If there was a word I would use to describe this episode of “The Orville”, it would be… Lazy, unfortunately. In this show that’s already somewhat of a procedural show, this almost felt like a filler episode, with a somewhat important development at the end. It’s a shame that this episode felt like a rushed series of ideas, and forced drama.
It begins with promise, taking place at Newton’s goodbye party, with a pretty funny scene involving Lt. LaMarr and Lt. Malloy somewhat accidentally feeding part of Yaphit to Bortis, which is funny, but short-lived. The episode goes downhill from here.
This first bit involves Capt. Mercer and Commander Grayson finding out that Lt. LaMarr is an actual genius. We learn this by… having Grayson read it on a file. This is the most boring way to find out a character trait of a person, but here we are. LaMarr hides it because he likes living the simple life, and not having many responsibilities, which I get, but why is he a co-pilot, and navigator on a ship? That’s a whole lot of responsibility, but again, whatever. We find out later that where he was from, people are more liked when they are dumb, so he took that mentality onto the ship, which is a little bit of a better reason, but still seems like a cop-out. Grayson believes that now that Newton is gone, LaMarr should take over the position of Chief Engineer, the position we just found out LaMarr is good for, even though Yaphit is next in line. The Captain, rightfully, says that even though he might a genius, he’s got no leadership skills, which is something you need for a Chief Engineer role.
My issue with this whole plot line is that nothing seems earned. LaMarr is just suddenly a genius. There’s no real hints or foreshadowing before this. There is a couple of moments in this episode where we are to see the true Genius of LaMarr, and it basically boils down to him literally pointing to something, and saying “that’s a door way”. Or by having ideas that feels like the equivalent of having an answer written on your hand.
It’s just so boring! There’s nothing less clever or interesting than having be told that someone is smart. It just seems like the writers looked through the season and saw that LaMarr would quickly become their Tasha Yar unless they did something with him. Because other than humping a statue, nothing really interesting has happened with his character throughout the season. He’s there to be lighthearted comic relief in a series full of lighthearted comic reliefs. I hope they expand on his smarts later on, because I do want him to have more of a role later in the show. I do like how he becomes a natural leader by the end of the show. The last shot with him looking onto his new crew is wonderful, and seems to be the most earned thing about this episode.
As many problems that I had with the LaMarr plot line, the “Captain is insecure” plotline is way worse. It was teased in the first episode that Cmdr. Grayson had a secret that she wanted to keep from Captain Mercer. We find out what that secret is after so long, and no real build up. That secret is that Grayson recommended Mercer to be the Captain of the Orville.
That’s basically what this revelation made me feel.
After this revelation, the Captain feels embarrassed, and betrayed! How dare someone recommend him to be a Captain of a ship, let alone his own ex-wife! The whole episode with him revolves around how betrayed he feels, and how he will always be second guessing himself because he didn’t earn being a captain of a spaceship by himself. I get the idea of wanting to earn everything on your own, and the concept of how having too much pride can lead to your downfall (and I’ve seen it be done better in shows like Breaking Bad… ok, that might be an unfair comparison, Breaking Bad is an almost perfect show), but it’s so grating just to see him complain. They try to soften this by having other character be annoyed as well, but commenting on something doesn’t make it right! It gets to the point where he agrees to go on a suicide mission, so he can earn being a captain in his mind. In fairness, if he didn’t do the suicide mission, everyone would have died anyway, so that does actually make it better.
It’s not all bad though. This show usually has its struggles, but can be redeemed by its use of Sci-Fi, and I think it’s strong in this episode. The crew find an anomaly in the middle of space, with no clue as to what it may by. A scavenger ship goes through it, and all of its crew-members die. They later realize that the anomaly is literally a doorway to another dimension. A 2D dimension. The concept itself is awesome, but when we go into this dimension (with a bit of scientific, quantum plot armor), it’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous! Basically, it’s a techno-color circuit board, that has it’s own civilization. It’s the type of stuff that gives me a reason to watch the show. I really like the characters, and am willing to go along with their journey to see where it is headed, but I love the Sci-Fi landscapes, the allegorical concepts, the Sophie’s Choices we see these characters have to make, all of that.
This show does not work as a comedy. It’s just not that funny. I have laughed, and there was even an episode involving the alien in heat where I laughed a lot (the only real purely comedic episode of the series so far), but this show works as a Star Trek fan fiction, which is fine! I really like these characters, and the situations they get into. But that isn’t to say that this show is perfect, not nearly. We are almost done season one, and the show has yet to find its footing. It’s not funny enough to be a comedy, but it looses its footing as a Comedy/Drama with some mis-timed, or ill-advised jokes. The drama somewhat works, especially as a piece of speculative fiction, but then Seth Macfarlane will pop in with some distracting “I’m great, aren’t I?” quips. The quality of the show is uneven, but the charm is undeniably there.
I want this show to do great. I watch every week, because I want shows like this to succeed. “New Dimensions” feels like an unfortunate step back in the quality department, but hopefully, by the season finale of next week, we’ll go back on track with one of the more unique shows on television.