In the most recent Star Trek: Lower Decks episode, “Something Borrowed, Something Green,” Trekkies got to see the Orion homeworld for the first time. This is especially exciting because the first Orion appearance was in “The Cage.” For this week’s installment of Trek Tuesday, here is the history of the Orions between the original pilot for Star Trek: The Original Series and this week’s episode.
The Original Series
The first appearance of the Orion took place in the original pilot for TOS, “The Cage.” In this episode, Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) was subjected to mind manipulation by the Talosians. This included making Vina (Susan Oliver) appear as an Orion slave girl. This footage was reused in the TOS season 1 episodes “The Menagerie” parts 1 and 2.
The next time an Orion appeared, he didn’t look like an Orion. In TOS season 2’s “Journey to Babel,” the USS Enterprise is threatened by an Orion spy disguised as an Andorian. The final appearance of an Orion on TOS was in season 3’s “Whom Gods Destroy,” in which Fleet Captain Garth (Steve Ihnat) appears alongside an Orion, Marta (Yvonne Craig).
The Pirates of Orion
Orions next appeared on Star Trek: The Animated Series in the season 2 episode “The Pirates of Orion.” When the Enterprise encounters an Orion vessel, they threaten to destroy themselves to take out the flagship. The Orion did not appear in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or Star Trek: Voyager. However, dialogue in TNG and DS9 did reference the Orion.
The Orion did appear in multiple episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. In season 4’s “Borderland,” several Enterprise crewmembers are kidnapped by the Orion to be sold as slaves. Fortunately, these crewmembers are able to be rescued thanks to the combined efforts of their shipmates. And later in Enterprise season 4, in the episode “Bound,” three Orion women nearly take over the Enterprise. The events of this episode are alluded to in dialogue by Lt. J-G Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) in “Something Borrowed, Something Green.”
An additional instance of Orion privateering can be found throughout Star Trek: Discovery season 3. In the 31st Century, Osyraa (Janet Kidder) is the Orion leader of the Emerald Chain crime syndicate. Meanwhile, in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 1’s “The Serene Squall,” Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) meets an Orion he believes is the leader of a gang of pirates. However, the actual leader is revealed as Captain Angel (Jesse James Keitel).
Another Perspective on Orions
Fortunately, Pike later has to reassess his opinion of Orions. In the SNW season 2 episode “Those Old Scientists,” the crew of the Enterprise encounters a crew of Orion who they first believe to be pirates. However, they subsequently learn that the Orion are actually scientists.
This is indirectly thanks to D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells). In the first episode of Lower Decks, Tendi joined the crew of the Cerritos. As one of the first Orion in Starfleet, she faces lots of prejudice because of how her heritage is perceived. Tendi’s issues with her heritage begin to become clear in season 1’s “Crisis Point.”
As the first Orion main character, Tendi has rapidly opened the aperture on Orions. For example, in Lower Decks season 2’s “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris,” Tendi shared more about Orions with Mariner and brought her to a thieves’ den at an Orion pirate outpost. In season 3’s “Hear All, Trust Nothing,” encountering another Orion in Starfleet forced Tendi to confront (and at least partially embrace) her personal pirating history.
The Future for Orions
While the Cerritos might be California class, Tendi’s presence could have major implications for the future of Starfleet. In Star Trek: Picard season 3, the USS Titan-A can be seen to have many Orion crew members. Perhaps this could suggest that Tendi personally inspires more Orion recruits to join Starfleet.
And in the distant future of Discovery season 4, “All is Possible,” an Orion cadet is among those shown to have matriculated in the re-opened Starfleet Academy. This demonstrates that the Orion will continue to be involved in Starfleet into the distant future.
All these episodes of Star Trek are currently available for streaming on Paramount+.
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