(covers information from several alternate timelines)
This page contains information regarding Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and thus may contain spoilers.
- See also: Orion Syndicate - History
Orion once harbored a highly advanced civilization whose history had drawn great interest from Federation historians and archaeologists alike. (TOS: "The City on the Edge of Forever", "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"; TAS: "Yesteryear")
In 2154, Enterprise NX-01 was raided by an Orion Interceptor, and nine of its crew members were taken as slaves. This soured relations between the Orion Syndicate and United Earth. (ENT: "Borderland", "Bound")
In 2155, Tellarites suspected Orions of raiding their vessels, and demanded that the Coalition of Planets establish a trade embargo against them. The Coridanites, however, called this accusation "Tellarite slander." (ENT: "Demons")
During the mid-23rd century, noted Federation archaeologist Doctor Roger Korby translated medical records from the Orion ruins that helped revolutionize modern immunization techniques and became required reading at Starfleet Academy. (TOS: "What Are Little Girls Made Of?")
On stardate 4326.3, the Feira Incident took place during which Klingon patrol forces in the Shepard sector failed to stop Orion merchant raiders attacking Klingon strategic material outposts. (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, okudagram)
In 2269, through the assistance of the Guardian of Forever, Starfleet officers Captain James T. Kirk, Commander Spock and historian Lieutenant Erickson traveled to the dawn of Orion's civilization to view the planet's history unfolding, firsthand. (TAS: "Yesteryear")
As of the 2370s, the Orions were involved in interstellar trade, Orion Free Traders visited Deep Space 9, and the Orion Institute of Cosmology on Orion I was considered a prestigious cosmology academy. (DS9: "Little Green Men", "Call to Arms"; VOY: "Good Shepherd")
According to Starfleet officer D'Vana Tendi in 2380, most Orions hadn't been involved with piracy for at least five years. (LD: "Crisis Point"). There were still some pirating operation still active as of 2381. (LD: "We'll Always Have Tom Paris")
Following the Burn in circa 3069, the Orions and Andorians formed the Emerald Chain crime syndicate. As of 3189, the Chain, led by Osyraa, was in conflict with the Federation. (DIS: "That Hope Is You, Part 1", "Die Trying")
Orions were known for their distinctive green skin, which could feature yellowish to bluish undertones. They usually had black hair, (TOS: "The Cage", "Whom Gods Destroy"; ST: "The Escape Artist") though some had red, green, brown or white hair. (Star Trek; Star Trek Into Darkness; LD: "Second Contact", "We'll Always Have Tom Paris"; DIS: "All Is Possible") Some Orion men were often bald. (ENT: "Bound"; DIS: "Will You Take My Hand?")
Some female Orions were capable of emitting highly potent pheromones that could impact the physiology of other species. In heterosexual males of many species, including Humans, the pheromones accelerated metabolisms, raising adrenaline production to dangerous levels. This could cause aggression and, after cumulative exposure, levels of delusion and suggestibility. (ENT: "Bound")
These effects were not universal. Human heterosexual females reacted negatively to those same pheromones, experiencing headaches, while Denobulan males found their sleep cycles interrupted by them. Vulcans were immune to effects of the pheromones; this immunity could be shared by those who experienced a telepathic mating bond with a Vulcan. In 2154, Dr. Phlox of Enterprise NX-01 hypothesized that the pheromone acted as a defense mechanism against competition. (ENT: "Bound")
Not all Orion women emitted or utilized such pheromones. (LD: "We'll Always Have Tom Paris") In the 2150s of the mirror universe, Orion women served in the Imperial Starfleet alongside men from many subject species of the Terran Empire without incident. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly") In 2258 of the alternate reality, Orion women commonly served in Starfleet alongside men of many species without exerting any undue influence over them. In 2380, an Orion woman named D'Vana Tendi served aboard the USS Cerritos alongside men from species including Humans, Bajorans, Andorians, and Bolians without pheromones having any noticeable effect. (LD: "Second Contact") When a Nausicaan suggested Tendi might use her pheromones to gain advantage in a game of dom-jot, she replied, "I'm not even that kind of Orion!" (LD: "We'll Always Have Tom Paris") Orion women were also capable of entering into sexual relationships without their pheromones exerting control over their partners. (Star Trek)
In 2154, an Orion Syndicate member named Harrad-Sar, under the thrall of the organized crime leaders Navaar, D'Nesh, and Maras, claimed that in Orion society, men were slaves to women. (ENT: "Bound") Female members of the Orion Syndicate sometimes posed as enslaved persons in order to use their pheromones to manipulate or even control hapless would-be male slavers from other species. As a means of perpetuating this deception, female leaders of the Syndicate would sometimes allow themselves to be "sold" on Orion slave markets. (ENT: "Borderland", "Bound"; TOS: "The Cage")
From the 2150s to the 2250s, it was a common for slave traders, smugglers, criminals, and traffickers of women to stereotype Orion women as being "animalistic" in nature, characterizing them as having "extreme" carnal appetites and "certain innate skills." It was claimed that Human men could rarely resist the alluring dance of an Orion slave girl. (ENT: "Borderland"; TOS: "The Menagerie, Part II")
In 2380, D'Vana Tendi got angry with Ensign Beckett Mariner after Mariner stereotyped her in a holodeck program as being a ruthless slave pirate. (LD: "Crisis Point"). It is shown that it is common for Orion females to be physically abusive to assert dominance over males, even if that male is a blood relative. (LD: "We'll Always Have Tom Paris")
Politics and commerce
Prior to 2270, the Orions had carefully maintained an air of neutrality, especially while operating in and around Federation space. This, however, had proven to be more of a guise than a reality, and was often used as an effort to cover their usually shady operations. Nevertheless, Orion's official position of neutrality was valued before ship and crew, as all unsuccessful Orion missions ended in suicide. Orions would keep that rationale in good conscience, as they would otherwise fall subject to Federation retaliation, if they were to lose their neutrality. (TOS: "Journey to Babel"; TAS: "The Pirates of Orion")
Despite the rich cultural history of Orion and outside of their "official" stance of neutrality, a dark side of Orion culture existed in the active trafficking of forced labor through the Orion slave markets, especially enslaved women. Verex III and the Orion colony were well-known trade centers during the 22nd and 23rd centuries. (ENT: "Borderland"; TOS: "The Cage")
The primary entity operating within these confines was known as the Orion Syndicate, comprised of a conglomeration of traders, pirates and smugglers. These individuals were well-known for their many illegal operations outside of the slave trade, including extortion, theft, raids, kidnappings and assassinations. (DS9: "The Ascent", "Honor Among Thieves", "Prodigal Daughter") These activities were facilitated in the region of space which separated the Orion Syndicate from the Klingon Empire, known as the Borderland. During the 22nd century, this volatile region of space attracted the most dangerous elements from both sides. (ENT: "Borderland")
In 2154, the United Earth starship Enterprise inadvertently made contact with Orion pirates when they encountered a number of Orion Interceptors, which kidnapped nine of Enterprise's crew. The crew was recovered from the Orion processing station on Verex III, where they had been taken. (ENT: "Borderland")
A secondary entity operating within the Orion realm was known as the Orion Free Traders. The Orion Free Traders had a partially established relationship with the Vulcans during the late 24th century. (DS9: "Call to Arms")
The first known Orion contact with Humans was made with Arik Soong during the 2130s. Soong established a relationship with the Orion Syndicate in order to acquire certain goods and equipment that he and his Augments needed to survive. (ENT: "Borderland")
The Orions actively conducted trade with the Earth Cargo Service during the 2150s. In late December 2152, an Orion freighter was scheduled to rendezvous with the ECS Horizon; however the Horizon failed to make the transfer. (ENT: "Horizon")
By 2155, the Orions had established trade with the Coridanites "for centuries." That year, during the formation of the Coalition of Planets, the Tellarites pushed for an embargo against the Orions, claiming that several of their freighters had been attacked by the Orions. Considering their long history of trade with the Orions, the Coridanite ambassador stated that they would have known of these apparent attacks, refusing to believe what they considered to be "Tellarite slander," which they believed was simply a Tellarite attempt to deprive them of valuable commerce. (ENT: "Demons")
Little did the Coridanites know that a century later, Orion smugglers would be actively raiding dilithium from the Coridan system. The Babel Conference of stardate 3850.3, a prelude to Coridan's admission into the Federation, jeopardized future Orion raids, as Coridan would then become subject to Federation law.
Among the delegates was an Orion spy, Thelev, disguised as an Andorian, who in association with an attacking Orion scout ship made a futile attempt to prevent the conference by destroying the USS Enterprise. Had their attack on Starfleet succeeded, they would have instigated mutual suspicion and possibly interplanetary war. Had war broken out, they would have cleaned up supplying dilithium to both sides while continuing to raid Coridan. (TOS: "Journey to Babel")
Loss of neutrality
Orion's neutrality remained in dispute ever since the Coridan affair and the Babel Conference of stardate 3850.3. This was again brought to light in 2270 when an Orion vessel attacked and raided the USS Huron of its cargo of dilithium and a shipment of strobolin intended for transfer to the USS Enterprise.
Following the discovery of the disabled Huron, the Enterprise tracked the Orion ship to an asteroid belt. Initially, the crew was attacked by, and was later accused of harassing, the Orions, who then threatened to file a formal protest with the Federation.
It was when the Enterprise detected the dilithium in the Orion vessel's hold that Captain James T. Kirk told the Orions that he would allow them to keep the dilithium if they would return the strobolin, and would make no mention of the encounter in his log. The Orions did not trust Kirk, and suggested a nearby asteroid to hand over the drug.
This suggestion was a ruse, however, as the Orions planned to destroy themselves and the Enterprise during the exchange to preserve the appearance of Orion neutrality. The plot failed and the Orion vessel and crew were captured, casting further doubt on the future of the Orions' claim to neutrality. (TAS: "The Pirates of Orion")
The 24th century
In the mirror universe, the Orions had been subjugated by the Terran Empire by 2155. In that year, a female Orion crewmember was serving aboard the ISS Avenger. She was killed while aiding fellow non-Terrans under Soval in an attempt to destroy the USS Defiant. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II") According to ex-Emperor Philippa Georgiou, the nature of Orions in the mirror universe was not much different from those in the prime, still largely being slave-traders and pirates. (DIS: "Will You Take My Hand?")
In the alternate reality, Orions were living and working on Earth in the late 2250s. One such Orion named Gaila was a cadet at Starfleet Academy by 2258. In 2259, another female Orion was in San Francisco. Starfleet also monitored activity of the Orion Union. (Star Trek)
List of Orion starships
- Harrad-Sar's barge
- Heavy cruiser-class example: Viridian
- Orion freighter
- Orion Interceptor
- Orion marauder
- Orion vessel
- Orion scout ship
A list of all appearances of Orions (excluding the regular appearance of D'Vana Tendi):
- "The Serene Squall" (Season 1)
Star Trek's first depiction of an Orion was in a scene from the series' first pilot episode, "The Cage", in which an illusory Earth trader and a uniformed space officer try to talk Captain Christopher Pike into falling in love with Vina, who appears as an illusory Orion slave girl.
The final draft of the episode's script featured a different version of the scene from that used in the episode. In the scene as first conceived, the illusory Earth trader teased Pike by suggesting that, as former captain of the starship Enterprise, he used to send Earth "blistering reports," such as "'the Orion traders taking shocking advantage of the natives...'" Intentionally referring to Vina, the illusory space officer asked Pike, "Do any of you have a green one? They're dangerous, I hear." This version of the scene implies that writer and series creator Gene Roddenberry originally conceived the Orions to have more varied colors of skin than just green.
Before being used in filming "The Cage", Vina's green make-up was tested on Majel Barrett and Susan Oliver. "Believe me, it was not easy to be green. There were many experiments with makeup. Fred Phillips, head of the makeup department, couldn't get the [...] [right] makeup. They couldn't find any green makeup that would stick to skin, so they tried many, many things on me until they finally sent for help from New York where they found what they wanted," recalled Oliver. (Starlog, issue 135, p. 78) When camera tests of the make-up were being done with Barrett, however, post-production editors were confused at seeing a green woman. They tried to compensate by chemically reconverting the green color tone to flesh color tones, and sent the film back to the production crew three times without the green skin being visible. Angered at this, Phillips had his make-up crew repeatedly paint Barrett with darker shades of paint, hoping it would become visible on screen. The production team eventually discovered that the film processing lab had been recolorizing her because they had been unaware her skin was meant to be green. Gene Roddenberry explained to them it was actually intended to be such.
Archive footage of Vina as the illusory Orion slave girl was later used in "The Menagerie, Part II". Later, "Journey to Babel" featured the first genuine Orion. However, he had been surgically altered to appear Andorian. It was not until their final appearance in The Original Series, "Whom Gods Destroy", that a genuine female Orion appeared on screen and, later, it was in the Orions' appearance on The Animated Series' "The Pirates of Orion" that a genuine male Orion first appeared.
The Orions appearing in The Animated Series depicted an Orion female, in "The Time Trap", and the Orion males in "The Pirates of Orion" as being light-skinned due to coloring difficulties (the same problem also occurred with the normally blue-skinned Andorians, which appeared gray). Although most other Star Trek episodes had pronounced Orion as "Oh-RYE-on", the word was pronounced "OR-ee-un" throughout "The Pirates of Orion". The mistake was due to the fact that the animated scripts did not include a pronunciation page, unlike scripts of later live-action Star Trek episodes. "The Pirates of Orion" also featured the second appearance of an Orion craft, this time using a far more detailed animation than that used in "Journey to Babel". The episode was the first to reference the Orion species in its title and remains the only episode to have done so.
No Orions ever appeared in the subsequent Star Trek series – Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, or Star Trek: Voyager – though references to the Orion Syndicate were made in several Deep Space Nine episodes.
Star Trek: Enterprise writer/producer Mike Sussman had hoped to show the origins of Orion privateers by making them the adversaries in the third season episode "Anomaly (ENT)". However, during rewrites, the species was changed to a new race, the Osaarians. Had the Orions appeared, the episode would have established that they were originally known as peaceful merchants in the mid-22nd century – it was the hardships of life inside the Delphic Expanse that led some Orions to become more aggressive and predatory when dealing with other species.
The notion of bringing the Orions back to Star Trek extremely appealed to Manny Coto, who became show-runner of ENT Season 4. "I'd always wanted to do Orions," he explained. "I'd always been fascinated with Orions [...] and I wanted to explore the Orion culture, the males and what they look like and how they function." ("Before Her Time: Decommissioning Enterprise, Part Two: Memorable Voyages", ENT Season 4 Blu-ray special features)
After the last live-action appearance of an Orion, in 1969's "Whom Gods Destroy", the next such appearance of the species was finally realized thirty-five years later, in 2004's "Borderland", an installment of ENT's fourth season. In that episode, the Orions appeared en masse, with several actors portraying brutish male members of the species and model Bobbi Sue Luther starring as an Orion slave girl. The Orion males were so numerous in "Borderland" that the episode's final draft script noted, "Unless specified, all Orions are males."
Regarding male Orions, the "Borderland" script stated, "Orions are hulking, muscular figures... like walking mountains. Elaborate tattooing and metal piercings cover their olive skin." Although The Animated Series' coloring difficulties had caused the Orions' appearances to remain true to Gene Roddenberry's original vision of the species as rarely having a green complexion, "Borderland" indeed continued the eventual Original Series depiction of the Orions as usually green-skinned. The look of the Orion males in the episode was extrapolated from the Orion females in The Original Series episodes.
Star Trek: Enterprise continued to depict the Orions as a green-skinned species in their following two appearances, the first of which, "Bound", showed, for the first time in a live-action series, the interior of an Orion spacecraft. One set, reminiscent of an Arabian sheik's luxurious abode, was built as an elaborate room where guests could be entertained while another set, which only appeared on a viewscreen, was a one-wall representation of the Orion bridge. The episode also featured three Orion slave girls, as well as the prominent role of Harrad-Sar. In the episode's script, Harrad-Sar was described as "powerful, imposing and fiercely intelligent". Sixty-three year-old William Lucking was cast as the Orion male and was made to look bigger than in reality by wearing platform shoes and a bulky leather-padded costume. Each of the actors who played Orions in the episode, including two extras who appeared as male Orion guards, were spray-painted with green body make-up in special booths for approximately four hours.
ENT Make-up Supervisor Michael Westmore has cited his work on the Orions as one of his favorite experiences from his tenure on Star Trek in general, remarking, "I really enjoyed redeveloping the Orion characters from the Original Series." (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 103, p. 16)
Orions have been depicted as serving in Starfleet in the ENT mirror universe episode "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" and in the alternate reality of the film Star Trek. The first Orion Starfleet officer seen in the main universe is D'Vana Tendi on Star Trek: Lower Decks; she is also the first Orion main character.
The make-up for the Orions of the alternate reality depicted in the film Star Trek was designed by Barney Burman, who designed and created the other aliens in that film too. "I was involved in early designs on our Orions and came up with the initial design, the technique and the kinds of paint that we would use on [them]," explained Burman. "Very shortly after that, I was overwhelmed with prosthetic aliens and had to give the Orions over to the straight makeup department. They just did a bang-up job." Burman was also responsible for deciding to make the Starfleet Orion crew member in the film (namely, Gaila) have red hair. (Star Trek Magazine issue 155, p. 57)
The casting of the diminutive Clint Howard as a male Orion in the Star Trek: Discovery episode "Will You Take My Hand?" was a contrast to the tall, muscular Orion males shown on Star Trek: Enterprise. However, the Orions seen in the Star Trek: Short Treks episode "The Escape Artist" and the later Star Trek: Discovery episode "That Hope Is You, Part 1" still tended to be the tall and muscular types.
In the novelization of Star Trek, Kirk tells Spock that Orion women talk in their sleep – implying that Gaila, having at some point heard it from her roommate, Uhura, unknowingly revealed the information Kirk used to reprogram the Kobayashi Maru scenario.
Orions are one of the default playable species in Star Trek Online as part of the Klingon Empire faction. The Orion government, though ostensibly neutral, is effectively a client state of the Klingon Empire. Meanwhile the Orion Syndicate purged non-Orion members and aligned fully with the Empire in exchange for a planet to rule independently. Through the Syndicate Orions contribute ships, personnel, and resources to the Klingon Defense Force.
- Orion at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- Orion at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
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