the Orville – Episodes 7-9

Supernatural’s on hiatus, time to catch up with other shows.

1.07) Majority Rule

Now THIS is more what I was expecting from the Orville.

See there is a very old trope used to death in Trek called Planet of Hats.  Basically when we meet a member or two of a race, some features about them will then be extrapolated to everybody of that race (i.e. Klingons and battle, Ferengi and profits).  Yes it’s stereotyping and unrealistic and racist blah blah blah.  The point of the trope is to help us recognize our own flaws and foibles because its easier to look them when they’re dressed up in funny costumes.

In this episode, the Hat of the Planet is “Social Media” and just like Star Trek will take things to silly extremes, this time the silliness is deliberate and the extremeness is by design.  This actually makes the episode funny both on a surface level and deeper meta level.  Plus the “message” of the episode wasn’t too overt and does spark interesting discussion and thought.  What are the downsides of unlimited democracy?  Can we be too quick to judge?  What about information overload?

So yeah, this episode was hilarious while being very Trekie in its style, and was actually decent just as a story.  I dare say this may be the start and standard of the Orville scale.  But it’s also an 8-9 on the GalaxyQuest & Trek scales both.

1.08) Into the Fold

What if Data had to put up with children???

Hackneyed?  Maybe, but there was still a lot of charm to this episode and was another favorite.  There’s even a meta joke with “Kassidy Yates” (Penny Johnson Jerald’s character on ST:DS9) having children with no father around since her character was pregnant at the end of the series when Sisko was called away by the Prophets.

I’m still having trouble sometimes wondering what’s an intentional joke or not.  For example, at the ending firefight, Dr. Finn gives her son a weapon and puts it on stun saying, “they may not respect life, but we do” when approximately ten minutes earlier, the doc viciously stabbed and then shot a guy.  Yes, true the dude was her captor – I’m not he didn’t deserve it – but usually in these things a sign of a character respecting life means they’ll try just about every alternative to avoid killing someone.  I never got a sense of Dr. Finn ever trying to establish a rapport with the guy, never offering him something like, “Help me get back to my shuttle and we can get you off this rock.”

Then we have another line about someone complaining about Issac’s attitude.  Even though, again, we’ve seen nothing to indicate this.  At most he’s mentioned being superior in a few ways, but Lt. Alara talks about being superior in strength as well and nobody complains about her having a condescending attitude.  Is this supposed to be a joke about how we’ll accept something from a biological being that we wouldn’t from an artificial one?

See, DS9 had this one running gag of a barfly that hung around Quark’s named Morn.  Morn, NEVER talked on screen.  Whenever the camera pointed at him, he was silent.  Yet all the characters would constantly complain about how Morn would talk nonstop.  The joke being that the story would tell us one thing, and show us the complete opposite.  (At least this time the dissonance was deliberate – too often stories screw this up unintentionally.)

Another example.  In GalaxyQuest we see 3 methods of transport: coating someone in gel & rocketing them somewhere, shuttlecraft, and transporter effect.  All 3 are important to the plots and characters at key moments.  The last one is revealed to be still “in testing” having never successfully be used as a joke and character moment midway through the film.  The problem is, earlier in the film, when Tim Allen is meeting the characters, we see the limo they are in being lifted into the sky in a manner different from the other 3 methods .  Objectively speaking, this seems to be in conflict with the other 3 methods – after all when Tim Allen is fighting the rock monster, why can’t the aliens just beam down the limo, have him get in, then beam it back up?  Yet nobody ever notices this hiccup.  Why?  Because the limo moment was in service to a joke, it’s a part of the humor so our brains register it as “not important, just laugh and forget it” so during the climatic scenes, nobody thinks about sending the limo.

Comedies can work this way with these momentary absurdities.  It’s why the “world built around social media” in the previous episode actually works better in the Orville than say… “world built around gangsters” in Star Trek.  Is people’s treatment of and reaction to Issac supposed to be absurd?  Is it part of the joke that we are told one thing and shown another?  Is it supposed to be a commentary on people being racist towards the “racist”?  I don’t know but my instinct says Seth MacFarlane isn’t that subtle.

Still it did give me something to ramble about an otherwise by-the-book yet extremely charming episode.  It does make me sad that in Star Trek we never got to see an episode with Data going camping with the O’Brien’s.

1.09) Cupid’s Dagger

Well… wasn’t this episode unintentionally topical.

So the story is that the alien blue-guy 1st Officer cheated on Captain with is the only one assigned to this important mission to prevent a huge galactic war.  Then it turns out: uh oh, the Alien guy is in heat and making people want him – even the Captain.  The ending is pretty easy to see coming from miles away, but Rob Lowe does a decent job playing his charming self as seen on Parks & Recrecation.

Let’s set aside the momentary biological question of why heat in a species would induce homosexuality which would go against its express evolutionary purpose – we can handwave that as a sideways adaptation to encourage peace and group bonding in the species.  Let’s even set aside the relationship between Yaphit and Dr. Finn – because I don’t think I can do any better explaining the problem with it than SFDebris did in this video (around 2 min mark – to sum up, it would make little sense for a gelatinous being to be interested sexually with a solid being).

What this episode brings up is: what is consent?  No really – philosophically speaking.  The show, Orville, adopts and assumes a completely atheistic worldview.  This means that Free Will is an illusion, humans (and aliens) are mostly deterministic.  So what then is consent?  If we are just chemical reactions in the brain, then consent is just an acknowledgment of a reaction that has triggered a desire for intimacy.  If (IF) this is true, then there is a question of what is the difference between a person dressing in a way to maximize their attractiveness to trigger those brain chemicals, and one using a love potion/scifi ray/alien chemicals?  Where is the wrongness coming from?  What is the foundation of this morality?  At least the religious philosophy can point to Free Will as a foundation to rest consent upon.  Take away Free Will, and can we still say Darulio did anything wrong?  I’m just asking because I do believe in Free Will and am curious about the philosophical arguments of those who do not.

Well, he did at last distract two important officers during a time-sensitive mission as well as distract a mother from her duties, so there are some kudos to the episode for acknowledging that sex can be a big deal and maybe shouldn’t be focused on to the exclusion of more important things.

Otherwise this was just a very “meh” episode – a strict mediocre score on every scale.  5’s all around.  There’s not even anything distinctly “Orville” about it as this could be plopped right down in the middle of a Trek episode with little change.  Oh wait, it was a Star Trek episode.


4 thoughts on “the Orville – Episodes 7-9

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