Lesson 087: Rules are not absolute
TV Series: Star Trek - The Next Generation
Season/Episode: 5/9 ('A Matter of Time')


Capt. Picard is faced with the dilemma of taking an action which may either save or destroy lives on a planetary scale on an alien world.

When a man arrives from the future with fore-knowledge of all events in the current time frame, Capt. Picard has the opportunity to learn from the man the actual outcome of his decision.

However, to use information from the man from the future about current events is a direct violation of the Starfleet Non-Interference Prime Directive regarding usage of knowledge of future events and tampering with the normal timeline.

Conflicted by his convictions in support of the Prime Directive, and his conscience demanding the saving of lives as the highest priority, Capt. Picard decides to violate the Prime Directive and asks for help from the man from the future.


Rules are in place to offer us guidance. They should never be absolute.

Whether it is rules of faith or rules of law, there may be times when the rules cannot apply and we need to violate the rules in favor of the greater good, as subjective as the 'good' might be.

Man shall not kill another man is a basic tenet of many faiths; however, if a man enters a school and begins to randomly shoot innocent children, no one will condemn us for killing the man to stop the slaughter.

Apartheid, a law constructed by man, mandating the separation of humans based on their race was deemed quite acceptable for decades, until man himself decided it was wrong and overturned the law.

The very basic reason for Amendments to the US Constitution dictates that rules may not always address all situations for all time and we should be open to expanding or even abolishing our rules as needed, always for the betterment of mankind such as the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1865 abolishing slavery throughout the United States.

Even the absoluteness of rules in Physics breaks down, from differing inertial time frames to Black Hole event horizons.

As Captain of the Enterprise, Capt. Picard is always a strong enforcer of the Starfleet rules and regulations; however, this time he sees the saving of millions of lives as more important than just strictly following by the rules.

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