It’s a Gordon Malloy episode! The basic plot is that on the way to sign an agreement to negotiate an agreement with the Krill, the Orville picks up a shuttle containing Malloy’s old friend Orrin and his daughter Leyna who have escaped the Krill POW camp where they’ve been suffering for the last two decades. As a wrinkle, the Krill delegation demands the return of the terrorist (by which they mean Orrin, of course) before any progress toward peace can be made. The Krill grant time to investigate, and our intrepid crew discovers that not only is the woman on the shuttle not Leyna but that she’s an Envall, whose toxic blood has enabled Orrin to destroy three Krill ships.
If this sounds familiar, it should. The show more or less positions the Krill as a version of the Cardassians, and when I first saw the title of this episodes, I wondered if we were about to get confirmation that Season 2’s big arc would be a run at some of the Maquis storylines from TNG and DS9. In a way, I was right. The episode’s plot calls back to the TNG episode “The Wounded,” in which Miles O’Brien has to confront his former captain, Benjamin Maxwell. Maxwell has been firing on Cardassian transports, and his actions threaten the peace between the Cardassian Union and the Federation. Like Maxwell, Orrin lost his family in a Krill massacre, and he desires revenge. Malloy, as did O’Brien, has to balance his duty against a friendship deep enough that Orrin sacrificed himself to save Malloy.
Ultimately, Malloy chooses duty over friendship, and he goes to Keyali. There’s a great exchange in the scene when she tells him that by coming to her, he’s chosen his duty over his friendship, and Malloy admits that perhaps he just needed to hear it out loud. Scott Grimes really sells Malloy’s emotional guilt, which works beautifully against Jessica Szohr’s empathetic pragmatism, and frankly, Malloy has been incredibly overdue for some actual character development. The episode throws some awkwardness from Mercer at him, and Malloy handles it with surprising grace. Mercer’s jealousy over Malloy’s friendship with Orrin is sort of sweet, even if it seems a little out of place, and the way Mercer helps his friend grieve after Orrin’s suicide, serves as a great resolution for this plotline.
With respect to Mercer, the Orville continues to ensure that he never has to make a difficult choice; other characters make the tough calls for him. From the episode’s opening, the story set up has Mercer facing a choice as to whether to choose Orrin’s life over peace with the Krill, but despite the build-up, Orrin’s decision to remain on the shuttle as the blood detonates absolves Mercer from having to make that choice. I confess, I was disappointed because I wanted to see Mercer tackle the issue. Sisko did just that in “The Maquis,” so it can be done. The Orville just has not yet made that leap.
My other issue with the episode concerns “Leyna.” While she turns out to be the Envall who despises the Krill as much as Orrin does, she serves more as a set piece than as a character. Even Orrin comments that she hates the Krill for her own reasons, so we don’t even get to find out why she agrees to go along with Orrin’s plans. Certainly, the emotional core of the episode concerns the conflict between Malloy and Orrin, but there was certainly room to give Leyna some character beyond serving as a plot device.
It’s an Orville-only update today, gentle readers. It turns out that I have a lot to say about the eighth episode of Discovery, so I want to devote an entire post to it. Stay tuned.
Stray Observations from the Couch:
1. Is there no protocol requiring that life-signs get scanned? Do the Orville internal sensors just not work? The episode relies on what feels like a very strange conceit that no one could tell that Leyna wasn’t really Leyna until Dr. Finn initiates protocol. Also, what happens to Leyna in her quarters, especially as the Orville doesn’t have transporter technology.
2. Yaphit received a medal. I think Ty should have as well.
3. I like that the episode title is so on the nose as is the use of Planet of the Apes with its famous twist.