Happy Launch Day everyone! Last week, we cracked a champagne bottle across the hull, opened the outer bay doors, and watched as The Orville gracefully slid out into open space. Alright, if you’ve been paying attention to the critic reviews, maybe not gracefully, but the show is out there now.
Was it outstanding? Well, just like any other show, there were ups and downs. Certainly, there are many bugs to work out of the system before we have a fully functional show. The main question is, will the show last long enough to work out the kinks or is it doomed for the scrapyard?
Before we get to see mission number two, here’s a look at last week’s episode.
Meeting The Crew
Just like any other new show, the first few scenes of The Orville started right off introducing us to the primary characters of the series. Leading man Seth McFarlane was the very first one as his character, Ed Mercer, came home after a long day’s work only to find his wife, Krillelly Grayson, in bed with a blue alien. Side note here, I’ll try to avoid any lengthy discussions of inner species sexual relations, but how exactly does it work when the blue alien is releasing the sex juices out of his forehead? There are a couple things we do know, at least: one, blue alien love juice is a pain to get out of white bed sheets, and two, this discovery was a deal breaker for Mercer and his marriage.
Over a year passes before we see Mercer again coming into the office of Adm. Halsey. Halsey explains that a new command has recently opened up and the USS Orville requires a captain. Having been underperforming the past year (such as showing up to work hungover a reported six times), the admiral expresses doubts in Mercer’s command ability. But apparently, times are tough for the Union and captains (and first officers as we’ll see later) are in short supply. Mercer gets his chance, so the first person he runs to share the good news with is his great buddy and future helmsman Gordon Malloy.
Mercer greets his buddy in something that is a holodeck in everything but name. Malloy’s in the middle of fighting a well-mannered, good-natured orc when Mercer gives him the news and asks him to be his helmsman.
Having been sidelined after a few “illegal flight maneuvers” Malloy jumps at the chance and now both are off on the adventure. After a shaky shuttle ride to the flight dock in orbit, Mercer arrives at the Orville with a Union mandated grand reveal to meet the rest of the crew.
In the shuttle bay, other officers are waiting.
There’s Lt. Commander Bortus, the single-gendered Morcian and the second officer the ship. Alara Krillitan, hailing from a planet with high gravity, is a young, inexperienced security officer with enhanced strength and tactical abilities. John LaMarr is the navigation officer on board and seems like the future comedic sidekick to Malloy. Dr. Clair Finn, previously known as Cassidy Yates from Deep Space Nine, has come aboard as the ships doctor and counselor having sensed her skills will be put to good use. Finally, there is Isaac, a seemingly mild-mannered android from a planet where all organic beings are seen as inferior.
After a few brief exchanges, the ship gets ready to set off, minus a mysteriously missing first officer. At this point, we are treated to yet another long, drawn out, but graceful reveal of the ship as it leaves. At first, I was expecting the scene to mimic something out of Galaxy Quest, where the length of the departure leads to some kind of comedic mishap. Unfortunately, this scene is just one of the few examples of kinks that have to be worked out for the flow of the show to feel smooth.
Their mission is simple, travel to a nearby planet requesting new supplies and then come back. It’s a mission on the same level as flying to a mysterious outpost or hunting down Maquis in the Badlands that is rife with inevitable mishap.
On the way, Mercer receives word from Adm. Halsey that a first officer has been found for the ship. Better still, the future first officer can be picked up along the way at a nearby outpost. Once Mercer asks who the first officer will be, all emotional hell breaks loose. Mercer flies off of the bridge for a personal one-on-one with the admiral.
Having promised to be professional, Mercer and the rest of the Orville head to the outpost to pick up Krillelly Grayson, Mercer’s now ex-wife and temporary first officer.
Their first exchange after their divorce is somewhat predictable: things start off semi professional, but quickly spiral out of control as Mercer offers to provide Grayson a full, detailed report about his office furniture after she makes an innocent inquiry about the interior decoration. During the scene, the ship’s poor interior planning is also revealed, as the bridge officers over here everything from the argument like neighbors one floor below in a cramped New York walk-up.
The ship finally arrives at their destination where more is revealed about their mission. In the time honored tradition of “failing to mention all the important details,” the lead scientist informs Mercer and his crew via Galactic Skype that they don’t need supplies. Instead, their plea is a lot greater and, somehow, can only be explained in person after a lengthy shuttle ride down to the planet’s surface.
After a lengthy shuttle ride down to the planet surface, Mercer and crew meet the lead scientist for a short tour of the facility before getting down to matters. Unfortunately, here again, the scene highlights some of the bugs that need to be addressed in the narrative flow. If the situation is so dire, why take the time to show off all the latest and greatest projects and toys you’re working on as if you were Q during Bring Your Child To Work Day?
Minor complaints aside, the group finally gets to the real reason why the Orville has been called. The researchers have developed new “quantum bubble” technology that can rapidly speed up time in a selective area. While their banana demonstration fails to impress, the true threat begins to surface as the lead scientist explains the dangers of this technology falling into the wrong hands, particularly those of the Krill.
A New Threat
Right on command, the threat immediately reveals itself in the form of a lowly, probably underpaid lab technician who somehow smuggled a gun into a presumably highly secured area. The technician demands the device, the group fights back, and more all hell breaks loose as Mercer and crew fight their way out of the complex while Krill forces land and storm into the facility. Things look grim, Alara bounces to the shuttle like an Olympic vaulter on steroids with the prize package in hand, and everyone else wades across a decorative reflection pool in a storm of fire and fury.
Expectedly, the crew survives the encounter and escapes the planet. Meanwhile, the Orville has been dancing with the enemy Krill ship high above in orbit.
Malloy, at the controls, asks permission from acting commander Bortus to begin evasive maneuvers he affectionately calls “hugging the donkey.” After receiving the okay, he begins to strafe the ship around the Krill cruiser like an expensive game of Asteroids. By the time Mercer and the rest catch up with the ship, the deflector screens have been drained, and two of the ships three main drive engines have been disabled.
After dealing with an unexpected guest in the shuttle, and proving why all sci-fi shows should have featured seatbelts in their design, Mercer and the crew return to the Orville for the final confrontation with the leader of the Krill. Realizing they are vastly overpowered and too damaged to run away, Mercer gives into the enemy’s demands: hand over the device or be destroyed. Mercer sends the quantum bubble thingy over in a remote shuttle with a bonus gift: a small redwood seed he picked up on the planet.
The item gets delivered, the aliens turn the device on, and out pops a 100-year-old redwood tree that splits the enemy ship in half. The day is saved, and somehow, the Orville can still get home on one engine.
Side note: the exchange with the enemy Krill includes one of the best comedic moments I’ve come across in a long time since Firefly. Mercer fires off the cheesy line, “Happy Arbor Day” before his plan springs into action. After the battle, during a period of reflection, the show demonstrates it’s not afraid to poke fun at itself and common sci-fi tropes we take for granted. Arguably, Grayson’s line of “here’s your wood” was objectively better in every conceivable way.
Wrapping It All Up
The end of the episode wraps up fairly nicely. Mercer realizes there is a lot Grayson can offer as a first officer, despite their past. Viewers are also treated to the secret discovery that Grayson was single-handedly responsible for convincing Adm. Halsey and other superiors to give Mercer a shot at command.
Roll credits, cue music, and get ready for episode two.
The Status Report
There you have it, the very first mission of the USS Orville out of the way. At this point, it’s helpful to review some of the noticeable issues that became evident during the shakedown cruise. In short, the show has a lot of potential, and certainly isn’t as doomed as a wide plethora of critics suggested, but there’s a lot to work on.
The biggest thing is the show’s overall writing and direction. It’s clear that there is a struggle between the comedic aspects that Seth McFarlane is well known for and the type of drama that science-fiction has adopted since the days of Star Trek and its notable sequels. It also has a lot of work to do to escape the obviously borrowed tropes from Star Trek the show is clinging to.
McFarlane himself may have a little bit of improving to do as well. While he is a capable actor, his reputation as a funny man (and crooner?) makes it difficult to take him seriously when everything out of his mouth is coming from the voice of Family Guy’s Brian. The scenes between him and Adrianne Palicki were particularly noticeable, especially when Palicki has demonstrated that she has the acting chops to switch from bad ass combat to heart-wrenching dialogue mid-sentence. Her time on Agents of Shield continues to leave a hole in my heart after her teary, but silent farewell scene on that show.
That doesn’t mean all is doomed, however. Shows go through a period of adjustment, if they survive long enough, so it’s only natural that The Orville will have a few things to iron out.
Future episodes may also help. The first episode of any series requires a lot of setup and backstory to get the audience on board with the narrative. Hopefully, future episodes will pick up with the action and, perhaps, blend the comedy with the drama more than just “sprinkling a few jokes here and there for good measure.”
That’s all for this episode recap. Take a moment to digest, and if you’re still on board with the show, get ready for tonight’s episode two.