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The Prime Directive seems to grow over time. Originally it seemed more focused on non-warp civilizations, but later it's also a reason to not interfere with internal events in the Klingon Empire.

The original idea seems to be to allow a culture to develop freely, on its own, until it makes contact or is ready to make contact with the Federation or other spacefaring cultures.

But does the Prime Directive apply only to planets? Since it applies to cultures, shouldn't it apply to the mirror universe as well? In the episodes we see where Trek characters have ended up in the mirror universe, they aren't worried about picking sides or causing havoc in their efforts to return to this universe.

While, in The Apple, Kirk says it applies to "living growing cultures," Riker points out in The Last Outpost that they have to let the Ferengi grow, even though they might turn into a threat to the Federation. Overall, it seems, in spite of Kirk (who rationalized a number of violations), that the basic intent of the Prime Directive is to not judge other cultures and to allow them to develop without Federation interference.

So wouldn't the Prime Directive apply to the mirror universe, or any other alternate universes, as well as just to planets or cultures in this universe?

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    Do they interact with warp incapable groups in the mirror universe? – user1027 Jan 21 '15 at 2:36
  • they aren't worried about picking sides or causing havoc in their efforts to return to this universe You need to cite concrete examples so we can judge whether or not the PD is indeed applicable in those cases. Otherwise this question is not very useful. – Vector Jan 14 '18 at 4:08
  • @Vector: I provided one in the question. – Tango Jan 17 '18 at 3:03
  • I provided one in the question I don't see it. – Vector Jan 17 '18 at 20:20
  • Pretty much any visit to the mirror universe, as cited. Shouldn't need to be broken down any more than that. – Tango Jan 17 '18 at 21:20
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I'm going to go out on a limb here: Yes, it is limited to this universe.

There is no direct canonical evidence for this, but a great deal of indirect evidence.

As I bring these examples up, please bear in mind that (various poorly-written episodes notwithstanding) Starfleet personnel are normally expected to give their lives to uphold the Prime Directive. What we see, time and time again, is the exact opposite of this. Decorated officers completely ignore the Prime Directive, usually to save their own lives, and not only are they not punished, the PD isn't even brought up as an issue, then or later.

First, consider "Mirror, Mirror" (TOS) (we're skipping ENT because the Prime Directive was not yet in force at that time). Kirk quite deliberately alters the course of history in the mirror universe. What's more, he does so by persuading mirror!Spock to completely change the fundamental principles of the Terran Empire. I should also note that Kirk describes the mirror universe as "savage," and Spock calls its inhabitants "uncivilized." Since the Prime Directive seems to apply especially strongly to less advanced races ("First Contact", TNG, and many other episodes), this is quite telling.

Jump ahead to "Crossover" (DS9). Kira and O'Brien participate in a small-scale rebellion within the mirror universe. This rebellion is strongly implied to have ultimately succeeded, at least at the local level. Again, they changed the course of history in a drastic fashion.

When Picard suggested intervening in the Klingon Civil War, Fleet Admiral Shanthi initially rebuffed him, until he argued that the Romulan Star Empire was likely involved as well ("Redemption II", TNG). This suggests the Prime Directive specifically forbids becoming involved in somebody else's purely internal rebellion or civil war, even if the "somebody else" is (at the time) a close ally of the Federation.

Later, in "Through the Looking Glass" (DS9), Sisko further aids that same rebellion, impersonating its leader (his late mirror self) and persuading mirror!Jennifer to join the rebellion. In "Shattered Mirror", he assists in the repairs of the mirror!Defiant, and even captains it briefly, all to support the rebellion.

I can't find any clear PD violations in (Memory Alpha's summary of) "Resurrection" (DS9).

While DS9 has a few other examples of characters interacting with the mirror universe, the most blatant violations (in "The Emperor's New Cloak") were not carried out by Starfleet personnel, so I can't really fault them here.

So far as I'm aware, at no point in any of the live action shows or movies does anyone bring up the Prime Directive in relation to any parallel universe. The silence here is deafening. On numerous occasions, parallel universes are altered to suit the needs of our main characters, and at no point is this regarded as violating the PD. In DS9's "Playing God" (props to @Keen for catching this), ethical issues are brought up, but the PD is not. At some point, we have to draw the obvious conclusion: The Prime Directive is never mentioned because it does not apply.

  • Kirk doesn't change anything in the Mirror universe. He tells Alternate-Spock to do so. – Oldcat Jan 20 '15 at 23:58
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    @Oldcat: Mirror!Spock would not have done so, but for Kirk. The mirror universe would be a very different place if Kirk had never been there, or if he had quietly allowed himself to be executed. That's interference in my book. – Kevin Jan 21 '15 at 0:01
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    Kirk uses a different book entirely. See all the shows where he overthrows a computer overlord. – Oldcat Jan 21 '15 at 0:03
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    @Oldcat considering I checked multiple definitions and etymology so make sure there was no super secret pun based on sound, that's just plain ableist... – user16696 Jan 21 '15 at 2:28
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    There was also that DS9 episode involving a baby universe. – user1027 Jan 21 '15 at 2:35
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I would think, since it is supposed to be quite rare to travel to alternate and mirror universes, that the prime directive is probably legally ambiguous in this arena. So far I haven't been to find any evidence of direct mention that it does apply.

Since it is so rare and theoretically even more rare for someone to actually return from another universe it hasn't been given much attention. Due to the fact that it happened to Kirk and it seems most characters from DS9, you would think that someone at Starfleet headquarters would have addressed it by now. But like androids being sentient beings with rights, it is probably still legally ambiguous at best in this situation.

Most characters seem more focused on just getting back to their own reality, which given the situation is probably best for the prime directive anyways.

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