“The Pirates of Orion”
Written by Howard Weinstein
Directed by Bill Reed
Animated Season 2, Episode 1
Production episode 22020
Original air date: September 7, 1974
Captain’s log. There’s been an outbreak of choriocytosis on the Enterprise, but McCoy has it under control, so the ship can still fulfill its mission to attend the dedication ceremony for a new Academy of Sciences on Deneb V. However, Spock collapses on the bridge and is taken to sickbay. He’s contracted choriocytosis, and it’s fatal to beings with copper-based blood.
The nearest supply of the only drug that can cure him is four days away, but Spock will only live for three. (Why the Enterprise didn’t stock up on the drug when the outbreak first occurred is left as an exercise for the viewer.) However, Kirk is able to arrange a delivery—the Potemkin is able to obtain the drug, they’ll transfer it to the Freighter Huron, which will deliver it to the Enterprise. Spock is put on restricted duty.
While en route to rendezvous with the Enterprise, the Huron is intercepted by an unknown ship that refuses to respond to hails. The Huron engages in evasive maneuvers, but the ship keeps with them and threatens to board them and take their cargo.
The Enterprise receives the Huron’s distress signal and arrive to find the ship dead in space on emergency power. Kirk, Scotty, Uhura, and Chapel beam over to the Huron to discover the hold empty and the crew unconscious.
Using the Huron’s sensor data, Arex is able to trace the pirate ship. Meanwhile, Spock’s condition is deteriorating, to the point where he’s confined to sickbay and on a respirator.
The pirate ship takes refuge in an asteroid field that is literally explosive—the asteroids blow up when they collide with each other or with anything else. Arex recognizes the pirate ship’s markings as being Orion.
The Orion pirates hail the Enterprise, proclaiming their innocence and accusing Kirk of harassing them. Sulu confirms that the dilithium from the Huron is on their ship, so Kirk doesn’t buy their denial—but he’s also running out of time for Spock. So he offers to let them keep the Huron’s dilithium shipment, and also be given an additional supply of same, and to keep the incident out of the official log, as long as the Orions give Kirk the drug Spock needs.
After considering, the Orion captain agrees to the exchange—but only face to face on one of the asteroids, and the Orions don’t even want the extra dilithium. However, the Orions can’t risk their neutrality, and don’t trust that Kirk won’t report this anyhow. They’re willing to destroy themselves as long as the Enterprise is also destroyed.
Kirk and the Orion captain beam down to the asteroid, the latter with the drug, but also with an explosive on his back that will detonate the asteroid, and destroy both ships. Scotty orders Kirk and the pirate captain beamed up, and security keeps the captain from committing suicide. The Orion ship prepares to self-destruct, but Kirk points out that the captain will still stand trial regardless, so the Orion captain orders his crew to stand down and surrender.
Spock is given the drug and all is right with the world.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? While choriocytosis is survivable by folks with iron-based blood (like humans), folks with copper-based blood (like Vulcans and Vulcan-human hybrids) can die from it, as the disease surrounds the cell walls so they can’t respirate.
Fascinating. Spock is a generally terrible patient, who only even agrees to restricted duty because McCoy forces the issue, never mind the fact that he’s already collapsed on the bridge once.
I’m a doctor, not an escalator. McCoy tries to get Spock to admit that his green blood nearly killed him, and he should be sorry he doesn’t have red blood like a normal person. McCoy’s always been borderline racist in his comments to Spock, and his rant at the end is one of the worst offenders.
Hailing frequencies open. Uhura gets to go on a landing party, charged with retrieving the Huron’s logs, plus her usual opening of hailing frequencies.
Ahead warp one, aye. Sulu is able to keep the Enterprise safe in the dangerous asteroid field.
I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty acts quickly to transport Kirk and the Orion captain back up from the asteroid before the latter’s bomb can detonate.
Forewarned is three-armed. Arex is the one who recognizes the ship as Orion, and he’s the one who tracks the ship down.
Go put on a red shirt. As usual, security fails to notice that the Orion captain’s about to commit suicide, but Kirk does notice and stops him.
“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.”
–McCoy feeling helpless before his inability to cure Spock.
Welcome aboard. James Doohan provides the voices of Scotty and Arex as usual, as well as that of the Orion captain. Majel Barrett does her usual Chapel and the computer voice, as well as the Huron engineer, while George Takei doubles as both Sulu and the Huron helmsman. Nichelle Nichols is Uhura, while Filmation producer Norm Prescott voice the Orion lieutenant. Prescott may also be O’Shea, the Huron captain, as his voice is similar to that of the lieutenant; it’s definitely not Doohan…
Trivial matters: This is the first episode of the animated series’ abbreviated second season, all the episodes of which were directed by Bill Reed, after Hal Sutherland directed the sixteen episodes of the first season. Sutherland’s director credit was still seen in the closing credits due to Filmation being too cheap to create a new credits sequence, so Reed’s credit was given in the title card along with the episode’s writer.
Howard Weinstein sold this script to the animated series at the tender age of nineteen, making him the youngest person to write a Star Trek script. Weinstein would go on to write many critically acclaimed Star Trek novels, short stories, and comic books, starting with the 1981 novel The Covenant of the Crown, and including half a dozen novels, a novella, two short stories, comics for both Marvel and WildStorm, and most notably a lengthy run on DC’s monthly Star Trek comic in the early 1990s.
Orion was pronounced with the accent on the first syllable, rather than the more traditional second syllable.
The conflict with the Orions at Coridan that led to the Babel Resolution Kirk mentions occurred in “Journey to Babel.”
To boldly go. “Blasted Vulcan!” This is an excellent little story, a nice little space opera adventure with a ticking clock, suspense, danger, double crosses, plus a dab of politics in the Orions’ attempts to maintain neutrality as a cover for their piracy.
Howard Weinstein (who, full disclosure, is a friend and colleague of your humble rewatcher—in fact, I commissioned two of Howie’s Trek works, the short story “Safe Harbors” in Tales of the Dominion War and the Mere Anarchy novella The Blood-Dimmed Tide) shows an excellent understanding of Trek, from Kirk’s willingness to move heaven and earth to save Spock (“Amok Time“) to the dodginess of the Orions (“The Cage,” “Journey to Babel“) to the show’s general trademark default to compassion with Kirk convincing the Orion captain not to let his crew throw their lives away. On top of that, taking Spock out of the action early on gives the rest of the crew something to do (cf. “Spock’s Brain,” though in this case it’s not the only redeeming feature of the episode…), as the entire supporting cast gets something to do, particularly Arex and Scotty.
It’s not perfect—McCoy’s comments to Spock are nasty even by his high standards of being racist toward Spock, and someone should have told the cast how to pronounce “Orion”—but overall this is a fine adventure story.
Warp factor rating: 9
Next week: “Bem”
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be a guest at the Central Pennsylvania Comic-Con this weekend in York, Pennsylvania. He’ll have a table where he’ll be selling and signing books. Other guests include comics artists Mark Sparacio, Chris Campana, Ken Hunt, Gus Mauk and fellow writer-types Pat Shand and Alec Frazier.