Seems about time to review another 3 episodes of the Orville.
1.04) If the Stars Should Appear
Eh, this was… ok. The problem is with what I was afraid this show might end up with: the serious plot isn’t original enough to stand out, and the comedy parts aren’t funny enough to carry the rest. It’s literally a TOS and a TNG episode combined into one with only updated graphics and a very brief cameo by Liam Neeson to make it somewhat stand out.
At least Seth limited himself to one long joke this episode (in the elevator) which really made it work. The comedy this episode wasn’t bad, it just didn’t stand out enough to elevate the rest.
Other cliches in the episode did help to drag it down. I mean Alara complains about her boyfriend breaking up with her because “he’s intimidated by strong women.” zzzzz What about something original and maybe have Alara breaking up with him because she doesn’t like weaker men? (as is typical with earth women as any time on a dating site will tell you) Or at least make something original with the alien species – maybe her species prefers weaker males. Then of course there’s cliche of “religion is bad, mmkay?” Again – boring. Why not set up another cliche that is less commonly used? Like maybe the religion was established around maintaining the ship & its systems? Even Assimov had a story like that once (at least I think it was him).
Then there are just some story choices that are baffling to me. At the beginning we have a joke about the pilot being offended over the robot’s statement of superiority. Yet nobody ever gets likewise offended over the many, MANY states of the ways Alara is superior. Is it supposed to be some kind of commentary on race? Racism? “Oh it’s fine with the cute alien does it but the robot is wrong!” Then we have were Kelly is kidnapped by the bad “pope” and tortured. Isn’t this supposed to be a comedy show? Why not have the robot captured by the religious fanatics and then you can have an entire comedy routine about them trying to torture him (and failing)? Then you can get some licks in there against religion where the fanatics try to rationalize what the robot is as well? You’d get your humor AND propaganda all at once – plus it might elevate the episode.
Yeah, I start feeling weird when it seems like I can write better propaganda for people that disagree with me.
Anyway, on the scale of 1 – GalaxyQuest I give this about a 3.
Well, only one long joke again, this time on the shuttle piloting. If Seth keeps improving this might turn out to be a quality show.
See, this is where I’m getting confused about things. This episode has the captain using the line, “Alara, you want to open this jar of pickles for me?” when he used that EXACT same line in the previous episode. Not bad, I don’t mind running gags, but it’s when those are so obvious it makes me wonder about others. Like I’ve complained before about the ship’s robot: there is a contrast between what we’re shown and what we’re told. Is the contrast the joke or is it poor writing? Given that almost everything else is very obvious in its execution, I keep assuming poor writing.
Speaking of, the pilot & robot’s prank war was pretty good this episode. Indeed a lot of bits in this episode elevate it above the usual cliche it wants to drag into. Even the time travel uses a less common trope. This really contrasts with the previous episode and shows how just a few tweaks can really push this show up or down the scale of quality. My only real complaint is that it still seems like Seth is flattering his character too much with this time Charlize Theron AND Adrienne Palicki practically fighting over him. I mean had the character really been tortured by the story up until now, this bit of good will in the 5th episode would feel earned. Otherwise it seems like another comedy miss where he and the pilot could have switched places – let the captain fail to get the girl and the goofball have a win (she could swoon over the pilot because… maybe gingers are extinct in the future so she finds him exotic).
Still, this is a pretty good example of when the show can be decent sci-fi AND decent comedy. A 5 on the 1-GalaxyQuest scale.
For those keeping track, this episode has shades of the plot from one of the Hitchicker’s Guide books. Whether there is a twist coming down the pike about the Krill could be a fun betting pool.
As for the rest, this really depends on how much you like awkward comedy. I’m generally “meh” about it but did find the sci-fi part sufficiently of interest. I mean it’s kind of funny because the Krill claim that humans have no souls – which as a fully atheistic society in the setting, seems like something the characters would agree with. Should make philosophical debates with the aliens rather interesting.
Also I was rather pleased that the alien faith was… well alien with no obvious Earthling analog save some generic Hollywood renditions. It might have been interesting had a religious believer on the good guys’ side tagged along to help them fake blending in a bit more. Probably the funniest thing in the whole episode was believing a bunch of religious fanatics couldn’t spot the fakers sooner.
Heck I was even more pleased that they went for a complicated, thorny ending to the episode. What do you do when mercy gets you more enemies? What is the answer if the culture clash is that severe? It makes you think – and that’s my measure of some good sci-fi.
On the GalaxyQuest scale, this was about a 4, but a 5 on a scale of 1-Star Trek:TNG. One thing you can tell is that there’s a lot of potential bubbling just under the surface here.