Star Trek: The Animated Series: The Pirates of Orion   Rewatch 
August 4, 2020 10:19 PM - Season 2, Episode 1 - Subscribe

While Spock lies ill, Orion pirates hijack the drug shipment desperately needed to save his life. (Season premiere)

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Background information
Story and production
  • This episode began as one of numerous short stories that teenager Howard Weinstein wrote for East Meadow High's annual science fiction magazine, Probe. Weinstein was both in senior year and serving as the magazine's co-editor when he published the story. Since the typical method of breaking into a television script-writing career was to submit a self-penned spec script to a series and then hope for the best, Weinstein did exactly that, converting "The Pirates of Orion" from short story form into a teleplay. Weinstein later recalled that his act of submitting the script was enabled by "the 'I can do that!' confidence that often waltzes with youth," a quality he also described as a "blithe self-assurance." (Star Trek Magazine issue 144, p. 37)
  • Coloring difficulties caused the Orions in this episode to appear light-skinned.
Continuity and trivia
  • This episode was the second appearance of a male Orion (pronounced "ORE-EON" here, versus the traditional pronunciation of "O-RYAN"). Their unintentional light-skinned appearance is in common with the Orion character of Devna, who appears in the first season TAS outing "The Time Trap" (albeit with green skin). A male Orion, whose skin had been rendered blue to pass for an Andorian, previously appeared in TOS: "Journey to Babel". After this episode, the Orions would not be seen again until ENT: "Borderland" in 2004.
  • This episode marks the franchise's third reference to the starship USS Potemkin.
  • Kirk's reference to the Orion conflict at Coridanite on stardate 3850.3 comes from TOS: "Journey to Babel".
Poster's Log:

Numerous animation issues with this episode, including McCoy being both on the bridge and in sickbay twice (when Kirk first calls down after Spock's collapse, and when McCoy calls the bridge to remind Spock about his shot) and a scene jumping from sickbay to the bridge.

The new pronunciation of Orion (ORE-ee-un) in this episode is markedly different from numerous other appearances in the show, both prior and post, which used the standard "oh-RYE-un". However, there is precedent for that pronunciation - Lake Orion, MI, is pronounced that way.

Filmation founder Norm Prescott, a voice very familiar to cartoon watchers in the '70s and '80s, shows up here as the Orion first officer.

McCoy's sentimentality (when Spock can't hear him, of course) seeps out again:

Kirk: It'll hurt seeing him like that.
McCoy: As much as it may seem at times that I can't stand that pointy-eared encyclopedia, I don't want to see that happen to him.

For an episode written by a 17-year-old high school student, this is pretty tight story. Roddenberry supposedly called this one of the best first-drafts he'd seen, and I can believe it. Well-paced, with dialogue that feels natural to the characters, and a classic Trek showdown between competing captains.
posted by hanov3r (4 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
For an episode written by a 17-year-old high school student, this is pretty tight story.

Agreed. Most of the stories around the Orions deal either with the Orion women, and mostly in an egregiously fanservicey way (we'll see what LOW does with D'Vana Tendi--and can you believe that it's already dropping tomorrow?), or with the Orion Syndicate as this shadowy space Mafia. Here, they are going with the idea that the suicide not only of an individual but of an entire ship's crew isn't reserved only for high-stakes missions such as trying to juke the Coridan question (as in "Journey to Babel"), but standard practice for their acts of piracy. Good use of their negotiations, the crew of the freighter struggling with their situation, and Spock trying to soldier on.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:43 PM on August 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

This is 2020 brain maybe, but you'd think if they had a disease on board that was fatal to Vulcans they might have quarantined it more strictly? Ah well...

Perhaps they went with ORE-EON because they'd also committed themselves to a character named O'Shea in this episode?

The whole 'bad guys doing a thing that officially they're not supposed to but that they do all the time' business is really similar to the TAS Kzinti.

Is it my imagination, or are they basing the appearance of characters played by Majel Barret on her appearance as well? This character bears a certain resemblance.

...along with the Kzinti, the Orions were one of the major player factions in StarFleet Battles, as someone mentioned in a previous thread. The animated series has a certain gravity in the pre-TNG lore.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:36 PM on August 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Pretty solid work for a high-schooler, I'd agree. And is it me, or has it been rare (maybe even unprecedented) in TAS for an episode to end with the classic Kirk-Spock-McCoy "Eh heh heh heh" moment?

Shatner had one of his more serious Acting Moments here, IIRC in his first transmission to the Orions: you can hear Kirk fighting to keep the emotions under control in front of the bridge crew. Great moment, worthy of some manner of TAS highlight reel.

I can suspend a lot of disbelief/distaste with this show, but the Orions' headgear is just too freakin' ridiculous, and that took me right out of it.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:23 AM on August 7, 2020

Does anyone else hear a lot of slurring in McCoy's early dialogue in this episode?
posted by hanov3r at 7:07 AM on August 7, 2020

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