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I've seen a fair majority of the material which comprises primary Star Trek canon. I've watched all the TNG-era shows, all the movies (as far back as The Motion Picture), and am currently working through the Enterprise series.

Through all this time, I've seen Starfleet make First Contact with a wide variety of species in many different stages of development. However, there's one particularly interesting scenario which I can't recall ever having seen happen. It's possible this will happen in an episode I haven't seen yet (i.e.: Enterprise Season 2 or later, or any TOS/TAS episode) or I may have just forgotten it.

What I'm looking for is a situation where Starfleet has made First Contact with a race that meets both of the following criteria:

  • Already has and has been using warp technology for quite some time - not just recently developed.
  • Is, until encountering Starfleet personnel, oblivious to the existence of intelligent alien life forms.

Has this happened in Star Trek history? If so, which episode?

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    As chock-full-O-races as the Star Trek galaxy seems to be, I doubt it would be possible to travel to more than a handful of other systems without tripping over another race. – Xantec Jan 28 '13 at 16:13
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    @Xantec ...which is particularly what would really make this scenario interesting. – Iszi Jan 28 '13 at 16:15
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    @Iszi: from Memory Alpha: As Seven scans the surface she detects warp experimentation. Soon after, Voyager is being attacked by antimatter torpedoes and a tricobalt device. And it's hard to define "quite some time" given the timey-wimey in this episode. Anyway it's the best fit I could think of. – Junuxx Jan 28 '13 at 16:22
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    @Junuxx Except that first contact was technically made with the race's Apollo era civilization (when they boarded Voyager). Unless you count the Doctor's visit, which was earlier. – Xantec Jan 28 '13 at 16:28
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    It has happened but I don't remember the specifics. You guys are killing me. It's like a job here. I haven't gotten out of the Fortress of Geekitude in weeks. Off to see if I can suss out the episode in question... – Thaddeus Howze Jan 28 '13 at 17:11
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There is one that might qualify. The photonic lifeforms from VOY 5x12, Bride of Chaotica! believed that all biochemical lifeforms were artificial, while photonic lifeforms - such as the Doctor - were living.

So they've never before made first contact with what we'd consider a species, but it implies that they have previously made first contact with other living photonic lifeforms.

They're also trans-dimensional, so "spacefaring" isn't quite the right descriptor... But, their humanoid form may perhaps look familiar:

Photonic life-form

  • It's a fudge but you're technically correct, the best kind of correct... – Valorum Apr 29 '14 at 18:32
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Enterprise (TNG) makes first contact with a Tamarian ship at the planet El-Adrel, in the 'Darmok' episode. The Tamarians had been transmitting signals toward Federation space for weeks so were probably aware of 'alien intelligence' for at least that length of time. There is no mention of them being aware of aliens or a part of an aliance prior to this encounter.

Their ship though, was roughly equal in armament and technology to the Enterprise. Maybe even a bit tougher. Tamarian captain Dathon and Captain Picard become friends during the encounter and though Dathan is ultimately killed, both sides see this first contact as a good start. Dathan records in his log, "Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel", which Picard gives this to Dathan's First Officer who then withdraws back to Tamarian space. It does seem that is was actually 'they' who initiated first contact or at least invited it. A tentative first attempt at contacting aliens?

Per Memory Alpha: "Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel" means, a "Successful first contact between two alien cultures, or to work toward a common goal", in the Tamarian language.

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    I don't understand the 'down vote' with no explanation given and no comment. This answer is admittedly mixed with some speculation but no more so than the other two potential answers to a nearly unanswerable question. I see no down voted there... Down votes should be explained. – Morgan Mar 19 '13 at 1:13
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    Etiquette Be honest. Above all, be honest. If you see misinformation, vote it down. Add comments indicating what, specifically, is wrong. Provide better answers of your own. Best of all — edit and improve the existing questions and answers! – Morgan Mar 19 '13 at 1:19
  • I agree, the downvote should be explained – Sentry Mar 19 '13 at 9:55
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    @Morgan I didn't downvote but I agree they should be explained and I think I can guess why someone would. Read the q again. OP is looking for an encounter with a species "Oblivious to alien intelligence". Now re-watch the first minutes of the episode. It is mentioned that "The children of Tamah" were encountered in the past and that communication wasn't succesfully achieved. It is also thought that they were trying at the time to communicate with the Federation. – E.T. Aug 2 '13 at 15:08
  • The Tamarians had been aware of the Federation before hand: DATA: Federation vessels have encountered Tamarian ships seven times over the past one hundred years. – Xantec Apr 29 '14 at 17:38
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I might be wrong, as it is very hard to prove a negative. That said, NO the situation you describe has never come to pass. The closest I can find was The Probe from Star Trek IV which was from an intelligent race that had warp tech for a long time, but they knew intelligent life existed outside themselves. They just didn't know that it could exist in humanoid from before meeting the Federation.

As the current ST universe stands, such a race would be impossible since the Federation is surrounded on all sides by intelligent races that would be the first contact of a race that had warp for any significant time. The only shows that could have encountered such a thing were The Original Series, Enterprise, or Voyager and I can find no mention of anything like that when looking through the episode summaries (I also watched most the episodes as well, but we all know how fallible human memory can be).

The odds are similarly slim when you look inside the Federations borders. This space is supposedly searched fairly thoroughly, with Federation scientists watching races that are moving toward First Contact. I suppose a race that lived out of sync with the rest of the universe could exist, but it definitely hasn't been explored in any of the TV shows.

Anyway, if it turns out I'm wrong I will delete this answer.

0

It has been a long time since I saw the movie, so this is more guessing than verified information, but V-ger explored entire galaxies before returning home, so it seems unlikely that it didn't manage to find a culture fitting your description. Since V-ger was launched in our past, it wasn't part of the Federation at the time. However, we could retro-actively claim it, since Starfleet essentially absorbs NASA between now and then.

That said, it seems unlikely that many warp-capable species would be unaware of alien life in this region of the galaxy. As said in other answers, there are a lot of life forms in the Star Trek universe (about 355 species in the Alpha and Beta quadrants that have pages on Memory Alpha). In addition to that though, notice that even Earth didn't get the chance to develop our warp program alone. After one flight, the Vulcans came to ride herd and control our space program say "Hello".

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