AFAIK all canonical examples of the prime directive being broken are only by a small number of captains and commanders, which happen to be the ones we're familiar with.

Given how revered Picard and Kirk are, and how they seemingly escape significant punishment for their transgressions, it seems reasonable to assume more captains would be willing to violate it.

A rule not enforced is not a rule, but a suggestion

~ Me, just now

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    I'd imagine that Picard and Kirk get away with it because they're Picard and Kirk. Lesser captains get their arses handed to them at court martials when they do it.
    – Valorum
    Apr 30, 2023 at 19:28
  • @Valorum absolutely, but I would've thought there'd be at least one example of a captain being punished (e.g. stripped of rank) for breaking it.
    – Ian Newson
    Apr 30, 2023 at 19:32
  • Not quite sure why this attracted a downvote, but maybe some wordsmithing might make it more attractive? Apr 30, 2023 at 19:34
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    @AzorAhai-him- I didn't downvote, but maybe because we often close "are there any" questions as they are usually list questions.
    – Basya
    May 1, 2023 at 7:51
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    @O.R.Mapper Could be, though in an organization the size of Starfleet I would think "hundreds" is still a tiny fraction of their manpower and fleet capacity both. Though it's still enough to make one wonder where the stories of the others doing Enterprise-like things to the prime directive are. Weirdly, the answers seem to find more potential examples in TOS than anywhere else, even though I feel like the TOS intro and background makes a stronger case that their mission is essentially novel and unique. May 3, 2023 at 12:38

3 Answers 3


Well in the technical sense there are several incidents that happen offscreen which become onscreen when the Enterprise has to clean up the mess. For example...

  • In TOS "The Omega Glory" - Captain Ronald Tracey of the USS Exeter was helping the Kohms offscreen by supplying phasers in what he hoped would be safe passage on an immortality planet. (See also TNG movie Insurrection.) To be fair there was a weird disease that reduced the rest of the crew to mineral crystals so the Captain was stranded.

  • In TOS "Bread and Circuses," the Starfleet survey vessel SS Beagle crashed on space Rome. The Beagle was under the command of Captain R. M. Merick. Though as I write this it's more notable as an example of PRESERVING the Prime Directive in a highly dubious way by the captain selling his crew into gladiator slavery.

  • In TNG "Too Short a Season", decades ago then Captain Jameson resolved a hostage crises by selling an alien faction weapons. But then evened it out by selling the other side the same weapons. This was a huge Prime Directive fail as it dragged the war out decades longer. This is also extremely similar to a choice Kirk made in TOS "A Private Little War" though Kirk's actions were in response to the Klingons supplying weapons first.

  • TOS "Patterns of Force," Starfleet Academy history professor John Gill tried to fix a planet by using Nice National Socialism to get the economy going. It was a really bad idea that happened off-screen.

These examples all died prior to legal consequences.

  • If the O/P's question is about intentional violations, I would argue that "Bread and Circuses" would not fit because (1) the crew were stranded and "contamination" (cultural, political, technological) would therefore be unavoidable and inevitable, and (2) it didn't seem to have any real effect anyway - those who survived whatever befell the Beagle mostly didn't survive contact with the indigenous culture, and those who did survive were essentially assimilated.
    – Anthony X
    May 1, 2023 at 0:53
  • @AnthonyX - the crew were stranded because Merik ordered them all down. Prior to that, the ship was damaged but repairable and they expected to repair it.
    – Basya
    May 1, 2023 at 8:16
  • Another issue with "Bread and Circuses" is that Merik was not a Starfleet captain. He had dropped out of the academy. He was in a different service.
    – Basya
    May 1, 2023 at 8:17
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    Thanks for this answer. I've remembered another example from VOY. Captain Ransom from the USS Equinox committed genocide in an attempt to get his crew home. Like your other examples, he died before he faced consequences from starfleet.
    – Ian Newson
    May 1, 2023 at 13:48
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    @lucasbachmann The problem with the Three TOS example is that the Enterprise crew arrives while those violations of the Prime Directive are still ongoing, and thus those violations are seen on screen. Sand some people might argue the same for the TNG example, though others would argue that it was a historical event mentioned and not seen on screen. My answer has the only example I am certain of. May 2, 2023 at 17:43

The Voyager episode "Q2" has an example. The episode begins with a history report by Icheb:

ICHEB: Though it was a blatant violation of the Prime Directive, Kirk saved the Pelosians from extinction, just as he had the Baezians and the Chenari many years earlier. Finally, in the year 2270, Kirk completed his historic five year mission and one of the greatest chapters in Starfleet history came to a close. A new chapter began when Kirk regained command of the Enterprise.


So Icheb mentions at least one violation of the Prime Directive (Pelosians), and possibly two others (Baezians and Cenari) which have never been shown onscreen and which happened about a century before the episode.

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    Yeah well that's just Icheb's opinion man. May 2, 2023 at 17:55
  • Further the gist of the original question was more interested in non-main cast examples as I read it. While Kirk is a trivia answer in Voyager he's not as offscreen as say Kiri-kin-tha's babysitting adventures. Though I salute your find. May 2, 2023 at 18:02
  • @lucasbachmann Icheb abides. May 3, 2023 at 9:41

The novel Prime Directive, by Judith and Garfield Reeves Stevens, is entirely about the consequences of Kirk breaking the Prime Directive on the planet Talin.

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    Yeah, except that Talin was already being manipulated by off planet actors. Its development had already been compromised.
    – JRE
    May 1, 2023 at 6:40
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    And novels aren't considered canon in Star Trek unlike other franchises (like Star Wars, to an extent.) May 1, 2023 at 18:37
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    Still a great story though. I especially like the part where Starfleet are terrified of disconnecting the damaged nacelle from the Enterprise, because it's disappearing somewhere one molecule at a time and they're worried it'll go starbow-boom if they futz with it. May 3, 2023 at 9:44

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