What Happened This Week?
This first season of The Orville has given viewers a variety of episode types. MacFarlane and the gang have given us an emotional episode, a thinker, a buddy comedy, and now an action-oriented episode (or was it?). The Orville 108 focused on Dr. Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald), her two boys Marcus (BJ Tanner) and Ty (Kai Wener), and Isaac (Mark Jackson) in a family vacation gone horribly wrong.
Families in Space
Bortus and Klyden’s shipboard relationship answered the question of whether or not the Planetary Union allowed families on their ship. Now, we finally get to see another family unit: Dr. Finn and her two boys. Single mother Claire Finn decided to take the boys to a planet renowned for relaxation, and Isaac imposed on their family-time in the name of personal and scientific growth. Good thing he did, for the characters at least.
Some kind of space-folding stellar anomaly appeared and ground up their shuttle as it dragged them across the galaxy to uncharted space. A LOST-style mid-air break up resulted in a rough landing, with the tail section of the shuttle containing Dr. Finn landing in one spot while the rest of the cabin with Dr. Finn’s boys and Isaac setting down several miles away. That both parties survived suggests the Planetary Union makes -really- good equipment.
Isaac filled in as protector for the two boys with mixed results. Although he capably kept the cannibals away (and that IS a major deal), he never addressed the boys’ primary life functions. Perhaps the shuttle contained all the supplies they would have needed, but finding a running stream for most castaways would represent a boon to an otherwise dire situation. Why wouldn’t Isaac think to test the water for the boys’ later use? In some cases, like with rest, Isaac knew to respect the needs of the boys’ bodies. Food and water though? Nah. Interesting how a couple episodes ago Isaac had the human medical knowledge to sever a limb, but in this one needed the doctor to return to handle with effects of the poison on Ty…
The doctor’s situation took an even darker turn. On the one hand, Drogen (Brian Thompson) found her, fed her, and kept her safe. In fact, he acted a lot like Beast when he first met Belle: Gruff and controlling, but motivated to keep his charge safe. On the other though, he kept her locked in a single, toiletless room and gave her limited information. The man’s true intentions never surfaced though because Dr. Finn, preserver of life, decided she had to kill him in order to escape.
Dr. Finn: Drogen-slayer
What are we to make of Dr. Finn’s Drogen-take down? She needed to escape and get on her way, but a knife through the gut AND a bullet? We admit that we didn’t think Dr. Finn would have been capable of murder. She never gave him a chance to either explain or escape. (Technically, he had about a day to explain, but we mean at knifepoint.) She just rushed him, stabbed, shot, and ran to her boys. Now we know: Do not mess around with Dr. Finn. She WILL cut a fool.
Back on the Orville, Ed follows his gut and an ion trail to figure out that Dr. Finn’s shuttle went off course. This part of the story could actually have been more sparsely serviced. Since we knew that Orville had received Isaac’s single distress blip, we knew they’d show up in the nick of time. More suspense would have come from leaving us with the ship needing to search 36 moons and then showing up. A simple, “We caught your blip,” when the foundlings came back aboard would have done the trick. Our contact info is below, Seth.
What’s New This Week?
Since the crew flung themselves through a so-called “glory hole” into uncharted space, we never received a full rundown of the planet we visited or its culture. We saw the ruins of tall, futuristic buildings, but no working technology. Drogen (Dr. Finn’s captor) told us the water had been poisoned by a biological weapon. From that we can guess, their level of technology would parallel at least our own present day tech. Their forehead ridges bore some resemblance to Alara’s, but no one in-show drew any Xeleyan comparisons. The most interesting tidbit about Drogen’s planet was that it was one of 36 habitable moons orbiting a gas giant.
We might have gotten a glimpse into family planning of the future. With no disrespect meant to Penny Johnson Jerald, 56 year old women make unusual single parents to children the ages of Marcus and Ty, at least in our own day and age. What got us thinking was when Isaac used the term “artificial impregnation” instead of insemination. Why would we find that interesting? Well, it suggests that perhaps Dr. Finn didn’t have to carry the children herself. Since this is the future, maybe -nobody- had to carry those children. They could have artificial wombs and all new means of enabling pregnancy and child-rearing beyond the stricter 20ish-40ish range we know from our time. The definition of “family” continues to evolve.
Star Trek Parallels
This review represents our eighth of this first season of The Orville and we’re going to take a new direction with this segment. We’re going to not do it anymore. From here on in, unless a given episode contains an overt homage or parody of a Star Trek episode, we’re not going to try and draw connections between two un-connected properties. That’s not to say that if something reminds us of something we’ve seen on Star Trek or somewhere else that we won’t point it out. We will now just avoid trying to match up Orville episodes with Star Trek episodes. To continue doing so undermines the show, and since we like the show and want to see it survive, we will support it as its own entity.
How Was This Episode?
Although this episode portrayed itself as an action-oriented episode, Caroline, one half of team Daley Review, refers to it as an, “after school special.” Back when we were kids, certain channels would play single-shot television shows at about 4 pm meant to convey some kind of lesson to the watcher by having a character go through an ordeal. In this episode, Isaac had a lot to learn and we got to observe him a long the way. Even though Isaac can out think most people, most of the time, he still needed Marcus to point out the frequency of ship-fueling, crystalline deposits on planets. Even though Isaac can handle several targets at a time, he wouldn’t have successfully defended the shuttle without Markus’ help.
For as even-handed as the show wants to be with regard to gender and race, Isaac’s whole mission has been built around learning and adapting to human culture. In real life, that would be great. From a story perspective, it undercuts the validity of Isaac’s position as an artificial life form. If we are supposed to take him seriously as an independent person, shouldn’t we also have to respect his way of life as much as we would Bortus or Alara?
While this one had a few laughs and some unexpected action scenes, we hope this episode doesn’t serve as any kind of template for future action episodes or Isaac-centric episodes. What could have been a great action piece got bogged down with schmaltz.
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