The third season premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, "That Hope Is You, Part 1", introduced viewers to the 32nd century. This is the farthest point in the Star Trek timeline to be explored in a weekly series, and it’s proving to be a much more hostile environment for the crew of Discovery. The Federation is a shadow of its former self, and unexpected alliances have risen in its place. Case in point, the Orions and the Andorians formed a partnership on the Mercantile, which shocked Michael Burnham. In the past, neither race seemed like natural allies.
In Star Trek: The Original Series episode, "Journey to Babel", the Orions tried to disrupt a diplomatic mission by murdering delegates. The Orion saboteur, Thelev, was also surgically altered to pass as an Andorian, and given a cover identity to hide his true mission and motives. Those actions suggest that the Orions and the Andorians have been at odds before. Certainly both races have had vastly different relationships with the Federation.
Star Trek: Enterprise shed some light on the Andorians’ place in universal politics in "The Andorian Incident." Captain Archer and the Enterprise visited the Vulcan monastery on P'Jem just as the Andorians launched a mission to determine if it was secretly a station for Vulcans to spy on them. The Vulcans and Andorians shared a border, and they were mutually suspicious about each other. Archer defused the situation when he found proof that the Andorians had correctly guessed P’Jem’s true purpose.
Archer’s actions impressed Thy'lek Shran, which earned the captain Shran’s trust and friendship. Over the following years, Shran assisted Enterprise during the Xindi War and helped them save Earth from another interplanetary attack. In turn, Enterprise’s crew deescalated the Cold War between the Andorians and Vulcans, and kept it from progressing into a full scale war. That ultimately led the Andorians to join the Vulcans and the humans as founding members of the Federation.
Conversely, the Orions had no desire to be a part of the Federation. In fact, they even worked to undermine the Federation’s goals. In “Journey To Babel,” Thelev’s murderous actions were meant to prevent the mineral rich planet, Coridan, from joining the Federation and coming under its protection. When that failed, Thelev and his compatriots on the Orion ship committed suicide rather than revealing further details after capture.
The Orions displayed a similar willingness to die to protect their illusion of neutrality in Star Trek: The Animated Series episode, “The Pirates of Orion.” The pirate captain only relented when he realized that it would be pointless to sacrifice so many lives for a lie. That sentiment wasn’t shared by every member of the Orion race. As seen in the Enterprise episode “Borderland,” the Orion Syndicate attacked the ship and kidnapped nine crew members with the intention of selling them into slavery. Archer’s successful rescue attempt led him to be branded a criminal because he “stole” Orion property.
By the 24th century, the Orion Syndicate had become almost a dark mirror of the Federation. In Deep Space Nine, the Orion Syndicate included multiple races in their criminal operations that spanned the galaxy. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s “A Simple Investigation,” "The Ascent,” and “Honor Among Thieves” established the scope of the Syndicate’s reach as it adopted tactics similar to organized crime families on Earth.
Gender politics are also vastly different between the Orions and the Andorians. In Andorian society, females were considered equal to males. Both genders fought alongside each other, and it was not uncommon for female Andorians to initiate a pairing with a male. By comparison, the first Orion women introduced in “The Cage” and “The Menagerie, Parts I & II" were described as slave girls who were irresistible to the opposite sex even outside of their own spieces.
The pheromones released by Orion women were incredibly effective, and nearly caused the Enterprise to fall under enemy control in “Bound.” The three women, Navaar, D'Nesh and Maras, pretended to be slaves as a way to lull the male members of the crew into falling under their control. Orion women also rose in rank within the Syndicate itself, possibly in part due to their physiological abilities.
Despite the vast differences between the Andorians and the Orions, members of both races have served in Starfleet. The earliest example of this was The Animated Series episode, “Yesteryear,” when an Andorian named Thelin replaced Spock as the Enterprise’s First Officer in an alternate timeline. Andorian ambassadors and admirals were also spotted in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
In the Kelvin timeline, an Orion female named Gaila was attending Starfleet Academy alongside Kirk, Spock, and Uhura in Star Trek (2009). But in the prime timeline, Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Ensign D'Vana Tendi has the distinction of being the first Orion main character in a Star Trek series. It’s also notable that Tendi has not demonstrated any special pheromone abilities that earlier Orion women had.
Thus far, we don’t have enough information to understand how and why the Orions and Andorians have formed an alliance. But we do know that “the Burn” that led to the fall of the Federation happened within the last century. Without the Federation in place, the Andorians presumably felt that partnering with the Orions was the best viable option. It’s also worth considering that the post-Burn rarity of dilithium crystals may have also brought the two races together. Access to dilithium crystals on Coridan was the main reason that Thelev impersonated an Andorian in "Journey to Babel.” It stands to reason that the need for dilithium is still driving their actions in the 32nd century.
Given the rough shape of the galaxy, the partnership between the Orions and the Andorians probably won’t be the only unusual alliance encountered by the Discovery this season. The universe as we knew it is no more. But as viewers, it means that Star Trek: Discovery season 3 is truly taking us where no one has gone before.
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Blair Marnell (he/him) is a featured writer for Superhero Hype, Marvel.com, SYFY.com, Digital Trends, and several other geek media outlets. He's also been a big Star Trek fan for as long as he can remember.
Star Trek: Discovery streams on Paramount+ in the United States, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and on Netflix in 190 countries.