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- "Season Four"

Season One:
-1: "The Cage"
-2: "Where No Man Has Gone Before"
-3: "The Corbomite Maneuver"
-4: "Mudd's Women"
-5: "The Enemy Within"
-6: "The Man Trap"
-7: "The Naked Time"
-8: "Charlie X"
-9: "Balance of Terror"
-13: "The Conscience of the King"
-16: "The Menagerie"
-20: "The Alternative Factor"
----: _Time Travel Season 1
-21: "Tomorrow is Yesterday"
----: _Prime Directive Origins
-22: "The Return of the Archons"

-23: "A Taste of Armageddon"
-27: "Errand of Mercy"
-28: "The City On the Edge of Forever"
-29: "Operation -- Annihilate!"
-Season 1 Rankings

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Star Trek
Prime Directive Origins

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

Starfleet's non-interference Prime Directive has an obscure beginning in Star Trek history.
Its first mention, and indeed ONLY mention in all of the first season, is in a brief exchange between Kirk and Spock in "The Return of the Archons", where they quickly decide that the directive doesn't really apply to this week's situation. What's most bizarre is the way this exchange appears to have been tacked on in hindsight, as though to maintain a congruent view of the Star Trek universe. One would have expected a concept like the Prime Directive to have debuted in an episode in which it both had something more to do with the story, and in which it was properly introduced to the audience through the narrative and dialogue. "The Return of the Archons" doesn't really say what Starfleet's prime directive is, and indeed spends more time studying a completely different 6000-year-old local idea, also confusingly called a prime directive.

"We seek to better ourselves..."

At its heart, our infamous Prime Directive is the highest General Order in Starfleet - an instruction to not interfere in the affairs of other civilizations. It is quite specific with regard to less developed civilizations that have not yet acquired warp drive (and thus the capability to come out and mingle with the rest of the galaxy) - absolutely no open contact is allowed at all with such societies.

The Roddenberry Glory

The real origin of the prime directive in Star Trek can perhaps be traced back to the second pilot. We now know this story as "Where No Man Has Gone Before", written by Samuel Peeples. However, producers Herb Solow and Robert Justman revealed in their "Inside Star Trek" book and audio cassette that Peeple's script was one of three competing to be made as the second pilot. The other candidates included "Mudd's Women" by Stephen Kandel based on a Gene Roddenberry "springboard" story idea and filmed almost as soon as regular production began on the series, and "The Omega Glory" which Gene Roddenberry was writing himself. While "The Omega Glory" did not become a filmed episode until the very end of the second season, we have to assume that the script was in some form of development long before the series even began. And as we know, the story of "The Omega Glory" is deeply saturated in the Prime Directive. The real origin of this law therefore appears to have been an off-screen one, collecting dust as a half-finished script on one of Roddenberry's shelves, while the idea rolled around in his head and influenced the notes he made on other scripts throughout the first two years of Star Trek.

Although conceived with the best of intentions, the Prime Directive is a flawed philosophy (just as "The Omega Glory" remained a story of deeply flawed symbolism), and it is a great pity that this franchise for exploring the human condition seems to have little capacity for successfully challenging its most entrenched policy.

The Return of the Archons

(Star Trek story #22 in production order)
story by Gene Roddenberry
teleplay by Boris Sobelman
directed by Joseph Pevney
But, returning to the Archons and our only actual season one prime directive story, there isn't much meat here to sink any of our arguments into. In fact, the episode is bizarrely thinner than most in setting up the society on the planet for the viewer, with the episode opening well after the Enterprise crew have become involved, and with the information in the expositional Captain's Log entries being rather sparse. No doubt making good use of the studio's stock assets, the costumes and initial backlot sets suggest a society on par with the gentlemanly side of the American West in the 1800's, an assumption quickly dispelled by the culture's self-awareness of its history regarding all the remnants of its previous higher technology.

At any rate, the Enterprise crew decide to trade in their own uniforms for local garb during all landing missions. Knowing how the Enterprise crew arrived at this decision would be critical if we wanted to accuse them of deception, but "Return of the Archons" has kept itself in the clear by sidestepping this issue. Kirk and company later flip sides constantly in their use of deception as a means to achieve their goals during the episode. Although often attempting to appear as spaced out and as entrenched in this week's dystopia as the locals in order to blend in and steer clear of suspicion and opposition, they often confront the more solid and actual threats with their true selves, true backgrounds, and true nature.... with these moments nearly always being more entertaining than the deceptive ones.

Interestingly, the narration on the episode's trailer appears to give some extra information that isn't in the actual episode - that the Enterprise crew came here to discover what happened to a previous ship, the U.S.S. Archon. Ahh, so that's who the Archons were! It would have been better to put that somewhere in the episode in place of some of that repetitive irritating spaced-out dialogue.

When all is said and done, "The Return of the Archons" proves to be one of the lesser scripts of the season, and doesn't turn out to be a great episode. Most of the characters, at many times including our regulars, are locked in unusual behaviour patterns perpetuated by the needs of the dystopia of the week, patterns which naturally distance the characters from the audience. Instead of making the exploration of these patterns quick and compelling, we drag our way through far more than is palatable, while the actors never quite figure out on their quick TV shooting schedule how to imbue those patterns with the sort of charisma that audiences respond to. The end result is something that very few non-sci-fi-geeks will sit through.

The Galileo Others

As we continue through Star Trek, we will continue to keep a watchful eye on the series' portrayal of the Prime Directive, including those stories where mention of the Prime Directive is conspicuous by its absence. Season One has a few more examples worth closer scrutiny such as "A Taste of Armageddon" and "Errand of Mercy", which now both have complete reviews on further pages here on this site...

One of the other more notable cases occurs in an episode we've already passed by this point: "The Galileo Seven" (episode 14). Mr. Spock is arguing for restraint in his crew's position against some native creatures on an asteroid who are quite far from achieving warp drive, and he is having a hard time keeping his crew from mutinying. Starfleet's Prime Directive seems to be the perfect thing to remind this crew of, to get them back in line and show the locals some respect, yet Spock struggles to make his case without mentioning it. Again, it is all too obvious that the writers hadn't figured it out yet, and also possible that Starfleet had not yet adopted this policy as their highest law. Perhaps Season Two had better things to say regarding how recently the Prime Directive came into prominence.

And so, there will be much, much more to say about the use of the Prime Directive in Star Trek stories as we delve into Star Trek's continuing adventures, as this non-interference concept slowly crawls out of the closet and weaves itself through many a controversial tale.....

Read the next Star Trek review: "A Taste of Armageddon"

"The Return of the Archons" and "The Galileo Seven" are available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Star Trek Season One "Purist" Standard DVD Box Set:

Watch the legend develop from its infancy. Set contains 29 episodes from the first season in their original wacky broadcast order, including "The Menagerie Parts 1 & 2" which used footage from the original unaired pilot "The Cage". However, "The Cage" itself is only included with the Season Three Box Set.

As someone interested in researching how the episodes actually looked and sounded originally, and when and exactly how certain musical cues first debuted, this was the DVD set for me, and it remains the most untampered-with full-season collection of Star Trek out there. Unique extras include pure text commentaries on select episodes. Sadly, these sets are starting to become rare, and prices are now rising as these become collectors' items....


DVD Canada


Standard DVD Extras include:

  • original restored broadcast versions of the 29 episodes.
  • "The Birth of a Timeless Legacy" documentary (24 min.)
  • Text only commentary by Denise & Michael Okuda on "Where No Man Has Gone Before", "The Menagerie Parts 1 & 2", and "The Conscience of the King".
  • "To Boldly Go" featurette (19 min.) discussing
    "The Naked Time", "City on the Edge of Forever",
    "The Devil in the Dark", and "The Squire of Gothos".
  • "Reflections on Spock" featurette (12 min.)
  • "Sci-Fi Visionaries" writing featurette (17 min.)
  • "Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner" featurette (10 min.)
  • "Red Shirt Logs" Easter Eggs (7 min. total)
  • Photo Log (still menus)
  • Original Trailers for every episode (1 min. each)

Standard DVD Remastered with CGI:
DVD/HD Combo R1
DVD/HD Combo R1
DVD/HD Combo R2
Standard DVD only R2

The Original Series Remastered Sets

The re-mastered Star Trek sets are more readily available, and in addition to picture and sound quality restoration, liberties have been taken with "upgrading" the episodes. Most famously, new CGI effects and optical shots have replaced many space scenes, matte paintings, and phaser effects. Unlike similar upgrades applied to select Doctor Who DVD releases since 2002, the CGI effects cannot be turned off to see the original effects. The kicker for me comes from reports that the episodes have been rescored with new music. Interesting, funky, but since it's primarily the original music I'm after in the first place, this was not the set for me.

Another curiosity: Season One was released on double-sided discs, with standard DVD on one side and HD on the other. Reportedly, not all extras are accessible on the standard DVD side. However, by the time the remastered versions of seasons two and three were released, HD had clearly lost the standards war to Blu-Ray, and so seasons two and three "remastered" offer standard DVD only yet again.

Adding to the bizarre formatting is the very gimmicky, awkward packaging that is prone to damage both during shipping and with light usage. The season 1 set fares better than its counterparts for seasons 2 or 3 though, in having some interesting bonus features not found on any other season one Star Trek set:

DVD/HD Combo Season 1 Exclusive extras:

  • Starfleet Access interactive trivia plus picture-in-picture interviews for "The Galileo Seven" (HD version only).
  • "Beyond the Final Frontier" History Channel documentary (SD, 90 min.) with host Leonard Nimoy.
  • Trekker Connections interactive DVD game (SD side)
  • Star Trek online game preview (SD, 3 min.)

Season One - Blu Ray

  29 episodes @ 51 minutes
Star Trek sets are now available on Blu Ray. Picture and sound quality restoration has gone up yet another notch since the remastered version, as have the liberties taken with "upgrading" the episodes. Once again, even newer CGI effects and optical shots have replaced many space scenes, matte paintings, and phaser effects.... but this time the upgrades have the same respect and user-functionality applied to select Doctor Who DVD releases since 2002, as the CGI effects can now be turned off to see the original effects. Good show. It seems that the music has still been tampered with too much for my liking though.

Blu-ray U.S.

Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

Blu-ray features add:

  • option to watch episodes with original or new CGI effects.
  • Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century featurette (HD, 20 min.) covering the restoration, CGI effects, and music upgrades.
  • Starfleet Access - Okuda interactive trivia plus picture-in-picture interviews on 6 episodes:
    • Where No Man Has Gone Before
    • The Menagerie Part 1
    • The Menagerie Part 2
    • Balance of Terror
    • Space Seed
    • Errand of Mercy
  • Behind-the-scenes 8mm home movies (HD, 13 min.) from Billy Blackburn (Lt. Hadley / Gorn)
  • Kiss 'N tell: Romance in the 23rd Century (8 min.)
  • Interactive Enterprise Inspection (HD)
  • plus all documentaries, featurettes, and episode promos from the "purist" standard DVD set listed far above.

Article 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: "A Taste of Armageddon"

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