This The Orville review contains spoilers.
The Orville Season 1 Episode 5
While the latest episode of The Orville entitled “Pria” benefited from featuring the talents of the incomparable Charlize Theron, a clunky romance plot interfered with what was otherwise a series of enjoyable interactions between secondary characters. Practical jokes, adventures in engineering, innovative special effects, and even a bit of time travel (this writer’s weakness) provided wonderful moments for viewers to enjoy, but whenever Captain Mercer is the weak spot of the show, as he is all too often, it taints even the best of episodes.
It’s getting to the point where references to Kelly’s infidelity are just pointless. Her jealousy, which she insists is professional skepticism, after Pria’s arrival on the ship is an interesting dynamic for the evolution of Kelly’s relationship with her ex, but the conversations between Ed and Pria are just plain painful to listen to. The jump cut to the pair in bed was clever, but the dialogue ruined it. And there wasn’t a whole lot of chemistry, romantic holodeck alien landscape notwithstanding, to begin with.
Oddly, there was more believable dialogue with Pria from the lecherous chief engineer and Yaphit, who is finally more than a sick bay punchline. And besides, why isn’t Chief Steve Newton as integral as Scotty, Geordi Laforge, or Chief O’Brien? It was nice to see him involved in this week’s plot, however fleeting his appearance may have been. Pulling out the diamond-tipped drill was a game-changer, and the Chief deserves at least part of the credit for saving the ship.
Malloy and Isaac gave us the most bang for our buck as they traded practical jokes as a way to teach the Kaylon about humor in a small but powerful side plot. The Mr. Potato Head prank followed by the surreptitious amputation of Malloy’s leg was both unexpected and laugh-out-loud funny once the audience recovered from the initial alarm. The leg dropping from the ceiling and the stunted replacement limb were excellent visual gags to go along with initial jokes, proving that sometimes less is more.
And although the Seinfeld reference continues the trend of anachronistic references we’re supposed to ignore, the “junior mint” message from Isaac was a brilliant tie-in that clued the crew in to his whereabouts after his supposed death. Those who paid attention to the Kaylon’s assertion that his eyes were just for show would immediately realize that the rest of his body was likely equally as superfluous. Isaac’s involvement was expertly executed and continues to show how important his character is to the show’s success.
Kelly’s mistrust of Pria was contagious for the audience just as it was with Alara. The subtle clues that Pria dropped were difficult to affirm given the unpredictable nature of obstacles like a comet headed into a sun and a dangerous storm of dark matter bubbles, but the audience likely was on board with Kelly’s suspicions from the start and sympathized with Alara when she got a reprimand in her file. Not that any of us could have predicted what was really going on with the supposed mining consortium member.
The writers should be commended for their careful treatment of time travel. Using a principle explored by Kage Baker’s Company novels, antiquities are rescued just as they are about to expire, thus mining the past without changing recorded history. The fact that Ed got rid of Pria by removing her need or ability to come back in the first place may have confused some: why didn’t the destruction of the wormhole also ensure The Orville was never rescued from the dark matter storm? A paradox, yes, but the removal of the portal happened after the change in the ship’s fate was already made! Well done, show!
So The Orville has corrected this week one of its earlier failings: the humor was delivered with understated aplomb, including a gem from Ed Mercer as he tries to explain that telling Pria to go to hell is a bad thing. Now if the writers could just tweak the bit about Kelly cheating on Ed, maybe get rid of that motivation altogether, and soon, the show will really start to solidify into a great Star Trek pastiche that survives long enough to establish its own identity separate from the classic.