Stardate: 6334.1 (2270)
Original Air Date: September 7, 1974
Writer: Howard Weinstein
Director: Bill Reed
“What’s the use of being a doctor, anyway? We’re only as good as our drugs and technology make us. Underneath all the tricks I might as well be practicing in the Middle Ages.”
There has been an outbreak of choreocytosis aboard the Enterprise, but it now seems to be under control (Dr. McCoy notes it is no longer even as serious as pneumonia). With that in mind, the Enterprise is headed to Deneb V where the crew will represent the Federation for the dedication of a new Academy of Science. However, before they can arrive, Spock collapses due to choreocytosis, which Bones notes is fatal for Vulcans (owing to their copper-based blood). The only cure is a naturally occurring drug called Strobolin but it only exists on a few planets. Per the ship’s computer, Beta Canopus is the nearest planet with Strobolin present on its surface. However, it is four days away when traveling at maximum warp, therefore Kirk requests a rendezvous for another ship to deliver the vital drug in order to save Spock’s life.
Meanwhile, the Enterprise continues heading for Deneb V, however the S.S. Huron which is carrying the Strobolin is overtaken by Orion pirates which steals the Huron’s sizable shipment of dilithium crystals. The Enterprise locates the derelict Huron in space and recovers its injured crew, but they are desperately in need of the missing Strobolin. The Enterprise then trails the Orion pirate ship and Kirk offers a deal with the Orions in exchange for the Strobolin which will preserve their planet’s disputed neutrality, and they agree on a face-to-face exchange on a nearby asteroid. With time running out and Spock’s life on the line, the Orions attempt a suicidal mission that will destroy both the Orion ship and the Enterprise. In the end, thanks to Scotty’s maneuvering, Kirk and the Orion are beamed aboard and the crisis is averted while Spock’s life is saved with mere minutes to spare.
My Thoughts on “The Pirates of Orion”
Once again, disease proves itself to be one of the greatest threats facing the Enterprise. Unfortunately, choreocytosis uniquely affects Vulcans and it nearly kills Spock, the ship’s bulwark of logic and reason. This offers a rare moment wherein the crew must save Spock, rather than the other way around. With that being said, the actions of the Orion captain don’t exactly make much sense to me. For example, why would the Orion captain show the Strobolin drug to Captain Kirk rather than simply immediately killing him? Why wouldn’t the Orion quickly start the self-destruct sequence to destroy the Enterprise? At any rate, I still thought this was a tight script, and a great way to start the second season of TAS (or at least as good as it gets for TAS).
Howard Weinstein (1954-Present) is one of the youngest writers of any Star Trek episode when he sold this script for TAS at the age of 19. In high school, Weinstein was a fan of space exploration and he wrote Star Trek fan fiction for science fiction magazines like his annual high school sci-fi zine, Probe. When “The Pirates of Orion” aired, Weinstein was a freshman living in the dorms at the University of Connecticut. He organized a viewing party for the episode and from there he became a legend in the Star Trek fandom, having then written several Star Trek books beginning with Covenant of the Crown for Pocket Books, attending Trekkie conventions, and even introducing Leonard Nimoy to the idea of using whales as a major thematic element in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
Star Trek Trivia:
- This was the first episode of Star Trek to feature male Orions, which would not appear again until Enterprise.
- Orion is pronounced “O-ree-ahn” in this episode.
- In addition to voicing Sulu, George Takei also voices the Huron ship’s command division lieutenant, while Majel Barrett voices the Huron’s operations division lieutenant.
- Kirk wears a life support belt again in this episode. Once again, James Doohan voices a panoply of characters including Scotty, Arex, O’Shea, the Orion captain, an Orion ensign, and an unnamed Enterprise security guard.
- Norm Prescott, co-founder of Filmation, voiced an Orion lieutenant in this episode. Prescott also secretly composed the music for TAS under the name Jeff Michael (the first names of his two sons).
- Kirk notes that Orion’s neutrality as a planet has been in dispute ever since an affair pertaining to the Coridan planets and the Babel conference of 3850.3.
Spock’s life has been jeopardized many times in Star Trek, with the second and third movies being quite the pinnacle to make us reflect on previous Treks like this all the more seriously. As a season opener, I’m glad that it was a better start than Spock’s Brain. Thank you for your review and trivia.
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