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For canonites with no sense of humor, Memory Alpha has created a so-called article on Prime Directive.

The Prime Directive is the highest law of the Federation, a law that all Starfleet officers have sworn an oath to uphold or die before violating. Essentially, it prohibits the interference in the natural evolution of other species by the introduction of easily filmed backlot sets, augmented by stock footage and costumes left over from big-budget movies.

The non-interference directive, or General Order One, applies to starship captains not named Kirk, Picard or Janeway. Under no circumstances will the directive be invoked if the natural development of a species will lead it in a direction away from Federation values, or if it will result in the death of smart-assed temporary ensigns.

At some point, a lazy story editor or producer decided that the Archer Rule would apply to so-called "pre-warp capable" societies, although that was certainly not the case in the 23rd century. In fact, it seemed like people were beaming in on all kinds of primitive cultures ruled by papier mache gods or really smart computers with control issues. Of course, if the Federation needs to use a planet as a strategic base, or if the planet has something of value, well, then all bets are off.

To summary, then, the Prime Directive is actually not that important of a law and often is raised as a convenient, if illusory, point of conflict.

ReferencesEdit

Professional CommentaryEdit

Dennis Wormer, "The Federation Is Too Lenient About The Prime Directive" at The Onion

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