In the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" Episode "Angel One" Data states that the prime directive only applies to starships, is that correct? And if the prime directive is in place why didn't they go in covertly? Were they a warp capable society?

DATA: Mister Ramsey is correct, Counsellor. The Odin was not a starship, which means her crew is not bound by the Prime Directive. If he and the others wish to stay here, there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

That would mean that only starship is bound by the prime directive, right? How else is that sentence read?

  • 1
    Semi-dupe of "Who is bound by the Prime Directive?"
    – Valorum
    May 9, 2015 at 6:12
  • 1
    If the Prime Directive only applies to starships, what mechanism does Star Fleet use to prevent privateers from actively searching for planets with humanoid low-tech inhabitants to conquer, rule and exploit? Any ship with warp drive and a replicator could pretty much knock over any Bronze-Age civilization planet.
    – tbrookside
    Aug 27, 2018 at 0:27

2 Answers 2


The Prime Directive (e.g. revealing the presence of extra-terrestrials) only seems to apply to pre-contact civilisations, not pre-warp civilisations. On numerous occasions (TNG: Code of Honor, TNG: Justice, TNG: Pen Pals, TOS: Errand of Mercy, etc) it's made abundantly clear that as long as a planet is aware of the existence of extra-terrestrials, it's OK for Starfleet to have diplomatic relations with them. At that point, the Prime Directive appears to switch to one preventing undue influence.

PICARD : Starfleet was quite adamant that we maintain excellent diplomatic relations with this planet. Any other pertinent information before we reply, Mister Data? Their form of government would be a logical starting place.


RIKER: How current is your information, Data?

DATA: A Federation vessel last visited this planet sixty-two years ago, Captain.

Note also that Data makes it clear that not only are rank and file Federation civilians not bound by the Prime Directive, that they are in fact considered to be part of the planet's natural development and are therefore protected by the Prime Directive:

DATA: Excuse me, Commander, but removing any of these people against their will would be a violation of several Starfleet regulations, not the least of which would be the Prime Directive.

  • If her crew is not bound by the Prime Directive, and clearly they are not part of the normal evolution of that society, why can't Picard remove them?
    – JMFB
    May 9, 2015 at 6:34
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    @JMFB - because being contacted by civilian space programs (colonists and the like) is considered to be part of the natural evolution of a planet
    – Valorum
    May 9, 2015 at 6:49
  • It was a federation ship. You're saying that the natural evolution of a planet or civilization includes a federation ship landing there, hooking up with the locals, and living there? If anything that's a contaminant and I can give many examples where it's been viewed that way in the STU.
    – JMFB
    May 10, 2015 at 3:29
  • @jmfb - It's not consistently applied, that's true. Worf's brother springs to mind.
    – Valorum
    May 10, 2015 at 8:16

The regulations which Data quotes don't make sense.

Any government has the right to control immigration, including finding illegal aliens and expelling them even after they have lived there for years.

Any government has the right to deport legal immigrants if they are convicted of revolutionary or criminal activity.

Any government has the right to make laws and punishments. All governments have the right to banish and exile their citizens, as well as deporting illegal immigrants and legal immigrants who have violated various rules.

If Mistress Beata sentenced the Odin's crew and their wives to death but commuted it to deportation and permanent exile if the Enterprise took them away today, Picard would have only two choices according to the rules of diplomacy and the Prime Directive. 1) let them be executed 2) agree to facilitate the exile by taking them away. Picard had no legal justification for trying to persuade Mistress beata to chose any third option.

The idea that Starfleet is legally unable to assist a foreign government to exile and deport undesirable Federation citizens is absurd.

If the federation had such a law foreign governments would suspect that any undesirable Federation citizens which showed up on their planet were not actually acting on their own but were secret agents of the federation on a mission to change their society in direct violation of the Prime Directive.

Perhaps that is the real reason why the Enterprise carries so many civilians. Some of them may actually work for Section 31 or something and may be ready to infiltrate any society the federation disapproves of, with the captain claiming he has no authority to remove Federation citizens against their will!

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    Is this an attempt at an answer or just a weird rant about Starfleet?
    – Daft
    May 12, 2015 at 12:54
  • Daft - the last two paragraphs are what officials of non federation planets might think whenever they hear that Starfleet has no power to save Federation citizens from execution by helping non Federation governments to deport them. May 20, 2015 at 21:56

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