22020 "The Pirates of Orion"

(airdate: September 7, 1974)

Writer: Howard Weinstein
Director: Bill Reed

Orion captain: James Doohan

Orion lieutenant: Norm Prescott

O'Shea: Lennie Weinrib [possibly; it's definitely not James Doohan, though]

Stardate: 6334.1

Captain's Log: Spock comes down with choriocytosis, a disease that's fatal to Vulcans. Spock will die without strobolin, a cure for the disease. The USS Huron is set to rendezvous with the Enterprise with a supply of the drug, but en route the Huron is attacked by an Orion ship, which takes all of the Huron's cargo - including the strobolin. Kirk contacts the Orion ship and attempts to negotiate for the drug; the Orions agree, but in reality they're setting a trap: the Orion captain plans to blow up the asteroid that the handover is set to occur on. Kirk manages to stop the captain from detonating the explosive and takes him captive, ending Orion's game of piracy. McCoy administers the drug to Spock, who makes a full recovery.

Whoops!: Animation mistakes: McCoy calls the bridge even though he's standing next to Kirk; Kirk orders Sulu to go "hard to port" to face the Orion vessel, but the blast came from starboard; and the final scene has a shot of the bridge in sickbay.
     There are also some odd audio issues: the red alert sounds weird; everyone pronounces "Orion" oddly (as ['o.ɹi.ɑn], rather than the established [o.'ɹaɪ.n]); Shatner has a couple odd lines - an obvious dropped-in line at the end of the first captain's log, and an order that sounds like he's asking for someone named "Starfleet Lieutenant" (rather than the intended, "Get me Starfleet, Lieutenant"); and, gloriously, someone's dubbed in the line "Gone?!" for the Orion lieutenant in a voice that doesn't remotely sound like Norm Prescott.

Classic Lines: McCoy, musing about Spock's condition: "As much as it might seem at times that I can't stand that pointy-eared encyclopedia, I don't want to see that happen to him."
     McCoy: "That's the last time I waste my bedside manner on a Vulcan." Spock: "Such restraint would be welcome."

Library Computer: Choriocytosis is a communicable disease that's virtually harmless to species with iron-based blood, such as humans, but deadly to species with copper-based blood, such as Vulcans. In Vulcans, the infection enters the blood stream and encases the blood cells so that they can't carry oxygen. The symptoms are similar to those of someone working in an oxygen-deficient atmosphere: increased tiredness and decreased efficiency until the victim finally suffocates. There is a synthetic treatment, but the patient soon builds up an immunity to it and it loses its effectiveness after two days; after three days the disease is irreversible. The only known cure is a naturally occurring drug called strobolin, which is only found on a few planets -- the nearest source to the Enterprise as of stardate 6334.1 is Beta Canopis, which is four days away at maximum warp.
     The USS Huron was a freighter, registry NCC-F1913. It was an ungainly-looking ship, generally boxy but with a number of bumps and protrusions, and two engine nacelles that rose above the main hull. The Huron had a massive cargo hold and typically transported dilithium. Somewhat unusually, the Starfleet arrowhead symbol on the nacelles flashed. The captain of the ship was a man named O'Shea, who had dark hair and a neatly trimmed beard. The assignment patch looked like a rounded version of the Enterprise arrowhead, with a very narrow ellipse cutting through it at an angle (looking roughly like the path of an orbit around the arrowhead). The Huron rendezvoused with the starship Potemkin to pick up a supply of strobolin and intended to meet up with the Enterprise, but they were taken out by a new Orion ship.
     The Orions seen here are a light grey-green-skinned people, dressed in green uniforms with large yellow or pale green "V" symbols on their fronts. They wore helmets with blue eye pieces and varying stripes across the top. [This is actually the first time we see undisguised Orion males, which wouldn't be seen again until the Enterprise episode "Borderland", so although we might think the coloring is wrong we don't actually have any evidence that Orion males didn't become lighter-skinned in the 23rd century.] Orions are officially neutral (although that neutrality has been in dispute since the events of stardate 3850.3 ("Journey to Babel", although the stardate doesn't quite match up)), and they prize that neutrality above all else, willing to sacrifice their crews and ships to maintain that neutrality. They've been using this neutrality to mask their actions of piracy, although Kirk says that that's now over. According to the Orion captain, all unsuccessful Orion missions end in suicide.
     The Orions have a new design of ship, never before encountered by the Federation. It's orange in color, with large wing-like extensions stretching out over the main body of the craft, which is smaller and central, generally pointing down [the effect is kind of like a large predatory insect]. The ship was marked with standard Orion markings, and it was equipped with standard phasers that were nevertheless quite weak; they produced a low-intensity, diffused beam that the Enterprise's deflectors could easily stop, and which weren't powerful enough to detonate the unstable asteroids in the asteroid belt they were hiding in - although it could successfully disable the Huron. The Orion ship produced a unique trail of radioactive waste that made them relatively easy to track.
     The Orion ship takes refuge in a field filled with asteroids composed of a highly unstable mineral combination. They explode upon impact with each other, and a bomb going off on a large one could destroy the Enterprise and the Orion vessel.
     Per Babel Resolution A12, ships encountered after reports of a hijacking must submit to search.
      Starfleet Academy requires students to pass a test showing they can operate in an oxygen-deficient atmosphere.
     There is a new Academy of Science being dedicated on Deneb V; the Enterprise is the Federation's representative at the ceremony.
     Dilithium can be used as an explosive.
     McCoy has been a doctor for twenty-five years.

Final Analysis: "It could be a trap, but it's the only way to get the drug. And Spock will die if we don't." A solid script, made all the more impressive when you realize it was Howard Weinstein's first-ever. The threat is clear and the plot is pretty tight; the only real downside is that the pacing's a bit off: it feels like we race through the first half before lingering extensively on the Orion ship and the stand-off. But this is a minor quibble with a generally excellent episode.

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Page last updated: April 11, 2019

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