In Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry’s idealistic vision of the future, the United Federation of Planets is born. Money is forgotten, technology is advanced, and the human race lives in near-harmony with their alien neighbors, too busy exploring the wonder of far-flung reaches of the galaxy with Starfleet to engage in discrimination or warfare.
Except every TV show needs drama. So, as the franchise progressd Roddenberry’s perfect future became less and less idyllic.
The Federation is clearly a military organization; they do not just participate in wars, they initiate them. Starfleet has a secret intelligence organization, which engages in clandestine, dubious tactics; their Captains repeatedly break their own Prime Directive, interfering with both space and time.
The Federation demonstrates blatant human elitism, and, more remarkably, a disproportionate number of Starfleet Admirals go insane. It is arguable that some of the most shocking examples of Starfleet’s worst actions cited below are from singular, arguably rogue, Admirals. Yet, not only does that not excuse their actions, it fails to take into consideration how Starfleet contributed to their creation. Starfleet Officers go through years of rigorous training and psychological assessment before being allowed to Captain a Starship, let alone have the honor of being promoted to Admiral. How do they come out so corrupt?
Perhaps it is because Starfleet are not really the good guys after all? Here are the 16 Most Despicable Things Starfleet Has Done.
16 Withheld a Cure From a Species - Enterprise
A rare, complex episode of Enterprise, "Dear Docto" introduces a species suffering from a disease far beyond their society’s medical abilities, who turn to the outsiders with better technology to help.
The aliens are named the Valakians and Captain Archer agrees to help them in an age before the Prime Directive was even invented.
A cure is discovered but Doctor Phlox realises that the disease is genetic, meaning that the epidemic is a natural process of the creature’s evolution. Archer decides that, even though it goes against his beliefs, he must let nature take its course and can't interfere in the natural evolution of another world.
Archer essentially leaves a species to die. There are times when obeying the Prime Directive is far worse than breaking it.
15 Started the Dominion War - Deep Space Nine
For a Federation dedicated to peaceful exploration and communication, they begin multiple conflicts.
The most blatant example of this might be Captain Sisko’s part in the conception of the Dominion War.
In Deep Space Nine's “Call to Arms”, the Dominion begin to build up their forces and send ships through the wormhole toward Deep Space Nine. Benjamin Sisko’s decision to mine the wormhole inspires the Dominion to declare open hostility with the Federation.
Of course, the Founders’ species-wide xenophobia would lead to war eventually. Yet, it was Ben Sisko who was the first of the Federation to officially meet with the Dominion and initiate an awkward First Contact. Sisko and Quark were captured by the Jem’Hadar and the USS Odyssey destroyed in the rescue attempt. Ultimately, it was Sisko, representing Starfleet, who shoulders the blame for the conflict.
14 Exploited the Tartigrade - Discovery
Star Trek: Discovery follows the mission of the USS Discovery under the command of Captain Gabriel Lorca. Obsessed with turning the scientific vessel into a “weapon in the Federation's arsenal in our war against the Klingons,” Lorca uses everything in his grasp to help his war effort.
The plight of the Tardigrade is a classic Star Trek moral conundrum. The crew are using the captured creature to pilot Discovery’s spore drive. The tardigrade’s suffering is lamentable but helps to save hundreds of lives. Hence the moral difficulty.
Due to the secret and dangerous science projects on the Discovery, it's plausible that might be engaging in some questionable tactics under the nose of Starfleet. However, it seems that this aspect of their plan gets the full approval of Starfleet as Lorca continues to communicate with the Admiralty throughout the series and they condone the animal abuse.
13 Gave the Order to Commit Genocide - Next Generation
Admiral Alynna Nechayev was Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s direct commanding officer, but Nechayev and Picard had a poor relationship. She believed that Picard was too soft-hearted in his dealings with adversaries, including the Borg. She particularly disproved of his refusal to use the Borg Drone Hugh as a sacrificial carrier to introduce a destructive program into the Borg Collective.
She declared that if he ever had the chance to destroy the Borg like that again, he should not hesitate. It is true that the Borg are a damaging and malevolent force but Starfleet are meant to be the good guys!
She didn't even have to talk to Starfleet Command or the Federation Council before giving an order tantamount to genocide, which also included sacrificing an innocent. With the Starfleet's lofty ideals, you might think they would be a little less casual aboutthis
12 Violated The Temporal Prime Directive - Voyager
It takes years but Captain Janeway fulfills her promise to her crew and gets them home.
Janeway is made an Admiral but she suffers all sorts of losses along the way. Seven of Nine and Chakotay were married but Seven dies of an injury sustained on an away mission not soon after and then a deeply affected Chakotay passes away afterward.
Janeway decides to violates everything sacred to Starfleet in order to save them. Traveling back in time, Admiral Janeway warns Captain Janeway about the tragedies to come and utilizes future technology and knowledge to cheat, destroy the Borg Queen, and enter their Transwarp Hub.
Although Janeway succeeds in halting the Borg threat, this was not her motivation. She was driven by her own loss. Yet because she defeats the Borg, Starfleet seem pretty happy with her Temporal Prime Directive-breaking actions.
11 Allowed Section 31 to Exist - Deep Space Nine
Section 31 is an elite intelligence agency, secretly nestled in Starfleet’s structure. Officially, the bureau does not exist but they claim to operate in the name of the security of the Federation.
Little information is available about the activities of the agency but they are first revealed in Deep Space Nine when they try to recruit Doctor Julian Bashir.
Julian is abducted and put through elaborate psychological testing on the holodeck to determine his loyalty to the Federation. Julian passes the tests but not before he is subjected to sick emotional manipulation. He eventually turns down the offer to join them, disgusted by the lack of accountability.
Starfleet personnel seem vaguely aware that something like Section 31 might exist but only loosely. It is terrifying to think that exists autonomously, with no accountability.
10 Murdered Alien Lifeforms for Fuel - Voyager
In “Equinox”, Captain Rudolph Ransom found himself and his crew stranded in the Delta Quadrant, rather like Janeway and her crew. The USS Equinox had just enough power to orbit an M-class world inhabited by a peaceful race called the Ankari. They give the crew food and supplies, also introducing them to nucleogenic aliens who reside on their world and they believe are spirits of good fortune.
Ransom realizes the nucleogenic aliens have high levels of antimatter content in their bodies and could be utilized to power their warp drive. He begins systematically experimenting on and murdering these lifeforms, literally using their remains for fuel.
Ransom justified his actions to Janeway under Starfleet Regulation 3: "in the event of imminent destruction, a captain is authorized to preserve the lives of his crew by any justifiable means."
Even regulation-breaking Janeway is shocked and appalled by his actions.
9 Started the War with the Klingons - Star Trek Into Darkness
Star Trek Into Darkness is often considered among the worst of the Star Trek movies. One thing is certain, its main antagonist Admiral Marcus might well be the worst Starfleet Admiral.
In a nutshell, Admiral Marcus begins a conspiracy to start a war with the Klingons. Admiral Marcus is the head of Starfleet in the mid-23rd century, and, surprising no one, a member of Section 31. Seeing war with the Klingons as inevitable, Marcus begins seeking ways to further militarize the Federation. Marcus revives genetically enhanced warrior Khan Noonien Singh, recruiting him under the name "John Harrison" to design weapons and ships.
When Marcus realizes he can no long control Khan, he tries to get Kirk and his crew to kill him, then also proceeds to threaten the entire crew of the Enterprise in an attempt to cover it all up.
8 Created The Maquis - Deep Space Nine
The Maquis were a rebel paramilitary group formed as a result of resistance to the new treaty between the United Federation of Planets and Cardassians.
At heart, the Maquis’ cause was just. The Treaty, which none of the residents had wanted, necessitated the resettlement of millions all over the newly formed Demilitarized Zone. The Cardassians were increasingly violent toward the innocent residents. Essentially, the Federation disenfranchised millions of their own citizens just to create a peace treaty with the enemy.
The Maquis was partially made up of former Starfleet officers who had sympathy for, or in some cases family ties, with these deserted colonies. The Maquis’ actions might have been wrong, but violence begets violence. Starfleet should have been protecting their citizens rather than scoring political points.
Ultimately, Starfleet created the Maquis.
7 Violated Treaty With Romulans - Next Generation
Erik Pressman was the Captain of Ensign William Riker’s first ship, USS Pegasus. Pressman was given the task of testing an experimental cloaking device, which had been developed by a secret group at Starfleet Security in violation of the Treaty of Algeron, between the Federation and the Romulans.
When the crew realized what Pressman was doing they mutinied, but Pressman and some of his loyal men, Riker included, escaped and the matter was covered up.
Eventually the Romulans became aware of the Pegasus' experiment and Pressman enlisted Riker to retrieve the ship. An older, wiser Riker revealed the true nature of Pressman's mission to Captain Picard, who ordered Pressman’s arrest for his violation of the Treaty.
Picard’s actions helped the incident appear to be just another insane Admiral acting alone. Except it was more than that. The secret group within Starfleet that spearheaded this may never have been punished.
6 Framed Changelings for Attack - Deep Space Nine
Starfleet has a bad track record of faking and engineering certain situations to make their entrance into a war look like a righteous one.
In Deep Space Nine, we see Admiral Leyton contrive a state of emergency essentially to establish a dictatorship on Earth. The entire Global power grid on Earth is knocked out, including the emergency backups at Starfleet Headquarters, and all available evidence points to sabotage by their enemy, the Changelings. The power outage makes the Earth totally defenceless against a Dominion attack.
Yet no one can explain how the Changelings infiltrated their defences or how they knew how to disable the extra emergency backup in Starfleet. It becomes increasingly obvious that it was an inside job and that the increased military presence on Earth points to a coup.
All Starfleet needed was a convenient alien threat to blame - hardly the actions of a peaceful regime.
5 An In-Justice System - Original Series
Commodore Stone is a flag officer who finds significant discrepancies between Captain James T. Kirk's description of the unfortunate death of one Lieutenant Commander Finney, and a computer record of the incident.
Stone suspects Kirk might have been responsible, either purposefully or from negligence, so he contacts Kirk, willing to sweep the incident aside for the good of the service and offers Kirk a permanent ground assignment.
Kirk is determined to prove his innocence and so demands a court-martial. This was said to be Starfleet’s first ever (at least, before Discovery was written).
Perhaps it is to be inferred that idyllic Starfleet has not needed court-martials due to the peace and prosperity of the Federation. This seems unlikely, especially considering the offer made to Kirk by Stone to sweep the death under the rug. It appears Starfleet Officers are above the law.
4 Red Squad - Deep Space Nine
In itself, having an elite training program within Starfleet Academy is not a bad idea. "Red Squad" or Cadet Training Squadron 47 is an elite group of cadets at Starfleet Academy, who receive special classes and advanced field training.
Unfortunately, Red Squad’s blind devotion to Starfleet leads to them assisting in the coup spearheaded by Admiral Leyton and ultimately their over-confidence sees them stranded in enemy territory.
In a battle with the Cardassians, all the officers aboard the USS Valiant are killed or mortally wounded, so the Captain leaves command with 22-year-old Tim Watters of Red Squad.
Determined to continue their mission, the Cadet-turned-Captain puts his young crew in danger by making a fruitless attempt at glory attacking a Jem’Hadar ship. He, and much of his crew, are killed in the ill-conceived attack.
Red Squad represent everything wrong with Starfleet – they are elitist, blindly loyal, and over-confident.
3 Conspired to Kill The Klingon Chancellor and Federation President - Undiscovered Country
The first sign that your Starfleet might not have your best interests at heart is when Fleet Admiral Cartwright conspires to kill the President of the Federation to inspire war.
Fleet Admiral Cartwright is a high-ranking Starfleet officer in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Cartwright might be part of the solution in one adventure but he is subsequently revealed as a member of a conspiracy to sabotage peace talks between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.
Cartwright and a group of Starfleet officers, Klingons, and Romulans frame Kirk and McCoy for the assassination of Klingon Chancellor Gorkon, and attempt to frame the Klingons for the assassination of the Federation President.
The fact the conspiracy involves multiple officers, and one so high-ranking, shows how far the rot goes in Starfleet. Can anyone be trusted?
2 Poisoned Odo and the Great Link - Deep Space Nine
Doctor Julian Bashir researches a virus which is ravaging the Great Link and his friend Odo. He discovers that Section 31 have actually engineered the disease to deliberately infect Odo during a visit to Starfleet Medical. They have used Odo in a pre-emptive attempt to halt the threat posed by the Founders and the Dominion. Declaring that the ends do not justify the means, Julian sets out to discover a cure.
One of Section 31’s operatives commits suicide in an attempt to prevent the cure from being discovered, nearly killing Bashir and Miles O'Brien in the process. The lengths to which they will go in order to complete their plans are great.
Perhaps even worse, the Federation Council decide against sharing the discovered cure with the Founders, which is literally akin to genocide.
1 General Order 24 - Original Series
We learn various Starfleet orders throughout the history of the franchise. General Order 13 is the evacuation order for Starfleet vessels; General Order 6 is the order to self-destruct a ship in case all life aboard has perished; General Order 1, the most well known, is the Prime Directive, the order not to interfere with the normal development of any alien life or society.
General Order 24 is an order to destroy all life on an entire planet.
It’s mind-boggling that Starfleet has an order this severe and even worse that our hero, James T. Kirk gives the order in “A Taste of Armageddon”. Even though the order ends up not being carried out, it was given by the original hero of Star Trek.
This really says all we need to know about the supposed benevolent, explorative, Federation.
What do you think is the worst thing Starfleet has done in Star Trek? Let us know in the comments!