This The Orville review contains spoilers.
The Orville Season 1 Episode 4
You’d think that after many seasons and spinoffs of Star Trek, we’d have seen an episode like this one, but The Orville is proving that it can break new ground even as it treads familiar territory. Encountering a society blinded by self-imposed ignorance is nothing new, of course, but the manner in which this show presents its encounters with other civilizations is quickly beginning to become its own thing. Although the pacing had its issues this week, the overall story and the continuing development of characters we’ve come to enjoy left us satisfied.
The jokes are starting to settle into a rhythm as well… sort of. Having Klyden indulge in rocky road ice cream and The Sound of Music provided a nice transition from last week’s Bortus-centric episode, and Lamarr’s “Boom, bitch!” was filled with hilarious triumph. However, the Norm MacDonald blob, Yaphit, just isn’t gelling as a running gag, and Malloy’s quip about the massive ship belonging to a Persian guy trying to show off at a club fell kind of flat.
Adrianne Palicki, meanwhile, is on fire doling out Kelly’s defiant sarcasm while she’s being held prisoner by Robert Knepper as Hamelac. Whether she’s telling him her friends are at the Central Perk or referring to a syringe full of torture juice as “a scale model of your penis,” one could almost hope she were running the ship, deserving the lead spot through sheer sass. Not that Captain Mercer didn’t have some nice lines. The banter with his supposed buddy “Nick Lewis” from college lacrosse (“How long you been guarding?”), and his awkwardness on the elevator definitely elicited a few chuckles.
Another distinct characteristic of The Orville versus its space drama predecessor is the manner in which characters discuss the personal lives of their fellow shipmates. Isaac, who continues to prove his initial description as “racist” inaccurate, does the best job of framing his curiosity about Kelly and Ed as part of his Kaylon research, but finding out that Alara was having trouble with men because of her great strength was also executed smoothly.
As for the storyline about the massive ship housing a self-sustaining ecosystem, the premise was astoundingly simple yet beautifully depicted, from the ship’s-hull sky to the scale of comparison between the Orville and the colony ship. The “dictatorial theocracy” concept, as Isaac called it, was okay though nothing special and perhaps too easily-vanquished, but the idea of a civilization thousands of years adrift was just amazing, especially once Liam Neeson of all people explained how the whole thing happened.
The opening of the dome was especially impressive. Having the Reformers guide the crew to where Isaac could access the lift to the bridge actually felt somewhat sacred, and the accumulation of years was palpable. The inhabitants themselves were a little one-dimensional, but their reaction to seeing the night sky for the first time had every bit of awe for the audience as it did for the ship-dwellers themselves. The Emerson quote didn’t hurt, especially delivered by Claire: “If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years, how man would marvel and stare.”
It’s conceivable that that single quote inspired the whole story in tonight’s The Orville, another successful installment. Perhaps there will always be hiccups like Captain Mercer spitting out food into a napkin, which seemed completely unnecessary and interrupted the flow, but now the ups and downs of the humor are expected and don’t overshadow the well-constructed storylines which are both innovative and derivative. This show is simply an enjoyable romp, and fans can expect the fun to continue as the curtain is drawn further back each week.