Look at the title of this episode. How do you pronounce it? Do you, like me, see it as the Pirates of “Oh-ri-on”? Why then do the characters on the show pronounce it as “oar-ee-on”?
Oh, and apparently, these are the same species as those green women who pop up on the show from time to time, so we finally see some of the males in action.
They’re pirates, so they aren’t very nice.
The Enterprise is on one of those routine missions that don’t amount to much during the course of the episode as Kirk, in his Captain’s Log, notes a disease hit the Enterprise, and that while the disease was once deadly, now it’s fairly easy to treat. So, I think we all know where this may be going.
That’s right. Someone got it, and it’s bad. That someone is Spock.
You know, Spock’s unique physiology has always been something of a plot device on Star Trek. it makes him more resistant to things that would kill most of the rest of the crew more often than not. He’s stronger and will live longer than pretty much everyone else. Here we see a rare case where Spock’s biology is a problem rather than a solution. Though, yes, there have been plenty of episode where McCoy has been at a loss over what to do when Spock gets sick because he’s not an expert on Vulcans. But mostly, Spock’s been used as a convenient cure-all compared to the others. Seeing him mostly sidelined with something that will kill him because his blood is based on a different mineral than, presumably, the rest of the crew is an interesting change of pace.
Now, fortunately, there’s a naturally occurring mineral that can cure Spock. Unfortunately, it’s rare, and the nearest planet to have any is four days away at top speed, and Spock will die before then even with McCoy’s stop-gap substitute. However, it is pointed out that maybe another Starfleet ship can meet the Enterprise halfway there. That plan seems to work, and off everyone goes.
But wait, there are still those pesky promised pirates, and they rob the other ship of its cargo: the drug Spock needs and a shipment of dilithium. Orion claims to be neutral while pulling stunts like this all the time, always with a means to prevent themselves from getting caught. Kirk needs to think and act fast to keep Spock alive, something even McCoy privately (and not for the first time) says he wants to happen.
By the by, good use of the crew when the Enterprise catches up with the cargo ship. Kirk has Scotty check the engines, Uhura check the comm systems, and Chapel there to provide some medical assistance to the surviving crew.
That said, there’s later the introduction of some highly explosive asteroids, and that seems to be treated a bit less well by the story as a threat that never really amounts to much. Yes, Kirk will bargain with the pirate captain for the drug, promising the meet the captain alone for the exchange while letting the Orions keep the dilithium and even promising to keep the whole thing a secret. However, the Orions don’t trust Kirk to keep his word (they’ve never seen their own show, clearly), and plot a boobie trap to blow up the asteroid–and the Enterprise with it–during the exchange. Yes, the Pirate Captain would die with it, but his people commit suicide rather than get caught breaking the neutrality treaty anyway.
Arguably, Kirk spends more time keeping the Orions alive than anything else. He’s smart enough to recognize a trap and have Scotty keep a transporter lock on him. When he and the Pirate Captain wrestle to stop the explosion from going off, Scotty beams both captains back to the Enterprise, and Kirk then stops the pirate captain from taking a poison capsule and ordering his crew not to blow themselves up. It all seemed rather simple, but this was a show aimed at kids. The Orion trap never felt like much of a trap, no matter how much the show might have tried to make it out to be one.
As such, Spock is cured, and he and McCoy are back to bickering over who has the better physiology, an odd argument coming from McCoy given he’s usually more upset Spock has no feelings. But, you know, Spock was the one that needed saving, and he didn’t play a single role in saving his own life. That might make this one a bit more unique than most.