Star Trek: The Animated Series

"The Pirates of Orion"

3 stars

Air date: 9/7/1974
Written by Howard Weinstein
Directed by Bill Reed

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Following the outbreak of a disease on the Enterprise, Spock falls ill because of his Vulcan physiology. McCoy says the disease will prove fatal to him in a matter of days without life-saving medication. The drug is rare and out of immediate range, but the SS Huron, a civilian freighter, can bring it to the Enterprise, so the ships set a course to rendezvous. En route to the Enterprise, however, the Huron is intercepted by an Orion pirate ship and boarded. The Orions steal the ship's cargo and flee. The Enterprise reaches the Huron to find its cargo hold empty and the crew subdued. So the Enterprise must track the enemy ship down and retrieve the stolen cargo before Spock's time runs out.

"The Pirates of Orion" is a straightforward story that's executed well. Once again, I'm finding that the stories that work the best for me on TAS are the ones that highlight nautical operations, tactical decisions, and Kirk negotiating to reach the end goal.

There's no secret as to who did this or why. We follow the fleeing Orions into an asteroid belt where the rocks explode on impact. The Enterprise has the Orion ship cornered. But the Orions have the leverage of the drug, which McCoy desperately needs to save Spock's life. So Kirk has to make some compromises in his negotiations, and even offers to look the other way and not report the transgression to Starfleet if the Orions hand over the drug. It's a good deal the Orion captain turns down, which is a really bad decision in retrospect.

As in "Balance of Terror," this episode makes the crucial decision to show us the perspective inside the enemy ship, as the captain and its first officer discuss a course of action. It helps us understand the logic of the enemy and their plan to gain the upper hand, and makes the overall engagement considerably more interesting. The Orion captain makes a counter-offer to Kirk to make the exchange on the surface of one of the asteroids (where he plans to use its explosive properties to destroy both ships). When beaming down, Kirk knows this could very well be a trap.

Which, of course it is. And of course Kirk is able to gain the upper hand in the struggle, capture the Orion captain, and obtain the life-saving drugs. As nautical chess games go, this is a solidly engaging, completely unpretentious standoff, with no wasted time and a narrative that moves from beat to beat efficiently and effectively.

Previous episode: The Jihad
Next episode: Bem

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5 comments on this post

Fri, Jun 2, 2023, 9:50pm (UTC -5)
I just watched Prodigy, loved it, and decided I might as well be a completist and watch TAS. Not loving it.

This episode seems to have a continuity error due to the slapdash use of stock animation: In the opening, when Spock passes out, there's a wide reaction shot of Kirk and Bones in the background. Then a close up of Kirk. And then a close up of his control panel as he hits it and calls sickbay. What? Bones was standing right next to him! Or was he?

Only 5 more episodes to go and I'll have seen every episode of every Star Trek. This stuff is painful to watch, and impossible to binge. It's like listening to your favorite band's worst album.
Elizabeth Palladino
Sat, Jun 3, 2023, 1:42pm (UTC -5)
I can't really add anything to what Jammer said. I agree with every point, right through the whole review, 100 percent. Gary, you just have to take these as what they are. They are dated and for the most part not fabulous. Make sure you watch Yesteryear--a top episode across all Star Trek shows, as far as I'm concerned. And The Counter-Clock Incident is well-worth watching---insane in the membrane, but makes its own kind of sense. Past that, it's just a question of some eps appealing to you and others making you cringe with horror and run straight back to The Inner Light or In the Pale Moonlight.
Sun, Jun 4, 2023, 7:10pm (UTC -5)
Yeah, Elizabeth, I'm in my 50s and grew up with these Filmation cartoons. Superfriends and Brady Kids come to mind. I think when Adult Swim made fun of this style in their early shows, they mocked the whole genre into self parody. I can't look at close-ups of animated Kirk's face without seeing Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. But, I did just finish the series, and yes, The Counter-Clock Incident was definitely worth the watch. I saw Yesteryear back in 2020 and I remember liking it. I'll definitely go back and watch it again.
Mon, Jun 5, 2023, 9:19am (UTC -5)
A very good episode with interesting plot mechanics and the bond between the big 3 being re-examined and re-affirmed. It also serves as a follow-up to "Journey to Babel" with Kirk referencing a treaty regarding the Orions that came out of that episode.

It's also noteworthy that the Enterprise doesn't take the stolen cargo back using some kind of force. Spock being operated on by McCoy is also consistent with the TOS episode as well as the Orions attempting to self-destruct / commit suicide when their mission fails. We get the Orions' duplicity and their lack of trust in the Federation which drives their dastardly plan.

For a 24-min. animated episode with plenty of plot mechanics, we do get Kirk and McCoy being compassionate toward Spock in their own particular ways. It's nice to see at the end Spock and McCoy joking about whose blood is superior, now that Spock's blood nearly cost him his life. The Orions don't have the deep green skin first seen on TOS and then on ENT, so that was a bit disappointing to see.

Trek fan
Mon, Jun 12, 2023, 11:15pm (UTC -5)
I love Pirates of Orion and concur with this 3 star review. Not terribly memorable but a good story.

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