I know that Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series went as far as to bring the intervened civilization's entire tribe into the holodeck to preserve the illusion of non-intervention while rescuing them from a doomed planet, but have there been any breaches of the prime directive by any space-faring civilization in the entirety of Star Trek lore?

If so, what were the consequences? (Assuming the civilization was left alone, not enslaved or destroyed.)

If not, why not? Klingons could easily allow themselves such indulgences, so could Romulans.

  • Picard was pretty much forced into rescuing the Boraalans by Worf's brother. He was willing to let them die due to the prime directive.
    – Xantec
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 16:03
  • Smells a bit like a list question :)
    – bitmask
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 17:18
  • 5
    there was one big breach of the prime directive in TOS. His name was James T. Kirk.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 21:49
  • 1
    Picard didn't bring them into the holodeck; Worf's brother did that; the Enterprise crew were forced into complicity after the deed was done in order to minimize the damage. Picard's position was that they should have been left to die - it's what would have happened had Enterprise never gone there.
    – Anthony X
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 3:04
  • "have there been any breaches of the prime directive by any space-faring civilization" — bear in mind the Prime Directive is a rule that Starfleet imposes upon itself. Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 23:35

3 Answers 3


There have been several breaches of the Prime Directive by Star Fleet officers in Star Trek's long history. It has been broken numerous times or purposely interpreted vaguely to fit the needs of the crew. Though those outside of Star Fleet's command have no obligation to follow the Prime Directive and, therefore, those are the ones who typically violate it. Memory Alpha has several examples of exemptions and times the rule has been broken.


Another thing to note is that there is a secret directive called the Omega Directive that supersedes the Prime Directive. Since it supersedes the Prime Directive, I don't suppose you could necessarily say you break the Prime Directive when following it, but following the Omega Directive can lead to acts the directly violate the Prime Directive. Again, Memory Alpha has a page on the Omega Directive.


  • This answer shows a true 'Exception' to Starfleet General Order 1 (The Prime Directive). Other examples of violating the Directive are simply that, violations or attempts to circumvent or get around the Directive with clever legal shenanigans or some claimed loophole.
    – Morgan
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 18:51
  • Very interesting sources that I should have already read. However I don't see any detailing of violated races that have been left alone to develop on their own and what the consequences were.
    – nurettin
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 12:26
  • @nurettin There are no concrete examples that I can think of where, on screen, we saw the Prime Directive being violated and then we later see Starfleet return to the planet and show us what has become of them. The nearest example I can think of is TOS Bread and Circuses where we find that a Federation merchant ship's crew had had to evacuate to a primitive world and were pressed into helping the ruling party or die. Although we don't know what state the planet was in before that crew landed there, so it's hard to say what influence they caused.
    – Xantec
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 14:29
  • @Xantec There's also TOS's "A Piece of the Action"; while we do not see the original violation (which happened 100 years before the episode starts), the entire impetus for the episode is that contamination has been committed by the crew of the USS Horizon, and the Enterprise has to mitigate the damage done to the society. Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 17:00

There have been many instances spread across all the Star Trek tv series. This is especially true for the non-Federation governments. One prime example is the Romulan conquest and subjugation of the Reman race. The Remans were not an advanced species when the Romulans came along, took over the neighboring planet and then enslaved them.

Another example in the Star Trek Voyager episode False Profits comes when two Ferengi trapped in the Delta Quadrant take over and rule a primitive race, posing as powerful prophets.

There have been numerous examples in the Federation as well. Captain Kirk from the original series broke the Prime Directive on several occasions. One good example is in the episode A Private Little War, where Kirk provides flintlock rifles to the natives to keep them equal to the rival tribe that the Klingons are providing weapons to.

The punishments typically seem to be little more than a slap on the wrist, especially if they can find a way to justify their actions.

  • There are at least two examples of Picard violating the PD, once in Who Watches the Watchers and second in First Contact (the episode, not the movie), although those were under extenuating circumstances.
    – Xantec
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 16:07

The question, as asked --

have there been any breaches of the prime directive by any space-faring civilization in the entirety of star trek lore?

-- is a bit difficult to quantify.

Not all space-faring civilizations have sworn to uphold the Prime Directive. It is alternatively correctly called Starfleet General Order 1.

To that end, it is arguable that species which even belong to the Federation have no compunction for maintaining the 'social development' of any culture they come across. It is primarily a Starfleet ethos and needn't apply to other races or civilizations.

With this in mind, remember that planets do need to apply for acceptance into the Federation. As evidenced in the episode Attached, civilizations such as the in-fighting Kesprytt can be denied for failing to uphold a certain standard. Riker presides over this decision; as a Starfleet officer his decision would be informed by his training. By abstraction, it would be difficult to gain admittance to the Federation if one were acting in opposition to the Prime Directive, especially if Starfleet were to review said admission.

Memory Alpha provides an excellent resource for the implied and explicit limitations the Prime Directive is intended to set.

  • The incident regarding the Bak'u was not motivated by the prime directve per se, but rather the underlying morality common to the sentient beings. The Prime Directive is about where to draw the line between "fair trade partner" and "primitive to be protected", nothing more or less.
    – DougM
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 19:34
  • It's far more than that. Picard invokes it during the TNG episode 'Redemption' during 'internal' Klingon political affairs, refusing to assist Worf. "Who Watches the Watchers" shows how damaging it could be to a culture that is not ready for contact. In Insurrection, Picard is clearly astonished that the Federation Council would/could give an order that is in direct opposition to the Prime Directive, calling it "an attack upon [the Federation's] very soul". It may not be Picard's primary MO in the film but it informs his decision. 'Fair trade partners' is %1 of %1 of the PD's intent.
    – Stick
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 20:53
  • At the time Picard said that, he thought the Baku were pre-warp. Do you have a quote where he actually reference the prime directive itself to stay out of the Klingon civil war, rather that simple politics and diplomacy?
    – DougM
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 21:00
  • He knew the Bak'u had Warp capability before the plot was revealed, not after. Additionally, in Redemption he states "Mister Worf... non-interference in the internal affairs of other cultures is one of the guiding principles of the Federation... and as Starfleet officers, we have all sworn an oath to uphold that principle regardless of personal feeling." He doesn't use the words 'prime' or 'directive' but non-interference in affairs is all a subheading under Gen Order 1.
    – Stick
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 21:45
  • So, no. Do either of your comments make this a more useful answer? (If not, they should be deleted.)
    – DougM
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 21:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.