This The Orville review contains spoilers.
The Orville Season 1 Episode 7
Okay, now you’re trying too hard, The Orville. Maybe for those who haven’t seen the Black Mirror episode, “Nosedive,” “Majority Rule” was an innovative satirical look at our social media obsessed culture, but even those seeing this idea for the first time might wonder if the nearly identical planet to Earth was a bit too on the nose. The tension of Lieutenant Lamarr’s ordeal was authentic, and plenty of the jokes landed solidly, but taking the story planetside makes it seem like this was an existing script adapted to the template of The Orville. A definite misstep.
By now, viewers of The Orville know that it borrows a lot of conventions from Star Trek, and one of those elements we wave away is the fact that everyone can speak the same language. No problem! But taxis? Talk shows? Skinny jeans? Are too many similarities too much? The cursory explanation about the similar planetary makeup creating parallel evolution can only be stretched so far, especially in an episode that’s clearly meant to comment on our modern culture. Lamarr even wonders if a Bustin Jieber might be wandering around on Sargus-4 somewhere.
And let’s be clear, Lamarr started out with points in his favor in the Master Feed of audience opinion. His jokes about his jeans nearly giving him a vasectomy felt natural and comfortable — much moreso than his pants, no doubt. Even giving Alara a hard time about going through two guys in two months had the air of a conversation between old friends. But as soon as he started grinding that statue, he didn’t just lose points with the natives. It’s like Kelly said; they’re trying to be inconspicuous. Are you just ignorant, incompetent, or both?
Why not go with the offensive hat instead? Alara’s discomfort when she was called out for unknowingly wearing a traditional Kelvic hat was a much more reasonable misunderstanding and would have made for a more impactful public opinion trial. Of course, Alara would probably have handled the apology tour a little better, and much of the comedy of the episode came from John’s complete lack of understanding about how to sway the talk show audiences. But still, why start with an offensive act that even the viewers would frown upon? At least the hat was an honest mistake.
Some of the best parts of the episode came from throwaway lines from Bortus rather than the main plot. With no commentary before or after, Bortus notices one of the talk show hosts drinking from an oversized mug, and while everyone else worries about John’s performance, the Moclan wonders aloud, “Who would need such a large cup?” Even better was his hilariously serious agreement with the Captain’s idea that they should have pretzels for when they have guests on the ship: “I will not fail you.” Those chuckles went along way towards reminding viewers of better episodes of yore.
The other successful element that got short shrift was the use of Lisella, the waitress who was brought in on the secret of the existence of alien life outside of Sargus-4. Although there’s no mention of a prime directive, the attempt at non-interference was thankfully put aside in the name of using native skills to combat the problem. Even with the down votes being more about likability than actual guilt, the idea that a video of Lamarr as a veteran reuniting with his dog Chuckles would prevent his Correction was priceless.
But ugh, that ending! Whether or not Lamarr knew he could gain extraction once he went through the Sargus-4 justice system as Admiral Tucker insisted, why would he tell the guards, “All y’all can suck ass, and I’m a space man!” Yes, it’s part of his personality, but aren’t we supposed to like this guy? How stupid can you get? And Claire didn’t help matters by summarizing the lesson she hoped Lisella could take back to her society: “Tell them your world can do better.” Wow… profound.
So while this wasn’t a favorite episode of The Orville, it did have its bright points, and to be honest, having an uneven episode in a non-serialized show is to be expected. Social commentary is a tricky theme to tackle with subtlety, but this show has done it successfully in the past; therefore, there’s no excuse for not doing it right once we know what the series is capable of. Chalk this one up to overthinking things and move on. There’s always next week.