This The Orville review contains spoilers.
The Orville Season 1 Episode 8
The Orville has always felt like a continuation of Star Trek: the Next Generation, but never has an episode felt so much like an installment of that original inspiration. “Into the Fold” could just as easily have followed a similar journey undertaken by Data accompanying Dr. Beverly Crusher and her son Wesley on vacation, although obviously the dynamic there was quite different. The Orville has proven it can take on serious social issues, but this week, it displays an expertise at relating a personal drama as well with only shades of its trademark humor.
We did, of course, get glimpses of the snarky crew we’ve come to know and love. It’s no surprise that Gordon calls spatial folds “glory holes,” but this week viewers are treated once again to the deadpan delivery of Bortus as he very accommodatingly announces to his shipmates as they cross the threshold of the wormhole, “Entering glory hole!” Some jokes may eventually wear thin on The Orville, but it’s unlikely Bortus’ awesome matter-of-factness will ever get old.
Isaac has a similar way of expressing his observances in an unemotional manner, and once again, it is proven that the audience was misled by Captain Mercer’s original introduction of the Kaylon as “racist.” His superior attitude has never been abrasive or aggressive, but in a story that has him observing a contentious family interaction, his judgment of Claire’s parenting skills is a little harsh to be sure. However, it was interesting to note that the humor that arose from the situation wasn’t typical Seth MacFarlane material but very much in line with recognizably light-hearted sci-fi comedy. Not a bad thing at all.
In fact, the bulk of the action in this episode was eminently believable and well-presented. From the rowdy boys fighting over a video game to the ineffectual manner in which Claire disciplined them, the sibling rivalry and rebelling against parental authority was completely authentic, with most of the credit going towards the young actors playing Marcus and Ty, the doctor’s sons. Viewers could easily see how a “play planet” might not be as appealing as just staying on the ship and visiting whatever they call the holodeck in this show.
Further realism came from Isaac’s minimal but important growth in his interactions with the children. We wouldn’t expect him to become more human since he’s not motivated that way like Data was. All it took, though, was Marcus encouraging the Kaylon to hold Ty’s hand to reassure him and for that gesture to show up later when Claire was worried help wouldn’t arrive in time to save a diseased Ty. A perfectly subtle parallel!
The diseased cannibals may have been a one-dimensional enemy, but the clear and uncomplicated nature of the loneliness Claire’s healthy captor must be experiencing was enough to give the simple but dangerous setting Isaac and Claire’s family find themselves in a real sense of conflict. And having Brian Thompson, who played the menacing, shapeshifting alien bounty hunter on The X-Files, show up as the survivalist moon-dweller Drojen was a brilliant bit of casting.
It was a tad bit confusing to have the engineering team working on the ship’s navigation system, forcing John to steer the ship by dead reckoning; that never really seemed to have a particular consequence. And the disagreement over the genius of Barry Manilow didn’t elicit the kind of laughter that Bortus is capable of inspiring with only a blank stare. But it was nice to see the crew working with their sleeves rolled up, figuratively speaking, shooting the breeze during routine maintenance before heading off to Claire’s rescue.
Claire herself didn’t necessarily grow as a character as much as Isaac did, but it was quite enjoyable to see her interactions with her family as a way of humanizing her. Penny Johnson Jerald hasn’t had a chance to show her true acting prowess up until now, but this week show portrayed Claire enduring a truly emotional ordeal, allowing viewers to get a sense of who the doctor is and how she views life on the ship. Plus, Claire verified one thing that has been sticking in the craw of some nitpicky viewers: they’re using translators to understand alien languages. We knew, but it was nice to hear her say it.
Isaac’s the MVP of the episode, though. Whether it was when he shot Marcus’ video game to stop an argument, or when he was discouraging Ty’s hug by telling him, “The danger has past; you may release me now,” Isaac had some great moments this week. It was eerie but cool hearing him read the very symbolic Peter Rabbit tale in Claire’s voice, and seeing Marcus fight alongside the Kaylon as they stunned cannibals together was priceless.
High marks for The Orville this week! It wasn’t the perfect episode, but it was different enough to really entertain fans of this type of space drama. It’s nice to see that, even though viewers very much enjoy the sometimes crass humor and the anachronistic pop culture references, The Orville is capable of changing it up week-to-week. This ability will come in handy now that the show has been renewed for season 2, but until then, the second half of season 1 should be quite a ride.