    "First contact with the Kelpiens by Starfleet is a judgment call, but our mission to investigate these signals would seem to require it."
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 1:21
  • 1
    So "the ends justify the means"?
    – Stephen
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 3:19

3 Answers 3


It was the Ba'ul who forced the issue; had they been content with telling Discovery to get lost, that Starfleet (and Saru) were never to return, nothing would have changed in their system. But they made the point of demanding Saru be given to them and threatening to kill his sister and her whole village if he wasn't handed over. When Saru, quite understandably, tried to save her from being, y'know, murdered, then they'd captured a Starfleet officer and Federation citizen. By that point, they'd given up any moral protection they might have had, and Pike and company were entirely justified in intervening.

In any event, it was specifically mentioned in the episode: while the Ba'ul were physically inferior, they had a clear technological dominance; Saru states that the even if the Kelpians react violently against what had happened to them, the Ba'ul were fully capable of protecting themselves until such time as a mutual solution could be reached.

Further, the process the Kelpians go through doesn't make them "extremely violent"; if it did, then the last shot of the show wouldn't have a group of them standing around peacefully wondering what happened. What it did was remove their always-constant fear and make them aware of their own physical powers and abilities in a way they weren't before. As Saru demonstrated, until they got a grip of their new psyche, it could make them prone to acting differently because that fear (and automatic deference it caused) was gone, but it didn't turn them into blood-crazed psychopaths.

  • I had actually forgotten the bit about the Ba'ul threatening Saru's village. I have to disagree with your last point, Saru was demonstrably acting violently on an instinctive level (shooting the spikes). But this answer best answers my questions.
    – Stephen
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 23:21
  • Shooting the spikes was clearly a reaction to an imminent threat. You can't really consider that as an indication they're more extremely violent than you would classify a human as inherently extremely violent because they flail their arms around at someone attacking them. Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 2:05

As far as moral justification I do not recall them trying but I am sure they could come up with some BS about how killing someone who has not yet committed a crime (even if they are almost certainly going to) is wrong.

As to similar incidents it depends on how you define similar however in S1E13 "dear doctor" of Enterprise Archer and crew visited a planet with 2 sentient species one of which was suffering from an epidemic IIRC Phlox could have cured them but he and Archer decided not to because the epidemic was actually due to flawed DNA and evolution wanted the other species to prosper.

  • 4
    I had forgotten that episode when I was writing the question. I found the doctor's actions in that episode both reprehensible and largely unjustifiable.
    – Stephen
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 3:20

Pike initially wanted to avoid confrontation

Pike didn't want Saru to speak to the Ba'ul, and they didn't really want to talk to him. The only reason Discovery was there in the first place was the Red Angel. It was only after Saru ran his mouth, announcing he had moved beyond the age of culling and learned the truth, that the Ba'ul realized he could upset the apple cart. At that point they couldn't risk that he would quietly return and start an uprising (remember, Saru was quite impassioned about what his people were enduring) so they had to recapture him at all costs, even if it meant destroying the Discovery and starting a war with the Federation.

The Ba'ul opened their front door to Saru

Inexplicably they took both Saru and his sister into their base. At that point Saru wasn't bound by any Federation laws (he was their prisoner), and it's he who starts wrecking the place. That's on the Ba'ul for wanting to bring him in and gloat.

The Ba'ul were about to commit genocide

Evil thrives when good men do nothing. Nobody in Starfleet would condone standing by and letting one species destroy another. Discovery and the Red Angel both act to prevent that. If Pike had wanted to, he could have laid waste to the Ba'ul fortress and caused a major power shift, but he didn't. Instead, the Ba'ul are now left having to negotiate with the Kelpien (or at least deal with them knowing the truth and not being docile creatures anymore).

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