Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 21
Original Air Date: February 9, 1967
In the Star Trek universe, Starfleet's Prime Directive dictates that there can be no interference with the internal development of alien civilizations. As I have said before, I believe the best Trek stories are the ones in which the crew is faced with an ethical dilemma. The best of those usually bump up against the Prime Directive. As a literary device, the Prime Directive ranks with Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics as one of the best in science fiction.
The Prime Directive is not quite so ironclad as the Three Laws. Asimov's robots will cease function before they break their laws. The puzzle of each story usually involves figuring out how the robots manage to cause such trouble while still playing by the rules. The Laws themselves, are never wrong. The problem is always a matter of human failure to understand them.
Enterprise captains get a bit more wiggle room. In the case of "Return of the Archons," the Prime Directive is violated practically the moment it's introduced. When Captain Kirk advocates destroying the computer he expects is controlling the planet, Spock invokes the Directive. Kirk's response: "That refers to a living, growing culture...do you think this one is?" In Trek, it seems we are always encouraged to side with the captain whether s/he is violating the Prime Directive or not. The consideration is the important thing.
|via Memory Alpha|