The Prime Directive (also known as the Prime Directive of Non-Interference or Non-Interference Directive) is the colloquial term for the Federation Starfleet's General Order One. The Prime Directive dictates that no Starfleet personnel may knowingly interfere with the natural progression of pre-warp civilizations.
The origins of the Prime Directive originate with humanities first great exploration of the galaxy around them in the 2150s, with the Enterprise (NX-01). Although the Vulcans had developed their own non-interference directives in the 1870s, humans were not bound by these restrictions. (TOS novel: Strangers from the Sky)
In 2151, the Enterprise made contact with the Fazi and the Hipon on the planet Fazi. When Captain Jonathan Archer discovered that the Fazi were less developed than humans, he immediately wanted to begin to share technology and information with those people. However, persuasion from the Hipon, a more advanced species on the planet's southern continent, urged him not to proceed. Following advice from Subcommander T'Pol he decided not to share technology to allow the two races to communicate in an attempt to let the two races advance at their own rate. However, Archer decided that guidelines governing first contacts and cultural contamination were needed. (ENT novel: By the Book)
Even after the foundation of the Federation in 2161, no rules had been established to govern contact with other species, and during the 2160s their saw a number of cultural contaminations of pre-warp civilizations. The most notable case being the Horizon's visit to Sigma Iotia II. While the initial contact went well, an Horizon crewman left the book, "Chicago Mobs of the Twenties", behind on the planet. And over the next century, the Iotians modelled their civilization on the book. (TOS episode: "A Piece of the Action")
By the 2170s, it was decided by the Federation Council that actions needed to be taken and in 2175 the Resolution of Non-Interference was drafted and signed by all Federation members, and puts together a single philosophy to be adapted, and by the 2190s, the Prime Directive had came into force. (TNG novel: Double Helix: Double or Nothing)
The philosophy of the Federation was all well and good, but a method needed to be adopted in order to measure the cultural development of a civilization. In the early 2200s, the (Doctor Alonzo Richter) Richter Scale of Culture was the chosen method to monitor a civilization's progress. (TOS novel: Prime Directive)
Elements within the Prime Directive prevented Starfleet officers from interfering in internal matters of other races. However, they were able to help in negotiating in a compromise so long as both sides agreed to it. (TOS video game: Judgment Rites)
The Prime Directive is a Starfleet regulation, however, and not a civil law. As a result, Federation civilians were legally allowed to engage in activities that would be considered violations of the Prime Directive were they in Starfleet. In 2364, several Federation citizens on the planet Angel I attempted to influence that world's matriarchal society to embrace a more egalitarian ideal; Federation Starfleet personnel on site determined that they could not force those civilians to refrain from influencing Angel One's society. (TNG episode: "Angel One.")
Equally, Lwaxana Troi, a Federation delegate with diplomatic immunity was able to persuade scientist Timicin to recosider his Kaelon commitments, in 2367. A 1,400 year-old absolute. (TNG episode: "Half a Life")
In 2368, the Directive was again in question, when J'naii pilot Soren wanted to break tradition and chose the female gender. Although influenced by mutual affection for William T. Riker of Starfleet; s/he made the decision hirself. And ultimately, accepted that hir mind be "reformed" back to one accepted by society. (TNG episode: "The Outcast")
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Prime Directive is a six-part miniseries published by Dreamwave Productions in 2002, and set in the main G1 Dreamwave continuity. It centers on the revival of the Transformers after a catastrophe several years prior.
[Note: While the series was entitled Transformers: Generation One when it was released, it was dubbed Prime Directive when collected in trade paperback form.]
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Prior to the events in the series, The Transformers had been gone from Earth for several years, having all vanished and thought destroyed in the destruction of their Ark II ship. The ship was carrying the victorious Autobots and their captive Decepticons back to Cybertron, but exploded soon after launch. Afterward, the sinister Lazarus collected their inert forms and found a way to control them, planning to sell them on the black market. However, the U.S. government has plans of its own... as do the Transformers themselves.
Prime Directive was the first mass-market Transformers comic in nearly a decade, an absence reflected in the storyline. The first issue debuted at #1 on the Diamond sales charts and led to a briefly-successful line of Dreamwave Transformers comics. The series was introduced by a six-page preview issue. A second series called War and Peace followed and an ongoing series after that.
Prime Directive established a new G1 continuity that drew on elements of the cartoon, but does not fit well into any particular previous story.
Many fans found the series impressive for the great amount of care and detail put into the artwork. The glossy print and Photoshopped colors were worlds beyond the newsprint paper and dotted coloring of the Marvel Comics series. Others felt that the storyline was needlessly decompressed (almost two whole issues pass before any of the Transformers actually speak), that the visual storytelling was unclear, and that the overall pacing suffered for the sake of needlessly dramatic splash pages.