STAR TREK TOS: Does anybody believe that Starfleet actually had an order authorizing genocide?

Many of you will recall the TOS epsiode "A Taste of Armegeddon," which is notable for four things:

  1. Demonstrating that Montgomery Scott is nobody to fuck with.
  2. The normally pacifistic Mr. Spock says at one point (paraphrased): “All right, guys, we’re probably gonna have to kill some of these hosers, and this once I’m not giving y’all any crap about it. Now let’s go rescue my boyfriend.”
  3. The standard winsome female guest star was only one-quarter naked rather than the usual half, and did not boink Kirk
  4. Oh, and establishing that Starfleet captains have the authority to order genocide without further review.

That’s right. Near the climax of the story, Captain Kirk, held captive by that week’s psychos, tells Mr. Scott to implement General Order 24, which ostensibly is the command lto wipe out the entire inhabited surface of the planet. Scott doesn’t blink, or say “You sure, dude?” or call Starfleet to get confirmation; he just gets on the horn to Weapons Control and says "Arm every last firecracker, boys, and set phasers to ‘Sherman.’ "

The Enterprise doesn’t actually go through with it, of course. It was all part of Jimmy’s cunning plan. But the idea that such an order was even on the books has always bothered me. Yeah, the Enterprise of that era was commonly so far away from Starflet HQ that even subspace radio message would require hours or days even to travel one way, let alone get a reply; and consequently Kirk probably had more authority than Picard or Sisko. Nonetheless, wiping out a whole race is the sort of decision that just SCREAMS for review.

But something occurs to me. We know from the episode with Batgirl that Kirk and his officers have codes in place in case they need to communicate sub-rosa. Maybe General Order 24 is like that. Maybe it means “We’re in deep shit down here, so we’re gonna pretend to be psychos. Get everything ready to fire, down to Sulu’s antique slingshot, and act as Klingon as you can, but of course don’t actually shoot the place up; the threat alone oughta do it.”

Which brings me to the thread question: Was General Order 24 a for-real deal, or just a bluff?

In canon, sure, they had this rule in place. They didn’t give the Enterprise all those weapons so they could clear out asteroid fields.

Out of canon, I’d say it’s another Corbomite maneuver. Kirk was bluffing.

Scotty, on the other hand, wasn’t, and he was going to glass the planet if they touched a hair on Kirk’s head.

Sure it was real. It was cited twice during the original series. It would definitely result in a court martial or three, but I’m sure it was on the books as a last resort.

In what other episode was it cited? I’d check Memory Alpha but I don’t know the url.

Memory Alpha says the other episode is “Whom Gods Destroy”

At the time, American viewing audiences weren’t as jaded and cynical as they are now. We assumed that, if someone was given such power, they would be trained to use it properly. Starfleet Captains were evaluated to weed out genocidal maniacs (such as Garth), so if one order Order 24, there was a good reason.

There would be review, and if the captain acted improperly, he would be sentenced, same as Garth. But Garth was an abberation.

Nowadays, audiences don’t trust anyone. No one assumes goodness any more. I’m not even sur ethey want it.

So we have Sisco murdering several people in a ruthless plan to bring the Romulans into the war on the Fed side, and he’s the hero!

Hmm. Since they would been dealing with another starship captain, you have clearly proven me wrong. Or you would if I were going to admit that document into evidence, which of course I shall not on account of being a jerk.

I was all set to vote “Absolutely Not” then I read the line about Kirk’s cunning plan and realized this was obviously an mirror universe poll and changed my vote.
Watching Into Darkness last night, kept thinking “Nichelle was SOOO much hotter than Zoe”

Dude, Avery Brooks! A man called Hawk. He could murder Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Mary Ann Summers and Natalie Portman and still be the hero.

Ummm… I watched that episode like yesterday. It was Garak that committed the murder, without telling Sisko. It was then Sisko’s decision to keep quiet about it, and it was very clear that he wasn’t too proud of himself.

Anyway, two points: (1) I recall an episode where Kirk mentions the ship has enough firepower to destroy a planet. I don’t believe it was that same episode… but I could be wrong. Anyway, this was not the only time they toyed with that idea because…

(2) This was the height of the Cold War. Making sure your weapons operators were morally and mentally ready to drop the bomb and vaporize a good chunk of humanity was actually a pretty big deal at the time. We had airmen in the air every second of the day with their finger on the switch, just like Scotty. I get that the Star Trek universe is supposed to be all perfect and happy and stuff, but this seems pretty normal for the sixties.

When you have the capability to destroy all life on a planet combined with slow communications (let alone potentially being entirely out of communication) it’s a good idea to provide guidance on the usage of that. Presumably that guidance is part of the entire published GO24 and they are just using it as short hand to refer to carrying out said destruction. Of course that’s applying current military logic to a show that rarely demonstrated an understanding of what vaguely military stuff they were attempting to reference. :smiley:

Kirk is perfectly willing to lie and bluff. I think he would have followed through though. The only other way to protect the crew of the Enterprise from certain death is allowing the near certain wiping out of two planets. There was no apparent way to boink their way out of trouble. Pretty talk and trickery, that sometimes worked without the boinking at the end, wasn’t working. Time for the next trick in Kirk’s bag… the ultra-violence. One denuded world is easier to explain than two.

I think I rolled my eyes a bit as Sisco’s moral quandary, inasmuch he didn’t actually kill anyone, he just felt bad because Garak took the initiative and did what needed to be done. A more courageous showrunner would have had Sisco with a few secret murders of his own on his conscience.
I could buy that a protocol existed to waste a planet. I’d’ve thought it should require more than shouting “General Order 24! In two hours!” to trigger, but I never got the impression anyone involved was bluffing. It works far better dramatically than the “Omega Directive” from that episode of Voyager which also implicitly involved a license to genocide, if required.

I forget the name of the episode, but one of favorites was when Archer had to resort to piracy to fix Enterprise when they were stranded in a very unpleasant corner of space. I thought they handled the moral dilemma very well, in that Archer has to personally commit terrible crimes against people who don’t deserve it for the greater good of saving Earth.

So, in “A Taste of Armageddon,” the Prime Directive is out the window, but in “Bread and Circuses”, they just wimp out and get ready to die in an arena? :confused:

:confused: It was in the OP.

In the latter, they were trying to keep Federation involvement at a minimum (the culture had already been “contaminated,” albeit at a very low level) and the ship itself was in no danger.

But deep down, they knew Scotty would still find a way to fuck up the Romans and save their asses at the last minute!

I do however wonder what the guys on Vendikar would have thought when they saw one single alien ship arrive and then simply clear a whole planet for parking in the time it takes to make one orbit.

And I was kidding. I could hardly know MA existed without being able to Google it.

I’m not sure it’s the same general order, but in Operation- Annihilate! if McCoy hadn’t found a safe way to destroy the parasites, the planet would have had to be sterilized.

I wonder if a few weeks after the Enterprise left Eminiar, the armistice talks failed, total war with Vendikar broke out, and both planets were reduced to burnt-out cinders. :stuck_out_tongue:

In that episode they are referring to Garth, a captain one generation older than Kirk. Perhaps captains of Garth’s era were authorized for General Order 24, and after Garth actually attempted it, the regulations were changed (this would make Kirk’s reference to it a bluff - but a bluff given some credence by the Federation’s past).