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Season One:
-101: "Encounter at Farpoint"
-104: "Code of Honor"
-106: "Where No One Has Gone Before"
-109: "Justice"
-110: "The Battle"
-112: "Too Short a Season"
-115: "Angel One"
-116: "11001001"
-117: "Home Soil"
-123: "Symbiosis"
-124: "We'll Always Have Paris"

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The Evolution of the
Prime Directive

Star Trek TNG - Season One

"Be the change you want to see in the world."
~ Mahatma Gandhi, 20th century Indian spiritual & political leader

In terms of the Prime Directive, it seems that TNG had four big key stories over the years, which got special attention in my reviews. These were
"Symbiosis" (from season one),
"Who Watches the Watchers?" (from season three),
"First Contact" (the fourth season episode, not the film), and
"Homeward" (from season seven).
In fact, "Watchers" was the first Prime Directive review I ever wrote, even before anything from Kirk's original series, as it showcased such a definitive contrast between what the Prime Directive had instituted and what I would prefer as an ideal for Star Trek.

However, it must be said that first season TNG was a really strange hit-and-miss road that expanded the Prime Directive from what it had been previously in Kirk's time, and also confused the Prime Directive with many other ideas that fell by the wayside later on. "Encounter at Farpoint" (The TNG Pilot story), whose review on our site now has a separate page of its own, teases us with the idea of this expansion as Picard makes a case for the Prime Directive being an example of how far Mankind and Human philosophy have evolved over the centuries... all without making clear very many details of what the Prime Directive now stands for.

This first season TNG Prime Directive article closely tracks the rest of season one's journey to redefine the directive. Our ultimate destination is the late-season episode "Symbiosis", which remains the best of season one's Prime Directive stories and did the best job of symbolically acting out and debating the issue. However, there are quite a few other examples to stumble through before we get there....

Code of Honor

(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode production code 104)
written by Kathryn Powers and Michael Baron

Sadly, the Next Generation's third story is a bit clunky and contrived, contributing to the general feeling that this series' first season really struggled to find its way.

During this encounter with a ritualistic society from Ligon II, one gets an early impression that relations between Ligonians and the Federation have passed beyond the normal jurisdiction of the Prime Directive. The Ligonians have clearly developed their own matter-transporter technology, as well as some sort of high-powered laser-bars than extend far into the sky in one of the cooler shots of the show. Although it is never clearly stated whether or not they possess space travel or warp drive capabilities, it doesn't seem too far-fetched to believe that they have recently acquired it. They are certainly aware of their neighbours in space, and have begun contact and trade negotiations with them.

So it does feel a bit out of left field that major Prime Directive arguments are presented later on in the middle of this adventure, and closer examination makes one wonder if the episode's writers really understand what the Prime Directive is. Or was. As applied here, it really has nothing to do with respecting the natural development of a foreign culture, whatever that natural development may be seen to be. This time it is even more basic, so basic that one would think it such a part of common sense that the Federation wouldn't need to make a law about it. It's really all about not grabbing one of your neighbour's possessions, even if he's already promised to give it to you in his own good time and stolen something of yours meanwhile.

Of course, a society that did that shouldn't be worthy of trade agreements with the Federation. The writers do a lot of backflips adding extra scenes of dialogue to make the Enterprise desperate for Ligonian co-operation, and to make that desperation really noble. It's hard to believe or see how such a situation would ever naturally develop with one side so wise and so in the right, yet having no other options to follow through on. The unseen plague itself deserves increased scrutiny as well, as one wonders what mental/emotional causes its sufferers have collectively agreed to in order to bring it onto themselves.

The episode remains unique in offering original Star Trek composer Fred Steiner his sole chance to score an episode beyond the 1960's series. He seems to be doing his usual good style during the royal carpet sequence at the beginning, but morphs into something more modern later on which is good but ultimately less memorable. In the end, it's as good as anything from Dennis McCarthy's early work on the show, if not a bit above. I like it, and I enjoy listening through all 19 minutes of it on the CD to the right.

19:19 of Fred Steiner's score for "Code of Honor" is available here:
Star Trek - TNG
Haven / Face of the Enemy
3-disc Audio CD set

Find out more....

In the end, "Code of Honor" is one of the weirder Prime Directive stories in the canon, making you wonder who really knows what the Prime Directive is, and whether or not it was meant to expand/change so radically between the 23rd and 24th centuries.


(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode production code 109)
story by Ralph Wills and Worley Thorne
teleplay by Worley Thorne

The Prime Directive seems to take on a whole new meaning in this story, while leaving its old one behind. Now, it seems like it's taken the place of an extradition treaty.

As we learn more about the humanoid race on this week's planet, the Edo, it becomes increasingly likely that they have not discovered warp drive yet. The transporter beam is certainly beyond their level of technology. So you have to wonder if our Starfleet crew hadn't already broken the Prime Directive just by showing up to interact. All the lengthy debates taking place later in the episode may be over a moot point. You also have to wonder if today's guest writers really understand the prime directive, or if they're just messing about. It's curious how often it is mentioned by name in this episode, without anyone stating what the law actually says.

At any rate, the biggest sociological flaw here seems to be the need to use yesterday's laws to resolve today's problem, instead of really looking at the situation today and adapting as necessary. All that's really necessary is to rebuild a tiny greenhouse and re-pot a few plants. Case closed. Not worth all the fuss.

Respect for another culture should never go so far as to chain you into acting as though a part of it, particularly when it grates against your own values as deeply as it does here. And if the Prime Directive is trying to enforce that situation, it's in even more need for an upgrade than I thought.....

Too Short a Season

(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode production code 112)
story by Michael Michaelian
teleplay by Michael Michaelian & D.C. Fontana

Here we get an intriguing and engaging story-line, one of the best for The Next Generation's first season. Captain Picard, Dr. Crusher, and Troi are well-served in this adventure, as are the guest characters, but much of the rest of the crew sadly remain in the background with little to do.

In this story, we witness the Prime Directive governing military negotiations instead of outright contact, as seemed to be the case back in "Encounter at Farpoint". This time, it's specifically about arms trades, nearly treading on the same ground as "A Private Little War" (original series production #45) but presenting a far more tasteful and correct take on the issues. We are denied real data on the ability of the population of the local planet to travel through space, and so can't really make much comment on whether or not contact was warranted in the backstory to begin with. But by the time this story opens, contact has long since become a moot point.

Sadly, we still don't get any definitive new word on whether or not the Prime Directive's scope has been expanded, or what it really says about trading with other civilizations after contact.

This is a story calling for some difficult make-up effects, and although it does work, it seems a bit more obvious than would be ideal. Ultimately the story gives a great philosophical and emotional ride, and remains one of season one's better efforts.

29:26 of George Romanis's score for "Too Short a Season" is available here:
Star Trek - TNG
The Last Outpost / Too Short a Season / Gambit
3-disc Audio CD set

Find out more....

Angel One

(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode production code 115)
written by Patrick Barry

A large part of this story's fundamental concept is based on gender role-reversal. In that sense, it isn't half as successful as seen elsewhere, with the "Sliders" episode "The Weaker Sex" (story no. 7) being both more successful and far more entertaining. Most characters in this story, alien and Starfleet alike, seem to be too single-minded to be believable three-dimensional characters, and I think this is even more abnormal for women than for men. Perhaps the addition of a female writing partner could have added the extra dimension and perspective that the premise seems to need so badly.

But there is something else to consider. Unlike "Sliders" where each world is a parallel Earth populated by humans, Star Trek has scope with this alien world to provide this gender-reversed population some alien bio-chemistry and genetically-promoted instincts and habits that could help make their society more believable. Instead, they are presented as all-too-identical to human beings, even to the point of successful cross-breeding. The sole male writer could have used alien physiology to justify the character instincts he had written had he so chosen.

The society is said to be on par with Earth's 20th century, so we might infer that they don't have warp drive yet. However, once more contact seems to be a moot point, and judging by Troi's initial greeting, NOT because of the survivors of the Odin. Interesting. Yet the Prime Directive is later invoked, not because of any issue of initial contact, but more in dealing with another culture's wishes after contact. The Directive must have grown between the 23rd and 24th centuries.

What becomes really interesting is that, seemingly for the first time anywhere in Star Trek, a direct statement is made concerning the jurisdiction of the Prime Directive, this time by Commander Data:

"The Odin was not a Starship, which means her crew is not bound by the Prime Directive."

Here, it seems that the Prime Directive is specifically a Starfleet rule, one that does not affect the rest of Federation society at large. This seems to go against what we saw back in the original series' episode "Bread and Circuses", and it will be very interesting to see if the jurisdiction suggested here still holds when we encounter the situation with Worf's Russian brother in The Next Generation's 7th season....

Musically, one can hear Dennis McCarthy's signature all over this one, as he graces us with more lovely variations on his alternate series main title theme, while most of the rest of the episode's music disappears into the background.

The story comes to a predictably preachy end, but Riker's speech actually isn't too bad, containing some nicely forward-thinking philosophies. More importantly, the response to it remains believable. What isn't too believable is that such a large, tense gathering would be crammed into such a small space in the first place, where the few guards dotted about the place haven't any chance of controlling a potential outbreak of violence. Considering what is going on in the scene, it then becomes even more unbelievable that a fight for survival isn't being just barely held in check. Oh well. It's a nice speech. One can enjoy it, and then move on in hopes of a slightly better episode next time....

Home Soil

(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode production code 117)
story by Karl Guers & Ralph Sanchez & Robert Sabaroff
teleplay by Robert Sabaroff

For quite some time it appears that this is just a good sci-fi premise turned into a decent TV episode, but before long the Prime Directive is invoked yet again. TNG's first season is gradually revealing a bit of an obsession here, claiming that this favourite label for their ethics somehow contains the answer to most of their problems.

Today's example is actually one of the better ones of the first season. The Prime Directive is relevant here in much the same way as it was for the Genesis terraforming project in the second and third Star Trek feature films, only this episode focuses on that issue much more directly and in greater depth than the features, which were ultimately more about other things. Good.

It's Alive!

The episode also features a bit of a sci-fi cliché, one which in particular always causes me to roll my eyes. In my philosophy, the whole universe is alive, so the big discovery of the episode is something I expect. Strange that terraformers never seem to get it until too late, and particularly strange that these terraformers don't seem to have moved beyond what we saw in Star Trek II, or acknowledge how impossible was the task that the Reliant had of finding a truly lifeless planet.


(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode production code 123)
story by Robert Lewin
teleplay by Robert Lewin and Richard Manning and Hans Beimler

Of all of The Next Generation's Season One stories, this is the only one that I remembered as having dealt with the Prime Directive before embarking on a revisit of the season for purposes of writing this article. This is probably due in large part to the extra emphasis and emotion that Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher put into their arguments for and against following it. Their scene in the elevator in particular is burned into my brain as the first of four key Prime Directive moments for The Next Generation series, and the one that really defined Captain Picard's take on the order.

I think perhaps part of the power of this moment stems from the fact that Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden had found their characters by this point, and were able to express their arguments through a sincerity of character. This is a sharp contrast from "Code of Honor", where lengthy Prime Directive speeches seemed to just blather on from out of nowhere, having little relevance to what was going on in the episode.

The writing in this episode is just generally far superior to most other Prime Directive tales of the season. Many complex social issues are in play here, and the Enterprise crew are neatly led to explore them one by one as they dig deeper into the layers of intrigue in the guest characters' situation. It definitely helps keep audience interest running high, always wanting to find out more. Nicely done.

I think it is important to note that there are TWO distinct addictions in play here concerning the "Felicium" commodity. The obvious one that gets plenty of discussion in the episode is the Onarans' physical/emotional addiction. Without this the Onarans will suffer withdrawal symptoms. Dr. Crusher becomes a big advocate of "curing" this.

The other addiction is even more insidious, partly because it doesn't really get discussed. The Brechians are FINANCIALLY addicted to Felicium. Without their fix, they will *supposedly* have no food, water, shelter, luxuries, electricity, transportation, etc., etc. They will suffer far more than withdrawal symptoms should their usual deal cease. And although Picard's interpretation of the Prime Directive kind of deals with that, it seems to do so without any clue as to what it is doing.

Now of course, this is where the premise of the episode loses almost all believability, in saying one entire planet is all wrapped up on one side of this deal, while the other is totally wrapped up with the other, while only three spacecraft with a crew of six each are the only means of transportation between the two. Each planet would have to have extremely small (and undiversified) populations to make that remotely credible, and the "billions of doses" in the container would seem to grate against that idea.

It is also strange that Onara seems to be on C.O.D. terms with their neighbours as the story opens. You'd think they'd be allowed some form of credit already after hundreds of years of trade. And considering how concentrated Felicium is, and the fact that the Brechians need to get everything else in life in return for the Felicium, how could one ship hold enough "everything" on board to pay for that much Felicium in the first place? Currency is no good as payment, if the only place the Brecchians can buy their basic necessities is on Onara. They would need enough transportation to haul billions of necessities back.

Yet again "Trek" is resorting to a contrivance in order to dramatize the philosophical point of the story. Since that is a good aim, we will give it some rope.

What of the Prime Directive itself? We do note that the Enterprise crew threw themselves into aiding these two societies without really checking first if the Prime Directive allowed them jurisdiction. Perhaps Onara and Brecchia are able to trade within their own star system without having acquired warp drive, and even if they have acquired it, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to discover that they have subsequently lost knowledge of how to maintain and repair that technology. Anyway, the Enterprise crew do the right thing, jumping in to help, after which the old traditional Prime Directive is mostly a moot point.

But the Next Generation's first season seems keen to show that the Prime Directive also now governs trade agreements to some extent after contact, in still improperly defined terms, so let's see where that goes. Again, the Enterprise crew jump right in, trying to do good, offering spacecraft repair parts. And so they've apparently begun trading with Onara, or the combined societies of the whole system, depending on how you look at it. IF the Prime Directive allows that, surely it should allow Dr. Crusher to offer the non-addictive Felicium substitute she claims she can easily replicate for them. Prime Directive aside, there is another potential sociological danger in that idea, often termed "enabling", which in essence is like continuing to spoil a spoilt child instead of letting them taste the unpleasant consequences of their actions that can help them grow into better habits. Since Doctor Crusher has a plan to wean them gradually off of her substitute, I think she does clear herself of the "enabling" sin.

What she clearly doesn't think of at all is doing something similar for the Brecchian financial addiction. Being upset with them for exploiting a neighbouring culture, she would have them get over their situation by "going cold turkey". She does in essence take sides. Captain Picard's position thus is more balanced, but he never does manage to articulate as much. It's as though he knows he's doing the best thing by following the Prime Directive, but has no real clue why it works.

And it is unfortunate that in several scenes, where characters are turning to him and begging for some kind of decision, he appears to be at a loss for words, philosophy, or a plan of action. A bit disappointing to be sure, and eating into his capacity to show charisma and leadership.

I think Doctor Crusher's frustrations manage to point to the heart of the limitations of the Prime Directive, which all too often advocates a lack of interaction. There is more one can do, and better philosophies to live one's life by. One is to place honesty above secrecy. The discoveries made by the Enterprise crew regarding Felicium wouldn't be kept from the Onarans under my watch. And if they want to trade with the Onarans and give them engine coils and Felicium substitutes, fine and dandy. Don't spare Brecchia the consequences of dealing with truth and competition in the marketplace, otherwise you will be "enabling" their addiction.

But to be fair, the Federation can show interest in learning more about and trading for Brecchia's OTHER commodities. Yes, they don't believe they have any other commodities, but they will have to learn to develop some to survive and grow and thrive. The Federation can help boost Brecchia's confidence by being confident themselves that other possibilities and talents already exist amongst the Brecchians, and like the beautiful statue already hidden inside the block of granite, the Federation only needs to provide a bit of suggestive help in clearing away some of the rubble. And thus you can do good while interacting more.

Now of course, much as I think this is the best course for the Federation to put its best foot forward here, there's no guarantee that the Brecchians or the Onarans are going to think this is the greatest idea ever and hold the Federation, Starfleet, or the Enterprise crew in high esteem for butting in like this. The Federation may get lots of blame for the sweeping changes that many Brecchians and Onarans find unpleasant and harsh. Does the Prime Directive offer any better guarantee? The Federation gets a pretty cold shoulder at the end of this episode anyway, from refusing to trade the coils. You may as well aim for the highest ideal you can come up with. In life there is always risk, any way you slice it.

6:17 of Dennis McCarthy's score for "Symbiosis" is available here:
Star Trek 50th Anniversary Collection
Animated Series Library /
The Hunted / Qpid

4-disc Audio CD set

Find out more....

What does work at the end of this episode, thanks to the situation with the coils needed to repair the Onaran ships, is the idea that the dysfunctional symbiotic relationship between the Onarans and the Brecchians is unsustainable in the long term. Drug addiction, not to mention financial addiction to drug addiction, has naturally destructive consequences. Withholding the coils is Picard's way of ensuring the Federation does not continue to become an "enabler" in this bizarre situation. Indeed, their rescue of this ship's crew and cargo already was enabling to an extent.

But saddest of all is the lack of articulation of so many of the nuances of these issues during the episode. Crossing the honesty barrier would have allowed a better discussion during the episode's dialogue. But there is another improvement I would suggest as well....

"The Prime Directive" is starting to get used as a kind of label to paint over & avoid real discussion of issues. Note how often it is mentioned in the episode, and how passionately, yet also note that Star Trek has still not come out and said in this episode or any previous what this new Prime Directive means in terms of trade after official contact. A lot of writers and viewers are now assuming a meaning, and interpreting it as they see fit. Discussing the issues without such a convenient label might just help make the issues clearer and help good episodes stand up better on their own, with less dependence on the audience being familiar with the rest of the franchise.

Still, this does manage to be one of Star Trek's best episodes dealing with Prime Directive issues, and probably the best that season one has to offer.

These Next Generation Season One stories are available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season One (1987-1988):

Includes the double-length 92 minute pilot plus 24 episodes @ 46 minutes each.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for more information:

DVD Canada

7-disc DVD set

DVD Canada


DVD Extras include:

  • "The Beginning" origins Featurette
  • "Selected Crew Analysis" cast Featurette
  • "Making of a Legend" production featurette
  • "Memorable Missions" key episode featurette
Blu-ray U.S.

Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.


6-disc Blu-ray box set

Blu-ray features add:

  • Energized! Taking TNG to the Next Level (HD, 23 min.) detailing the high-definition restoration for Blu-ray.
  • Stardate Revisited: The Origin of TNG (HD, 93 min.) with
    Patrick Stewart (Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Riker),
    Brent Spiner (Data), LeVar Burton (Geordi), and
    producers Gene Roddenberry, Rick Berman,
    Robert Justman, and D.C. Fontana.
    • Part 1: Inception
    • Part 2: Launch
    • Part 3: The Continuing Mission
  • Gag Reel (8 min., standard definition)
  • Star Trek: TNG Archives: The Launch
  • Promos for each individual episode
  • plus, all featurettes from the DVD version.

Article & reviews written by Martin Izsak. Comments are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read the next Star Trek review: "We'll Always Have Paris"

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