You may have already read my review of the pilot episode. If not, I would suggest that you do so, so that you can understand why I continued to give The Orville a chance. And I am glad that I did. There will be a spoiler-free tl;dr version at the end of this post.
Once again, Seth MacFarlane has surprised me, for this episode has a very Star Trek feel to it - however, it makes sense. I identified 4 Star Trek alumni in the pilot episode (Penny Johnson Jerald, Brian George, Brannon Braga, and David A. Goodman), and in this episode, I have identified two more:
- Robert Duncan McNeill, Director - Nicholas Locarno (TNG 5x19 “The First Duty”), Tom Paris (VOY, main character), and a Director (VOY, ENT)
As I said, MacFarlane got a very Star Trek feel to this episode, and was able to apply some good humor to the episode. It also has some bad humor - before the opening credits, Captain Ed Mercer was making jokes about Lieutenant Commander Bortus’s egg in front of him while they were in Mercer’s office - that seemed to me to be akin to making dead baby jokes while in your office with a newly expectant parent right in front of you. Not cool.
Somehow, MacFarlane also squeezed in a decent idea into the scene - Bortus asked Mercer about the Kermit the Frog that’s on his desk. Mercer said that Kermit is “a leader I admire. Always keeps his cool in a crisis… inspires greatness in his people…” and trails off from there. Kermit is a great character in my mind, and I am glad that he gets recognition from Mercer.
This episode does a couple of things for us:
Shows part of the order of command seniority on the ship:
Food synthesizers exist and can create alcohol and marijuana
Star Wars and Dora the Explorer are still known franchises
Introduces the Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Commander Steve Newton
Those are minor things, though - the major points are the two storylines. The first one is Kitan being left in command.
Kitan is very inexperienced - in the pilot episode, it is revealed that she is 23 years old. Saying that she went to Union Point at 18, and presuming that it is a 4-year academy (like the US military academies), and presuming that her age is in Earth years, she really should be an ensign right now, perhaps a lieutenant (junior grade) if she was really good. But the pilot also said that the Xelayans don’t normally join the military, and so when one does they get fast-tracked.
Now, her lack of experience shows as she first panics, tries to hand over command, takes a shot of alcohol to steel her nerves, and vomits. As she must have just very recently graduated from Union Point, the only command experience that she must have had was running her department and perhaps having a bridge watch during normal conditions. She was obviously not prepared for having command of the entire ship with the CO, XO, and 2O all out of commission, and despite the encouraging words that Grayson gave, she does not have the experience needed for her position. And so she goes to the Doctor for advice, following the tradition of Pike & Boyce and Kirk & McCoy - and at the same time, they actually pass the Bechdel test - Kitan and Finn talk, not about a man, but about Kitan being in command and what it means to be in command. And Finn gives some good advice, which Kitan wisely takes.
We get to see character development, personal growth, fear, uncertainty, indecision - a great array of emotion and events surrounding her storyline. A well-crafted story.
Though I did find it odd that Doctor Finn, being the Chief Medical Officer, was next in line for command. Perhaps she is like Doctor Crusher and is an unrestricted line officer. I mean, has taken the Bridge Officer’s Test.
The second storyline is Mercer and Grayson being stuck in some sort of menagerie, a cage. They are zoo specimens and we, as an audience, get to reflect on the treatment of those whom we currently keep in zoos while they are held captive: “wasn’t intended to be cruel - we just felt as the higher species that we had the right,” Grayson says. “We are not your Shamu!” Mercer shouts. We get to see a new take on “The Cage” (TOS 0x01), and also have a commentary on Reality Television, “the best exhibit we ever had.” Take a moment to think about what our reality television makes us look like to extraterrestrials. This was a much smaller storyline, though, but still good.
TL;DR Version - Spoiler Free
This was another great episode. Reminiscent of the Star Trek episode “The Cage” (TOS 0x01), but less cerebral. It was much smoother than the first episode, and I highly suggest watching it. I would also suggest watching Captain Foley's spoiler-free review on Trekyards. Trekyards is fantastic - I love watching it.
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