WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episode 7, "First Con-Tact," streaming now on Paramount+.
Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets are built on ideals and policies that have shaped the entire galaxy for centuries in the Star Trek Universe, respecting the nature of civilizations they encounter across the cosmos. And while the crew of the USS Protostar in Star Trek: Prodigy are not members of Starfleet but rather young refugees from the harsh prison planet of Tars Lamora outside of Federation space, they've taken their guidance from a hologram simulation of legendary Starfleet officer Kathryn Janeway. However, after making a selfish decision while on a first contact mission, the Protostar's crew has violated the most important Starfleet policy on them all: The Prime Directive.
After tapping into the Protostar's experimental Proto Drive, powered by a nascent star, Dal and his friends arrived in the relatively unexplored Gamma Quadrant. No longer being actively pursued by the villainous Diviner, Dal took the time to learn more about Starfleet and what it takes to be the captain of a starship from training programs on the Holodeck. While Dal was more confident and prepared to command the Protostar than ever, this was all undercut when he was unexpectedly reunited with his mentor Nandi, a Ferengi who helped raise Dal after his parents disappeared before Dal wound up stranded on Tars Lamora. And as the Protostar prepares to undergo a first contact mission, Nandi encourages Dal to act selfishly and misrepresent the Federation with disastrous results.
While undergoing a peaceful diplomatic exchange with the native species after Gwyn determines that they communicate through harmonic frequencies, Nandi steals one of the crystals the civilization uses to transmit these harmonics. With this crystal intrinsically connected to the species' society, the entire planet is thrown into disarray until Dal recovers the crystal from Nandi to restore the natural order of the civilization before the Protostar departs and any further harm can be done. As Dal grapples with the idea that the unscrupulous Ferengi would betray him, Janeway scolds him for breaking the Prime Directive, observing that her trust in him has been ruptured.
The Prime Directive explicitly forbids Starfleet from interfering with the natural evolution of civilizations that are not yet capable of achieving warp speed. Captain Kirk shifted to a more laissez-faire stance on the Prime Directive over the course of Star Trek: The Original Series, and deliberately violated the Prime Directive outright in the 2013 film Star Trek Into Darkness, resulting in his temporary demotion in Starfleet. Star Trek: The Next Generation's Captain Picard, however, was much more stringent in respecting the Prime Directive, with several episodes of TNG testing his position with the policy.
Dal put his trust in the wrong person and an entire civilization paid the price for it; at the very least, they will be wary when visited by any future entities from the stars. And Dal now has a long way to go if he ever hopes for Janeway to trust him after he violated the Prime Directive, a policy that has been regarded as sacrosanct for generations. Dal may have proven himself worthy of being a starship captain but as far as respecting and representing the Federation at the helm of the Protostar goes, Dal still has much to learn.
Created by Kevin and Dan Hageman, Star Trek: Prodigy releases new episodes Thursdays on Paramount+.
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