One of the biggest surprises to come out from the 2017-2017 television broadcast season was a show to tickle Star Trek fans all over, and that would be The Orville. It turns out that Seth MacFarlane is something of Trek geek, and always wanted to do Star Trek. When that didn’t work out he sort of struck out on his own and crafted this Sci-Fi/comedy series, which he also happens to star in. Given MacFarlane also has a rather peculiar (Dare I say “warped?”) sense of humor, and when this series was announced there were plenty of preconceived notions that this show would be an utter farce, would be totally devoid of anything remotely substantial and would be filled with toilet humor. When this series finally premiered TV viewers were taken aback by what they were seeing, and as further episodes aired the consensus was pretty much becoming unanimous. This was practically paying homage to classic Star Trek.
There were issues at first when the Fox Network had absolutely no idea how to initially market this series, let alone what to even think of it. However, the numbers were there to grant a second season for this series, only this time everyone was on board with what this show is all about. Basically it’s all over the place. So, with three episodes having aired thus far, let’s take a look to see what we are dealing with now.
The season opens with “Ja’loja,” and it’s a very loose take on the classic Trek episode “Amok Time,” and yet it’s not the primary plot. The A plot deals with the fallout of how the first season ended with Captain Ed Mercer and his First Officer/Ex-wife Commander Kelly Grayson breaking up just as they were starting to reconcile. Actually she broke up with him, much to his heartache. Now she is seeing someone else (a school teacher on the Orville), and much of this plot deals with Ed trying to come to terms with this new development, first by behaving in an entirely sophomoric and stalking manner (which Kelly’s new boyfriend certainly understand, but she does not). The B plot of this episode is more about the ship’s Doctor, Claire Finn. Being a single mother with two boys she’s now facing the challenges that come as those boys grow older, including some rather delinquent behavior from her oldest. The C plot, which is barely a plot to begin with, deals with Lt. Commander Bortus’ request to return to his home planet of Moclan as it is now time for his annual bathroom break, and apparently it’s a very religious ceremony.
This was a very lighthearted episode and more served as a reintroduction to the characters of this show. Seeing Ed’s situation in the A plot was barely juvenile, but showed how much he truly cares for Kelly, despite her desire not be romantically involved with him anymore. This is certainly a far cry from how season 1 began, which shows a definite evolution for the characters of The Orville. The B plot was interesting in seeing how Dr. Finn is trying to deal with her children, especially when she has to come to the defense of her older rebellious son. Having the ship’s AI crewmember, Isaac, there to act as a dispassionate observer, certainly added a quality that almost all parents can relate to as their children get older.
The C plot involving Bortus was inconsequential. In some ways it served as a minor plot device for Kelly’s story, and in a slightly disappointing move, if there was ever a time where the show could have really gone to the toilet humor arena, this was the time to do it, only it didn’t. It was anti-climactic and really ended up serving no purpose.
Again, this episode was meant as a means to get the viewing audience familiar with everyone in the show, so as a first return episode it was acceptable.
The second episode was titled “Primal Urges” and dealt with Bortus suddenly becoming distant to his mate, Klyden. This has been brewing since the last season when an episode involving a forced sex change on their offspring caused a rift in their relationship. Now Bortus is seeking “pleasure” elsewhere, and that is primarily in this show’s version of the holodeck. However, instead of just being addicted to the holodeck as we have seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation, this goes further by showing Bortus living out Moclan porn fantasies. While that is going on the Orville is observing an expanding sun burning away a planet’s atmosphere, and the crisis begins when they discover that there are people still alive on the planet.
This is probably the darkest episode I’ve seen in a while. While the A plot involving Bortus had its humor, the B plot was pretty intense, especially when it was discovered that Bortus’ activities on the holodeck helped to introduce a computer virus that jeopardized the Orville’s attempt at rescuing all of the survivors on the planet. What came out of that is somewhat controversial and could potentially divide viewers.
The third episode is “Home,” and is a rather sad one. The ship’s Security Chief is Lt. Alara Kitan. She is from the planet Xelayah, which has an extremely high gravity. Because of this the natives have developed a very dense molecular structure. In other words, think of Alara as Superman from the planet Krypton. She’s incredibly strong and very dangerous to those who oppose her. However, this story addresses two points, the first being the real life issue of what actually happens to astronauts who are in space for prolonged periods of time. This is now happening to Alara as she is losing strength and bone density, so she must return to her home planet in the hopes that she can get her abilities back. The second element this episode covers is how people define themselves through their occupation. Alara feels she’s only useful and accepted on the ship because of the strength she has, but on her home planet she feels utterly useless and even somewhat rejected by her parents. It is only when a threat comes to her home that she shows her real strength, resourcefulness, and worth as a person to her family, and especially to herself.
What was amusing about this episode is that it featured, not one, but TWO Star Trek alumni, and both of them were doctors! The first is Robert Picardo as the “holo-doc” from Star Trek: Voyager, and the second was John Billingsley as Dr. Phlox from Enterprise. However neither of them played parts that resembled their Trek characters showing that they do have some acting chops. This was also the episode where we had to say goodbye to Alara due to actress Haston Sage having another acting commitment for a different project. Her sendoff was well treated and even managed to tug at a few heartstrings.
All in all, the first three episodes (Okay, maybe not so much the second episode) were nice ways to become reacquainted with The Orville and its cast. This series didn’t hit the ground running, and maybe that’s a good thing, especially considering some of the completely outrageous stories that were presented towards the end of season 1. Instead it’s like gently wading out into a cool body of water so that one can become acclimated to its temperature before being smacked in the face from an oncoming wave. Given some of the announced plans for this upcoming season, I can say with great hope that this sophomore season will be upward and onward for The Orville.
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