After last week’s much-ballyhooed episode of ‘The Orville,’ expectations are understandably high for the show to continue its “forward progress,” as it were. This episode does do several things right, it sees the return of an increase of both (attempted) comedic moments and a spotlight on Ed and Kelly’s relationship, with both elements also feeling very “shoehorned” in at seemingly inopportune moments. More on why this might be in the first point of the Observations section, but first – let’s talk about the details of the episode itself.
WARNING: Spoilers for this episode of ‘The Orville’ lie ahead, obviously. If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish for any of its content to be spoiled for you, the time to turn back is NOW!
RECAP: We are given a short opening scene of Bortus and Klyden arguing in their quarters over vague mentions of Klyden being unhappy and Bortus “know(ing) why” – it seems like this couple definitely have a sub-plot brewing that should extend the intriguing story they have already started with the birth and sex change of their baby. It will have to wait for another episode, though, as Bortus leaves their quarters to start his shift early – and arrives on the bridge just in time for the crew to discover a massive hulking ship, seemingly adrift in space.
Sensors and communications can’t penetrate the behemoth’s hull, so Ed leads a boarding party via shuttle (I think that’s every episode so far that has featured a shot of a shuttle leaving the ship?) to investigate. It’s Ed, Kelly, Dr. Finn (Medicine Woman, and yes I will make this joke at least once per review, if able), Alara, and Isaac boarding the giant vessel, and what they find shocks them all: a fully-functional biodome that appears to be a valley full of fields, woods, and even a town. The landing party splits up to investigate.
Ed, Dr. Finn, and Isaac find a small farmhouse occupied by scared and confused parents, but a young-adult son who seems to understand that the Orville crew comes from somewhere beyond their limited understanding. It appears the colony lives under the teachings of Dural, a religion based largely on closed-mindedness and fear of heresy. Kelly and Alara, on their portion of the mission, encounter the local police force, who immediately identify them as outsiders; Alara is shot and left for dead, and Kelly is knocked unconscious and brought before Hamelac, the religious leader of the colony.
Hamelac tortures Kelly to try and get her to tell the truth about who she is and where she’s from, but she already was telling him the truth – and this is reinforced when Ed and his team bust in to rescue her, with the help of some locals who have begun to question their closed-minded way of life. Ed and the away team make it to the bridge of the ship, where they encounter a recording from the long-dead Captain Dural (Liam Neeson, cameo alert!), detailing how the ship was meant for a hundred-year journey but was disabled; now, some 2000 years later, the ship has been left adrift and the inhabitants of the biodome have forgotten over time what the true nature of their surroundings are.
Ed opens the colonists’ eyes to the true nature of their habitat (a poorly-executed movie, more on this below), and even though the ship will be saved from drifting into a star’s corona, life will definitely never be the same for the colonists.
- It’s important to note that “If the Stars Should Appear” bears the behind-the-scenes production code of “1LAB02,” which likely means that, at one point during preproduction, this was intended to be the second episode to air, not the fourth. If this is the case, then it is a small indication of why this episode may have featured an added emphasis on Ed & Kelly’s relationship, as well as a higher level of comedic interjections, as it would have originally been meant to follow directly after the pilot episode. This might also explain why the opening scene with Bortus and Klyden showed them so cavalierly going about their argument in their quarters – they were being awfully loud for having a newborn sleeping at the foot of their bed, yeah? And yes, the baby was “present” physically in a bassinet but was not referenced to or interacted with by either character, so it is definitely possible that this scene was shot before Bortus was intended to have laid his egg – the baby and the bassinet easily could have been digitally added in post-production.
- It appears that Seth MacFarlane is going to be able to use his ‘Family Guy’/Hollywood clout to recruit big stars to make fun cameos throughout the series, much like he does on his animated shows and feature films. Two weeks ago we got Jeffrey Tambor and Holland Taylor, this week it’s “I will find you and I will kill you” Neeson’s turn, and next week brings us arguably the biggest of the bunch so far, Charlize Theron herself.
- You’ll notice that my Recap above talks about the episode in a fairly straightforward manner, with very little mention of comedic moments. That’s intentional – almost all of the comedy is superfluous to the plot of the show, which probably makes it feel so “secondary” and largely-unneeded to many viewers. There were definitely some laughable moments in the show, but as I’ve detailed in previous reviews, many of the jokes revolve around references to current pop-culture, which is sort of an odd thing for people living 400 years in the future to talk about so much. When’s the last time you made a joke about Louis XIV or René Descartes? Certainly not on a day-to-day basis.
- We have to take a moment talk Prime Directive here – or more specifically, how the Planetary Union apparently doesn’t have one? Ed and his crew make poor choice after poor choice in regards to how they interact with this newly-discovered society on the bio-ship. There is no major reconnoiter of the society or any sort of plan in place to scout out how their arrival might impact the society – instead, they brazenly walk up and knock on people’s doors to introduce themselves. Later in the episode, after it’s clearly been established that this society is largely living in religious paranoia and believe they are alone in the universe, Ed makes the call to throw open the biodome roof, exposing the people to the stars and night for the first time in two millennia… how does he think that’s a good call? There would be rioting in the streets and mass panic. I mean, I know that it’s been established that Ed, as Admiral Halsey so eloquently said in the first episode, is “nobody’s first choice” to captain the Orville, but still, there had to have been some sort of training at the PU Academy for this sort of stuff, right?
CLOSING THOUGHTS: ‘The Orville’ remains so well-intentioned and earnestly sharp that it’s hard to deny the appeal of this show. This episode was the first to air since the premiere of the new ‘Star Trek: Discovery‘ series – a show that has so far left fans quite divisive in their reactions – and it serves as a reminder of how classic-Trek-ish this series has potential to be. Has that potential been reached? Not quite yet but, much like ‘Discovery,’ I don’t think audiences have had a quite large enough sample size yet to make a fully-informed decision. We’ll stay tuned and see what future episodes bring us!
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Seth MacFarlane as Ed Mercer
Adrianne Palicki as Kelly Grayson
Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn
Scott Grimes as Gordon Malloy
Peter Macon as Lt. Commander Bortus
Halston Sage as Alara Kitan
J. Lee as John LaMarr
Mark Jackson as Isaac
‘The Orville’ features new episodes Thursday nights on Fox.