In the Next Generation episode Legacy, we learn that the Federation colony on the planet Turkana IV descended into civil war and anarchy, something Starfleet and the Federation seemingly just allowed to happen.

Why didn't Starfleet try to restore order and take the colony back? Surely that seems a better alternative to just abandoning it.

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    Out-of-universe: It may have been a poorly thought through premise in support of an action story where the crew is pulled into a moral and emotional conflict because of just one person. If true, it may be difficult or impossible to explain in-universe.
    – Anthony X
    Aug 4, 2021 at 22:30
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    My reading is that this was a lost Earth colony which pre-dated the forming of the Federation, Hence the no-contact rule may have applied.
    – Paulie_D
    Aug 4, 2021 at 22:32
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    Out universe I think it was an attempt to establish a TOS style notion that the frontier is dangerous and civilization needs constant effort. Note how Kirk grew up on a colony with a food shortage that turned genocidal. As for a legal precedent there are far more episodes that establish starfleet doesn't think the prime directive really applies to humans despite being centuries separated. Aug 4, 2021 at 23:28
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    @ZeissIkon He was born on Iowa, but at some point Kirk moves to Tarsus IV, where he becomes one of the witnesses to Kodos the Executioner's massacre. I don't remember how old he was though.
    – pboss3010
    Aug 5, 2021 at 13:58
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    @Zeiss Ikon Also - Kirk wasn't from Iowa until Star Trek IV. The original Star Trek was not nearly as Earth centric as later iterations. Even the inventor of warp drive Zephram Cochrane was from Alpha Centauri originally. Aug 5, 2021 at 16:41

1 Answer 1


The third item in the "What doesn't work" section of the Star Trek: The Next Generation writers/directors guide notes that Starfleet isn't the space police. They're not there to maintain and enforce a particular vision of order on the galaxy, or even on worlds affiliated to the Federation. (See also Starfleet's military status, or lack thereof.)

As detailed on Memory Alpha, some colonies in the Next Generation period seem to be pretty autonomous from the Federation, even if they were originally established as Federation colonies. Much as alien worlds who join the Federation maintain some self-determination, the objective of some colonies might be to become independent worlds, rather than being ultimately governed by the Federation.

And sometimes in space, things don't go according to plan — Starfleet isn't omnipotent, and the Federation doesn't have enough starships and diplomats to send them to every colony that has problems. Once Turkana 4 declared independence, which seems to have happened some time before society completely broke down, it ceased being a part of the Federation. Starfleet would be invading if they tried to take control of the situation, and that's just not what they do.

A Starfleet ship did attempt to re-establish contact just nine short years after the colony cut themselves off, and for all we know, Starfleet provided some degree of evacuation back when things were going badly. Some people (like Tasha Yar) still made it off the planet and into Starfleet itself; while others (like Tasha’s sister Ishara) decided to stay, as they supported one of the factions vying for control of the colony, and didn't seem to have any interest in Starfleet assuming control of their colony.

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    @Nu'Daq: sure! That's the thing about planetary civil wars: there aren't any occupiers, everyone's already there. Aug 4, 2021 at 22:44
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    "You can't just go around invading places because you don't like how they're run" unless there's oil there...
    – Tim
    Aug 5, 2021 at 8:15
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    @Nu'Daq: "Even invading the planet would be preferable to just washing their hands of it and leaving thugs in charge"— not according to Starfleet's values. If you think it's better to invade planets to improve their quality of life, go ahead and find yourself a Borg ship to assimilate into! Aug 5, 2021 at 13:05
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    Invading a member planet because of internal strife also has a tendency to make your other members rather nervous. Everyone from Vulcan to Bajor will end up thinking "if we don't toe the line, will the Federation invade us next?" and that's never a good look.
    – Cadence
    Aug 5, 2021 at 16:09
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    I don't believe that the Prime Directive would apply to an Earth colony, just alien civilizations. Aug 5, 2021 at 17:13

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