In The Survivors, Picard makes the following statement towards Kevin Uxbridge:

We are not qualified to be your judges. We have no law to fit your crime. You're free to return to the planet, and to make Rishon live again.

That sounds like a gigantic cop-out;

First of all their qualification to be his judges is merely tied to their inability to hold him responsible for anything, as his abilities seem near omnipotent from the human's perspective.

However, my main quarrel is with the second sentence. For all intents and purposes, Kevin Uxbridge committed genocide. Something that humans are very familiar with from their own past. So the Federation would have to had dropped the law regarding genocide at some point.
I realise that the Federation doesn't just consist of humans, but wouldn't that be something humans would have been inclined to add to the Federation charter when drafting it?

This spineless statement is so deviant from the Federation and Star Trek philosophy (that is, in- and out-of universe) that I wonder why Picard, and by extension the writers, worded it like that.

  • 2
    If you believe "For the Uniform", the Federation apparently doesn't even have a law against Star Fleet officers bombing inhabited planets. Nobody ever tries Sisko. (So it's at least a consistent cop-out.)
    – Tynam
    Oct 6, 2012 at 11:14
  • 4
    Quite clearly the Federation Parliament has more gerrymandering and congressional gridlock than even our own modern legislatures. The bill to make it a crime to commit galactic genocide was probably held up in committee because they were quibbling over which riders and pork to attach. And once the spaceball steroid scandal became big news, it was all over...
    – John O
    Oct 8, 2012 at 20:54
  • @bitmask Where's the proof?
    – Morgan
    Apr 17, 2014 at 22:33
  • @Morgan: You mean the proof that he was responsible? Besides his confession?
    – bitmask
    Apr 18, 2014 at 9:57
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    @bitmask -I was being a bit facetious. From a legal perspective, beyond the 'confession' of a crazy old man there is no evidence of a crime.
    – Morgan
    Jun 16, 2014 at 18:48

3 Answers 3


Actually, that statement makes sense, including in-universe-philosophy-wise.

  1. Most likely, the crime happened outside Federation jurisdiction. One can quibble, but since Douwd were not Federation subjects, and neither were Husnock, any activity between the two of those races are not subject of Federation laws.

  2. Any laws imposed on other races would basically violate the principles driving Prime Directive (even if the letter wouldn't be violated since they aren't pre-space actors).

  3. Moreover, any competent lawyer would poke a tribble-ful of holes into ANY argument you can legally made:

    • Uxbridge was acting in the condition of affect, emotional distress etc... etc... "temporary insanity" and all that.

    • Husnock declared war, unprovoked, so this was not a civilian crime in the first place.

    • Husnock were an existential threat, ala Borg.

    • He was not a member of UFP military so UCMJ or its UFP equivalent didn't apply to his conduct.

  • 6
    1: See the m.a. page. It's a Federation colony. Their law applies. One cannot quibble, as that Douwd was living in a Federation community. 2: The Prime Directive only applies to pre-warp civilisations. None of the three involved parties (the settlers, the Douwd, the Husnock) are pre-warp. 3: Whether or not a lawyer can bend the law is something to be decided by a judge. There would still be a law. 3.2: Genocide isn't a civil offence. It's a war-crime, so perfectly applicable in this situation.
    – bitmask
    Oct 6, 2012 at 16:31
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    @bitmask - as the colony was destroyed, it may not have been Federation territory. I don't know the ins and outs of UFP legal system to be sure. Oct 6, 2012 at 16:33
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    "The Prime Directive only applies to pre-warp civilisations" - I don't believe this is the case. It includes not introducing warp (and other technology) to pre-warp civilisations, but it also includes not interfering with other warp-capable non-Federation civilisations.
    – komodosp
    Jun 20, 2017 at 9:23
  • @colmde and since the entire planet was dead this is a 'non interference' matter (between a non federation lifeform and a race never encountered) , if he had done it while the planet was inhabited that may be different. The crime is an 'alien who visited a planet' destroying the attacker once it became uninhabited - that is defiantly not a federation matter even if its a federation planet, as its between 2 species who weren't in the federation on a lifeless planet
    – Matt
    Sep 22, 2018 at 18:20

Actually, it's a recognition that humans are not perfect. It's not a cop-out at all. It's a simple acknowledgement that we (as if I'm a part of the Federation) are not fit, and have no authority to judge some crimes.

It may seem like a cop-out, but it stems from the understanding that power leads to corruption. If the Federation went around enforcing humanity's laws and morals on every species they interacted with, what would be left of freedom? The Federation would be nothing more than an empire, or a dictatorship. There is a balance between freedom and morality.

The crime here was immense. The disdain in Picard's voice showed that clearly, he, personally DID judge this to be a heinous crime. But to do anything about it leads down the path to greater evil. Yes, this was one man (being), not an entire civilization. But when you allow yourself to judge like this, where do you stop?

  • 7
    You are missing two crucial points. One: This happened in Federation space, where Federation rules do apply. Second, and more importantly: My point was exactly that there is a difference between not having a law for this crime and not applying it (either because of inability or unwillingness or both). I agree that Picard should have said something like "We have no jurisdiction over you" or "We have no means to carry out any verdict" but instead he stated that the crime committed by Kevin was not covered by their legal system. That's what the question is about.
    – bitmask
    Oct 6, 2012 at 15:33
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    @bitmask As was mentioned in another comment, as this happened after the destruction of the colony, was it really Federation territory anymore? As for the phrasing, the UFP may have laws about genocide, applied to crimes against thousands or even millions of people. But that's not what happened here. The Hushnok were obviously powerful enough to be a vast power spread across a huge territory. It would be like one single person wiping out the entirety of the Klingon empire and every single Klingon in the universe. There is nothing near a precedent for that scale. It's barely imaginable...
    – Nicholas
    Aug 5, 2016 at 12:54

Picard is saying that a law against a single individual erasing the existence of an entire species across the galaxy has never been contemplated or established in Federation legal precedent. To their knowledge it's never been done so never came up while drafting laws. Such an act is so far outside their realm of possibility that they never drafted a law against it. That would be like passing a law stipulating that a person can't reverse the earth's orbit around the sun.

To convict him of mass murder or even a single murder they would have to have some proof or evidence beyond just his 'confession'. All evidence of any wrongdoing was erased.

Say if some clever Federation prosecutor could somehow get a conviction for murder, what would be the penalty? Capital punishment? Life imprisonment? How would that sentence be imposed or carried out on a creature that can literally 'erase' humanity with a thought? They have no ability to hold him against his will much less kill him.

As it sits, Picard made the best (only) choice available by 'allowing' Kevin to return to the planet in a kind of self-imposed 'prison' with the warning that he be left alone.

From what we've seen so far in the Star Trek Universe, the only society qualified/capable of judging Kevin Uxbridge's actions is the Q. They alone have the ability to judge his actions and impose penalties.

  • 1
    It would definitely be interesting to see Q have the Douwd stand trial! I wonder how Kevin Uxbridge would react. Jun 19, 2017 at 23:00
  • It's hard to say for sure what limits the Douwd has. Could he be "locked up"? Perhaps not. But consider that it was possible to beam up the Douwd against his will. The amount of energy required to keep a Douwd behind a forcefield would surely be massive, but I doubt it'd need to be infinite. Jun 19, 2017 at 23:04
  • Their laws might be written such that they literally don't apply to what the Douwd did. Consider the real-life Genocide Convention, which speaks of "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." So if you destroy an ethnic group with intent to kill a single person, say by using nuclear weapons or something, this would probably not (legally and strictly) be considered genocide.
    – Adamant
    Dec 31, 2018 at 18:05
  • It's not hard to believe that Federation laws might be written in a similar way. Are the Husnock a racial group? No, they're a species. Are they a nation? No, they're multiple nations. Etc. In essence, the Douwd's intent was to destroy a species, and their laws might speak of intent to destroy smaller groups, such that, by the law, if you destroy an ethnic group or nation while trying to destroy an individual, or a species, it doesn't qualify.
    – Adamant
    Dec 31, 2018 at 18:07

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