What are the Orion in Star Trek? Explained

Star Trek has come a long way from the ‘Orion slave girl’ stereotype. . . or has it?

by Kiona Jones
star trek orion
Image: Paramount

It used to be that if a Star Trek fan talked about an Orion character, they then had to explain the concept of fetishization in sci-fi TV. The concept of the ‘Orion slave girl’ goes way back to Captain Pike sitting around with a bunch of sleazy guys as they leer at an undulating green woman.

Vina (Susan Oliver) was the first Orion ever introduced into Star Trek, but she certainly wasn’t the last. She was, however, the most influential. From The Next Generation to Discovery, the image of the half-dressed or ne’er-do-well Orion has persisted for years. Only recently has that started to change with new Star Trek TV shows.

Who are the Orion in Star Trek?

Image: Paramount

They are a green-skinned race of otherwise humanoid beings from the planet Orion. The only thing more advanced than their society is the pervasive stereotypes about them as individuals. There’s the overly sexualized Orion walking around half-dressed, and there’s the stealing Orion with a passion for piracy.

The Original Series brought them in with an emphasis on their seductive nature. Shows like Voyager and Enterprise later gave them a dark edge of criminal tendencies. Newer shows, though, have allowed Orion characters to become more complex. Some like crime, some join Starfleet, and others just want to have a good time.

Related: What are the Trill in Star Trek? Explained

Notable Orion Characters in Star Trek

Image: Paramount

Lower Decks has truly taken the cake with Lt. D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells). This newly promoted ensign is on the upward track of her Starfleet career and only time will tell just how far she goes. She’s also one of the first Orion officers that we see in a position of power. In season 4, episode 4, “Something Borrowed, Something Green” we even got a rare glimpse into Orion wedding rituals and their wild club life.

However, not all the new Orion characters deviate from the established norm. Osyraa (Janet Kidder) was the leader of the Orion crime syndicate in Discovery. Her favorite pastime was breaking rules and getting rich (as well as enslaving people). Further explanation of this crime group would require a completely different conversation and a rewatch of Deep Space Nine. Just know that they were bad to the bone.

Starfleet represents the social progress of Humans. At the same time, it often highlights just how much work is yet to be done for other alien races. The easiest explanation is that Orion characters will continue to evolve within Star Trek. They just have a lot of stereotypes to beat in the process.

- This article was updated on September 25th, 2023

About The Author

Kiona has been writing about movies and TV shows for over 2 years now. When they're not hard at work, they're nerding about about the newest Star Trek release or getting into a new book.