On Star Trek, one of the most important elements of Starfleet protocol is “first contact.” Shorthand for the first contact with an unknown species, there are many rules that govern this important stage of galactic exploration.

First contact is guided by the principle of allowing alien civilizations autonomy in their development. According to the Prime Directive, or “General Order 1,” a starship may not interfere with the development of a pre-warp civilization. However, the road to Megas-Tu is paved with good intentions. Here are several times that first contact went horribly awry.

Honorable Mention: The Laap System

The Archimedes heads towards an explosive first contact.

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In the Star Trek: Lower Decks season 2 finale, “First First Contact,” Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) of the U.S.S. Cerritos managed to salvage a first contact mission that could have topped this list. The Cerritos is accompanying the U.S.S. Archimedes on a first contact mission in the Laap system.

RELATED: Read all of our Star Trek: Lower Decks recaps here.

However, an unexpected solar flare causes an unstable planetoid to explode, disabling the Archimedes and sending it on a crash course. Fortunately, quick thinking by Freeman and the crew of the Cerritos averts disaster. Afterward, Freeman joins the Laaperians for some drinks.

Species 8472

A holo-image of Chakotay (Robert Beltran) with Boothy (Ray Walston) in the Starfleet Academy gardens.

Chakotay (Robert Beltran) poses with a member of Species 8472 who is disguised as Boothby (Ray Walston) the groundskeeper at an ersatz Starfleet Academy.

On Star Trek: Voyager, the crew of the titular ship had a complicated first contact with Species 8472. During its return from the Delta Quadrant, Voyager made first contact with Species 8472 after Species 8472 was already embroiled in a battle with the Borg. Hailing from a parallel dimension known as “fluidic space,” Species 8472 became aware of our universe because of a Borg incursion. They subsequently retaliated, identifying all life in our dimension as hostile and in need of eradication.

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In fact, Species 8472 were so hostile that the crew of Voyager made an alliance with the Borg to stand against them. Voyager was able to land a strike against Species 8472 in fluidic space. More than a year after first contact with Species 8472, animosity remained. However, in the Voyager season 5 episode “In the Flesh,” Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) is finally able to broker tentative peace between Species 8472 and the Federation.

Some Sister

Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), Commander Ransom (Jerry O'Connell), Ensign Manhaver (Marcus Henderson), and Victoria Nuze (Alison Becker) make second contact with Onara.

Second contact with Onara.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation season 1 episode “Symbiosis,” the U.S.S. Enterprise-D makes first contact with a pair of sister planets, Brekka and Onara. The crew soon discovers that the citizens of Onara have become addicted to a drug supplied to them by the Brekkians. Citing the Prime Directive, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) severs the connection between the sister planets.

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In the Lower Decks episode “Trusted Sources,” the Cerritos makes second contact with both planets. After weathering withdrawal, the Onarans are doing much better than they were. However, the Brekkians have fared much worse. When the Cerritos arrives on Brekka, they discover their civilization has been occupied by Breen invaders. So much for self-determination.

Broken Rules of Acquisition

STAR TREK: PRODIGY: Ep#107 -- Ella Purnell as Gwyn, Jason Mantzoukas as Jankom Pog, Kate Mulgrew as Janeway, Angus Imrie as Zero and Rylee Alazraqui as Rok-Tahk in STAR TREK: PRODIGY streaming on Paramount+

POV: You are about to get lectured by Hologram Janeway. Photo: Nickelodeon/Paramount+ ©2022VIACOM INTERNATIONAL. All Rights Reserved.

In the Star Trek: Prodigy episode “First Con-tact,” the crew of the U.S.S. Protostar learns about the importance of first contact the hard way. It all begins when they encounter the former mentor of Captain Dal R’El (Brett Gray), the Ferengi Captain Nandi (Grey Griffin). Nandi convinces the Protostar crew to assist her in stealing a slough of important crystals from an alien society.

RELATED: Read all of our Star Trek: Prodigy recaps here.

Ultimately, Dal and the Protostar crew are able to retrieve and return the crystals. However, as Hologram Janeway states at the conclusion of the episode, they may have caused irreparable damage to the alien society. If Starfleet does attempt to make second contact with the aliens, their efforts will be invariably tainted by the actions of Nandi and the Protostar crew.

Kiley 279

Christina Chong as La'an, Ethan Peck as Spock, and Anson Mount as Pike of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS.

Not an ideal first contact situation here. Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+

In the series premiere of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, “Strange New Worlds,” an especially complicated first contact situation is examined. The episode opens with Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) helming a first contact mission with Kiley 279. However, she and her crew are captured and imprisoned by the Kiley. This is not a desirable outcome for first contact.

RELATED: Read all of our Star Trek: Strange New Worlds recaps here.

The subsequent investigation by Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) reveals that the Kiley did not develop warp themselves. Instead, they observed the events of the Star Trek: Discovery season 2 finale, “Such Sweet Sorrow.” This allowed the Kiley to reverse-engineer a warp bomb. While Pike and his crew may be able to salvage the situation, this mission is so messy it results in General Order 1 getting a new name: “The Prime Directive.”

Mirror First Contact

The shotgun used by Mirror Cochrane in Star Trek: Enterprise's "In a Mirror, Darkly."

Mirror Cochrane’s shotgun.

The Star Trek: Enterprise season 4 episode “In a Mirror, Darkly” gives us a glimpse of how humanity’s first contact with the Vulcans was different in the Mirror Universe. At first, the events seem to play out the same way as they do in Star Trek: First Contact. After the Vulcans land in Bozeman, Montana, one of them disembarks and gives Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell) the Vulcan salute.

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However, the way Cochrane reacts in the Mirror Universe is quite different than his reaction in the prime timeline. In the prime timeline, Cochrane returns the salute and welcomes the Vulcans to Earth with dancing, drinks, and music. But in the Mirror universe, he pulls a weapon from his jacket and begins firing upon the Vulcans. The rest of the humans present follow suit. Truly, this is the darkest timeline, and the worst first contact we’ve seen yet.

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