Pre-warp civilization was any society or culture that had not yet become a warp-capable civilization; that is, one that has not discovered and utilized faster-than-light spaceflight like the warp drive. Pre-warp cultures could range in technology level from extremely primitive, such as a pre-industrial society; to that of Earth in the mid-21st century, where spacecraft utilized sublight technology. (Star Trek Into Darkness; Star Trek: First Contact; TOS: "The Omega Glory")

The Prime Directive of the Federation interdicted any disturbance of such civilizations, including any form of contact, until a culture had independently proven its warp-capability. Otherwise, any involvement in the development of pre-warp societies could result in the contamination of their culture, thereby altering their natural evolution. Usually pre-warp civilizations were limited to their homeworld. However, their technical abilities could be sophisticated enough to expand throughout their star system. (ENT: "Dear Doctor"; TOS: "Patterns of Force"; Star Trek: Insurrection)

The Federation did allow limited covert research to be conducted on pre-warp civilizations, usually by means of a duck blind. (TNG: "Who Watches The Watchers"; Star Trek: Insurrection) Observation teams could also be placed among a civilization as a prelude to first contact. (TNG: "First Contact")

Pre-warp civilizations

Pre-warp vessels

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