What Happened This Week?
Anyone else out there remember Event Horizon? This week’s episode, The Orville 110 -Firestorm – gave the show’s viewers its first taste of terror. Where most television shows pull back, MacFarlane and friends went further into amping up the fear factor. This first-ever Alara-centric episode examines how the ship’s chief of security deals with her fears and attacks her weaknesses. Add in the backdrop of a haunted house story set in space and you get one of the most satisfying episodes of the first season.
During the ship’s voyage through a plasma storm (just how many storms can there be in space?), Chief Engineer Newton (Larry Joe Campbell) called for Alara (Halston Sage) to save a trapped crewman. Dashing into the fray, she paused briefly as an eruption of fire momentarily stunned her. Although she collected herself right away, by the time she reached the crewman, the man died. The incident left Alara certain that her fire-induced hesitation prevented her from saving the man’s life.
Stuck In Her Head
Following some interrupted me-time in her simulated boxing gym, Alara decided to resign her post. Ed (Seth MacFarlane) delivered one of the best and most believable examples of starship captain leadership on any television show. No jokes and nothing to detract from the gravity of what he said to her and the confidence he has in her. Ed showed us why he’s a pretty great captain and it started in this scene. Regardless of the simulated resolution of the episode, real Ed and simulated Ed (which should represent Ed’s true potential in that situation) did a great job.
Still unsure, Alara calls her parents. This scene is a gem. Robert Picardo (the ship’s holographic doctor in Voyager) cameos as Alara’s father and delivers one of the best one-liners in the whole series by declaring humans the “hillbillies of the galaxy”. We also learned a little more about Xeleyan culture during this chat. Although Alara seems as capable, creative, and as intelligent as any other non-artificial life-form member of the crew, her own culture considers her “intellectually deficient”. Awesome way to spin our perception of the physically dominating Xeleyan people.
Now, Let’s Get Nuts
People, we have an unregistered clown aboard. Consider it dangerous.
Definitely, the presence of the clown started to give away that we were dealing with some kind of altered perception. Making the clown appear to others on the monitors added a nice layer to the madness though. Alara had been going through something internally, but now some unseen force brought people’s fears to life. Lamarr’s overt fear of clowns and Alara’s indifference to it let us know something bigger was going on. Something capable of bringing the crew’s fears to bear against them all had entered the ship.
Did anybody else think of this at any point during this episode?
The scene with Kelly nearly falling into the nothing (and Alara reenacting the shot above) also added the twist that the madness belonged now to the entire crew. The true feeling of a haunted house begins in earnest with this scene.
A Fox in the Henhouse?
As frightening as murderous, hungry hobo clowns and doors that lead to nowhere are, they pale next to Dr. Finn’s (Penny Johnson Jerald) scene in sick bay. The restraints should have been Alara’s first clue (and yours – if you go to an MRI and they use metal restraints on you, start screaming). Since this episode swallowed us up in the creepy narrative, we thought Nurse Park, hero of last week’s episode, was a goner. Although we predicted Alara breaking the restraint, Dr. Finn’s prep and near-autopsy-style incision gave us chills. That was pretty freaking close. Closing out that sequence with Dr. Finn’s brig-enclosed ravings let us know the madness could manifest physically or mentally now. Effective creation of the feeling of impending doom here.
More fears come to life during the “Betrayal of Dr. Finn” follow-up meeting when spiders invade the conference room. Just on pure visual creep-factor, a spaceship suddenly crawling with big, hairy spiders should freak out a lot people. The invasion of a giant, Malloy (Scott Grimes)-ingesting spider took that fear and either turned the dial to 11 OR let you know something fishy was going on. Our reviewing team split both ways.
Trust No One
Just as the ship re-entered the same plasma storm from the opening, everyone disappeared from the ship. Even though Isaac appeared in engineering, he gave away his evil intentions right away with a classic, “but I didn’t tell you that yet,” moment. A pretty epic fight ensued as Isaac went all Kill-bot on Alara. Does this tell us if she could handle Isaac in a real worst case scenario? Probably not, but at least she held her own. Even when evil-Isaac presented her with a wall of fire, she kept going, apparently having conquered her oldest fear.
Meanwhile, the storytellers let the viewers in on the truth: Alara was inside a complex simulation. When they decided the sim had run its course they discovered that Alara used Directive 38 to prevent them from shutting it down. Luckily, she reached the simulation’s successful finish point and got released from the nightmare. Confused and injured, the crew (the real ones) scooped her up, let her know she’s safe, and explained what was going on.
In Case You Missed It
Alara asked Isaac to construct a simulation built around confronting fear. To accommodate her, he polled his crewmates and used their fears to fuel the experience. With Ed’s reluctant blessing and a memory wipe, Alara began the simulation just before the en-clown-ter.
What’s New This Week?
Although we’ve seen the ship’s simulator (that’s holodeck to you and me) before, we now have an idea of how powerful it is. Fans of Star Trek: TNG will undoubtedly recall the episodes pitting Data versus a sentient Moriarty. Those episodes often rank among fans’ favorites and now we see the Orvillian take. The fail-safes that usually protected participants in the holodeck were never mentioned. With the way Isaac and the Clown threw Alara around, we wonder if Orville’s simulator has any similar programming. Alara’s cuts and bruises following the simulations completion suggest a play-at-your-own risk situation.
How Was This Episode?
In a word, good. Although, the resolution required a lot of expository dialogue, the writers gave us a nice twist on a familiar story. We’ve all seen the young character need to undergo a trial of some kind following a failure in just about any kind of action-oriented TV show. The combo of the memory wipe and command code lockout gave us something new and told us a lot about Alara’s dedication. She wanted to get real, honest reactions from her simulated haunted house, so she had to go in to it believing in the reality around her. From a character development standpoint, this episode really added a lot of dimension to the security chief.
“Hobo clowns are the most dangerous because they’re hungry.” – Lamarr
“Clown?” – Bortus
“I am feeling very self-conscious. May I leave?” – Bortus (Paul: I am going to start using this one right away)
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