What Happened This Week?
After last week’s “message-episode” morality play, the crew of the Orville return to more conventional explorations in The Orville 104. James Conway, a directing veteran of all four post-Star Trek TOS series helms this episode which borrows plots from STTOS, but looks a lot like a Star Trek TNG episode. The writers named this one after the first line in the following RW Emerson quote:
“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
The scene where Dr. Finn and Ed discuss this quote shows us a funny shortcoming in Ed. Like a lot of people, he remembers the high points of high school literature, and spews them all out at once. It’s a pretty funny scene that reminds us the doctor’s wisdom will inform Ed in times when he has none.
This week, the crew stumbles upon a gigantic ship, several hundred times the size of the Orville. Judging by what we’ve seen so far, this alien ship dwarfs everything we’ve seen of the Planetary Union’s fleet put together. The ship, if left to drift, will impact a sun, so Ed (Seth MacFarlane) decides to intervene.
Inside the Ship
Inside, the crew finds that the ship houses an entire biome featuring farms, a city, and a whole society. Luckily, everyone that Mercer, Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), Alara (Halston Sage), Dr. Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald), and Isaac (Mark Jackson) finds inside the ship looks pretty human and speaks perfect English. Although the first group our heroes run into treats them with kindness, they find a “dictatorial theocracy” running the place. The leader, Hamelac (Robert Knepper), preaches strict obedience and ignorance of the world around them, punishable by execution-by-mob.
Kelly and Alara take a walk together and share a little “girl time” together. Alara, at least for one member of this reviewing team, continues to surprise. In the pilot, she only portrayed confidence, and not much personality. Since Command Performance, she has shown us more of her true self, a person both capable and comfortable around the rest of the crew. This conversation with Kelly though, exposes a possible romantic interest in Ed! The local goon squad gives Kelly very little time to show us how she feels about this development though. An armored car shows up, the goons inside shoot Alara, and abduct Kelly. What do you think? Will Alara pursue Ed?
When Hamelac questions Kelly, things get ugly. I (Paul) admit that, having seen Adrianne Palicki receive beatings in several TV series and movies, seeing her get manhandled by Hamelac didn’t impact me like it should have. Kelly kept her resolve and responded with jokes, even under duress. Duress falls short – Hamelac had her straight up tortured and drugged, not with truth serum, but with a toxin only designed to deliver excruciating pain. Ed arrives with the rest of the away-team, renders Hamelac and his goons unconscious, and saves Kelly. Whether he’s protective as an ex-husband or as Kelly’s captain is unclear in this scene. Either way, he acts fast.
Meanwhile, Bortus (Peter Macon), takes the Orville to respond to a distress call. They get into a shootout, but Malloy’s (Scott Grimes) piloting and Lamarr’s (J. Lee) flamboyant gunnery skills handle the situation. This subplot only exists to keep the Orville from being able to offer Ed any reinforcements.
The other subplot this episode involves only Klyden (Chad Coleman) and Bortus. Those of us that thought Bortus will end up resenting Klyden following last week’s episode may be on to something. Bortus can’t seem to stand the sight of his mate, much less endure hanging around with him. Klyden copes with Rocky Road ice cream and The Sound of Music. We can’t wait until our Alexa can handle tasks like picking out the best comfort food.
Back on the Generation Ship
With Hamelac out-of-the-way, Ed and the gang plus a couple of locals find the ship’s control room. From there, they find out what happened to ship from the people’s ancestor and deity, Dorahl (Liam Neeson). Unsurprisingly, Isaac fixes the ship’s broken control systems in no time flat. The Orville summons a team to teach their new friends how to fly and then moves on to the next mission.
What’s New This Week?
Although the crew gave this fact little fanfare, they ran into an ancient race and technology that makes human technology seem quaint. The crew rolls with the situation pretty readily. Earth’s association with the Planetary union has brought humankind into contact with more advanced species and likely grand technology. When they run into the generation ship, it matches nothing their sensors have any frame of reference for. To us, that suggests the generation ship and the people inside should register as something new and amazing. Let’s conclude that they’ve been well-trained because we would have shown more amazement at the whole thing.
We also learned that while Alara possesses super strength, firearms hurt her just like anyone else. She healed pretty fast though, once rendered aid by Dr. Finn. Was it the medical intervention or part of Alara’s Xeleyan makeup that helped her heal?
New Characters / Aliens / Technology
The characters we meet on both sides of this week’s adventure will probably stay with their ship, continuing the mission set out for them by their ancestors (and Liam Neeson). If you’re keeping track, we met Kemka (James Morrison) and Tomilin (Max Burkholder) as our resistance cell teammates and Hamelac in the role of religious leader and knowledge controller. Although they live in a giant spaceship, no one actually knows that. Hamelac punishes anyone that starts to figure any of that out. They have firearms, neuro-toxins, and armored cars, but otherwise appear to have a low familiarity with technology. We bet that while they may have access to these devices, they probably understand very little about them.
How Was This Episode?
This episode capture the look of Star Trek TNG and Star Trek Voyager. If you check out director Conway’s resume, you’ll see plenty of credit giving him the perfect background to achieve that. In the category of reminding people of their favorite Trek series, this episode scores high. It looks and feels like a rank and file Star Trek episode, maybe more so than any of the preceding three.
Star Trek Parallel
In the third season of STTOS, the Enterprise encounters an asteroid on a collision course for an inhabited planet. When they investigate, guess what they find. If you said, “the asteroid is hollow and there’s a whole society living inside,” you must have done the reading. This episode, called For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky also features a subplot with a terminally ill Dr. McCoy engaging in a very accelerated romantic relationship with a local priestess. MacFarlane’s adaptation discards the McCoy sub-plot and borrows heavily from this episode’s major plot, changing a couple details along the way.
This STTOS episode, which also reminded us of Landru and the Return of the Archons episode from season 1, featured one of Captain Kirk’s famed Prime Directive infractions. For those that don’t know, the Prime Directive for Starfleet is its policy of non-interference with primitive cultures. If a crew comes across a culture that has not achieved space travel from its own ingenuity, they are to minimize contact and make it appear as though they’d never met. Kirk had a habit of breaking the Prime Directive, even though Spock would be sure to remind him about it every time.
In this episode of The Orville no one ever brought up anything related to non-interference or specific directives concerning primitive cultures. Should we conclude that the Planetary Union has no such policy OR should we think that Ed follows his heart and always does what he feels is right? Until we get more proof, we think it’s both.
Will this episode distinguish itself among the run of the entire series? Probably not if it runs for 100 episodes, but it goes a long way to helping establish the show’s aesthetic. If you weren’t sure before, this episode is here to say, “We WANT to look like Star Trek.” Episodes like these establish consistency and thus a “feel” to a show. At this point, it “feels” a lot Trek and we probably like it more because of that feeling.
STTOS = Star Trek: The Original Series
STTNG = Star Trek: The Next Generation
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