Television The Orville

The Orville 1×05: Pria Review

Last week, The Orville treated us to an interesting tale of love, lust, jealousy, severed limbs, time travel, and Charlize Theron. Outside of the severed limbs and Theron, it wasn’t the most original storyline, but it did give us insight into the 29th century’s antique collectors market. Let’s get caught up with the future’s Antique Roadshow before tonight’s new episode.

It’s Always a Distress Call

Last week’s episode went straight into the action (after a brief episode of Seinfeld) with the Orville receiving a distress call. Cue Mercer and company to zoom off to the rescue! The ship leaps into the orbit of a star where a kamikaze comet is zipping straight towards oblivion. On the surface, a crashed mining vessel captained by Pria Lavesque is trapped. Thankfully, during a daring continuation of this daring rescue, the ship launches a shuttle, docks with the mining vessel, rescues Lavesque, and escapes just in time.

Source: Fox/Recap Guide

On board, the crew meets Lavesque where it quickly becomes apparent that sparks are starting to fly between Mercer and his new guest. After a cocktail party in the captain’s quarters where Mercer and Lavesque share common beginnings in Massachusetts, Grayson begins to get suspicious.

Source: Fox/Recap Guide

Snooping Around

Grayson manages to convince Kitan to help her search Lavesque’s quarters for any signs of concern. Inside, they find a mysterious metal box hiding underneath the mattress. The tricorder/scanner-thingy can’t penetrate the inside. Lavesque walks in, forcing the pair of would be thieves to make up an excuse involving checking for radiation. Unfortunately, the excuse doesn’t sit with Mercer.

Source: Fox/Recap Guide

In his office, the captain reprimands Kitan and has a showdown with his concerned first officer. Grayson tries to convince him that the metal box means Lavesque is up to something, but Mercer disagrees. Before the two can dig into their feelings about Mercer having googly eyes for another woman, the ship rocks violently.

Source: Fox/Recap Guide

On the bridge, it becomes apparent that something is wrong. The ship has become caught in a dark matter storm, cutting off all potential exits. Lavesque explains she has navigated this type of storm before and takes the helm, despite Grayson’s objection. Using skills and sci-fi magic, the miner safely navigates the ship out, proving to Mercer that Lavesque is trustworthy.

Dirty Deeds

So trustworthy, in fact, that Mercer has no problem inviting Lavesque to a date on the environmental simulator (aka holodeck), which leads to a kiss.

Source: Fox/Recap Guide

Then they do it.

After the deed is done, Mercer and Lavesque discuss his failed marriage and how he hasn’t trusted anyone since the divorce.

Meanwhile, in engineering, they discover the same mysterious box from Lavesque’s quarters lodged in the bulkheads. Realizing Grayson may have been right, Mercer confronts Lavesque in her quarters. Without even hesitating, Lavesque gives up the charade and offers the truth: she’s an antiques dealer from the 29th century and has come back to collect the Orville.

Source: Fox/Recap Guide

Time Travel

The ship was supposed to be destroyed in the dark matter storm. Lavesque comes back to prevent the disaster, collect the ship and crew, and return to the 29th century so the original timeline isn’t altered. Now the ship is on a course to the wormhole Lavesque used to travel back in time in the first place.

After a failed attempt to disable the metal box that has slaved the Orville to Lavesque’s smartwrist(?) device, the outcome seems bleak. Isaac is damaged in the attempt and appears to be dead, for an android at least.

Eventually, the ship and crew arrive at the wormhole and enter. On the other side, another massive ship carrying Lavesque’s clients is waiting. Before the exchange can happen, Isaac reveals himself to be alive and sends a secret message to Mercer and Grayson that the device is disabled. Mercer punches a few buttons, Grayson punches Lavesque’s face, and the escape begins. The alien ship attempts to lock a tractor beam onto the Orville, but the ship manages to outrun their pursuers into the wormhole.

Source: Fox/Recap Guide

Back in their normal timeline, Mercer speaks with Lavesque after having apologized to Grayson. The two discuss the implications of allowing the Orville to continue to exist. Mercer mentions something about quantum entanglement something something, then gives the order to fire on the wormhole. With the anomaly destroyed, Lavesque disappears from the timeline.

The Status Report

It was nice to have this episode mostly focused on events on the ship again. Instead of finding an alien zoo or massive city ship, we were able to see more of life on board the USS Orville. Even this episode’s side story, involving Isaac learning about the ancient human custom of the humorous prank, fit in better than previous side storylines. Watching the poor android step onto the bridge, dressed in pieces of Mr. Potato Head was a fresh sight. Isaac’s own prank on Malloy, involving a spontaneous amputation of his leg, was a little less so.

The other thing that really worked for this episode was Charlize Theron herself. Previous high profile guest stars like Liam Neeson had little precious screen time. Theron had more time to show off her acting chops and establish her character as a proper, complex villain. She sells the idea that Lavesque is a true businesswoman, more concerned with the bottom line profit than the few ethical lines she may have to toe or cross in order to get the deal done.

Everything was going well until two words were uttered: the 29th century. Okay, technically that’s three words, but you get the idea. The true test of a sci-fi show for many fans of the genre is a time travel storyline. Some people absolutely hate the trope. You are often left with so many loopholes and paradoxes, you feel like giving up, throwing up the arms, and saying, “Okay Terminator-series: you have my money, what more do you want? My firstborn child?”

Much of this episode’s time travel storyline seemed to work out at first. Even the idea of a starship antiques collector is more grounded than a lot of narrative elements other series try to use. Unfortunately, the writers weren’t able to escape the pitfall of paradox that time travel can create.

Side note: anyone more well-versed in temporal mechanics is welcome to weigh-in. This stuff hurts my head.

The writers ultimately resolved the episode by destroying the wormhole that leads to the 29th century. This erases Lavesque from the timeline, thereby tying everything up with a nicely wrapped bow. The logic seems sound: destroy the wormhole in present day; it never exists in the 29th century; Lavesque never has the means to come back. But this seems to leave one major glaring omission.

If Lavesque never comes from the 29th century in the first place, shouldn’t the Orville be a cloud of debris and dust now? Lacking the means to travel back, Lavesque would never be able to come and save the Orville in the first place. Technically, this episode should have been the series finale.

Even those who scream “parallel universes!” shouldn’t be totally satisfied with this ending. If this version of the universe allows Lavesque to travel back in time to save the Orville, despite the wormhole now being destroyed in a parallel timeline, why does Lavesque disappear in the end? If parallel universes are perfect for resolving these paradoxes, then she should have no problem sticking around in the fabrics of their reality without disappearing.

I’m sure I’m missing some major, complicated equation or theorem that would resolve this issue perfectly. At the very least, this level of scrutiny is usually reserved for the most diehard of geeks and fans (sometimes both). So, I offer this totes-obviously-perfect explanation: the true force of nature acting in this episode is advertising. If the show continues to make money, no amount of time travel or alien threats will truly challenge the safety of the ship and her crew.

If things turn out differently, however, the powers of Fox will have no problem making the ship disappear from our own timeline. There you have it physicists, the true explanation of how reality works: capitalism. Can I have a Nobel Prize now?


  1. It is possible for the writers to fix this problem in a future episode (explained towards the end of this posting):
    If I’d been writing the ending, I’d have Pria point this out saying: “And who will save your ship, Captain? If I don’t come back in time, as I did, you’ll end up in the storm. It is history, Captain. Fire your weapons and you end this ship and everyone on board.”
    So, what is the Captain to do? Well, the wormhole still exists both in the present and their past. The Captain uses the wormhole to send a message back in time to himself telling him to change course and miss the storm. It is then he can destroy the wormhole, as its destruction at this time would not change the past, but only the future.
    This would also give the writers a chance to explore temporal regulations. The Captain gets a coded message say a 1T message. This would be a priority one temporal message. It would have the necessary codes to validate and the Captain would be meeting his future self. There would even be the possibility of the future Captain passing on information about what he learned to his past (even if it was against the regulations) about trusting his first officer, etc.
    Now see how simple of a change in the ending would fix the issue and also open up a new line to explore (how the message from the future affects the Captain who lives).
    What makes it so bad, in this writer’s view, is how simple the fix would have been. Yet, the wormhole is no more so no message into the past.
    UNLESS! It could come out the Captain did send a 1T message back before destroying the wormhole. It could come during a discussion between him and his first officer. She notices a change and keeps after him. The change is the result of the message and the extra information. He swears her temporal secrecy and tells her about the message. She reads the logs sent back and watches the message.
    Thus the ending we see with Pria disappearing gets a proper explanation. In BOTH time lines the Captain is sitting at his desk. Pria simply isn’t there in the one and only one in the end.
    Easy fix, if the writers decide to take it. Oh, they can have this idea for free. Yes, I’d like some acknowledgement, BUT if I can’t so be it. What matters is a good explanation and great series that makes sense

    1. Hmm, I like the idea. Doesn’t that assume the wormhole can be used to connect different time points in the relative present (versus just bridging the 29th century)?

      1. If there were more than the one stable wormhole mentioned in the episode. She did say there was just one known stable wormhole.

      2. I didn’t complete my thought. If there were more than one stable wormhole mentioned in the episode, it might be possible. Unfortunately, she did say there was just one known stable wormhole. Of course, there could be others and / or other ways to perform time travel.

        I wonder if an artificial wormhole might be possible say in the 40th century or even a time space ship or … who knows.

        Honestly, The Orville is so much better than the Star Trek on CBS All Access. CBS did a bait and switch, IMHO, after watching The View, seeing the early reviews / comments.

      3. Knowing the genre in general, I’d be willing to bet there are other methods of time travel. There’s nothing quite like a time travel plot to spice things up.

      4. I’m just so surprised the writers did time travel so soon into the series. Star Trek took awhile and didn’t create a paradox issue. They need to think these things through. Comedy and Sci-Fi writing are NOT the same!!

      5. nor is drama writing, etc. Sci-Fi requires thinking about the outcomes and is it logical, etc.

    2. Cool idea but its been done before. Orville probably wanted to be different in their approach to time travel even though they left loop holes in their method. I guess they didn’t want to copy other shows.

      The sending of information to the past has been done on many other shows. Example. Stargate sg1 sent a note back in time to prevent themselves from working with a specific alien race that had almost destroyed earth in the present time.

      In frequency, the dad leaves a note in the past and the daughter sees it in present time right after he tells her he’s left the note.

      There’s really no time travel idea/solution that hasn’t already been done. It was still a pretty good episode though.

      The simplest solution I think would have been to find a way to leave charlize in the 29th century during their escape back to present time and then destroy the worm hole.

      Charlize would be stuck in her time (29th century). Orville would be back in theirs and though the timeline would have been altered we won’t know how much because there’s nobody to tell us.

      Charlize disappearing when they blew the worm hole just left more questions than answers IMO.

  2. Alpha timeline: no Pria, no rescue, no entering the darkmatter storm, no destruction of the Orville.
    Beta timeline: Pria travels back in time, requires rescuing, the Orville enters the dark matter storm, is saved by Pria and taken to the future. This is the timeline 29th century Pria knows about (where the Orville is “destroyed in the dark matter storm).

    When the wormhole is destroyed it restores the Alpha timeline (there was never any time travel). This leaves the paradox that in the alpha timeline the Orville wouldn’t destroy the wormhole and so the beta timeline would be created. This is solved by the wormhole spontaneously becoming unstable due to the energies created by the existence of a temporal loop. Which is the cause of all worm holes being unstable.

    Note: In the alpha timeline Amelia Earhart didn’t disappear over the Pacific.

    P.S. I’m not a big fan of time travel stories…

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