Worf’s adopted-brother has been quietly studying the people of Borall II until it looks like the whole planet is about to be destroyed. With the help of the Enterprise, he gets out of there, but he brings a village along with him. But they don’t know it because they’re being hidden in a holodeck. The Prime Directive takes a holiday when Homeward goes into the Mission Log.

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  1. Dave Steph Taylor says:

    I really wanted to like this one but I just can’t get over the complete lack of consequences for Nikolai.

    So as long as you impregnate one of the locals, breaking the Prime Directive all is good.

    And I spied a maximum warp violation.

    • Earl Green says:

      Guess there hasn’t been time for the Space Cops to set up speed traps in asteroid fields and gaseous anomalies yet. Give it a couple of months and they will totally be pulling the Enterprise-D over.

      It’s a really fascinating story, though. Maybe leaving Nikolai where he is one less witness to mention that Picard et al. were essentially complicit in this massive Prime Directive violation. Now yeah, he forced their hand, but…

      • Dave Steph Taylor says:

        Space CHiP’s 😉

        Nikolai did not just innocently bend the rules, he purposefully broke them, accessing systems on board the Enterprise to pull off his plan.

        Now once they were on the Holodeck, Picard really had no choice but to help them.

        • Earl Green says:

          Really makes you wonder what kind of security there is between a civilian who’s just arrived on board and large-scale use of transporters and holodecks.

          Apparently none.

          • Konservenknilch says:

            At least shitty security is well established on the show 😉

          • Dave Steph Taylor says:

            Worf should be fired. 😉

            We have seen repeatedly non ship personal wander openly and access all kinds of ships systems. How many people just wander through main engineering and the bridge.

          • wchmara says:

            Just wanted to add one more criticism of Worf. It was that cringey moment of too much information when he said, “Even the stars will be different.”
            Why even bring that up? Leave that as something for any nitpicker-astronomer who might exist in that group to discover AFTER the relocation. Even then, I imagine it would merit not much more than a “That’s odd” response. Geez, I don’t even remember the last time I checked to make sure all the constellations were in place. Priorities, you know?
            What the heck was he thinking?

          • Jason8957 says:

            And once again, someone please, just lock the holodeck door!

          • deaddropsd says:

            right?!!?!?? sensitive cargo in holodeck, geez, no guards, nothing…..

  2. Liam McMullin says:

    Excellent discussion. Even as a kid this episode bothered me. Letting an entire planet die because you have a rule stating you shouldn’t interfere with primitive civilizations is cold.

    On the other hand, you guys and Dave all have a point about how nobody ever faces any consequences for breaking the rules. Hmm… idea: one of those legal dramas centred around the people who have to litigate the stunts our favourite crews pull. 😉

    • Dave Steph Taylor says:

      The Prime Directive sounds great and for the most part is a fine policy, but letting an entire civilization die when you could help is just awful

  3. CmdrR says:

    Recently, I happened to rewatch ‘Heart of Glory.’ Ah hell, I don’t know why… but, anyway… one of the bits is Worf explaining his personal history to the two Klingon baddies. And he says: “When my foster brother and I were of age, we entered Starfleet Academy. He hated it and returned to Gault. I stayed.” I was surprised at how this forgettable passage sets up ‘Homeward.’ Oh, here’s another bit of dialogue from season one: “…there can be no justice so long as laws are absolute. Even life itself is an exercise in exceptions. …
    When has justice ever been as simple as a rulebook?” I like this episode, though I don’t agree with the acrimony over helping to save people. Yes, it would suck to find out space aliens in pajamas were thousands of years more advanced than you… but, wouldn’t it be swell not to die??

  4. Joel Geraci says:

    Ok – So what if an advanced society came to Earth when the Neanderthals were more numerous than homo sapiens and saw that we were hunting and eating them into extinction? Without the prime directive, who would be ruling the planet now?

  5. Burstingfoam says:

    Anyone know why the comments I’ve posted keep being flagged as spam? Maybe I’m doing something wrong, I don’t know. Hey ho…
    Anyway, to cut my previous very long post short, I hate this episode.

    • deaddropsd says:

      No idea…did you copy and paste something or a link? Yeah, this episode has problems. Could have been better if not tied into Worf..just some well meaning anthropologist who smuggles a large shipment of equipment and it turns out to be the aliens…..

  6. Pete2174 says:

    To quote Spinal Tap. Sh!t Sandwich.
    A low light of season 7 and the whole series.

  7. Konservenknilch says:

    So basically the Enterprise in this case is an indifferent god – they could save them from extinction, but chose not to. Not a good look. Once again, an interesting topic gets simplified so much that there’s not much to discuss. It’s one thing not to interfere with the development of another culture, but these people literally have no future otherwise.

    During the episode I also got to thinking that we don’t really know the Federations attitude towards conservationism. Even without these humanoids, that planet must be teeming with all kinds of life which will be lost forever. But it never crosses our crews minds to save even a few samples for a zoo or whatnot.

    • Dave Steph Taylor says:

      The Prime Directive allows Star Fleet to say, “Ah sucks, tough luck” and move on with a clear conscience.

      I do get the basic idea of the Directive, but cases like this show the serious issue with it.

    • Earl Green says:

      Oh man, that’s one of those great points that’s so great that I wish I’d thought of it. Good thing the Boraalans aren’t reliant for their very lives on a symbiotic relationship with some microscopic life form that now *no longer exists*. Think about it: we have bacteria in our guts that perform helpful functions. That kind of symbiotic relationship isn’t sci-fi, it’s something that happens here and now to each and every one of us.

      Holy *crap*. Forget my lenience toward Nikolai elsewhere in the comments here. Unless he’s really, and I mean *really*, done his homework, he may have just signed these people’s death warrants, old planet or new.

      • Konservenknilch says:

        Good thing the Trill never had to face this problem.

        “Thank you for saving us captain, and by the way, where did you put the symbionts?”

        “The what? Uh…”

    • Daniel Harlan says:

      This is a great episode for this reason: it brings up excellent comments like the ones you made: Picard’s use of the Prime Directive is pretty indefensible in this context. But it’s still an important rule. As Picard said in Symbiosis: “History has proved again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous.”

      In many other situations it brings up hard questions for sure, rife with tragic historical contexts and potential for cultural disasters. Being a Starfleet captain is more than keeping warp drives fueled, mapping stellar anomalies, and firing torpedoes. Not a job for wimps.

      • Konservenknilch says:

        In a way, this episode is a perfect fit for Mission Log. While I have issues with it, it’s a great starting point for this kind of discussion.

        Not getting too spoilery, Discovery seems to set up a big ethical dilemma for the shroom drive in episode 4, looking forward to where they’ll go with that.

      • wchmara says:

        I always say ENT was a brilliant concept for a Star Trek series in theory. In practice, it was the most flawed in the franchise (until STD).
        Bakula once said in an interview that he took the role of Archer solely because his character would be the one making all the mistakes that his future successors would learn from.
        There should have been several episodes dealing with Archer’s crew (or another ship’s) trying to do the right thing, it turns out disastrous, and they now must work twice as hard to fix it. If they can.
        Instead, Berman and his buds always gave the NX-01 twenty-second century equivalents of nearly everything used by starship crews of the 23rd and 24th. Including an unofficial prime directive.

  8. Earl Green says:

    Kinda surprised to see this one has some serious detractors, it was always a season 7 favorite of mine. It’s one of those set-ups that’s so utterly fascinating, you’re thinking “Oh man, they should’ve saved this for a movie…” But what you’re not thinking is “…a movie that examines it in *even less depth* so it can make room for Data joking about the firmness of his boobs.”

    So Nikolai’s going to be a dad. I hope he’s better at it than Worf. Oh, wait, he didn’t even take time to meet his precocious nephew, Alexander. Good going Nikolai. Wow. Two peas in a pod. (Just don’t jettison the pod, you know, by accident.)

    Does Nikolai really have a get-out-of-jail-free card here? He can go off with the Boraalans, but the way it plays on screen, it seems like the price tag on that is that he can’t come back to Federation society. Someone might find *him* (or them) later, but he’s effectively cutting off any chance of ever seeing his parents or Worf again. If his adopted society starts dropping like flies like they landed on Eden, he can’t call for help. He has no way to. The price of going native is going away in the 24th century, and there’s no guarantee that this has the outcome that Nikolai wants.

    The directing of the actor who plays the Boraalan who stumbles out of the holodeck is amazing; those scenes play really well, and it’s really down to the actor and the camera work to convey that, because it’s the same sets and same fixed lighting setup as the rest of the season. It’s one of my favorite things about this episode. Their mistake was in not replicating him some puppies to ease his existential stress. (Works for me every time.)

    • Konservenknilch says:

      For what it’s worth, I did enjoy the episode. Well produced, all the actors are so comfortable in their roles by now and the casting for the guests was also good. In a way, this would have fit more in early TNG, when everyone is more stuck up and the Federation is at the height of its hubris, but then we’d have to deal with shoddy production. Maybe this rumoured “insurrection” will get a good grip on the topic… (I kid)

    • Dave Steph Taylor says:

      I actually liked the episode as acted. It had some great performances.

      Just turn your brain off for 45 minutes

  9. John Anderton says:

    Missionlog Computer:

    “We are used to Paul Sorvino playing the heavy. But in this episode, he is not heavy, he is Worf’s brother”

    Nothing more needs to be said.

  10. Scrappy says:

    The disregard for life in this episode has always shocked me . The entire argument for not helping the people on the planet is that they are primitive. That they don’t know about space ships and warp drives. But how many people on the enterprise can actually build a spaceship? Can Troi or Picard build a spaceship? Can anyone on the enterprise, besides Data, Geordie, and the engineering team, build a spaceship? I’m guessing they can’t.

    Also, they could of just stunned all of them and keep them sedated until they found a new planet for them.

    • Konservenknilch says:

      The cut-off point for contact being warp travel is pretty arbitrary, and I think an unfortunate consequence of the “planet of hats” trope. Yes, learning that you’re not the only intelligent species out there would be would be mind-blowing and disruptive. But who’s to say there’s not more than one on that planet already? For all we know, Earth might be the odd one out with only one surviving human species. So other pre-warp cultures might even be better prepared to handle this than we are.

      Oh, and Sisko could build a ship, more proof that he’s the most rad of all the captains 😀

      • Scrappy says:

        Agreed. I think they make assumptions on a culture’s ability to accept spaceships and life on other planets based on their own interpretations of the prime directive. For example, in the episode First Contact, the people of the planet broke the warp barrier but weren’t prepared for life on other planets. But in Who Watches the Watchers, it ended on a hopeful note and the people of that planet were much more accepting.

        Also, the Prime Directive could be changed to accommodate the saving of life without making contact with them. After all, they are 200 year old laws. Like I suggested, just stun them and transport them to a new planet.

        Agreed, Sisko is the best captain and DS9 is my favourite.

    • deaddropsd says:

      I think a concern in situations like this is disrupting the belief system of the planet. Yes, they are dying, but what if the Enterprise intervenes to help/evacuate some…then the natural disaster gets better and the planet survives? Maybe some will blame the Enterprise for starting the problem in the first place. I really like the novel “Prime Directive”. It went into detail about the First Contact Office and the protocols involved. UFP would wait until a society had developed a space program and had achieved le rêve d’étoiles or the dream of stars, and therefore be more likely to accept the concept of intelligent alien life…it’s a good read!

      • Scrappy says:

        The novel sounds very interesting. Having read it, you would have a better understanding of the long-term consequences of not following the prime directive. However, there is mostly speculation into what would happen rather than knowing what would happen. Standing on the bridge and watching the people die and saying “Can’t let those people live… think of what could happen” doesn’t sound like a law that has everything sorted.
        Also, Nicholai’s plan was a really good one that didn’t involve giving information about the UFP or them knowing about the enterprise. I would’ve been lazy about it and just stunned them all.

  11. Durakken says:

    Just to point out, the Prime Directive was created in part by James T. Kirk. He’s flawed and we know this. We also know that he generally goes about and messes with the various cultures and it is likely that the directive came about due to his actions and it wasn’t considered to be such a great idea before then. Jumping ahead to Enterprise Archer came up with a general principle and in First Contact we know that the Vulcans had it. It’s obvious that the idea was there for at least 100 years before it became a true principle of the Federation. It isn’t some defining thing.

    So it was likely implemented to tell captains, particularly captains like Kirk, to stop messing with less developed civilizations to the extent they were. But it is not meant to keep them from interacting with all pre-warp civilizations and in the course of 100 years it has been misunderstood to be a a more important consideration than anything else. So what we are seeing the transformation of an idea or law that was meant in one to handle a particular issue into an excuse to be reprehensible…

    Examples in real life?
    Title IX
    Gay People harassing Businesses using the 1960s Civil Rights Acts
    What people think Feminism was to what it is today
    Anti-racism movement becoming racist in the opposite direction
    The FDA and Drug War
    The FCC
    Just about any reputation system that exists.
    Anti-Bullying Campaigns that bully people
    Caring about Children use to justify just about everything

    There are lots. If the only good intention policy that the Federation has that has been used in such a way that’s pretty good for them.

    • Scrappy says:

      James T. Kirk flawed? Blasphemy.
      But on a serious note, Kirk really did violate the prime directive but his heart was in the right place. Picard wants to follow the prime directive because he is afraid to get stick from the admirals or lose his rank. The first thing he said to Nicholai, when he found out what he had done, was that it meant the end of Nicolai’s career. Would anyone today who considers themselves on the good and just side let hundreds of people die to save their own careers? I wouldn’t because to me life is too precious.

    • deaddropsd says:

      I think interacting w pre warp societies that are at least aware of interstellar life would be ok, but too early and w a religious planet would be reality-shattering to them.

  12. Robert Hackett says:

    This is another episode I rewatched recently on BBC America. I really forgot how bad season 7 was. There are a lot of average episodes this season. This one just does not move me in any way. A solid “MEH”. I do wonder how much Worf’s brother will influence the development of an undeveloped society. He is a trained scientist whose general knowledge of technology and engineering, and invention is 2000 years ahead of the people he is living among. Eventually, he will fall back on introducing some of his knowledge. This will leap them forward greatly, faster than they would have. Just a thought to consider.

    • Matthew Burns says:

      Season 7 is iffy sure. But it ain’t that bad really.

      A few episodes I liked in various ways, coming up, Attached, Eye of the Beholder, Genesis, Emergence, Preemptive Strike, and of course, All Good Things.

  13. Durakken says:

    I watched the episode and realized a few things…
    Riker says “That’s not like him” which implies that Riker knows him pretty well.

    There is another issue here that I didn’t realize before because I totally forgot and the writers got wrong. The Prime Directive is a Starfleet thing, not a Federation thing and citizens of the Federation are under no such restriction. Worf’s brother is not part of Starfleet. Picard is within the purview to deny his request and be angry, but whatever Nikolai says and does to the Boraalans he really has no say and should have no feelings on the matter.

  14. deaddropsd says:

    The fact you agonized over whether or not the Prime Directive was a good idea illustrates why it is needed. Comparing current Earth countries, nation states is not a perfect analogy, but none are. So… empathy has limits. Would you expect the UFP to intervene/help every less developed planet? You mentioned why let them fall to their doom? Bruce Wayne’s father in “Batman Begins” “Why do we fall Bruce? … so we can learn to pick ourselves up” or something like that… Evolution is painful. Adversity builds character… why is the US/UN NOT sending troops to Syria or to help Royhinga refugees? Because resources are limited and again empathy has limits… we just cannot afford to get involved in EVERY or even MOST terrible tragedies/ disasters. Likewise, the UFP/ Starfleet cannot save every Bronze Age, toxic gaseous, lava bursting, meteor threatened planet. Illegal immigration, refugees, war…. the planets are separated by vast distances. To interact, warp drive needs to be invented. The advent of warp drive is an indication of some maturity, not a guarantee, but a step in the right direction.

    • Durakken says:

      No one can save everyone. It doesn’t make it right to allow someone or a group to die when you’re there and you can do something about it. This is one of the big points about Superman when done right btw. He can hear and see every person in the world and at every moment someone is in danger and he can indeed save everyone, but he can’t save 2 people at the same time. This leads to a crisis with 3 resolutions…

      1. Nihilism. I can save all of them so why save any of them.
      2. I may not be able to save all of them but I can try to regardless of how much it interferes with my life.
      3. Balance and Triage. You can’t save everyone and you can’t give up your life, but not saving anyone is just a waste of the ability to do.

      Superman’s psychological dialog shows this 1 option a lot times.
      Batman when he get’s Superman’s Powers or when Batman goes bad demonstrates the 2 option.
      Both Superman and Batman in their normal selves represent some intermediate point between the extremes of 1 and 2.

      Yes people need to fall to learn, but dying and permanent injury doesn’t make one better. It incapacitates.Again this is the crux of Superman’s life and it’s why he’s actually relatable even though people say he’s not. It’s because almost all of us get put in the situations of having authority over someone or being able to help someone and needing to know when to step in, when to back off, and when to be “available.”

      Another comics way to put it… “With great power comes great responsibility” Responsibility does mean that you always or never do something. It is that you must take action that you can live with the consequences of because whatever happens at that point is your fault whether you take action and save someone or don’t take action and let them die.

      • deaddropsd says:

        I think the Prime Directive exists, because it would be exhausting and resource depleting to help all planets the UFP/Federation could. “Empathy has limits”…just like we don’t give every homeless person or beggar money we come across. If in the past there was a bad experience, especially… If Starfleet helps Planet X, survive a disaster w some shield generators and the like, humanitarian tech, but some factions on that planet, reverse engineer light sabers, phasers and start killing, invading…who is to blame? Maybe TNG should have visited the “Gangster Planet” from “A Piece of the Action” in TOS to follow up on why the Prime Directive is needed. The Prime Directive is designed to save the UFP/Starfleet etc from agonizing soul searching and second guessing. It would be helpful if there were some high profile Trek lore/historical incidents to be referred to again and again… I think I recall a TNG episode that refers to disastrous first contact w Klingons…hahaha I think it’s the TNG episode “First Contact” and now we are seeing some of the early interactions on Discovery. Not a perfect analogy given Klingon tech but…. I do think of some U.S. Navy Admiral in the 1870s? forcing Japan to become trading partners and open up their markets, which pissed off the Japanese and I am sure led to bad blood which led to war eventually decades later… again not perfect because we are on the same planet, but still…an example of interference going bad…

        • Durakken says:

          If you are soul searching when you make such decisions then you are not growing as a person. That’s the stated thing to live for by Picard. So, in that way, he fails himself, as does the Federation, if they live by “law says nope” especially when it comes to these situations.

          There are several episodes that show the negatives of contact gone wrong. What they actually need is more account of contact gone right. The most dramatically bad one is Voyager’s Friendship 1 episode which ends up being responsible for blowing up the civilization. The closest example of interference going good in Star Trek is the Vulcans interfering with Earth asap once warp is discovered by humans and they are anti-technology and act as a hindering force rather than a supportive force. So there is a very obvious bias against interference here which doesn’t really need more added to, but the opposite should be explored…

          Oh yeah, another example of an advanced race interfering with a lower one…2 incidents that effect 2 civs… The one that enforced the treaty on the Klingons and Federation. The other one is The Q interfering with the Fed and the Borg. The treating with the Klingons worked out well for the Federation. No so well for the Empire… It gets thrashed by TNG era due to it and we know by the 2600s it has fallen apart or changed enough to be a completely different culture essentially meaning that the Federation ultimately won due to the help of that advanced civ. Likewise, the federation was able to prepare for the Borg and survive thanks to the Q which is great for the Federation and many other civs, but what says that the Borg aren’t the right answer to all of what happens in the Universe which means we all might have lost out due to Q interference there…We can also argue the opposite, that the Klingons joining the federation eventually is great for them and the Borg, they’re not sentient so they can’t be the right option.

          The whole “Who are you to play god? argument is lame. I am not playing god, I’m saving those people who I consider people regardless of any technological bigotry.

          And again, Saving one doesn’t mean you have to save all and in every situation, but not saving one when you clearly can save them you an unethical and bad person so long as there are no other outstanding reasons not to that could put others in danger.

          • deaddropsd says:

            Good points, especially about “Q-Who” (which was like getting red and black ants in a jar imo) but I still think that if the UFP gets burned a few times by interfering, or having some terrible unintended consequences, then I think their reluctance to get involved often will be understandable…

  15. deaddropsd says:

    “The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules. It is a philosophy, and a very correct one. History has proved again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous.”
    — Jean-Luc Picard, “Symbiosis”[7]

  16. deaddropsd says:

    No identification of self or mission. No interference with the social development of said planet. No references to space or the fact that there are other worlds or civilizations

  17. Matthew Saxon says:

    I’m not entirely comfortable with the boys at the very least hinting that the prime directive is a flawed law in their review (or this was my interpretation at least). If you’ll allow me to teach everyone to suck eggs for a minute; remember that trek themes are stand ins for contemporary and historical issues. The prime directive as an idea arises out of political commentary on Vietnam (which I recall has been discussed on the show in the past?) and further back a reminder that large scale contact between advanced civilisations (Europeans in Africa, America and Australia and the Chinese in South East Asia) and less advanced ones in real human history have exclusively resulted in the destruction of those less advanced societies.
    So yes, the Prime Directive is absolutely correct as a law.
    And yes, the absolutist, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it”, application of it in this episode is stupid.
    Both things can be true without it really being a contradiction.

    • Hi Matthew – I’m not sure how much of Mission Log you’ve listened to before, but pretty much every time the Prime Directive comes up we go to great pains to explain our position on it: this being all fiction, the PD is, as you say, a stand-in for contemporary concerns. It’s been our feeling for a long time that the PD is a piece of metaphor about doing what is right even when it’s difficult. In this episode, the crew were confronted with the challenge to use compassion – to adhere to the “spirit” rather than the “letter” of the law.
      We don’t think it’s a “flawed” concept, but rather that Star Trek is being smart in showing challenges to the audience: when is it right to stick to principle, and when is it right to show compassion – and when, hopefully, do those challenges coincide.

      • Matthew Saxon says:

        All of them. I said it was my interpretation of the review of that episode. I didn’t go back to check my impression. It’s possible this was not a valid one, but this is unsuprising; I have two children under 5 and the years of inadequate sleep are starting to catch up with me!