Star Trek Proves All Enterprise Captains Break The Same Rule

The latest episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds reveals that Admiral Robert April - who was Captain of the Enterprise before James Kirk or even Christopher Pike - violated the Prime Directive on multiple occasions.

By Michileen Martin | Updated

star trek prime directive
Adrian Holmes ad Admiral Robert April in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

It’s an old joke among Star Trek fandom that the series’ captains follow the all-important Prime Directive about as often as they enjoy relaxed, uneventful missions. Now thanks to the latest episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, we know that Admiral Robert April (Adrian Holmes) — who we’ve only seen command the ship very briefly — is as guilty as the rest.

In “Ad Astra Per Aspera,” while testifying in the court martial of Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn), April admits to violating Star Trek‘s Prime Directive on at least three occasions: to warn a pre-warp species of a destructive meteor storm, by sharing Federation tech with a planet about to suffer a drought, and revealing the Enterprise to a hostile pre-warp civilization.

These instances of April violating the Prime Directive are brought up by Una’s Illyrian lawyer Neera (Yetida Badaki) in an attempt to paint Starfleet as hypocrites.

star trek prime directive
Adrian Holmes and Yetida Badaki in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

First mentioned in the Star Trek: The Original Series Season 1 episode, “The Return of the Archons,” the Prime Directive is also known as Starfleet Command General Order 1. It dictates that Starfleet personnel not interfere with non-Federation civilizations.

The non-interference applies even when interfering is meant to be for the benefit of the civilization — such as April warning the pre-warp civilization about the meteor storm.

Other potential violations of Star Trek’s Prime Directive could include breaking another civilization’s laws, aiding one side over another in an internal conflict such as a civil war, or revealing advanced technology to civilizations unable to create that tech on their own.

While what we learn about Robert April comes from the grilling of a hostile lawyer, for long-time Star Trek fans, it may very well be a treat to learn about his Prime Directive violations. April is canonically the Captain of the Enterprise who precedes Captain Pike (Anson Mount), but we know precious little about his time in the chair.

We first learn about April when he’s introduced in “The Counter-Clock Incident,” the final episode of the short-lived Star Trek: The Animated Series when he’s voiced by the late James Doohan. As the ship transports April and his wife to retirement, they inadvertently enter an alternate dimension where everyone on board is reverse-aged.

Kirk and April in “The Counter-Clock Incident” – Star Trek: The Animated Series

With the rest of the Enterprise’s crew reduced to childhood, April is the only one with the maturity and experience to save the ship. But until the latest episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, this was the only adventure of April’s we knew about.