The Prime Directive usually looms large in any contact with any planet not already part of the Federation, but this entire adventure revolves around it. This may mean different things, depending on which era you happen to be using, and this is explained clearly in a sidebar.
The mission itself is one to investigate the unfortunate demise of a Starfleet officer who, as part of a covert team observing a pre-contact planet, had somehow finangled his way into a laboratory where an experiment was being conducted... an experiment which would have led in time to the independent development of warp drive and hence eligibility to join the Federation. Unfortunately the laboratory, and everyone in it, was destroyed by a massive explosion during the test run.
It all starts very uneasily. The covert team leader (a civilian) is not happy that they are there at all, they apparently were sent as the result of an unauthorised communication by a junior member of her team who is a member of Starfleet. There is a fair bit of baggage to get throuhgh before the party can actually find out what was going on, never mind begin to investigate it.
This uncomfortable meeting in the covert observation post done, the party probably wants to see the scene of the explosion, where they will be shown what happened - a classic locked-room mystery. Despite them having been disguised to look like locals, a rather suspicious local law enforecement officer who already thinks that the accident was caused by an alien influence, begins to wonder just who these new visitors actually are... and it all goes downhill from there.
Fortunately the local law enforcement officer realises that if these are more of the same 'aliens' they are more likely to be here to find out what happened to their former comrade, and so enlists their assistance in the investigation - promising to keep their 'secret' if they do so; but threatening to expose them through medical examination if they do not! Should they merely beam out on the spot? Or cooperate? A fine dilemma, and evidence already gathered by a science tricorder during their visit to the laboratory does not make their decision any easier!
There's actually the opportunity for a full-blown debate about the Prime Directive, which provides for some excellent role-playing opportunities. From here, and resulting in the outcome of the debate, the party can either investigate the accident 'old school' using local resources, or decide to bring the full power of Starfleet science to bear. Both options are allowed for, and lead to the same suspect: but the only actual evidence can be provided by using Starfleet equipment!
This sets the scene for a fine finale, an excellent adventure that should keep the party on their toes throughout, with plenty to think about.
Return to The Gravity of the Crime page.
Reviewed: 27 August 2019