This The Orville review contains spoilers.
The Orville Season 2 Episode 4
I’m not going to make any bones about this: I like The Orville. It’s fun, it’s occasionally smart, and it does a great job poking old Star Trek tropes with a stick and often making them smarter. However, the latest episode seems like an unnecessary rip-off of Star Trek: Discovery’s big season 1 twist. Is The Orville trying to make Trek loyalists mad? What was the point of this twist?
The latest Orville’s big reveal was that Lt. Janel Tyler (Michaela McManus) is not really human and is, in fact, an undercover Krill agent named Teleya. Okay, so a lot of fans may have already figured this out by looking at IMDB and noticing that the same actress was playing two characters. And guess what? The same exact thing happened in 2017-2018 when everyone noticed that the actor who played Voq on Star Trek: Discovery seemed to be invented, and was probably just Shazad Latif, who played Ash Tyler.
Let’s focus on this for a second. In its first season, Star Trek: Discovery had a human character named Tyler who fell in love with the main character, Michael Burnham, but we later learned he was really an undercover Klingon agent. Now, in The Orville’s second season, we’ve got a human character named Tyler who falls in love with the main character, Ed Mercer, but she’s really an undercover Krill agent.
Please. No matter what you think of either twist on its own, the fact that the last names of the two characters are IDENTICAL is really irritating. I know there’s a lot of crossover between The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery, but if you’re a fan of both shows (which I am!), this feels like an unnecessary betrayal. What next? Are we going to find out Ed is really from a parallel dimension? Maybe there can be a time loop episode involving a space criminal played by an actor who used to be famous for being on The Office?
All over the internet, people complain that you can’t compare The Orville to Star Trek, that it’s not fair. Well, it is fair. The Orville could not exist without the Trek tropes (and actors, directors, and writers!) it borrows. Normally, this isn’t a bad thing, because in most cases, it feels like The Orville is critiquing those tropes in interesting ways, or, at the very least, trying to have more fun.
This twist was neither. Because of its proximity to Star Trek: Discovery, and the last name of the character and the twist being exactly the same, it feels hollow. Sure, if you’re a fan of only The Orville and you don’t watch Star Trek: Discovery because you don’t have $6.99 to spare a month, then this twist was probably awesome. Objectively, it is a good twist, I think. It’s great! Ed has to confront what an asshole he is, and has to also figure out how to live with the fact that he’s basically fallen in love with an alien enemy. It’s great that Ed lets Teleya go at the end of the episode. Just like it was cool that Burnham and Starfleet let Ash Tyler/Voq go live with the Klingons last season on Discovery. I just liked the twist much better when I watched it on Star Trek last year.
Because The Orville is now going head-to-head with Discovery on Thursday nights, this plotline doesn’t feel like an accident. Sure, it could just be read as a tribute, but it’s a little too soon? It’s one thing for The Orville to interrogate or flip Trek tropes from the ‘60s or the ‘90s? But to rip-off a plot twist that happened on contemporary Star Trek just last year? That seems too far. And it’s not good for fans of either show.