Classic Comics Cavalcade: ‘Star Trek: Alien Spotlight- Orions’ Sheds Light On A Shadowy Corner Of The Galaxy
by Tony Thornley
Continuing my look at Star Trek comics you might have missed, I dove deep into IDW’s catalog and found a gem, but not for the reasons you might think.
Star Trek: Alien Spotlight- Orions was first published in 2007 from Scott & David Tipton, Elena Casagrande, Mirco Pierfederici, and Chris Mowry. Like the title says, it puts the spotlight on the Orions, but it also gives us a deep dive into several other little-explored parts of Trek lore.
When Fleet Captain Christopher Pike crosses paths with the alluring Orion Leata, he finds his diplomatic duties have suddenly gotten a lot more interesting. What he doesn’t expect to find is a deep conspiracy- one that could shake one of the Federation’s founding worlds to its core. Now he has to defuse an explosive situation, before someone gets killed.
Unlike the Trill-centric one-shot I spotlighted last week, this story doesn’t give much insight into its titular alien race or culture. Honestly, that’s a bit of a shame. The Orions are one of the most interesting, yet enigmatic parts of Trek canon. Their visual design- scantly clad and green-skinned- captivated fans since their introduction, but there’s still lots of room for development, even with the spotlight they have received.
This story though is most interesting for its use of Captain Pike. Prior to Anson Mount’s fantastic performance as Pike in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Pike was almost entirely defined by his horrible fate. Even the alternate reality Pike in the Kelvin-verse was defined by tragedy. Here, we see Pike at his best, promoted to Fleet Captain, and acting as a diplomat. He’s drawn to Leata not just out of a sense of duty to protect a Tellarite ambassador, but also to recapture a bit of the excitement that he’d lost in his promotion.
Equally engaging is the story’s use of the Tellarites. By far the most underdeveloped of the Federation’s founders, the Tellarites are used little in actual Trek stories. By making the villain of this story a corrupt Tellarite ambassador, we get to see a bit more depth and dimension to a race whose most prominent character trait otherwise is “grumpy.”
This issue is one of Casagrande’s earliest works and you can see the beginnings of the artist she would become here. She has a great sense of design, and she keeps everything engaging, Leata in particular. One of the best parts of Star Trek comics is seeing how expressive artists can make aliens that couldn’t be such under heavy make-up. She does exactly this with the Tellarites and several other small cameos.
While in the end not really a spotlight on the Orions, this was a very fun dive into a seedier side to Star Trek, and a great story featuring a fan favorite.