At the Brink

On Moclan Mating (and Divorce) Rituals

Marie Brownhill
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Marie's blog, Fan Collective Unimatrix 47.
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I am compelled to acknowledge that my previous post regarding the Orville episode “Ja’loja” conflated Billy Joel and Billy Idol. Mercer provided Teleya with an education in Billy Joel, not Billy Idol. Mea culpa.

I finally caught up on “Primal Urges,” episode two of the current Orville season, and I have to say that the ep was a bit of a mixed bag. The A-story concerns how Bortus’s porn addiction (yes, you read that correctly) affects his relationship with his lifemate, Klyden.

Their son, Topa, gets a miniscule amount of screen time, but considering that he was born last season and looks to be about ten now, Moclans must age faster than we do. Also, we discover that Moclus must be a rather dangerous place considering that termination of a lifemate relationship requires that one partner kill the other. The B story, interestingly enough, concerns rescuing a doomed civilization from the destruction of their home planet, not unlike the TNG episode “Homeward.” The two stories link together when a virus, attached to a pornographic “environmental simulator” program procured for Bortus by an alien that looks to be a cross between an oversized mite and a prehensile plant stamen, nearly causes the Orville to tumble into the gravity well of the Red Giant and be destroyed.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s start with the porn plot, which is not a sentence I ever thought I would write. We see Bortus sneaking off the bridge, avoiding his spouse, and heading in to the environmental simulator to experience various terribly acted pornographic scenarios. Apparently, Moclans also have doctor porn.

I’d be less skeeved if I felt that the show wanted us to consider the nature of Moclan sexuality, but considering that all of the scenarios fall directly into existing porn stereotypes, I think the show was going for cheap laughs, which would be par for the course for the Orville, especially considering the ridiculous sequence in which Bortus’s simulated paramours attempt to engage LaMarr while he struggles to purge the virus from the Orville’s systems.

After Klyden stabs Bortus, Mercer orders Bortus and Klyden to undergo couples’ counseling with Dr. Finn, which is probably a better representation of what counseling is like than we got from TNG, but the important part of the whole sequence is that Bortus admits to Klyden that he resents his mate for the events that took place in “About A Girl,” which could have been a fantastic moment for the show, both in terms of character development and drama. However, the show refuses to tackle that conflict.

The B-story plotline interjects itself as Bortus and Isaac are the only two crewmembers who can survive the radiation levels on the planet and therefore the only two who can conceivably pilot the shuttle to rescue the Nyxians. They fly down, and due to the magic of cheap plot, they can only save thirty of the planet’s seventy-five inhabitants, so after the Nyxians hold a lottery, Bortus gets to watch First Minister Theece say goodbye to her beloved mate and their son Nathius in what the show intends to be an emotionally impactful moment.

Bortus is moved by his observation and comes back to the Orville intent on salvaging his relationship with Klyden. Despite being the only emotional note in the entire show that feels at all real, Theece’s death comes across not as noble or touching but rather as awkwardly ham-fisted. Even Mercer’s willingness to overlook the problems caused by Bortus’s porn problem seems unrealistic, as its no matter now that Bortus flew down to rescue the Nyxians.

Stray Thoughts from the Couch:

1. I could have gone my entire life without knowing that Moclans prefer loincloths.

2. When Kelly Grayson wondered if everyone on the ship was gross, we chimed in that they were.

3. Mercer’s observation that Isaac was a glorified Speak and Spell is a little too close to being racist for me.

4. If I never hear the phrase “sexual event” again, it will be too soon.

5. This is the second time we’ve seen the Orville take a TNG plotline and turn it dark. In “Homeward,” the Boraalans survive, thanks to Nikolai Rozhenko. Here, most of them do not, mostly as a cheap plot device.

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