This The Orville review contains spoilers.
The Orville Season 1 Episode 11
In one of the most balanced episodes of The Orville, the writers managed to give full service to more than one character development arc while still delivering an utterly unique storyline packed with heart-pounding action, admirably cogent techno-babble, and a skillfully embedded metaphor referring back to what the characters of focus were going through. Together with its fun humor and heartfelt dialogue, “New Dimensions” ranks high among the season one episodes leading into the finale.
The most impressive success was in turning John Lamarr’s character around from his fiasco on the social media planet earlier in the season. Segueing from a practical joke into the discovery of his off-the-charts intelligence was a pleasant surprise, and the journey he undertook to prove his worth to himself and to the engineering team was well executed, including the fumble with the gumdrop icebreaker (thanks for nothing, Gordon). His anxiety was believable, and the details of his back story on a new colony added depth to his character. In the end, the audience applauded his promotion.
Not that most of us didn’t see Yaphit’s side of the story. After the enjoyable discomfort of watching him fetch his missing part from Bortus’ colon, his confrontation with the captain about being passed over for promotion was a logical reaction to the situation that made John really earn his transformation, and it also provided one of the best comedic moments in the episode when Ed was forced to defend his decision by insisting he wasn’t racist and that he had “several gelatinous friends.” Yaphit adding that there was “less crap in Bortus’ colon” was an icing-on-the-cake callback.
Previous commenters on these reviews have pointed out rightfully that The Orville should not be judged on the quality of its jokes, but when the comedy works well with the story, it’s definitely worth mentioning. Gordon’s worries about 4th-dimensional beings watching him do whatever with the sleeve of a down coat, for example, was a quickly delivered, subtly suggestive remark that got a punch before the story moved on with perfect pacing, which hasn’t always been the case with this show’s humor. MVP goes to the engineering officer, Dann, who likes to refinish antique furniture and have brunch mouthgasms. Love that guy!
But one of the biggest surprises was how expertly Kelly navigated the drama surrounding the fact that she got Ed the job as captain of the Orville. The dialogue that took the couple down the path of self-doubt, regret, bruised egos, faith, and a host of other hefty emotions was amazingly well written, and Kelly likening the two-dimensional world they find themselves in with the way Ed sees the world sometimes was almost literary in its symbolic scope. Was the “It’s not the feather, Dumbo; it’s you,” conclusion a bit over the top? Maybe, but wow… it really worked.
And besides the enjoyable growth experiences for Ed, John, and even Yaphit, it was the little moments that really made this episode among the best of the season. Including Claire’s kids, for example, in the investigation into the anomaly so that they can spend time with Isaac was a nice follow-up to earlier story developments. And even just having the science officer, Pulovis, who waters the plants on the ship, go unrecognized by the captain provided both a nice comedic callback and an illustration of where Ed still has more growth potential ahead as he becomes more confident in his leadership, just as John does.
Lastly, the two-dimensional civilization concept itself was just brilliantly conceived and exemplified the best kind of speculative storylines science fiction is capable of. Whether it was watching the smugglers die, hiding from the Krill, or towing the Orville with a shuttle, every step of the story was unexpected and fresh. Now matter how technical the explanations got for the misaligned quantum engines, the breakdown of cellular proteins in two-dimensional space, or the flattened shuttle towing the bubble-protected ship, it always made a certain amount of sense. Not always an easy task in sci-fi (even if Ed did call the Tardis a phone booth)!
So now that John is chief engineer, we have more hope for his character and more appreciation for what can be done with his role moving forward. To have the developments that brought even more understanding between Ed and Kelly be such a thrill ride at the same time is a welcome wonderment. This first season of The Orville has been uneven, for sure, but this week’s episode proves that it deserves to be judged as a genre show and not solely as a Seth MacFarlane farcical mash-up. If this is anything like the finale, the series will end its first season on a very high note indeed.