How Star Trek: Voyager Broke The Prime Directive (in The BEST Way)
Star Treklore emphasizes the Prime Directive, a rule all starship crews must follow. The Prime Directive prohibits Starfleet from interfering the natural development of alien civilizations – especially primitive cultures that might look at starship crews as gods or superior beings.
Naturally, every great Starfleet captain – from James T. Kirk to Jean-Luc Picard to Kathryn Janeway – has broken the Prime Directive at some point, usually in service of what they hoped was the greater good. Captain Janeway’s Voyager crew, in particular, was responsible for some flagrant violations of this rule during their time in the Delta Quadrant. In one episode (“Blink of an Eye”), they accidentally influenced the development of a rapidly-moving civilization from its Stone Age to its Modern Era!Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now
However, the best example of Voyager’s disregard for the Prime Directive occurred not in the TV series but in a one-shot comic book. In Star Trek: Voyager Avalon Rising, fans got a chance to see how – in at least one instance – breaking the Prime Directive resulted in some startling positive changes for an alien culture.
How Voyager’s Doctor Became a Wizard
The story begins on an alien world virtually indistinguishable from Arthurian-like legend, populated by human-like kings, knights, and… dragons. When a hapless squire named Weylon tries unsuccessfully to help his knight fight off one of the dragons, he gets unexpected aid from a phaser blast fired by Voyager’s holographic Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) – the Doctor.
It seems Voyager intercepted a message from a group of long-dead aliens who hid a cache of advanced weaponry on the medieval planet. Learning the weapons could potentially blow up the planet – and realizing Voyager could use the alien tech to its advantage, Captain Janeway sends the Doctor down to the planet to help the crew retrieve the dangerous tech. Once there, however, the Doctor’s program drives him to save Weylon, revealing himself to the native populace.
Taking Weylon on as a guide and assistant, the Doctor travels to the tower where the alien tech is hidden. Along the way, he entertains Weylon with stories about Voyager’s adventures, re-interpreting his crew and their missions in medieval-style archetypes that Weylon will understand. The Doctor himself starts calling himself a “wizard,” becoming a sort of Merlin to Weylon’s young Arthur.
Strangely, the Doctor doesn’t have to tell Weylon any of these stories to assist in his mission – he’s simply passing the time with his new friend. This is a blatant disregard for the Prime Directive (which the Doctor is undoubtedly aware of), yet as he shares his tales, they begin to have a profound effect on Weylon.
How Star Trek: Voyager Went Medieval
As the Doctor recalls his missions, classic episodes of Voyager take on a romantic, fanciful flare. Ex-Borg drone Seven of Nine becomes the “Ice Maiden” – a captive of a great evil that left her cold and unfeeling until the Doctor helped “break most of the spell” that kept her from becoming human. Renegade Maquis captain Chakotay becomes a rogue bandit that Captain Janeway (in full Renaissance-style dress) helped reform. Voyager itself is re-established as an actual sailing ship in Weylon’s mind – sailing to strange and new worlds to seek out new life and new civilizations.
Weylon is particularly intrigued by the ideals held by Starfleet – where all people are held in equal regard and anyone can choose to better himself or herself regardless of race or social status. This is in sharp contrast to his life, where “might makes right” is the rule he’s been brought up with. Nonetheless, the Doctor assures him that the right people can make this ideal a reality.
Eventually, the Doctor and Weylon reach the tower only to discover it's guarded by a clan that has been watching over the alien tech for generations. When Weylon tries to bully his way through the soldiers, the Doctor reprimands him, arguing that these people are potential allies, not enemies. Together, they manage to make their way into the tower and remove the tech – saving the planet, although the clan now finds itself purposeless.
Weylon himself gets to see Captain Janeway, Seven of Nine, and Chakotay beam down. He even tries to join Starfleet – offering himself to Janeway as a cadet. Informed by the Doctor that he cannot go with him, Weylon instead receives one final gift from the EMH. The Doctor shares a story about a great wizard who created simulacra of himself to aid ships in times of need. He then reveals that he was one of those simulacra – but eventually became a wizard himself because he was willing to work to become one. Reassuring Weylon that he too can become whatever he wants to be on his world, the Doctor dubs the boy “Lieutenant Weylon” before he beams away, informing Weylon that lieutenants are what Starfleet calls their knights.
A New Starfleet
The story then jumps ahead several years where Weylon – inspired by the Doctor’s stories – helped the tower’s clans gain a new sense of purpose by starting their own version of Starfleet. By building their own sailing ships and creating a governing system that upholds Starfleet’s ideals of equality, fairness, and self-determination, Weylon managed to join Starfleet after all – and create a sort of idealized Camelot for his medieval society. Where Earth had to wait centuries before its humans matured enough to create their Starfleet, Weylon has seemingly given his planet a massive head start.
It’s an uplifting ending – and one that shows while the Prime Directive might be necessary to prevent Starfleet from contaminating other cultures, in this case, the Doctor’s interference resulted in something very good for the world. Moreover, it shows that Star Trek’s true power lies not in the trappings of its science-fiction gadgets and spaceships, but in ideals that transcend both historical eras and narrative genres.
At a time when current shows like Star Trek: Picard have fans questioning if the idealized Starfleet and Federation they grew up with still exist anymore, it’s worth noting that stories like Star Trek Voyager: Avalon Rising reveals that Starfleet’s true identity lies not in any single institution but the willingness of a group like Weylon’s – or Voyager’s – to continually promote and represent its ideals.