(written from a Production point of view)
While Spock lies ill, Orion pirates hijack the drug shipment desperately needed to save his life. (Season premiere)
- "Captain's log, stardate 6334.1. The outbreak of choriocytosis aboard the Enterprise seems to be under control. Dr. McCoy says the disease is no longer even as serious as pneumonia and there should be no problem completing our present mission, representing the Federation at the dedication ceremonies for the new Academy of Science on Deneb V."
While underway, however, Spock loses consciousness on the bridge and is taken to sickbay. Spock has contracted the disease, which, because of their copper-based blood, is fatal to Vulcans. The infection enters the bloodstream and encases the cells so they cannot carry oxygen, resulting in suffocation. A synthesized drug can control the disease, but only naturally-occurring strobolin will cure it. The drug is found on only a few worlds in the galaxy, the closest of which, Beta Canopus, is four days away at maximum warp speed. McCoy can slow it down with injections from a synthesized drug, but Spock only has two days before the disease builds up immunity to the drug. Then, by the end of the third day it will be irreversible.
- "Captain's log, Supplemental. We have arranged to get the strobolin needed to save Mr. Spock's life. The starship Potemkin has already picked up the drug and will transfer it to a freighter, the SS Huron for delivery to the Enterprise."
In a briefing room, Kirk informs Spock of the situation and tells him his duty time has been cut in half. When Spock protests, McCoy asserts, "Doctor's orders." When Spock leaves Kirk says, "It'll hurt seeing him like that." McCoy agrees adding, "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."
On the Huron's bridge, Captain O'Shea's freighter gets underway with the drug shipment. Without warning, they detect another vessel closing on them, of an Orion designation. They refuse to identify themselves or their purpose Spock is summoned to sickbay for another injection, but the synthesized treatments are losing effectiveness on maintaining his health.
The Huron hails the oncoming ship and Captain O'Shea again asks them to state their registry and purpose. When they don't answer, O'Shea sends out a distress signal to the Enterprise. The alien pirate craft then orders them to turn over their cargo of dilithium crystals or be destroyed. On the Enterprise, Spock falls unconscious, the drug no longer effective. The Enterprise finds the Huron, disabled. Kirk beams over with Uhura, Scott, and Nurse Chapel. They find the Huron's crew unconscious, with Captain O'Shea requiring surgery. Scott reports from the cargo hold that it is completely empty with its cargo missing. The landing party recovers the injured crew and beams back to the Enterprise. Spock now has only twenty hours to live.
- "Captain's log, stardate 6335.6. The Huron has been left as space junk, its engines sabotaged. Captain O'Shea has no idea who attacked his ship, but the intruder must be found and the precious cargo retrieved."
The Enterprise sets out after the specific pattern of radioactive waste left by the intruder. They detect dilithium crystals in the cargo bay of a ship in a highly unstable asteroid field and the Orion vessel is fired upon by the Enterprise.
The Orion captain hails the Enterprise, protesting the pursuit of his vessel, but refuses a search. Kirk attempts to negotiate for the strobolin in exchange for not mentioning the stolen dilithium crystals to Starfleet, but the Orions suspect a ruse. Kirk agrees to meet the Orion captain on an asteroid knowing that it might be a trap, but worth the risk for Spock's life. Kirk and the Orion beam down to the asteroid, both wearing life support belts, to exchange the drug. Unknown to Kirk, the Orion arrives carrying a dilithium explosive set to disrupt the asteroid's molecular structure and destroy him, the asteroid, and both ships.
The Orion captain gives his ultimatum, but Kirk wrests the device and the drug from him and captures him. Scotty beams the explosive to the Enterprise, disarms it, and then beams up both captains and forces the Orion to stand trial for piracy. His crew becomes prisoners, ending Orion's neutrality in pirate activities.
- "Captain's log, stardate 6336.2. The Orion crew is in our brig, their ship in tow, and the Enterprise is back on course for Deneb V."
With the medicine administered, Spock is saved, but McCoy wants him to admit that this time his green blood almost did him in. He just says he prefers his own physiology. McCoy laughs that he's just as stubborn as usual. Kirk says that everything is back to normal.
"Prepare to surrender your cargo or be destroyed."
- - Orion commander
"Blasted Vulcan, why can't you have red blood like any normal Human?"
- - McCoy
"Underneath all the tricks, I might as well be practicing in the Middle Ages."
"If you really believed that Bones, you wouldn't still be a doctor after twenty-five years."
- - McCoy, feeling helpless to save a dying Spock, while Kirk consoles him
- - Kirk, Sulu, and Arex
"Orion's neutrality has been in dispute ever since the affair regarding the Coridan planets and the Babel Conference of Stardate 3850.3. Yesterday, a Federation freighter was attacked in this quadrant, its cargo hijacked. As the first alien ship encountered we require you to submit to search as per Babel Resolution A-12. Reply!"
"We have no Federation cargo aboard. Orions are not thieves. If you don't cease this harassment we will lodge a formal protest with your government!"
- - Kirk and Orion commander
"Enterprise to Orion vessel. I have a proposal to make. If you do have the Huron's cargo there was some perishable drugs in it that we desperately need."
"What would these drugs be worth to you, if we had them?"
"You keep the dilithium shipment, no mention of the whole incident to Starfleet or in my log, plus an additional galactic standard weight container of dilithium as payment for the drug."
"We get what we want, plus our neutrality remains intact? We will consider your offer."
- - Kirk and Orion commander
"Orion's official neutrality comes before the ship or its crew. We can't take Kirk's word that he won't report this incident to Starfleet."
"The only way to avoid that is to destroy the Enterprise, and the only way to do that is to destroy ourselves, too."
- - Orion commander and Orion lieutenant
"Spock, that green blood of yours may have saved you once, but this time it almost did you in! You can't deny it!!"
- - McCoy, to Spock
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)
- Weinstein's first effort to submit the script for Star Trek: The Animated Series was unsuccessful. "[My agent] submitted my script – addressed to Dorothy Fontana, who'd been associate producer the first season. By that time, though, Dorothy had left. So Filmation forwarded it to her, and she returned it to my agent without reading it for legal reasons," Weinstein explained. "So, it traveled 6,000 miles and nobody even peeked at it! When the show got renewed in late '73, I re-submitted it using my agent's name – and they bought it in April 1974. I guess there's a lesson about perseverance in there somewhere!" 
- Only 19 years old when he sold this story to the animated series, Weinstein was the youngest person ever to have written a script for Star Trek. He was thrilled when his teleplay was finally purchased, later referring to the event as "a dream come true." Weinstein also related, "Filmation honcho Lou Scheimer [...] was surprised to hear I was a college junior and that it was my first script sale. He asked for minor revisions, which I happily did. And that's the last I heard [of its development]." 
- 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".
- This episode introduced the first Orion starship design, which was classified as not being a starship. An Orion ship had previously been seen in "Journey to Babel". However, in that episode, it was animated as a colored shape on the viewscreen.
Reception and aftermath
- Author Howard Weinstein later said, "Lou Scheimer told me Gene Roddenberry called it one of their better first-draft scripts." 
- Weinstein also reminisced about viewing this episode, the first installment of Star Trek: The Animated Series' second season; "I learned during the summer [of 1974] that 'Pirates' would open what turned out to be the show's short, final season [...] It aired the first Saturday of my senior year, a week before my 20th birthday. TV sets in dorm rooms were pretty rare back then, so I invited friends over to watch: 30 kids and one dog, and everybody cheered for my name in the credits. Kind of like a very-mini-convention [...] After 'Pirates' aired, I bought a 16mm film copy, which I showed at dozens of appearances at schools, libraries and conventions. That ol' film got pretty chewed up over the years." By 2011, Weinstein hadn't viewed the installment "in ages." 
- The editors of Trek magazine collectively scored this episode 2 out of 5 stars (a rating that they termed "fair"). (The Best of Trek #1, p. 111)
- In The Star Trek Files magazine, John Peel critiqued, "Quite simply, the best story in the animated series. It's a logical, inventive and cerebral plot. The whole thing is really a matter of two opposing captains attempting to out-think one another, as in many classic episodes of the live action series. The plot works nicely, especially with the prompt action of Scotty in disarming the bomb. That's a nice touch, and one that was obviously well thought out in advance. The story is neat, and certainly suspenseful." Regarding the episode's relation to Howard Weinstein's career, Peel concluded, "[It] certainly augured well for his future." (The Star Trek Files: The Animated Voyages End, p. 35)
- In the unofficial reference book Trek Navigator: The Ultimate Guide to the Entire Trek Saga (p. 177), co-writer Mark A. Altman rates this episode 2 out of 4 stars (defined as "mediocre") while fellow co-writer Edward Gross ranks the episode 3 out of 4 stars (defined as "good").
- In Star Trek Magazine's "Ultimate Guide" (Star Trek Magazine issue 163, p. 26), this episode was rated 4 out of 5 Starfleet arrowhead insignias and was declared the second best installment of TAS. The magazine remarked, "A cat-and-mouse game with the Orions and some classic Spock and McCoy scenes make for a great episode. (Even with the strange mispronunciation of 'Orion.')"
- Following his writing of this episode, Howard Weinstein went on to write several Star Trek novels and comics, including The Covenant of the Crown.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (CIC Video): Volume 6, catalog number VHR 2540, 17 February 1992
- As part of the The Animated Series LaserDisc collection
- As part of the The Animated Series DVD collection
- As part of the The Animated Series Blu-ray collection
Links and references
- George Takei as
- Nichelle Nichols as Uhura
- Majel Barrett as
- James Doohan as
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- "The Pirates of Orion" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Pirates of Orion" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Pirates of Orion" at Wikipedia
- "The Pirates of Orion" and "Bem" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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