"Symbiosis" (season one),
"Who Watches the Watchers" (season three), and
"First Contact" (season four episode - NOT the feature film),
this is the final of the four key Prime Directive stories
for Star Trek: The Next Generation. In terms of jurisdiction,
it seems to contradict
"Angel One" (from season one),
and validate the original Trek episode
"Bread and Circuses".
As far as the directive itself goes, the episode shows
little reason for the Federation to keep it in the end, yet
the Star Trek franchise doesn't seem willing to acknowledge this.
The question of the Prime Directive's jurisdiction is only
handled by the early sections of the episode, and is centered
squarely on the position in Federation society of
Worf's brother Nikolai. As with the captain of the Beagle
in "Bread and Circuses", Nikolai is a Starfleet Academy
dropout, who only lasted for one year. Therefore it seems
safe to assume that he is not a member of Starfleet,
and may be more generally governed by Federation law.
Picard is adamant at one point that Nikolai has thrown away
his entire career by violating the Prime Directive.
But it never is said exactly where this career stems from,
or what specific organization Nikolai belongs to that
would station observers on Prime-Directive-protected planets.
If we believe
in the Heisenberg principle, observation alone is enough to cause
interference, and already grates against the Prime Directive.
Much is left vague about Nikolai's need to adhere to this law
in the first place.
Most of the Starfleet characters on board the Enterprise seem
to favour following the Prime Directive while it is being
debated. However, once they get over the fact that they have
been tricked into becoming involved with its violation,
none of them are willing to say that the final outcome
wasn't worthwhile. Worf is probably the last holdout,
not because of belief in the Prime Directive, but more as an
extension of the old argument that he has had with his brother
over the years.
If there is any lasting impression in this episode that
the Prime Directive actually is a good thing, it probably
stems from sadness that one of the primitives (Voron?) strays
from the holodeck, learns the truth, and kills himself because
he can't deal with it. I find the viewpoints of this character
so unsympathetic, that he doesn't even begin to sway me at all.
Early on, he demonstrates his need to gain his identity from
his past. This betrays his third density mindset, which I suppose
we should expect from a society protected by Prime Directive isolation.
In "fourth density", one is secure in one's
identity in the present. Even if we can't expect him to grow
out of any of his third density mindset, I think we can expect
the Enterprise crew to act on a fourth density mindset, as
both the time period and Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future
seem to want to suggest for humanity and their space-faring
fellow species. And it should not be their place to use
deception to try to protect Voron's third density limits.
If the truth will challenge him to grow, good. The Enterprise
crew should stick with the truth.
What a nice touch it is that Dr. Crusher is unable to do anything
to wipe Voron's memory. What a nicer touch it would have been
if it had been for a philosophical reason rather than a question
of having no medical technique. Stick with honesty and forget
the deceptions and secrets!
In some ways, much of Voron's dilemma is imposed on him by
the Enterprise crew, who should not bother about keeping the
holodeck running. It's another deception. Be honest.
Let these people deal with the fact that they are moving to
another planet. Let Voron deal with it with them, where they
have as much knowledge as he does. It was move or die.
Really, as the episode stands, Worf and his brother are elevated
to the position of saviours with powers to know and command
the elements, powers with unknown, undefined limits. How is that
really any better than coming out and saying, we're moving you
farther by spacecraft? If the Enterprise crew are going to get
involved, they should do it with complete honesty. Only then can
they maintain their highest integrity, and inspire the same in other
species at any level of technological or social advancement.
Holodeck off. No more lies and deception.
That aside, there is little reason for the audience to want
to side with the Prime Directive here. Worf's brother has a
better and more satisfying idea. He is a good hero, and deserves
considerably more praise than he gets. And considering what
the Enterprise crew themselves were up to back in
season two's "Pen Pals",
they really don't have the right to be so righteous
when attacking Nikolai's ideas.
If there is any caveat to this, it is not in the present,
but in the future (and if you have to go to the future for it,
you know this is a less-evolved third density consideration).
What if this rescued population turns out to be really nasty
and uncivilized when they get out and mingle with the rest of
the galaxy? What if the Federation deems this was more or less
their fault? What if it seems it would have been better in
hindsight to have let nature wipe them out as it tried to? Well,
there certainly is no sense that this population is on any
road to becoming particularly nasty, and the Federation characters
can only act on what they see now. In that sense,
the episode seems a bit contrived in creating a perfectly
innocent race threatened by such a devastating weather phenomenon.
BUT, that also puts the Federation and its characters outside of what
is considered to be "natural". They are in fact an integral part
of their universe, and spiritually speaking, with Worf's brother
on the planet already, the storm may be as much about the
Federation's growth as about the indigenous population's. Maybe
it's there to challenge Starfleet and the Federation to re-examine
their Prime Directive and find greater philosophies to live by.
If you're a Federation character, you should consider this first,
before worrying so much about the growth of the other population.
Data and Dr. Crusher feel a little overwhelmed at making the choice
of a new planet for these people. Nice scene, by the way! Maybe
though, that feeling is an indication that those people themselves
should be brought into the discussion. If the lies and the holodeck
cease, it should be a no-brainer.
In the end, this is an enjoyable episode, and a good challenge
to the Prime Directive. If only it had gone further and brought
that challenge out victorious.....
"Thine Own Self" and
can now be found on their own pages.)