I’m back from NYCC , and I’ve finally caught a break in my real life adulting to sit down and write about something much more fun than multimedia forensics. I’d love to tell you, gentle readers, that I’m going to cover each of the episodes I have yet to discuss individually, but at this point, I think it would be better to cover the global trajectory of the two shows and move into the rest of the seasons from there.
Let’s start with the Orville. I will admit that after the pilot, I was skeptical, but the series has improved by leaps and bounds for each episode, both gently poking fun at conventions from our beloved 80s and 90s era Star Trek and emulating the best of it by attempting to tackle major social issues through less-than-subtle science fiction metaphors. I have appreciated how MacFarlane has allowed the scripting to move away from more Family Guy-esque humor in order to focus on character development and world building because it means that we’re getting better stories with more realistic characters. Certainly, the show has brought concepts back from TNG, including the idea of 29th century time travel, and while the Temporal Cold War storyline in Enterprise was terrible, the Orville treats the concept more practically. Pria’s motivations make sense, and Theron’s magnetism makes her interesting. I similarly liked how the show took the idea that Grayson was simply feeling creepily possessive over Mercer’s burgeoning interest in Pria and allowed Grayson’s instincts to be on point. That feels like a point of maturity in MacFarlane’s favor.
With “Krill”, we get cultural establishment for the Kling—er—Krill species, which was a hallmark of TNG era Star Trek. While the episode strives for some story depth, it doesn’t quite get there. The concept that the Krill would be “space vampires” is interesting, and the show sets it up well. However, generally, the plot elements in this episode feel like a lull in what was obviously a solid upward trajectory in terms of quality. Mercer’s decision to save the kids makes some sense, but I’m not sure it counterbalances the mass slaughter on the rest of the ship. Teleya gives a solid performance, humanizing (for lack of a better term) the Krill, but the show’s attempt to make me regret Mercer’s choices fails utterly. Thus far, the Orville has been fairly good about sidestepping some of the aspects of Star Trek morality that don’t make sense, but in episode six, it embraces them, which feels odd.
“Majority Rules”, however, feels like a much better offering because the show seems to have returned to its best self—gently sending up not only TNG tropes, in this case the Prime Directive, but also societal ills. While I’m not certain that J. Lee’s performance as Lamarr in this episode is anything to write home about, Sage and Palicki carry the show. Giorgia Whigham gives a good turn as Lysella, our entrée into the strangely democratic world of Sargus IV. Dr. Finn’s past gets a nod, but like many Star Trek guest characters, that appear, experience something terrible, and then are just as easily forgotten in the interest of moving the story along, Lewis and his fate feel like a footnote in the story. While I do appreciate that the Orville attempted to criticize not only social media’s effects on our society but also the concept of a pure democracy, I don’t know that the conversation with Lysella that should have been the primary thrust of the episode gets nearly enough development. Sure, they discuss the issues inherent in running a planet like I do my Facebook page, but I don’t know that they ever do a good job of refuting Lysella’s points. Still, this is a solid offering from the Orville, and I’m looking forward to next week.
With that said, on to Part II in which we tackle what’s going on in Discovery…