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Star Trek The Animated Series: The Pirates of Orion

Mikey Heinrich and Billie Doux discuss "The Pirates of Orion."

Mikey: Why? For the love of god, WHY???

The frustrating thing about this one is that it's totally solid. Good structure, well paced. The ending is a little rushed, but that's not really a deal breaker, nor is it uncommon. Spock's imminent death from the space-pneumonia that's pretty harmless to iron-based blood but devastating to copper-based blood was a nice inversion of the usual way these things go. (Did we already know that Vulcan blood was copper-based?)

So why, for the love of sweet glittery Jesus, did they make the pirates Orions – a race previously established – and not only make them look nothing like themselves, but also consistently mispronounce their own species name? Also, Kirk appears to have forgotten that they exist until he suddenly remembers every little detail about the Babel Treaty.

Honestly, it's like if I showed you this new fiction book I wrote set in 1700s Europe, in which England is threatened by a brand new, never before seen enemy, The French. Pronounced Far-EHN-Cuh. They insist on that pronunciation, and their skin is purple now. And they all wear meringues on their heads. But they're totally the same French people. Honest.

I genuinely assumed that this was an entirely new race of aliens that had been really unfortunately named, but Memory Alpha insists that they're the same Orions of the slave-girl-owning variety.

It was so frustrating that I couldn't get past it, and as a consequence it kind of ruined the episode for me. Which is too bad, because up until that point everything had been going so nicely. And things are good after they show up as well, I was just too irritated to enjoy it.

For example, a race whose motive drives them to "immediate group suicide" at the first hint of being found out is an interesting contrast to the usual Klingon/Romulan way of dealing with things. Although I suspect it was supposed to echo Kamikaze pilots, so maybe I should just be grateful that they didn't make them super-offensive Asian stereotypes and count my blessings.

Oh, and Spock's diva faint in the beginning immediately after Kirk says "Won't it be super fun to do some diplomatic work?" read more than a little like he was just trying to get out of doing it. That's going to be my head canon for it, in any case.

I don't know if my relative lack of Star Trek knowledge made the whole Orion thing into a bigger issue than it would have otherwise been. Mostly it made me confused. What did you think?

Billie: I'm with you, Mikey. This was a pretty decent episode with a good plot twist – that for once, Spock was the only victim of some space disease instead of the only one immune to whatever had taken down the rest of the crew. The frantic efforts to get a drug that would treat him in time also worked, and we got a good space battle and some explosive asteroids. I also thought the animation looked a little better. At least Kirk's uniform top was gold again.

If only there weren't that massive continuity error that colored everything, pun intended. The Orions are now Orry-ons, are light blue instead of deep green, and their culture is suicidal? What were they thinking? Hadn't anyone on the writing staff watched the original series?

Dr. McCoy's species-ist green-blooded Vulcan tirades have never been my favorite thing, and there were definitely too many of them here. Yeah, the copper-based blood thing had already been mentioned, although I don't remember which episode it came from. "Obsession," maybe?

The other thing that bugged me big time is, if Spock was dying, why wasn't he in bed? Because then he couldn't dramatically pass out at his station twice, I guess.

Mikey: Why didn't they just change the name and make this a new race of aliens? That would have fixed literally everything. Okay, looking at Memory Alpha, the writer wrote this when he was a senior in high school, and clearly a big fan of the show, so I get the instinct to fanboy and include an established race. And obviously he isn't to blame for the coloring/outfits/visual weirdness. It just pisses me off that this would have been one of the best episodes of the series if they'd just changed the fricken name.

Yeah, McCoy is just straight up racist in this one. Saying "You know I really love him, but..." is right out of the straight up racist handbook. Not cool, Leonard. Ooo, and in the light of Strange New Worlds, all earlier appearances of Nurse Chapel feel lacking now. Jess Bush has completely owned that role.

I firmly believe that Spock is just fundamentally a huge drama queen.

Billie: Good for the teenage Star Trek writer getting his first credit. It really was a coherent story that made sense.

Complete agreement re: Jess Bush. I thought of her while watching this episode, too. Especially since the crew of the Huron looked like they had a Christine Chapel of their own.

Memory Alpha also says that James Doohan played six characters in this episode. He was definitely their MVP.

Mikey: We really missed a trick by not starting a James Doohan drinking game before we started discussing these.

Billie: So what do you say? Two out of four exploding asteroids?

Mikey: See, here's where I'm really struggling with this one. As an independent episode of television it's easily eight drama vulcans out of ten, but that requires separating it from all other Star Trek and I'm not sure how valid it is to judge this one solely based on contradictions with outside sources. Based on my ability to enjoy it as part of Star Trek as a whole, it can't be more than four drama vulcans.

I guess split the difference and say six out of ten drama vulcans.

Billie: Works for me.

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